Creative Soul - Artist & Coordinator at the collective artspace, Tia Wierenga
September 7, 2016
Creative Soul & Artist
Tia Wierenga calls Grand Rapids, MI her “home base” now, although she spent her adolescent years in Belding, MI. She calls GR the “big city," because Belding is small farm town. A 2012 grad from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, she started college with the intentions of becoming an engineer, but graduated with an Art major.
The engineering program at Calvin College felt like more of a chore than an enjoyable career path. Realizing that she chose this major for all the wrong reasons – like the prestige of a female engineer & promises of a higher income. Tia switched to a major that would hone in on many of the talents she loved and had in common with her dad – who sadly lost his battle with cancer around this time. The ultimate deciding factor happened while purchasing expensive engineering textbooks. After a 45 minute wait in line at the bookstore, the power went out just as Tia was next up to make her purchase. The bookstore cashier – trying to ease the situation, commented on how interesting the books looked that a customer was purchasing and asked his major. The customer, who also got stuck checking out due to the outage responded, "Studio Art Major with an architecture minor.” Tia, close enough to hear the conversation was intrigued to hear the response and so surprised to hear that such a thing was possible. At that moment she got out of line, set her engineering textbooks down, went to the school registrar, and switched her major! Not normally a spontaneous type of person, she could not have been more happy with the choice she made that day. Tia started loving all of her classes and really got into her studies. Becoming a "starving artist” instead of an engineer was a hard choice. Tia says, “Happiness is the cost and I would rather be broke & happy than doing well & bored outta my mind.”
Art & Creativity is Apart of Life
Tia always loved drawing & art for as far back as she can remember. As a kid she had a lot of passions and can remember wanting to be a spy along with many other, "when I grow up I wanna be a _____ careers." Art stuck and she has always considered herself an artist. Tia mentioned, that art has always been something she felt, she was good at. Even though art is such a broad topic, I agree with Tia when she says, “There is so much you can do with it and it can be interpreted in so many different ways.” She always knew that art had to be apart of her life somehow.
the collective artspace was born
Rachelle (Tia’s business partner) had previously started a collective in Taiwan which is still successful and running today. Rachelle has travel, lived, and taught in several different places. After going to college in Grand Rapids, she decided to start a collective and had bounced the idea off of Tia. From the very start, Tia was all in and also realized that she herself did not posses the knowledge to do something like this alone. The two ladies were unsure if they would be able to sustain a collective with just themselves. Rachelle had also met Ryan Haye (another now business partner). Rachel and Ryan were actually brought together by the building that now houses the collective artspace. It turns out that both Rachelle and Ryan had expressed similar interest in the use of the space. At the suggestion of the previous occupant they decided to collaborate and brought Tia in as preparer. The team has talked and acknowledged how lucky they are to have found each other.
They all bring their own talents and styles of work to this space, and have a positive work balance. As a whole the collective artspace's mission is to have a group of like-minded artist and talented people that mesh well together to create projects collaboratively. Project which include community and speak out on anything from social state to politics. Reaching out to the homeless in need of housing is another goal. The group realizes this is a huge uphill battle, in the meantime they are doing little things such as having drinking water available and inviting people in.
Plan a Visit
Planning to host an ARTPRIZE contestant this year was unable to come into fruition, but the group will still have other artist instillations showcased for the public's viewing pleasure before, during, and after ARTPRIZE. You can find the collective artspace on social media, printed flyers may be found at local schools & coffee shops, and they do word of mouth promotion as well. Make sure you visit or find more info at www.thecollectiveartspace.com/
Visitors Can Expect
People will experience a sense of community and are welcome to hang out and maybe have a glass of wine. Tia says, "We do not want the gallery to be this sterile place, where everyone has to stand quietly, observe art and have only art conversations." Definitely expect more serious works coming from the group in the near future, particularly a documentary film about living on Division Avenue, which will be shown in the gallery this November. With the upcoming presidential elections, the collective group members also want to expand on the idea of making presidential candidates write an essay of sorts, that goes above an beyond an oral debate. They want to do something important other than showing beautiful artwork – which will still be there too.
The group really wants the space it to be inviting as a whole and offer tours not only of the gallery space, but the studio space downstairs as well. I myself got the grand tour, and loved the timeless brick walls (peeling it's decades old paint) together with newly painted drywall, and exposed pipes (signature to downtown/heartside district). Updated track lighting, ideal for any studio, gray cement floors – pantone cool gray 8, and a faint smell of earthy dampness that is all brought together by the collective artist's works in progress. The environment does have a creative vibe!
