By Tom Dennis
What’s new on the art scene in downtown Port Huron? Gina’s Gallery at 411 Grand River Avenue opened in mid-May and features local artists who display a wide variety of art forms.
Our first featured artist is quite appropriately our founder, Georgina Witt. Georgina was born in Chatham, Ontario in 1939 into a world much different from what we take for granted in our modern times. Her family was very poor with father in a veteran’s hospital and she worked at local farms to help the family survive. Following completion of grade 11 as an honor student, the family had no money to buy the books required to continue her education. So, at age 16 she struck out on her own to seek a better life in Michigan and leaving family and friends behind, rented an apartment, and found her first job at Murray’s Department Store in Rochester, Michigan. Georgina was a good worker with a creative spirit and was soon promoted to window dresser, her first introduction to an entrepreneurial life!
Fast forward a few years, a G.E.D, and a few jobs later and Georgina was employed at Nuera Gear doing office work. There she met young David Witt and they found love and were married in 1959. Georgina and David are a visionary couple and they founded Witco, a successful and highly reputable precision machining company in Avoca, Michigan in 1977. From humble beginnings in a five-car garage on a forty acre farm, the business has grown to a 50-thousand square feet operation with 65 employees with Georgina as majority owner.
At the youthful age of 62, having raised two sons, Georgina went to Tucker’s Art Studio in Port Huron to learn to paint. At her first lesson, Bill Tucker told her “pick up the brush…now paint”; she didn’t even know how to hold the brush! The painting progressed quite well with much coaching from Bill and many paintings later the seeds to open a gallery slowly germinated. Mr. Tucker sought her assistance in finding a studio facility in the downtown area. After assisting with this venture the Witt’s had the idea that they could purchase some of the old buildings and restore them into lofts. The 411 Grand River Avenue was their last renovation project and Georgina asked husband David and son Steve to let her have the main floor for an artist’s gallery. Thus, Gina’s Gallery was born.
Georgina exhibits along with about twelve other artists at present. Her paintings show diverse themes ranging from portraits, still life, and nature and most are completed in Aruba where she can find time away from the hectic pace at home. Also on display are her “embellished” hats that include my favorite form, fedoras, as well as just about any style imaginable. At age 79 Georgina is still going strong and those of us who know her see no slowdown in the foreseeable future. A trip to downtown Port Huron isn’t complete without a visit to Gina’s Gallery to see what’s new.
The gallery operates on the ground floor in a recently renovated building located one block east of the Sperry Theaters and if you are old enough to remember, just north across the street from the long-closed SS Kresge five and dime store. The business opens daily at 11:00 AM with closing times varying at 6:00 and 9:00 PM.
Tom Dennis is a resident of Fort Gratiot where he and Laurie Melms Dennis, his wife of 45 years, tend to their bird and butterfly friendly gardens. He is a speaker and free-lance writer, passionate birder, advanced master gardener, creation scientist, and naturalist, with degrees from Michigan State University in Zoology and Biology. Tom is an active member of Blue Water Audubon Society, Master Gardeners of St. Clair County, Port Huron Civic Theater, Ross Bible Church, Tapestry Garden Club, Blueways of St. Clair, and is a steward of the Blue Water Riverwalk with Friends of the St. Clair River.
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