Faces in the Crowd: Kim Kleinhardt

April 27, 2018

By Gene Bodnar

Entering the 515 Gallery on McEwan Street for an interview with Kim Kleinhardt, the owner of the gallery, I was impressed with the many different styles of artwork displayed all around the 16’ by 60’ gallery, along with several sculpture pieces that are showcased on the open floor area.

I immediately felt at home when Kim offered me a seat and was obviously looking forward to this interview.  Kim is 63 years old, and she has been married to Tom Kleinhardt, the owner of McGuire Chevrolet, for 40 years.  They have two grown children, as well as two grandchildren.

Kim Kleinhardt

Kim Kleinhardt

Kim is a life-long resident of the Mid-Michigan area.  She taught art classes for over 30 years, including 3 years at Mid-Michigan Community College, a stint in Howard City, and 27 years at Clare High School.  She herself is an accomplished artist.

Eight years ago, Kim opened the “515 Gallery” located in downtown Clare that    features historic wooden floors, brick walls, and track lighting, which provides a professional setting for each and every art exhibit.  She uses the back of the gallery as her own personal studio, which allows her the opportunity to create her own pieces of art while also displaying the works of others.
Another prominent feature of the gallery is its “Art Alley,” which is located beyond the rear door into the alley way of several downtown businesses.  Each summer, Kim works with volunteers to create an outdoor community art piece, which is always stunning and beautiful.  During one such occasion, mosaic artist Patricia Terpstra, along with five high school children, spent seven days in the creating a beautiful mosaic in the back of the gallery.  So, when you visit that gallery, you can not only discover the fine contemporary art showcased inside the gallery but you can also explore the decorative, highly colorful mural on the back of the building.  Of course, it took a lot of community involvement and pride as well.  Through grants, donations, and hard work, it displays murals, gardens, and sculptures as well – a beauty to behold.  The Gallery, which is well worth seeing, is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Wednesdays through Saturdays.

Kim’s philosophy of art is quite captivating.  It is best stated by reading her own words, which I quote from her website:  “{Art is} storytelling through visual engagement, letting images trigger memories of each viewer in individual ways – these are the catalysts for my creative journeys.  Whether developed into 2D compositions or sculptural forms, each pieces is aesthetically layered in messages and mixed media.  The initial development of ideas originates from personal emotions – memories, grief, life changes, and frustrations – sentiments that relate to all viewers in individual ways.  My artwork is not created merely for visual pleasure but to work through private thoughts as a meaningful process.  Attention to detail with an element of surprise give my compositions an intriguing quality that demands the attention of the observer.  Realistic images created and superimposed with various media stir an emotional state that often times turns less representational, but more provocatively decorative.”

At the time of this interview, the 8th Annual Juried Student Show, which ran from April 14-21, was in progress.  It featured the art of nearly 40 high school students from Clare and Farwell in a wide variety of media, including watercolor, ink, acrylics, spray paint, wire, pencil, polymer clay, ceramics, wood, and even ink on ostrich egg.  The open reception of the show, which was held on Tuesday, April 17th, was literally packed with wall-to-wall people.  The show was juried by Valerie Allen, who is on the faculty of Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center and is the curator at Studio 23 in Bay City.  She has been exhibited and won awards literally all around the country.

Of course, Kim Kleinhardt hosted the 2-hour show, providing snacks and drinks for well over 100 attendees (standing room only) as well as socializing with all the student artists and all the attendees.  For the moment everyone was waiting for, Kim announced the winners.

The 1st Place winner was Emma Tideswell of Farwell High School, who received $500 for her mixed media artwork entitled “Petals & Panic.”  The juror added that she was impressed with “the artist’s seamless approach to mixed media.  The narrative told in the collage is universal and relevant.”

The 2nd Place winner ($300) was Olivia Ludwig of Clare High School for her “Joji Immersed” acrylic entry.  Of this artwork, the juror said, “The approach was almost photo realistic with a contemporary edge of expression.”

The 3rd Place winner, Peyton Hubel, received $200 for her trash bag artwork entitled “Today’s Ocean.”  The juror commented that this prize was awarded “because of the commitment to social practice of the artist.  Art can change the world and I feel your artists are to be encouraged to lift up their beliefs for other to contemplate.”

Three Clare High School students received Honorable Mention:
Kameron Haag for “Lives of Dogs” (Fabric on Canvas).
Cami Miller for “Layers of Thought” (Acrylic on Glass).
Jasmine Riegle for “The Sheep in Wolves Clothing (Watercolor & Ink).
Four Clare High School students received Juror’s Recognition:
Kaila Langlois for “Sunflowers.”
Jasmine Achbold for “Time Goes By.”
Grace Parsons for “Fragile Pieces.”
Amy Youch for “Puppet Child.”

Finally, a People’s Choice award of $100 was won by Sara Bauer of Farwell High School for her “Nature’s Balance – Everlasting Love.”

The Juried Student Art Show is only one of the many art exhibits held at the 515 Gallery throughout the year.  Kim’s next art exhibit is scheduled for May 4 through June 16.   It will feature work by artists Julie Tilmann and Carrie Weis.  From what I’ve heard, it’s a “don’t miss” kind of show, featuring a variety of different media of the highest artistic quality.

In addition to exhibiting art and creating art herself, Kim Kleinhardt also believes in connecting with the community, and one of the best way to do this is to “give back” to the community.  In an event that occurred just this past December, for example, Kim opened a Miniature Art Show in which 50 artists participated and raised $3,700 for the Clare area Backpack Program, which fills backpacks with weekend meals for Clare Primary and Middle School youngsters who might not get a nutritious meal on the weekends otherwise.

In past years, the 515 Gallery has also participated in Clare clean-up projects in conjunction with the Clare High School staff and students.  On another occasion, it connected with Clare Castle, the local senior living area, where they spent the day making clay pots and bowls with the residents.  The Gallery has also raise money for the Clare Animal Shelter.  Realizing that many animals are mistreated, malnourished, abused, or neglected, and also realizing that the shelter is not always as successful as it would like to be, the Gallery sold cow-licked salt block sculptures, which has raised over $2,500 for the shelter.  Of course, this was achieved not only through the help of the artists but also the people who donated and/or purchased the salt blocks.

Kim also promotes the opportunity to visit Clare’s many cultural treasures.  At the Clare Middle School, you can view four WPA murals located in the auditorium as well as an 8-foot, recently renovated sculpture on the premises called “Pioneer Mother.”  The historic Doherty Hotel displays the leprechaun murals created in the 1930s.

The motto of the 515 Gallery is “Inspire, Create, Educate.”  Obviously, this has been Kim Kleinhardt’s life-long personal motto as well.  A community without art is like a blank piece of paper, in my own opinion, but Kim keeps filling that paper repeatedly by connecting emerging artists with our community, and she has always exhibited original art work that inspires.  In the world of art, Kim is here to live out loud, and she certainly does it admirably.

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