Culture of Cult kicks off for the seventh time this Thursday, May 3rd. As with every edition of the show, this is the happening event of the week in the heart of Marquette. The pop-up art exhibit kicks off at 7PM at Ore Dock Brewing Company.
Are you new to Culture of Cult? Here’s the rundown…
“In 2014, the Culture of Cult art series was created to showcase local and nationally recognized talent. Through a set of themes, artists come together to help break down the high-brow stigma of art collectives and create a gallery of familiar content. Taking place in Marquette, Michigan - the culture of cult is a unique, one-night only “pop-up” style art show. Bi-annually, we encourge artists to contribute in the juried exhibitions, and welcome patrons to share their experiences through social media.” – www.cultureofcult.com
The Past Exhibits
It’s been an impressive showing, but we wanted to give you more. We chased down CoC founder, Mike Forester (📷 @foresterdesign), for a little one-on-one chat about the history of the show and where it’s headed next. If you’re in or around Marquete, you have probably heard Mike’s name before, if not, we gaurentee you’ve seen his work. His day job is Creative Director at Northern Michigan University. There aren’t many people who hustler harder than Mike.
- UP Supply Co (UPSCo): Culture of Cult, for those who are new, what's this all about and how did it start?
- Mike Forester (MF): The Culture of Cult started as a pop-culture themed art show with a tagline of "everything followed", meaning anything that had "fans", we wanted to create art collections for. It started back in 2014, when I moved up to Marquette from Detroit, I wanted to bring some of that artistic resurgence with me, and with the help of the community here in Marquette, we launched a semi-annual art series that continues to grow. The shows are one night only (helps with the immediacy!) and change themes with each show! Each one is different, each one is amazing in its own style and adds new artists to our roster every time.
- UPSCo: Slow down here, just how does this work? Could you tell us about this format? The venue?
- MF: I know, sorry! I get way too excited about this stuff. The shows are always completely free, and are all ages, we absolutely love seeing new faces and fans show up. The format is really loose, we make it very "anti-gallery", we aim to deliver a more laid-back atmosphere, these shows are definitely for the "I don't get art" crowd, with themes our viewers are familiar with they're able to appreciate the artisanship that goes into the pieces. What makes the collections so strong is the variety, we are very active in encouraging different mediums, we've had 3D prints, Oil Paintings, digital prints, projections, video pieces...it's all creative and all works within each theme. Also, we host the show at the Ore Dock Brewing Company right downtown, and that helps draw some attention. Their beer is fantastic, beer making is an art form in it's own right, so it just makes sense. Plus, the shows are always on a Thursday, so we like to kick your weekend off proper!
- UPSCo: You aren't kidding about kicking the weekend off, the shows create a fantastic amount of energy. We've been fortunate to attend all but one of the CoC shows, but what's the long term objective here? How do you hope to shape the art scene in Marquette and around the Upper Peninsula?
- MF: This is a great question, I think the long term objective is a combination of a few things: showcase local artists, put Marquette on the map for non-Michigan artists, and continue to put creativity back into our community. Of course, we'd love to see the "brand" turn into something different - and we have some plans down the road, but for right now, it's all about fun. I absolutely love putting opportunities out there, we've had some artists grow their followings, found some new fans, and made a few household names. We're having too much fun to think too far ahead!
- UPSCo: Have you seen a change in the community since the launch of CoC?
- MF: Absolutely, for me - I get asked all the time when the next CofC show is happening, and what the theme is (we keep it pretty safeguarded until it's ready to be unveiled), and for a lot of the past artists, they're always champing at the bit to make some work for them. Marquette continues to blow me away with support, I think it's our isolation that helps the community - maybe it's the concept of finding fellow fans up here in the U.P. or just the appreciation and recognition of talent, makes it all worth it. Our community absolutely rules, and if you're willing to put in the time to make an event awesome, they'll soak it up and push you to keep going. 906 Pride!
- UPSCo: Each edition of the show feels fresh, there's been a lot of variety, can you talk about how it changes from show to show?
- MF: The shows are so different and in so many ways the same...of course, the biggest thing that breaks the mold is the themes. We try to always add something special to each show to make them immersive and "can't miss". "75 Years of Dark Knights" (Batman) was awesome, it was the 75th anniversary of Batman, set right before Halloween, and everyone was geeking out over comic book movies at the time. We had a bunch of couches with popcorn and watched the 1989 Tim Burton original, all while the art show was going on, it was so fun, nerdy and perfect. "Board to Death" auctioned off over 30 skateboards that went right to the local Marquette skatepark. For "Art of Force", we actually had the 501st Legion members in attendance. These guys are the official LucasFilm costumed endorsees for Star Wars, literally the closest you can get to being on set with the characters. When an 8 foot Chewbacca walked in with Darth Vader, the whole crowd lost their mind. They were troopers (pun intended) and posed for 2 hours taking photos with everyone, it was incredible.
- UPSCo: It's pretty special to walk in and see standing room only for these art shows. And you've got some pretty reknowned artists involved from across the country. It's a small-town art show with a big city feel, how does that work in this community?
