Art affair

“This is NOT an art gallery,” says Nick Gorant of Sea Lion Studio. “It’s a studio. It’s a working environment.”

As you first walk into Sea Lion, located at 182 S. Main St., it does resemble an art gallery, if just for a couple minutes. The scene is fresh and vibrant with red walls that dominate and capture the senses. Walking a few more feet, the brand new blue-gray carpet makes way to hardwood floors, which perfectly compliment the eclectic paintings on the walls. But as you walk farther into the small one-story building, it does in fact become a studio. In one corner, there is a batch of microphones, innocently standing by, waiting to be used. Adjacent to the mics is a turn table and several tee-shirts that say “Help Wanted,” on hangers. Blues legend Robert Jr. Lockwood is playing over the speakers.

The aesthetic beauty of an art gallery is non existent as you enter the back part of Sea Lion, the “nuts and bolts,” of the studio, says Gorant. The smell of paint and sawdust permeate the air, and suddenly, the studio has a blue collar feel to it.

“The gallery is just part of the environment,” Gorant said. “It’s basically a place for students or other people to experiment ways of showing their work.”

The work isn’t just limited to paintings, sculptures or ceramics. The studio also features working spaces for musicians, who can have their performances recorded, a digital video production facility, a glass working shop and photography studio.

“What we have here is a good mix of creative and technical people,” Gorant said.

Sea Lion, which has had its doors open since December had its grand opening yesterday afternoon. The grand opening featured live music, an open house of the studio, and a ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring Bowling Green Mayor John Quinn.

“Something like Sea Lion brings a curiousity to downtown and makes people want to check it out,” Quinn said. “It gives the downtown a college-arty feel, like Ann Arbor.”

Gorant, quiet and unassuming, doesn’t mask his excitement for Sea Lion and the potential that it holds for everyone in and around Bowling Green.

“This town has a wealth of students in the fine and performing arts, students in computer art and visual communications, journalism and creative writing programs,” Gorant said. “Our studios offer them the opportunities to display and refine their talents, but mostly it’s an opportunity for them to grow and learn.” Earlene Kirkpatrick, director of Main Street BG, an organization that supports and does public relations for new businesses, said the town should be ecstatic about Sea Lion for three reasons. “One, it’s an art gallery in town, two it utilizes the population of the students and non students, and three it’s a combination of technology and art,” Kirkpatrick said. “The city is trying to stress that the arts are always welcomed in downtown.”

Every Thursday night Sea Lion also features what Gorant hesitantly refers to as an open-mic night. There, local musicians can go onstage, play as long as they want, and have their music recorded free of charge.

“This town has always needed a place where people can focus on the music and not the drinking,” Gorant said. So is Sea Lion Studio that place?

“The artists have been telling me it is,” Gorant said.