Story by: Liam on the Beach, the Grand Haven Secret Beach
Photography: Dave Johnson
After two years of supporting the arts in Grand Haven, Michigan, the Fire Barn Gallery gives Ellen Trumbo and Chris Protas a show of their own.
Collectors of the paintings of Chris Protas are grateful the painter has time to produce new work for the gallery at all. Chris Protas has curated the Fire Barn Gallery since the completion of Grand Haven Art Walk 2011 in October, mounting a monthly show to New York City standards. Protas could find volunteers to handle gallery preparation, but prefers to work all night caulking over holes and repainting the walls each month. When he’s not painting or promoting the Fire Barn Gallery, his clientele will find him mixing martinis and serving wine at the white oak counter, stained rosewood, of the Theater Bar. More than one man at the rail has been drawn into Protas’s vision for Grand Haven art. Protas has the habit of striking up art conversations, sharing choice insights, collecting ideas as valuable as stock tips. For example, he awaits the rise of a single Michelangelo from the creative ferment of ArtPrize. One member of this nightly symposium, Brad Northman, president of an engineering sales firm, insisted upon sponsoring the recent works show, making the commitment during an evening visit to the Theater Bar.
Steve Loftis, proprietor of the Harbor Restaurants and board member of the Michigan Restaurant Association, trusts the operation of his restaurants to a leadership team of fine art painters, and Ellen Trumbo directs the thriving Grand Restaurant complex of three distinct venues. Tumbo has talent in journalism and public relations, and she’ll invest endless hours promoting the Grand Haven Art Walk and the careers of her collaborative, The New York / West Michigan Artists’ Alliance. Trumbo’s collectors are ecstatic that she has found time to paint among the landscapes of Grand Haven, where the light reminds her of the daylight she cherished while painting in Tuscany. Loftis has supported Protas, Trumbo and the Alliance by exhibiting their original paintings in the salon of the Grand Restaurant.
Trumbo and Protas met during their painting education at the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture, and moved together from Brooklyn in 2010. The couple share a home within walking distance of Grand Haven‘s main avenue, Washington Boulevard, and a short walk to Lake Michigan. Protas walks endless miles in Grand Haven, and while Trumbo pursues the lakeshore light, Protas conducts walks that could only be described as missions. One campaign of walks through twenty-six businesses discovered almost forty overlooked works of art, paintings and sculptures he presented in the recent Fire Gallery Show, the Art of the Background. Protas has executed commissions as a muralist, another threat to his output for galleries, and he often marches in search of street art, reportedly working under the street name, “Low Memory”. He has established a reputation as an expert and guide to the manifestations of New York undercover artist, Jim Joe.
Trumbo and Protas greeted their friends and the ArtWalk community Thursday night, May 3rd, 2012, in the sundown suffused Fire Barn Gallery, light that animated a collection of small scale paintings. Protas and Trumbo alternated works on the three walls, and their contrasting styles melded into a satisfying show likely to work on the subconscious for years. As the gallery is a project of the Downtown Development Authority, Steve Loftis and Michigan Rag Company president, Randy Smith, personally welcomed guests. The monthly openings always feature a conversation with the curator and his artists, and Protas asked for attention after Seven, when attendance had reached a high mark. Protas read from typed remarks, sharing his theory of Grand Haven as an excellent place for a painter to develop painting ideas, working, thinking and walking. He compared the process to baking a cake. Dressed all in New York City black, Trumbo honored her influences and began taking a spirited round of questions from the audience.
Protas and Trumbo honored by name the volunteers who keep the gallery open to the public throughout the week. One volunteer named Katie Lynn Watts operates her social media company, Lakeshore Shoppers, during her docent hours. The Fire Barn Gallery has regular viewing hours on Wednesday, Friday and Saturdays, from Noon to Six in the Evening. Recent Works by Ellen and Chris will be on exhibit until May 19th, 2012, all too brief a run.