- MF: You know, this community is so special because it's awesomely unassuming. When I share photos of recaps to some of the artists who weren't in attendance, we hear a common response of "whoa! you guys do this in one night?...up there?" We put together some collections that could definitely compete on some big levels. But people here are so appreciative when someone puts in the time and effort to host a great event, and in a big city - it's so easy to get burned out on social conflicts. In the metro-areas, you're constantly competing for peoples attention. Here in Marquette - our community absolutely rallies when something special is happening. We definitely pull inspiration from outside events, but at this point, have made it our own and thats entirely thanks to our local crew of fans, supporters and creatives.
- UPSCo: Right on! It's been an impressive show to follow. What's your background in the world of art to get such a thing going?
- MF: My background is design and marketing, and bringing concepts to wide audiences is what I do on a daily basis as the creative director of marketing at NMU. I operate a next to full-time freelance design business, and love creating every day. From snowboards to the auto industry, I've been really fortunate to have met so many people throuhgout my career - I've been able to pull artists from each place I've worked since I got out of college in 2009. On that note, the show is definitely NMU-centric, may it be alumni, students, staff or faculty, you'll see a lot of people that have connections here in some way, but it only strengthens the collection to showcase the amazing people that continue to orbit the University, as well the community of local artists that continue to blow me away that are just "hiding out" around Marquette.
- UPSCo: How can artists get involved?
- MF: We make it really easy for artists to get involved! Find us on Facebook and Instagram - and reach out. We curate the gallery of each theme to keep the collection strong, but try and help artists best narrow in an idea or concept to make something that works really well for show. We're adding artists to our roster, and encourage all past CofC veterans to create art for each show!
- UPSCo: This edition, One U.P.!, is all about video games. Any games of old that have really inspired your career?
- MF: This show is going to be really fun! I'm of that Nintendo/Super Nintendo generation that really got to grow up with current gaming. We remember the pixel peeping of Zelda, were blown away by our first experience with Metal Gear Solid on Playstation, spent way too many hours playing Goldeneye with our friends, moved onto Halo and now Fortnite has taken over the country. Gaming has become so much more commonplace, it's moved on from this "nerdy" stereotype and really been appreciated for the work that goes into them. I'm in love with modern gaming's storytelling, graphics and gameplay...and still enjoy the healthy dose of nostalgia from the games that shaped my youth. OneU.P.! will have something for everyone, no matter if you were an arcade kid or a casual player.
- UPSCo: What's next for CoC?
- MF: Haha, I don't know man, it's a monster I can't control now!!!! (Oh, Monsters, that would be a cool theme, right?) I'd love to be able to get Culture of Cult as an established brand to start bringing artists to the U.P. to see what we've got going on here. It's such a unique and fun show, I'd love to take some big LA artist and have them experience what it's like to get off a plane at Sawyer, be terrified at the lack of highways and skyscrapers...and then be completely blown away by the collection and people who attend the show. It's always been about community, and if the Culture of Cult was to move forward with anything, it'd be sharing what makes us special here in the Yoop. Or t-shirts, maybe that's less ambitious. I could make some t-shirts.
- UPSCo: Fess up, do you really run this thing all by yourself? Who else is involved? Are there any shoutouts you need to give?
- MF: Well at this point, it's a whole crew that's operating behind the curtain. I spearheaded the launch and act as the spokesperson and curator, but our Culture of Cult volunteer crew makes it all happen. The volunteer core is adding new people every show, but guys like Paul Hess from Northmost Outpost has been crew since day one. He runs an independent screen-printing shop and has taken on a bigger role of reaching out to new artists and being the catch-all for logistics. As Northmost grows as an independent artist collection, its been awesome seeing him sink his teeth into the bigger picture. He also happens to be one of the most talented guys I know, and I tell him that every time I see him. Daric Christian was one of my professors when I was at NMU, and with his new role as Associate Dean of the school of Art and Design at NMU, is a massive help for setting up the show and encouraging students to get involved. Jon Teichman, also at NMU on the admissions team runs a ton of his own events around town, like the Vinyl Show, and is there for every set up and take down. Chris Moore from NMU has also saved our ass multiple times as our "gallery guy", his knowledge of arranging artwork has helped the balance of our presentation immensely. Of course, the entire team at Ore Dock keeps the doors open late and slangs beers at lightning speed, Lizzie Corser and Kris Wierenga have been such staunch supporters of the show, it's been a great relationship with even greater people.
- UPSCo: Now for the heavy hitters. Who's your favorite Mario character?
- MF: Ah...finally! Some tough ones! Man...I'm such a meat and potatoes kind of guy when it comes to the classics, I'll pick Mario every time. Mario riding Yoshi in Super Mario World changed my life, and Bowser was so frustrating in Mario Kart. Luigi is cool to like, and Mario is boring...but Mario is my guy. Maybe it's the mustached, italian guy in me.
- UPSCo: What would an Upper Peninsula based video game look like? Which game from the past would it be best modeled after?
- MF: This is an amazing question! Firewatch was a mystery game that had you explore the woods and with a handheld radio, it could definitely work for the U.P. My personal favorite "Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater" had you sneak around the outdoors, and you'd have to forage, hunt for sustenance, go through all these different conditions...and then fight a guy made out of bees. It was weird, but sure, the YOOP is WILD, BABY!
- UPSCo: More importantly, how do you prefer your pasty?
- MF: Ah dang, I knew the UP Supply CO would hang me up over this...but I'm a ketchup guy. My Jean Kays order is simple: One pasty, without, and a cookie that I can eat on the way home and tell my wife they ran out.