Photos by Cary Ewing
Article by Jeanne Lesinski

A longtime fixture in Bay City, the Larson family made a name for itself with the family business: Larson Salvage. Over the decades, but particularly in the last ten years, the landmark Larson Salvage building on Washington Street has also housed one of the best-kept secrets in town: the art studio of sculptor and painter Tom Larson. 

After the nearby A&J Galleries closed and Tom and son Carl, also a painter, were subjects of the Larson and Larson retrospective at Bay City's Studio 23 in 2009 (see Larson retrospective),Tom thought hard about his options.  He envisioned opening a gallery adjacent to the salvage company, in a storefront that he had been leasing to other business owners.

Tom and his wife Lois traveled to galleries in other parts of the Midwest, studying what made them successful. Soon Tom, Carl and other company employees set to work creating what is now a very attractive gallery space: C.A.T. Works. It will feature art by the Larson family, including daughter Amelia, a painter, cartoonist and English major at Michigan State University.

Carl's paintings, in subdued and naturalistic tones, often depict fantastic vehicles or whimsical animals. Amelia, whose functional and humorous cartoons have enlivened the windows of Larson Salvage and the pages of 360 Main Street, is known for her realistic finger paintings of famous historical figures, as well as fanciful portraits.These works contrast with Tom's brilliantly hued, non-representational paintings and rough-styled sculptures, making for a range of pieces that will likely appeal to a variety of art enthusiasts.

On a recent visit to C.A.T. Works, Tom looked over the gallery space and talked of finishing touches in progress. He gestured widely and grinned. "This is my heaven," he said.

The gallery is due to open in mid-March and will mirror the hours of the salvage company, Monday through Saturday. It will also be open for special events and by appointment. 

© Jeanne Lesinski, 2011