Saper Gallery and east arbor architecture Bring Art, Architecture to Downtown EL

Monday, June 13, 2016, 7:00 am
Casandra Eriksen

Photo: Roy Saper, framing manager Jennifer, and artist Lou Heiser at the opening of Vistas of Michigan: Oil Paintings of Lou Heiser, October 4, 2015

Saper Galleries, long a fixture in downtown Easy Lansing, celebrated its 30th anniversary in downtown East Lansing on Friday, June 3. Asked how he got started, Roy Saper said, “I opened Saper Galleries in response to the community’s enthusiastic support of the gallery which I was previously operating out of my home at 429 Bailey Street, adjacent to downtown East Lansing.”

Saper emphasized his lifelong love of art “I had been buying art since a teen (from baby-sitting and lawn mowing earnings) and after I came to East Lansing to study at MSU I continued buying art at auctions, selecting what I loved and wanted to own. In the early-to-mid 1970s others enjoyed the art in my collection and asked for my assistance to acquire artworks for them. By 1978 I created 20th Century Fine Arts, making available to collectors artwork that they told me they would like to own.”

He adds that his business only grew from there. “I continued to buy more artworks that I loved, displayed them in my home, and residents of the East Lansing community called to make appointments to visit and see the collection. Seven years later, in 1985, I realized that there was enough activity that I needed to expand from an appointment basis to a larger gallery with regular hours-and more staff than a sole picture framer who assisted me.”

Saper then hunted for a suitable piece of property for his expanding business. “I was shown locations of buildings in Okemos and elsewhere in the area but was not pleased with any existing building. I looked at the house where B&A Florist is (Grand River and Hagadorn) and saw the slate-roofed house as a possibility for the gallery and the smaller house in back as a possible framing facility. But that just wasn’t right for me. I considered what was then a vacant tuxedo rental facility which is now a FedEx location on Michigan Avenue near Harrison Roadhouse-but I wasn’t totally happy with that either.”

After some fruitless effort, Saper contacted the City of East Lansing and asked what was available. He was told that “…the only vacant parcel of property in downtown East Lansing was at the corner of Albert Avenue and Division Street, land that was overgrown with weeds reaching out onto the sidewalk, posts at the perimeter to keep cars off the vacant lot, and overgrown trees.” Saper then drove to the Detroit area to talk to the owner of Butterfield Theaters who owned the land at the time, and bought it from him for nearly three times for what he paid for his house.

“And now, 30 years later, I have far outgrown the 6,000 square feet (plus lower level) of the existing building and could easily use four-times what we have to better display the 1,500 artworks now in our inventory. I created the Gallery 30 years ago because our clients then-and now-have been so supportive of what we’ve made available to them.”

When asked what his goals are for the future of Saper Galleries, Saper said “I have goals of every day and the next. We will continue to serve the interests and needs of every person who wishes to acquire a work of art for their home or office or as a gift. For those who have artwork that needs to be cleaned, restored or repaired, we will continue to provide the proper treatment to ensure the long term preservation of the artwork.”

He emphasized the diversity of the work at Saper Galleries, stating that their “goals are to add more professional staff so that every task asked of us, from appraisals and research, to providing expert witness testimony in court cases involving art fraud, are handled quickly, professionally, and accurately, so that all of our clients receive the services they request-and more.”

As Saper Galleries celebrates their 30th anniversary, ‘east arbor architecture’ is also celebrating the opening of their new office. As part of the opening, the firm will be hosting a display of watercolors by Lisse Williams.

When asked how ‘east arbor architecture’ got started, Daniel Bollman said “In 2004, I worked as the Manager of Architecture at a New Urbanist development in South Carolina. The developer determined that the new buildings would reflect the vernacular styles of the region, but would not directly mimic historic styles. Upon returning to Michigan in 2007, I continued this pattern, targeting projects that emphasize the building’s place, with emphasis on craft and community. ‘east arbor architecture’ was founded with the purpose of addressing our dissatisfaction both with anonymous Modernism and with falsely historic styles.”

When describing the work the company does, Bollman explained that “a majority of our office’s work consists of residential and light commercial projects, executed at various scales. Our broad experience with historic buildings and traditional detailing has positioned ‘east arbor architecture’ as this region’s experts in preservation and restoration.”

Asked about the future of ‘east arbor architecture’ Bollman said “with the recent expansion of our office to include designer and project manager, Amanda Harell-Seyburn, we are better equipped to handle larger projects and simultaneous multiple projects. As the sole architecture firm located in downtown East Lansing, the office is the design leader in our changing urban environment and the corresponding call for diverse residential, commercial and mixed-use products in East Lansing and greater Lansing metro.”  

Saper Galleries is located at 433 Albert Avenue in downtown East Lansing. For more information you can visit their website

‘east arbor architecture’ is located at 201 ½ E. Grand River Avenue. Their website is