Linda Dunklee, left, and Carrie Holstine, both of Lansing, check out the art exhibits at 555 Nonprofit Gallery and Studios located in a former Detroit Police Department precinct station on West Vernor. And yes, that’s an actual cell. (Max Ortiz / The Detroit News)
Detroit — Just a few years ago, the Detroit Police Department's former third precinct station sat empty and neighborhood residents were concerned about its fate.
The structure found a new purpose this year when the 555 Nonprofit Gallery and Studios moved into the building at 2801 W. Vernor Highway.
"This has been a long time coming," said Carl W. Goines, executive director of the volunteer, artist-run organization. "This is our 10th anniversary as well, so we're really excited as an organization trying to create art space for the community."
The 555 Nonprofit Gallery and Studios provides affordable studio space to artists as well as arts education programs and gallery space.
The gallery celebrated its anniversary Friday along with the grand opening. The other building occupants include Detroit Farm and Garden and the building's landlord, the nonprofit Southwest Solutions.
The outdoor ceremony featured performances by singers including Monica Blaire. The gallery's leaders showed off the studio spaces, including former jail cells that still have their iron bars. Attendees tried their creative hand with an art project in one of the classrooms.
The 555 Nonprofit Gallery and Studios was founded in Ann Arbor, switched to Ypsilanti and now Detroit. In April, the gallery moved into the former police precinct after Southwest Solutions raised $1.6 million for renovations over a 21/2-year period. The city closed the police precinct in 2005 as part of a department-wide reorganization.
Karla Henderson, group executive of planning and facilities for the city of Detroit, said Southwest Solutions thought outside the box for this project.
"Repurposing vacant buildings that have structural integrity and are strategically located is important to revitalizing our neighborhoods," she said.
Attendees of the grand opening checked out an exhibit featuring the work of past and present studio members and artists. Ten artists work at the studio regularly, using the former investigator offices and jail cells, Goines said.
Elizabeth Sutton, a photographer, said she came to the organization in 2008 after realizing she needed her own studio space.
"I like that they let people be who they were," she said.
An outdoor art show and farm market take place at the gallery from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today.