Bringing contemporary art to Traverse City: this week on The Green Room

Dec 8, 2016

Chris Sims doesn’t think that the Traverse City art scene is bad, it’s just that it can get a bit insulated.

“When you stick to just local only, you start to just sort of pull from each other,” he says. “That just sort of leads to the same outcome creatively.”

Chris is the founder of Prjct omni, an art project that features contemporary art from all around the world. Last Friday, Prjct omni’s second exhibit opened in the Warehouse MRKT in Traverse City. And while most of the response was very positive, some of the paintings got a few folks a little riled up. But Chris says even a negative reaction with art is better than no reaction at all.

Chris Sims is the curator for Prjct omni's Exhibit # 02. About 40 pieces of art are featured from artists all over the world.
Credit Allen Kent Photography

Chris Sims spent most of his life in California before moving to Traverse City. When he came here about a year and a half ago, he found the art scene to be one-sided, with lots of landscape and more traditional paintings, but not much contemporary or modern art. Other people he talked to agreed.

“I just wanted to do less talking about what it needed, and just kinda go for something,” Sims explains. “I followed my gut.”

His gut reaction was to bring more variety from artists around the world, not because he thinks it’s better art, but because it’s what he loves. 

“Coming from California and just being around a bunch of different people all the time,” he says. “This is just something I wanted to bring for my enjoyment, and I wanted to share it.”

And that’s what he’s done. Chris shows art from all over the world. From places like Texas, Germany, Australia, and Brazil.

Some artists combine different mediums. Others are works are done in bright colors— yellow, blue, bubble gum pink. Still others, are more dark and moody.

Chris Sims unpacks and stages the work at his home before the exhibition. The pieces pictured here are from New Mexican artist Rachel Strum.
Credit Dan Wanschura

When Prjct omni’s first exhibition went up in July, Chris Sims had a viewer confront him and voice her displeasure over a work. He says she got pretty emotional, but Chris was happy with the interaction. In fact, that's kind of his goal.

“I want that reaction, and I want you to talk about it, and I want to know why.” he explains. 

Chris Sims believes that any feedback, whether positive or negative, is a good thing. It means people are to reacting to and engaging with the art. They’re not ignoring it.

His second exhibition at Warehouse MRKT went up last week. He included a large oil painting by Brazilian artist Rafael Hayashi. 

“I think this is probably my favorite piece,” he says. “You’re not going to see anything like this up here.”

The painting is huge— approximately 5 feet by 5 feet, and doesn’t have traditional brush strokes. Instead, the artist used his hands to get large, swirly strokes of dark paint. 

The work depicts two, large men struggling with each other. You could even get the impression that they are trying to strangle each other. 

But, you can’t see this painting at the Warehouse MRKT today. That’s because, after the opening reception, the owners of the market asked him to take it down. They said they received some negative feedback from customers on the first day the painting was up. 

Project omni's contemporary art hangs on the walls at Warehouse MRKT in Traverse City. The art will be showing through May.
Credit Allen Kent Photography

Though disappointed, Chris can see the owner’s point. He says there does have to be a balance between the people who specifically come to look at the art, and those folks who come for other reasons. Regardless, people are noticing.

“I’m not trying to convince anyone that this is the right way to experience art, Chris says. “Not being from Traverse City, I think that I have something to offer in this community as well. A different viewpoint, and I think that’s valuable.”



Prjct omni’s second exhibition will be up through May at the Warehouse MRKT, in Traverse City. Currently, Chris Sims is looking for a new place in town to display the work of Brazilian artist Rafael Hayashi.