Wearing Many Hats
Tia wears many hats and feels like it is good to diversify yourself as an artist and be involved in as many things as you can, without stretching yourself too thin – which is a task in itself. Even though Tia has never considered herself a social butterfly, she knows, being involved in different avenues of the art community is good for networking. Tia often shied away from going to events & meeting people, but while at Calvin she met her now business partner at the collective artspace, Rachelle Wunderink. Tia explained, that Rachelle is the complete opposite of herself and is much more of social butterfly who loves to network. That social personality of Rachelle’s rubbed off on Tia and helped her become more comfortable with being a little extroverted. As I continue to learn this myself, Tia reiterated, that it's good to surround yourself with people who have similar goals and different talents then yourself. Putting herself out there and getting out of her comfort zone has been very rewarding.
Tia feels that it has been hard to separate everything, and that when wearing many hats, you really have to “mark out time for certain things.” Tia acknowledged that she tends to let everything dribble together and does get a little done on everything. Which she feels is good for her, because it is hard for her to focus on one thing. She currently finds herself at the GRAM working two different jobs, trying to balance the studio with an internship, the collective, and balances all with the job that actually pays her. Wearing many hats was not something Tia was ever good at in the past, she explained. For this reason, she sought out people who could bring different talents to the table. She feels that there is power in numbers and when you get a team of talented people working toward the same goal, great things will happen. This is exactly what the collective artspace represents; a collective of people who have different artistic talents like screen printing, branding, knitting, weaving, drawing, painting, and so on that are working toward a main objective.
Tia shares with LWC Creative Soul readers, that her inspiration comes through her experience, by going to shows, galleries, and the collective artspace itself has been an influencer for her. Especially, from the way the space was previous used, which had similarities to way the building is currently habituated. The kitchen gallery gives the members a chance to have their own art on display at all times. Another big inspiration – that I noticed from the interview with Tia, is the environment right outside the front door. Exhibited by the upcoming documentary project, on people living on Division, and how the people of Grand Rapids, MI feel about the current presidential candidates. These seem to be huge topics for the collect team members.
For all of you Creative Souls, Tia believes that volunteerism in niche or an institution that interest you is a great path to take. She says, "There is nothing that is going to make you connections and help you along your art path other than just giving up your time for free, working hard, and doing a good job for free." Tia feels others do notice and appreciate you for giving your time. Organizations and employers do want passionate people around. The simple act of volunteering has opened many doors for Tia and afforded her valuable connections with skillful people, all bringing her to the place she is at now.
Even with her involvement the GRAM, UICA, Avenue for the Arts, (to name a few) Tia still feels like she is not doing enough, and should be involved in more artist markets. Tia encourages people to get out there, and even if you feel like you had a lousy day, or maybe an activity is not worth your time, you have to push through those feelings and she says, "Have faith that the hard work is going to pay off, because it will." Tia also brought up an excellent point about Grand Rapids, MI being a great place for opportunities with a lot of competition as well. She has experienced it plenty of times. Even more recently when applying for a preparator position at the UICA. Due to her previous experience, she thought she was a perfect fit. With hundreds applying and only a few even being considered, Tia missed the cut and decided to offer her time for the summer at the GRAM. Doing preparatory work, she has 150 hours in, and has faith that it will pay off.
Being an Artist
On the grounds of being an artist, after working so hard in the art industry, Tia has found it difficult to make time to create artwork of her own. She says, "Don't forget what you are doing this for and make a little bit of stuff each day." A great tip that I found interesting, was an idea the collective team recently gave to a group of high school students. While on a tour at the collective artspace, the team suggested that the students make a piece of art, and destroy it. Tia feels it is very freeing, and as an artist myself I do find a lot of truth in that.
Artist of all avenues are very emotionally attached to their work. We tend to covet a sculpture, song, design, poem, painting, or drawing because of the time we have put into it. In the grand scheme of it all, the thing you created – however beautiful it may be, it is just a thing. You can make another, because you are the soul that creates, and nobody can destroy that – that is the real beauty.
"Now keep in mind I'm an artist, and I'm sensitive about my shit." - Erykah Badu