GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Whatever used to occupy the space at 2009 S. Division in Grand Rapids, it bore no resemblance to what is there now. Murals, portraits, and paintings line the walls. A café counter in the back flanks an area where a canopy of lights spans what could be a dance floor.
Most of the art is created by E’lla Webber, but the works of three other artists are on prominent display.
Webber started her art career after working for others for 20 years. She outgrew her first gallery locations in Rogers Plaza and on 29th Street at Breton Road.
Webber and her partner Chris Jackson see their new location, which opened in April, as the beginning of a renaissance for the Division/Burton area. “That's why we're here: to allow people to have somewhere to go and have them somewhere to go and have fun," Webber says.
There’s plenty of space to have fun. “We do paint party classes on the weekends, usually birthday parties and whatnot,” says Webber. “We also do corporate parties as well. And we do a lot with the youth, different schools, the after-school program, just a ton of different painting classes as well as sculpting classes.”
Don’t think you’ll just sit down and paint. "We actually get up, we move around, we dance. We mingle,” explains Webber. “And if it's someone's birthday, we highlight the person and just kind of make them feel special for the day.”
Webber began painting in her basement, which was probably interesting considering she had six kids. But she says her children got excited about the art. “And so I just kept going. And the very first ArtPrize came about, and I applied for that and became the 22nd artist entered into that competition. And just hearing the positive and negative critiques from ArtPrize. that pretty much gave me a boost to keep going."
“My style varies,” Webber adds. “I can do acrylic pours. I can do mainly sculpting, or painting portraits; I do murals, I do any form of art that people usually ask for me to do.”
The café, officially named the Creative Java Café, is available Tuesdays through Saturdays 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. With coffee, mochas, frappes, and sandwiches. Webber proudly notes they don’t skimp on the sandwiches: “They're gonna leave out of here stuffed.”
Private and corporate parties add to the community draw, plus the occasional artist showing, such as what Webber calls an “art mingle show” scheduled for Saturday, May 22, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., which will include various businesses, models walking around displaying art pieces, and live music.