The Rapidian Home

Local Artist Highlight: An Introduction to Cocoon Art Space at 327 Division Avenue South

This dispatch was added by one of our Nonprofit Neighbors. It does not represent the editorial voice of The Rapidian or Community Media Center.

Avenue for the Arts visits with the owners of Cocoon Art Space on the inspiration and creation of an innovative new gallery space in the Heartside District on Division Avenue South. Interview by Pamela MacDougal.

Cocoon Art Space Events

"Felinity" - Art & Cats running through August.

"Evolutionaries" - opening September 1, 6 - 8 pm. An imaginary interaction and evolutionary catalyst between the animal kingdom and humankind by mixed media artist and Cocoon Art Space Partner Tedd Smith.

ArtPrize Reception - September 14, 6 - 8 pm. Welcoming artists Jenny Hearns and Mariana Barros.

/Cocoon Art Space


In recent years, South Division has overseen the revival of one vintage Grand Rapids storefront after another, capitalizing on the inherent beauty of its historic buildings. Anchoring one end of this spectacular row, Cocoon Art Space makes the most of its architectural gem. Bright light streams in tall windows. Stained glass, high ceilings, and beautiful woodwork create a special ambiance, and that’s before your eyes have taken in the gallery. Owners Josie Garcia and Tedd Smith, artists in their own right, generously gave an hour of their afternoon to introduce me to their innovative creation, which opened in November 2022. Charming and friendly themselves, their efforts have produced a heart-warming, approachable experience of art, fulfilling their tagline, “the artful, cozy, wondrous place!”

How did they get here and where did this idea come from?

Josie and Tedd met in Arizona while working for a nonprofit art center and gallery. The year 2021 brought them to Michigan, where Tedd had grown up, and Arizona native Josie was introduced to the four seasons. Michigan art fairs and farmers markets, as many as 30 per year, drew them all over the state. While showing their art and handmade goods, they met many other Michigan artists and artisans, developing an extensive network of creatives. 

For many, Josie and Tedd are best known for their creepy cute monster business, Monstorium®. Their collaborative creations proved so popular that the original monster figurine offerings evolved into an entire line of handmade monster products. Their daughter participates in the family business, sewing monster plushies and teaching her parents new sewing stitches and techniques. Even their youngest contributes, painting the base coat on wood figures. With monsters as a springboard, and leveraging their presence in the Michigan art community, Josie and Tedd launched Cocoon Art Space to draw in other artists and share them with all of us. 

How does it all work at Cocoon Art Space?

Their Michigan network has proven valuable for planning exhibitions. Josie and Tedd bring together a selection of artists and display their multidisciplinary works around a chosen theme. I had the pleasure of seeing their most recent exhibit, “Felinity,” which you may be able to catch if you act quickly. It’s up through August. With cats as a theme, the exhibition showcases paintings and artisan goods in a multitude of styles. I responded to watercolor collage paintings by Kathleen Ford, but no matter your style preference, you’re likely to find something appealing to you. The variety and artistic skill are there. 

Josie and Tedd have a lot of common interest in the type of artisan works they show. They love cute, colorful, handmade pieces with a unique, fun personality and character. However, Josie notes, “There has to be a level of skill.” They enjoy finding unusual objects to complement the art, like pencil terrariums and seed-collecting vials. The jewelry of Tricia Zeno, whom they met at Fulton Farmers Market, graces their displays. Josie says, “The art supplies are important to us. These are specialty items you might not find in a big box store. And everything is reasonably priced, mid-range to make good gifts.”

Art exhibitions start with an opening night and run for 1-2 months. The ideas for an art exhibition arise from collaboration. Tedd says they want to offer something people can relate to and understand – that exhibits should be approachable, fun, and family-friendly. Josie adds that their exhibitions show how many different artistic styles are possible within a single theme. People can appreciate the wide range of approaches to a subject, from traditional paintings to manga-style drawings to artisan-crafted goods. For the Felinity show, Jenny Hearns provides cat-shaped pillows in soft cat-print fabrics, and Robyn Lynn Smith offers ceramic objets d’art along feline lines. 

For artists and makers, calls for entry are listed on the Cocoon Art Space website and social media. Cocoon issues a newsletter for current customers and artists. When I asked how Josie and Tedd find their artists, they also said that “creatives know other creatives, so there is a lot of connection that forms by word of mouth.” Yet another reason to drop by Michigan art events and visit Cocoon Art Space…

What’s happening at Cocoon Art Space during ArtPrize?

Opening with a September 14th reception from 6 – 8 pm, Cocoon Art Space will host the works of two ArtPrize artists, Jenny Hearns and Mariana Barros. Asked how they selected these artists, Josie said they were seeking Michigan artists and works not typical of what is usually shown in the space. The large, colorful abstract works Mariana Barros submitted to Cocoon were a good fit, as were Jenny Hearns’ creation of smaller alphabet-based pieces (which together make up a larger work). As always, Josie and Tedd were looking to include a variety of art styles. 

In addition, Tedd’s mixed media exhibit, Evolutionaries, will run the month of September, featuring an evolutionary interaction between the animal kingdom and humans. The exhibition opens with a reception on Friday, September 1, from 6 – 8 pm.  

Where does it all go from here?

There’s a distinctly social element to Josie and Tedd. In the future, they would love to host creative gatherings for artists in the shop. They note the importance to artists of sharing ideas and resources - what might work for one artist could benefit others. One artist’s work can inspire a new direction for another. They say, “It’s always exciting to see people in the space on opening nights for exhibitions. It’s exciting to see new art coming through.” 

What are the best moments?

I asked Josie, “What are the most gratifying moments you’ve had since opening Cocoon Art Space?” Her reply was, “Definite highlights include: opening nights, selling art, and building a creative space for artists and the community to enjoy.” She added, “When people come into the shop, not having seen or heard our tagline, they use those words to describe this space. We are trying to create a comfortable sense of home. We get that comment from people, and it’s gratifying – you can get up close to the art and be at ease.” People are having the experience Josie and Tedd most hoped to create.

The Rapidian, a program of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Community Media Center, relies on the community’s support to help cover the cost of training reporters and publishing content.

We need your help.

If each of our readers and content creators who values this community platform help support its creation and maintenance, The Rapidian can continue to educate and facilitate a conversation around issues for years to come.

Please support The Rapidian and make a contribution today.

Comments, like all content, are held to The Rapidian standards of civility and open identity as outlined in our Terms of Use and Values Statement. We reserve the right to remove any content that does not hold to these standards.