NMU student hopes to inspire artists with the opening of the ‘Smooth UP Art’ gallery

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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) — Coming from a big city to the Upper Peninsula can be somewhat of a culture shock for some. The Upper Peninsula has many unique treats that you cannot find in a place like Chicago or Minneapolis. One Northern Michigan University student wants to bring a piece of city culture to the Marquette area.

“I got off the plane and the person sitting next to me, I told the young lady, I said ‘yeah, for some reason my Uber app isn’t loading,’ she said ‘Uber app? We don’t have Uber,” said Jeremiah Jenkins.

22-year-old Jeremiah Jenkins was accepted to NMU three years ago. He wasn’t sure if and where he was going to go for college, but being his first choice, Jeremiah had his eye on a special program only offered at NMU.

“There’s no better place to get a niche than to go to the only university, at the time in the world, that has a program, a four-year degree, that you can receive a bachelor’s in science in this medicinal Plant Chemistry driven program.”

Medicinal Plant Chemistry is one of Northern’s newest programs that offers a chance for students to understand one of the fastest-growing industries in the country, cannabis. For entrepreneurs, like Jeremiah, he sees a gold rush of opportunity.

Understanding plants meant getting his hands dirty. Jeremiah decided to work and gain some experience with a Marquette organization that protects and improves the natural resources of the Upper Peninsula. 

“So, when I worked with the Superior Watershed partnership, it broke me,” said Jenkins.

“There were points where I had ticks on me, I had leeches on me, we were walking through water, but I learned and what I learned was I can be completely afraid of something, utterly shocked, distrut, broke down and I can piece by piece and build myself back up tenfold.”

Jeremiah began to watch and take interest in local businesses and in local art. Observing from afar as he watched businesses flourish into successful establishments.

“Just seeing the progression of other local distilleries, seeing how they’ve started off just in a garage, booming to something great,” said Jenkins.

“I said to myself that I am an artist, so why don’t I get a space and put some of the art that I filling my rooms with?”

Jeremiah believed in himself and his art but needed a bit of a push to get the ball rolling. He continued to draw, to paint, to design on his own as the school years went along. In college, there are many opportunities to make friends, but there are also opportunities to find those who have many of the same interests, the same ideas. This is when students find their business partners.

“We just looked at each other and we started talking on an artistic level, just about different ideas and creating and he just tapped me and he said ‘you’re a really good artist and I think more people should do art more often,’ and when I heard that I told him we should do art more often.”

And that’s when Vino was born. Vino is Jeremiah’s art alter-ego. The self-proclaimed Picasso of his generation, Jeremiah decided to open a space for artists like Vino to have a place to create, whatever form it may be. Jeremiah came up with the idea when he was working at the NMU greenhouse on campus. A place he said has an unlimited amount of inspiration.

“As you can see this place stands alone, I mean it’s a flourishing environment and this greenhouse is something that I see my art gallery as being. Just that, another place where people can come and take a part of me and can grow an entirely new plant that can stand the test of time for themselves.”

And that’s what Smooth UP Art Gallery will be. A place for local artists, over the age of 18, to come together to either collaborate or to bounce inspiration off one another.

“This young city boy has a good opportunity to bring a bright light and a sense of neoness to this environment.”

Jeremiah hopes to start an art movement in the Marquette area with the Smooth UP Art Gallery. He hopes to expand his team with local artists who have a common goal, to create.

“The entire focus of this journey has always been to create while helping others create their own,” said Jenkins.

“I believe that the only way that we can get inspiration, wake up in the morning to do more, is by focusing on connecting with others. Local art is a big thing for me. I’m pushing right now for 20 local artists from the Marquette area to join my team. Right now, I think I’m at seven people so far, and that’s seven people with a couple of paintings, so just building on different creations. I have so many that have sent in submissions and just trying to expand and give people an opportunity to buy things from people that were walking right past you on the street.”

“I think a lot of people lose site on the opportunity to purchase something that has a story. All of the art in this building that will be on a wall, a tee-shirt, a sticker will have a meaning. I want people to hear SUPA (Smooth UP Art gallery) and feel uplifted. SUPA is the one that got me there, SUPA is the one who created it.”

Smooth UP Art Gallery is located at 148 West Washington in Downtown Marquette. A prime central location in the heart of small business land. Jeremiah hopes to make this space an establishment for years to come in, Marquette.

“Smooth UP Art Gallery, as a whole to me truthfully, I believe should and will be a home for people,” said Jenkins.

“I truly just want to provide what I believe I wasn’t provided when I first came here and that was just that, a place where I can create. I’ve been here for three years and I’ve met a lot of people, but I think I feel like I can meet a lot more.”

“Just being able to give somebody who is just a guppy today, an opportunity to go be a huge koi fish or whatever you may be, sturgeons for the locals, they can be that. They can be that local legend.” -Jeremiah Jenkins, Smooth UP Art

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