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First Fridays Art Walk: A Treat for the Whole Family

From 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., on the first Friday of every month, local, uptown businesses in Michigan City open their doors to the public and host artists and their work.

I’ve attended in the past but never experienced it fully as I have in the last several months of attendance. What’s different?  Well in the past I WASN’T WALKING, lol, I’d only make it as far as The Pickle and Turnip restaurant for dinner and live music (rolling my eyes at myself for this mistake, oh the fun I’ve missed!)

Art Space Uptown Artist Lofts

A friend of mine recently invited me to her daughter’s live make-up demonstration held at Art Space Uptown Artist Lofts.  I’d never heard of this spot before, so I decided to attend.

Much to my delight, I was impressed with this place upon entering and learning more about it.

Art Space is a non-profit organization that uses the tools of real-estate to create affordable, appropriate places where artists can live and work.  Their uptown lofts house a variety of artists such as chefs, dancers, welders, painters, photographers, and musicians.

The layout and location of these lofts are tops!

I met many of the artists living in the lofts and was blown away by the community.  We snacked on light refreshments, enjoyed wine, and listened to live music while taking in the works of the resident artists.

Here’s a recap of some of the artist’s that I had the pleasure of meeting:

Latreese Neal, a talented photographer, who happened to be the coordinator of that night’s artists reception.

Fueled by the lack of pictures capturing her childhood and the loss of her older brother, Latreese’s passion became to preserve memories and capture moments.  She took up photography in high school and never looked back.  Meeting and living among other artists at the Uptown Artist Lofts has benefitted her in her art.

“Living here has helped bring out more creativity by motivating and challenging me. Meeting and living among other artists inspires me push myself.”

Latreese also gives back to the community.  She and a group of artist friends provide one senior male and female student, a free full arts services package including hair cutting, styling, make-up, a photography session, and pastries and cakes for an event.  Paying it forward and providing excellent service to others through her photography gives her great happiness.  If you’re looking for a photographer for your special events or moments, make sure to look her up at
She does weddings, portraits, photo booth rentals, parties, etc.

 Baby Portaits by Latreese Neal of Socani Photos Baby Portaits by Latreese Neal of Socani Photos  Photos by Socani Photos Photos by Socani Photos

Kane Fletcher:
Kane works for the building as a maintenance person. He describes himself as more of an abstract artist. Wanting to follow in the footsteps of his artist older brother, he started making comic strips and painting while in high school.   His high school art teacher saw his gift and encouraged him to pursue more with the arts.  Many may not know that Kane is also a dancer.  He’s done everything from ballet, jazz, lyrical, hip-hop, and contemporary, which is his favorite.

“Art is therapeutic to me, especially dance; I can be in a bad mood and have a sharp, fast-paced dance and at the end of it I’m worn out and tired, but I feel better because I spilled everything out.”-Kane Fletcher

One of the things that Kane mentioned to me regarding the benefits of the Uptown Artist Lofts was witnessing the development of the many artists living there through collaborations and getting to know each other.  “There’s growth and more depth to the artists…they morph and take flight and learn from each other.  This is a good community; the artists pull together as a family.”

 Kane Fletcher (right) and his painting depicting when he and Nicole Barnett (left) first laid eyes on each other.  He proposed to her that night in front of this picture. Kane Fletcher (right) and his painting depicting when he and Nicole Barnett (left) first laid eyes on each other.  He proposed to her that night in front of this picture.

Nicole Barnett was the featured artist that I was invited to see:
She knew that she wanted to be an artist as a little girl. Her mom fed her creativity by keeping her art supplies stocked and letting her go at it.

Her pointillism art wowed me!…standing far away it looks like a solid color, but when you stand closer, you can see all of the details. Very tedious!!!

 Live Make-up  Live Make-up

She enjoys details.  I asked her how much time it takes to do something like this.  A LOT!

Sometimes when we’re admiring the finished product we don’t think of the amount of time that these artists put into it.

So THANKS to all of the artists who share their hard work and passion with us.  We appreciate it!

Besides art, Nicole enjoys reading and singing.  I heard that she’s a great singer, maybe I’ll hear her sing sometime!

“My make-up art is more about self expression…you can turn yourself into anything.  My other art is more therapeutic.” -Nicole Barnett

See more of Nicole’s art on her Violet Rebel Instagram

 Pointillism Art Pointillism Art

The evening was truly enjoyable, and I was hooked.

I admit I didn’t walk anywhere AGAIN!  However, in my defense, it was difficult to leave the Artist Loft’s reception.   Live music, appetizers, and a room full of talented artist’s sharing their works and inspirations.  I even ran into my son’s pre-school teacher Ms. Tracy and witnessed a proposal!  A fun night full of the unexpected!

 Ran into Ms. Tracy (left), my son's preschool teacher.  My son is 17 now!  She still looks the same! Ran into Ms. Tracy (left), my son’s preschool teacher.  My son is 17 now!  She still looks the same!  Live Music Live Music

There’s just something about the arts that gets me. I knew that I would make first Fridays a regular occurrence and I’d have to bring my husband, who’s also an artist back.

