A former Alpena resident who spent the last seven years working as an arts educator and fine arts coordinator in Denver, Colo., has recently returned to his roots and taken over as gallery coordinator at Art in the Loft.
Justin Christensen-Cooper said he is glad to be back in Alpena and looks forward to bringing his past work experiences to his new position.
"We came back because it's just really the smaller community," said Christensen-Cooper, who relocated along with his wife, Mary, and their 2-year-old son, Greyson. "We both had such good experiences in Denver being educators there. We felt this was the right time to move and bring those experiences back to the community where we have family and feel so strongly about serving this area."
The couple met while attending Alpena High School and received their education degrees from Michigan State University. Following their college graduation, the two secured teaching positions in Denver. Christensen-Cooper's wife also is employed locally. She accepted a position at the end of 2012 as a math consultant with the Alpena Montmorency Alcona-Educational Service District.
As the new gallery coordinator, Christensen-Cooper said is impressed with the space and offerings at Art in the Loft.
"It's a beautiful space," he said. "It couldn't be in a better location to really showcase what Northern Michigan has to offer as far as bringing arts to the community. It rivals some of the best spaces in Traverse City and Grand Rapids. It is up and coming, and still growing even though it has been around for awhile."
Christensen-Cooper has been aware of the gallery's existence since it first opened in the fall of 2001 while he was a senior at AHS. He was among the first group of students to have their artwork displayed in the gallery in what has since become know as the annual Young Artists Exhibit.
"One of my senior pieces was in that first exhibit, so it feels like having come full circle," he said.
In his new position, he plans to continue implementing Art in the Loft's primary vision of bringing awareness of and participation in the arts in Northeast Michigan. He also plans to reach out to the local community and become familiar with the many artists in the region.
Among the first events and activities Christensen-Cooper will be working on are a membership event set for this Thursday, the 2013 Young Artists Exhibit and the new SummerView Exhibit.
Art in the Loft invites the community to meet and greet Christensen-Cooper at its Spark the Art membership event that begins at 6 p.m. Tickets, at $25 per person, are available at the gallery, by calling 356-4877 or online at www.artintheloft.org.