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before and after

Before & After: Calumet Artist Residency

by Annie Werbler

Four years ago, Kate Land and her partner Corey bought two abandoned houses in the heart of the Indiana Dunes. The Miller Beach neighborhood of Gary, a city known as the birthplace of the Jackson 5 and home to heavy industry, is also conveniently located near the sandy shores of Lake Michigan. Kate and Corey decided to keep one building for themselves and turn the other into the Calumet Artist Residency with the belief that creative visitors could help address some of the region’s main issues. Once a crystal-clear glacial body of water, the Calumet River is now a series of partitioned, smaller waterways that are immensely polluted due to modern manufacturing processes. The couple have been asking guests to consider the “significant local natural beauty while acknowledging the troubling relationship between industry and nature” in their work. Kate, who grew up in a different part of the state, discovered an area much more verdant, compelling, and complex than suggested by its preceding reputation. So far, the cooperative has had several artists, musicians, filmmakers, and writers stay each summer. The pair eventually plan to acquire additional houses nearby to expand the movement.

The property itself has 85 steps that lead up to the two houses, which are situated next to a land trust. Despite the secluded setting, the South Shore train station is one mile away, and takes passengers to Chicago in under an hour. The mid-century buildings, constructed in 1950 and 1965, were in terrible shape when Kate and Corey found them. Built at the top of a hill, they feel like treehouses with forest canopy eye-level to the first floor. The most wonderful thing about hosting an artist residency, besides offering a lush oasis within an industrial zone, is that the rooms are filled with art inspired by that very place. โ€”Annie

Photography by Kate Land of Calumet Residency

Before & After: Calumet Artist Residency, on Design*Sponge
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A color-coordinated bookcase at the Calumet Artist Residency.
Before & After: Calumet Artist Residency, on Design*Sponge
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Before, the room's dark paneling and oddly raised floor made the space feel small and segmented.
Before & After: Calumet Artist Residency, on Design*Sponge
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The main dining room opens onto a comfy living area.
Before & After: Calumet Artist Residency, on Design*Sponge
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Before, an awkward fireplace stood in the center of the large living space.
Before & After: Calumet Artist Residency, on Design*Sponge
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Some of the wooden paneling was painted white to add a clean, modern sensibility to the decoration.
Before & After: Calumet Artist Residency, on Design*Sponge
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A collection of pickled prints and other tchotchkes.
Before & After: Calumet Artist Residency, on Design*Sponge
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Contemporary art enlivens a wall outside the bathroom.
Before & After: Calumet Artist Residency, on Design*Sponge
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The kitchen's brightly colored accessories add a welcoming vibe to the room.
Before & After: Calumet Artist Residency, on Design*Sponge
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The kitchen island was painted black to cool off some of the overwhelmingly warm natural wood tones.
Before & After: Calumet Artist Residency, on Design*Sponge
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A detail of the kitchen looking toward the living area.
Before & After: Calumet Artist Residency, on Design*Sponge
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This bedroom in the permanent residence features a lively mix of color and texture.
Before & After: Calumet Artist Residency, on Design*Sponge
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Another bedroom combines soft florals and curvilinear forms.
Before & After: Calumet Artist Residency, on Design*Sponge
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Tall windows provide this workroom with an unobstructed view of the lush, natural landscape.
Before & After: Calumet Artist Residency, on Design*Sponge
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The same space before its renovation, with boarded-up windows obstructing the serene views outdoors.
Before & After: Calumet Artist Residency, on Design*Sponge
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A screened-in porch daybed is an ideal spot in which to take inspiration from the scenery.
Before & After: Calumet Artist Residency, on Design*Sponge
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Hearty lilac plants line the deep stairway to the buildings.
Before & After: Calumet Artist Residency, on Design*Sponge
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The homeowners brought many of the original exterior details back to life.
Before & After: Calumet Artist Residency, on Design*Sponge
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Some artwork by residents created here.
Before & After: Calumet Artist Residency, on Design*Sponge
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The back patio's salvaged wood fence adds a personal touch to the outdoor space.
Before & After: Calumet Artist Residency, on Design*Sponge
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White-painted trim work brightens the studio's exterior.
Before & After: Calumet Artist Residency, on Design*Sponge
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An outdoor lift trails against the hillside.
Before & After: Calumet Artist Residency, on Design*Sponge
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Floorplans of the main house and residency building.

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Comments

  • Thanks for sharing this residency! I live in Fort Wayne, just a couple of hours south from the Indiana Dunes, and Indiana isn’t usually considered a hotbed of artistic activity, but there are amazing artists all over the state creating wonderful work. So glad there’s a place for us to escape to like this!

  • What a great example of working with what’s there! This place is like a hidden treasure. The views out those windows are enough to do it but the buildings themselves are so cozy and interesting. It feels so special that these were abandoned and have been given a new life.

  • The dunes area was historically a hotbed of artistic activity. There was once a thriving art league in Gary, and there are quite a few area artists. The Indiana State Museum has quite a few of Frank Dudley’s paintings. People rode the South Shore from Chicago to outdoor pageants and theatrical productions at the Dunes. It has a fascinating and history, and there was an art colony of sorts in the Beverly Shores area. There is still an art league in Chesterton, and many of the Gary Art League artist’s reconnected there after the Gary Artist’s League in Miller became unsustainable. It is hard to be an artist and make a living in the area, though. Because of the manufacturing base, it tended to be demographically ethnically diverse and was, at one time, heavily middle class blue collar.

    It is a fascinating and different ecosystem than any other part of the state.

    I’m glad to hear that artists are engaging with the area. I hope they get connected with the wide variety of artists already there.

  • Oh those lilacs! I like that this is done with what is easily at hand, that it represents a “normal” amount of cleaning, purchasing and organization. The kind of things that mere mortals can take on. Bravo.

  • So wonderful! I grew up spending summers at the Dunes and it’s indeed a beautiful, unique and complicated place. Can’t wait to apply. Yay Kate and Corey.

  • What a fabulous idea and incredible revamp. I don’t know what to comment on first. So kudos on everything. It’s always the grassroots arts community that revitalize a neighborhood. I just hope that this go the way of so many gentrified areas. I live in New York and have sadly seen this happen all to often.

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