ArtSpace is expanding its business site in downtown Marquette. The business is expanding into the building north of the ArtSpace. The new part is called the Art Lounge.


ArtSpace is expanding its business site in downtown Marquette. The business is expanding into the building north of the ArtSpace. The new part is called the Art Lounge.
In September 2010, ArtSpace owner Rich Thibodeau purchased the building with the lowest bid from the estate of the late Gary Underwood, former owner of the Sorghum Exchange, once located at the site.
“We were the lowest bid and the only bid so we got the building,” said Thibodeau. “We had been trying for sometime to get him to repair the leaky roof. We got the building because no one else wanted such a wreck.”
Thibodeau is thankful for the help he has received so far in restoring the building.
“First, I have to say I’m thankful for being blessed with such a loving partner (Catherine Bibb) because it was a crazy thing to do, buying this building without any money,” Thibodeau said. “She’s been very supportive.”
Thibodeau has always had a passion for old buildings, having lived in a 200 year-old adobe in New Mexico before moving to Kansas.
“You have to love the old buildings in order to put up with them. The fun part is learning the history of the building too,” he said.
The Art Lounge building was built in 1898 by Sam Norris for his hardware store. At the time, it was built between two established businesses, W.H. Brooks (ArtSpace now located) and Philblad’s (now Legion Hall). Brooks was a general merchandise store and Philblad’s was run by R.A. Thompson, also as a general merchandise store. In 1913, the Art Lounge space was opened as I.M. Jackson’s, a ladies ready-to-wear, millinery and shoe store.
In the 1970s, Mabel and Floyd Hulse opened the first supper club in Marquette at the site, calling it the Ranch House. Gary Underwood bought the building some years later and opened the Sorghum Exchange. He closed the business in 1993.
Work to renovate the building into the Art Lounge has included restoring, refurbishing and recycling items in the building. With this process, Rich, who is the contractor, is having help from Ron Hazelwood and Nathan Reid, both Marquette men with construction and remodeling capabilities.
“Ron made the new front entrance doors from black walnut. He copied the doors from the ArtSpace entrance and made new ones for this building. He also reworked the north wall in the lounge so we could display more artwork. He sanded, patched, plastered and painted the wall to fix it so we now call it ‘Ron’s Wall’. It gives us much more space for displays,” Thibodeau said. “Nathan rewired the old fixtures so we could replace the old fluorescent light bulbs with LED’s. He also cut the new doorway between the ArtSpace and the Art Lounge.”
During the renovations, the old tin ceiling was discovered and uncovered. Stain glass window frames were uncovered atop the original glass front windows when the wood covering the old windows was pulled off the front of the building.
“Only one piece of stain glass in the frames was unbroken. All the rest were gone. We are going to start a stain glass project and will be seeking donations to help replace the glass,” said Bibb.
Mri Pilar has added her creative touch to the front entrance by adding a mosaic to the front step. It is called “The Milky Way”. She’s also added a mosaic around the door connecting ArtApace and Art Lounge. It is called “The Solar System”.
“You come in the Milky Way and go through the Solar System,” said Thibodeau.
Part of the Art Lounge opened in March when the couple hosted a concert for guitarist, Michael Mandrell.
“The concert was well attended. It was recorded by Michael Ezzell and aired on Blue Sky Cable,” Bibb said.
Thibodeau and Bibb hosted the first Open Mic Night at the Art Lounge April 1. Every Friday night, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., the microphone is open. So far, there have been storytellers and poetry readings; they welcome all sorts of talent.
“We have a lot of talent around town. A lot of it lays dormant until the performers get a chance to show it,” said Thibodeau.
The audience is very encouraging. It is free and your are welcome to come and just listen.”
The couple is also offering for purchase, refreshing, non-alcoholic drinks such as water, health drinks, two kinds of O’Douls and Rich’s favorite, root beer.
Although the lounge is not officially open to the public, the five year plan for the building is to have a small apartment in the back for overnight lodging. The upstairs will also be remodeled and made into apartments with studios for budding artists.
“This is a wonderful space for people to be creative. It is a an economical place to live,” Thibodeau said.
Artists currently displaying their work at ArtSpace and Art Lounge are Rich Thibodeau, Pilar, Nicole Thibodeau, Susan Whitfield, Dustin Rhodes, Lance Wadlow, Noah Flores, Fred Peterson, Steve Scott and the newest member, Taylor Gladding, who will be an apprentice and salesperson this summer.
“Dustin will also have an all day art glass demonstration here during the motorcycle rally, May 21,” Thibodeau said.
The artists also have artwork on display at the Blue Sky Cable building, south down the street from ArtSpace.
While work is ongoing on the lounge, Thibodeau and Bibb don’t mind if you peek in the window to see what’s taking place, plus they heartily invite you to attend Open Mic Night at the Art Lounge on Friday evenings.