Sunday, September 29, 2013

Bob Walma, in his Spare Time Outside His Photography Practice, Saves the Coal Tipple and Builds Business at C2C Gallery in Downtown Grand Haven, Michigan

Grand Haven Art Walk shares a quality with the Mardi Gras in New Orleans. If one wants to be anybody in New Orleans, one joins a crewe and marches with them during the parades. As the ArtWalk cruises through its fourth year, a number of crewes have gathered forces. We have the New Yorkers who hold court monthly at the Fire Barn Gallery, although the powerful Art Walk crewe might not call themselves that. We could also call them the Second Avenue Arts crewe, and the team really flexed their muscles by bringing hundreds of thousands dollars of art from New York City and Galesburg Illinois to exhibit at Grand Haven Art Walk and ArtPrize. How the art consultancy started by Mike Coleman managed that on a budget of only eight-thousand dollars astounds everyone.

Hopefully, some of those delicious canvases will find a home in Grand Haven because some of those canvases are bigger than life scale, especially the one at Fifth-Third bank and upstairs at the Kirby House. There's plenty of volunteers to assist Chris Protas and Mike Coleman in their quest to return the canvases safely and soundly, foremost Mr. Hamman, the husband of ArtWalk artist Trish Hamman. When her husband heard about the quest, you could see his eyes light up with imagination and, since I'm a mind reader, I heard him think, "Road Trip"! His enthusiasm was matched volt for volt by the protean Chris Protas as he described taking out a window in Manhattan to bring a massive scale canvas out of the studio of one of America's leading artists.

Grand Haven Art Walk has created a year long arts community that allows people to get to know people over a period of months, even years. One gratification comes from watching an artist develop over a half decade, which is the case when one starts watching Bob Walma's career in October 2010. Walma has roots in Grand Haven, going to school with C2C Gallery curator, Cyndi D Casemier. He added a cosmopolitan view to his vision by serving as a consultant in information technology during a stint in London, England.

Bob Walma has always manifested as a mature artistic talent, and the past four years has witnessed his transformation into a regional leader in the arts. To the Second Avenue Arts crewe, to the team out of the Michigan Rag Company, to the Tri-Cities Museum crewe, to the Loutit Library crewe lead by John Martin and friends, to the Uptown Gallery crewe and to the circle of people around Michael Peoples and Mark Hoeksema, we must add the Tipple Aid team to list of the leading Grand Haven Art Walk crewes.

After Casemier and Christi Dreese promoted the preservation of the Grand Haven Lighthouse, now under a much needed restoration, Walma's eye fell upon the Coal Tipple, a quixotic relic on the Grand River from the golden days of rail in Grand Haven, and until Walma's intervention, wrecking ball fodder. Walma might shrink from the name of Tipplemeister, but surely he's appreciated by the Tipple Team, which might include the following artists and writers: Lee S. Brown, Christi Dreese and Katherine Harrigan. Dr. Wally Ewing has contributed historical background for the Tipple Aid project, including one-of-a-kind photographs. If one is to dig underground in Grand Haven, place a call to Miss Dig. If one is about to explore Grand Haven history, put Dr. Ewing on speed dial.

Walma broke new ground when he published a film in Fall of 2010 of his friend Cindi Casemier creating a ceramic pot from beginning to finished product. He earned kudos and acknowledgement on the town square when the Downtown Development Authority hung his series of Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall banners from the lamposts of the newly bricked streetscape. He entered a new role as documentarian of Grand Haven when his team screened a film celebrating the Coal Tipple in Spring of 2013. One wonders what to expect next from the imagination of Walma.

Stop into C2C Gallery to see his photographs on permanent display in a cozy cubicle of the space. C2C Gallery has already once outgrown its space once, moving from the Story and Clark Piano Factory to the Washington Street space once occupied by Euroflora. The well-appointed space has plenty of ceramic eye candy and also includes space for framing and paintings by Christi Dreese, sculpture by Lee S. Brown and the occasional trunk show, one of which I crashed two weeks ago. Bob Walma's support of C2C Gallery has to be at the heart of why the gallery had to find more square feet before hitting a second birthday. Casemier's daughter entered ArtWalk this year with a glorious mural and anthem to artists painted on the back wall of the space. Walma had a big role in maintaining the inspiration and documented the progress of the project with his cameras. It's an easy guess to forecast what will be the next short film screened at C2C Gallery, produced by Walma.

Will Walma become as big a filmmaker as Michael Moore up in Traverse City. Write that down as the Captain Art Walker prediction.


  1. Making good Art comes from the Passion from those who truly enjoy sharing the gift of Imagination. If it turns out well that's a bonus.

    1. I like the idea of sharing imagination as the sharing of a gift. Often, it does turn out well. Best wishes, [CAW]

    2. I like the idea of sharing imagination as the sharing of a gift. Often, it does turn out well. Best wishes, [CAW]

    3. I like the idea of sharing imagination as the sharing of a gift. Often, it does turn out well. Best wishes, [CAW]