 Jacob Bonha Jacob Bonha


The next first Friday, my husband I started off at the Uptown Artist Lofts again.  This time we met artist Jacob Bonham, a quiet, talented artist with some serious stencil and spray painting skills.

The Hubs just had to have his Batman Portrait.

We perused the newer art hanging at the Artist Lofts before more exploring

Chef Bizzaro Millinery

 Amanda of Chef Bizzaro Millinery Amanda of Chef Bizzaro Millinery

After leaving the Artist Lofts, I happened upon The Closet by Franklin Vintage and Millinery Studio by Chef Bizzaro Millinery, owned by best friends, Julia and Amanda.
OMG! Let me again emphasize how annoyed I am at myself for missing out on these gems for so long.  If you could see the hearts in my eyes when I walked into this place….I’m in love, and I’ve needed the services offered here for soooooo long!  I’ve learned my lesson though.
Blogging has helped me develop a whole new level of appreciation for the communities around me, and I’ve become a tourist in these communities.  Lol, I’m in the know!

I’m drawn to unique, so I took to Chef Bizzaro straight away.   Amanda Joyner, the owner, who’s style can be described as quirky and whimsical, has been a milliner for seven years.  She’s had a love of hats since she was a little girl, thanks to her grandmother exposing her to musicals at a young age.

If you think fancy hats are just for the Kentucky Derby, you’re wrong.  Amanda has shipped hats to South Korea, Russia, and the UK for all sorts of occasions from regular everyday wear to Avant Garde. She’s even done work for Disney and TV shows.  Some of her clients are as young as three years old.
She enjoys what she does, and it shows in her work.  The more creative, the better. Her hats are beautiful!
I love the hand painted flowers and vintage jewelry that she adds to some.  Be sure to check out the Chef Bizzaro Etsy Shop

The Closet by Franklin Vintage

 Beautiful, Delicate Clothing Beautiful, Delicate Clothing

Julia Nielson, owner of The Closet by Franklin Vintage, has collected vintage clothing for 30 years.  She started collecting while attending auctions with her father, an antique dealer.
I learned that vintage pertains to anything that is older than 30 years.
Julia’s collection is vast; flapper hats, dresses, swimsuits (have you ever seen a wool swimsuit? hmm), shoes, coats, jewelry, purses, evening gowns, the list goes on and on; and she’s very picky when it comes to quality.

She has clients all over the world with unique styles and ideas. One client couple buys vintage outfits to wear while driving their vintage cars across the county.  I want to meet them!  She has another client from Japan who only wants a particularly dated denim and another woman from the UK who loves fabulous items from the 1930’s and 1940’s.

Sounds like a fun job shopping and outfitting different personalities.

I browsed through her things and let me tell you; she has some great designer items!

“I love doing this! I get so much joy from sourcing the right pieces for my customers!”

— Julia Nielson, Owner of The Closet by Franklin Vintage

Check out Julia’s The Closet by Franklin Vintage Facebook Here

The enthusiasm in this store is contagious; I love it!

 I'm in love with these clothes   I’m in love with these clothes  I want the this! I want the this!

Catchlight Studio

Continuing further, we found Catchlight Studio at 617 Franklin St where we met the hilarious duo of Rhonda and Carol!  They had my husband and I cracking up…their energy exhausted us in a pleasant way, loved them!

Rhonda is a Midwestern girl through and through. Growing up, her parents exposed her to the entire United States and immersed her in different vistas and cultures year after year. “My childhood taught me to look for the allure and depth of my surroundings. My health odyssey as an adult has taught me to appreciate every moment given.”

As an artist “I have a piqued interest in the idea of what is around the next corner? This idea, more than anything, is what drives my photographer’s eye.  It could be a sunrise, the intricate texture of a leaf, or the joy in grandpa’s eyes while watching his grandchild.  The point is, you never know what beauty you will find.  Always keep moving, it is the only way the next corner arrives!”-Rhonda of Whispered Photography

 Rhonda Mullen Rhonda Mullen

Rhonda’s works were recently on display in Paris, France. Check out her Whispered Photography Facebook Page Here

 Carol Estes Carol Estes

Carol is a poet and photographer who’s won many awards for her work.  Recently her works were featured at the Driven to Abstraction opening reception at Horse Thief Hollow Brewing Company in Chicago. Check out her works here

The preceding was just a peak into some of the gems you’ll find at Michigan City’s First Fridays Art Walk.  This was by far my longest blog post!  Just think….there were so many exhibits that I wasn’t able to explore….I will for sure catch them at the next First Friday.

It was fantastic hearing so many artists comment on the huge community and business support given to them during first Fridays. Many local business owners make it a point to come out to view the displays as well as hang the works of the local artists in their restaurants and shops. Bravo!

Make sure that you don’t miss out on this awesome monthly event.  It includes the Uptown businesses of Franklin St, Lubeznik Arts Center, the Historic Barker Mansion, the Uptown Artist Lofts, and The Uptown Center.

Fun for the whole family and a tremendous support to local talented artists.

Don’t forget to tell me what you enjoyed in the comments!


  1. Carol Foldenauer says

    Who knew such talent was in our community! I need to become a tourist too!!

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