A gallery of good causes

Grand Rapids, MI-For Larry Gerbens, MD, this is the time of his life to give back. "It's a wonderful time," he said. "I can do what I like to do and be active with causes that I believe in."

Those causes include promoting artists and art appreciation. He accomplishes this as a consultant to Grand Gallery ( http://www.grandgallery.com/), an art gallery with three locations in the Grand Rapids area.

Dr. Gerbens did not anticipate being an art gallery consultant. He credits an art history class, taken while he was a student at Calvin College, as his awakening to art. He began collecting religious art, especially renditions of the prodigal son story, and then began commissioning artists (including that art history professor) to do specific pieces for his collection.

Dr. Gerbens enjoys seeing and buying art on his travels. He always assures his wife that he has "made a good investment" when he comes home with a new piece of art.

Dr. Gerbens' family has exposed him to cultural diversity. He has been married to Mary for 37 years and they have three children. Their oldest daughter, Liza, is married to Dr. Nedd, a hospitalist born in Grenada, who is active in the Grand Rapids African-American Health Institute. Son, Eric, a graduate student at the University of Michigan, is married to a Serbian Orthodox wife. And daughter, Heidi, is married to a Michigan grad who is currently working on his MBA at Michigan State. Dr. Gerbens enjoys his five grandchildren, too.

His brother-in-law has been an important influence. Don Prys is a California artist and also affiliated with the Grand Gallery.

"Don was a bohemian California landscaper/artist when we met. I was a typical Type A med student. It seemed we had nothing in common. But when Don and his wife, Chris, moved to Grand Rapids, he continued doing his art. We'd visit galleries and talk art."

The art business

The gallery is located in a five-star hotel in Grand Rapids that Dr. Gerbens describes as "lovely." There are two other galleries in Ada and East Grand Rapids, MI. Dr. Gerbens does not spend a lot of time at the gallery, but is deeply involved in the strategic planning part of the business. He deals with the press and presents art for new facilities such as hospitals, hotels, and professional offices.

"One of the most essential functions of the gallery is to showcase artists and assist with their development," he explained. Dr. Gerbens has seen students work in the gallery and, later, return to sell their artwork. "It's fun to expose the public to different kinds of art, especially when we can support causes at the same time. It's not about making money," he said. The gallery has hosted events for a weavers' society, a Navajo school from New Mexico, and for the Grand Rapids African-American Health Institute, to name a few.

Art for everyone

Dr. Gerbens empathizes with those people who feel unwelcome in galleries and encourages us to go in and ask questions.