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“The Outer Edge”
by Leila Niehuser
ArtWorks Magazine
Spring 2005

If you are out for a stroll in downtown Monterey, you might just miss it, but if you are a regular it tugs on your heartstrings every time you walk by. The Outer Edge Studio, tucked down a side street between Alvarado and Tyler, is exactly like it sounds – an art gallery / hair salon that is, well, out there. At its core – a beloved owner and an old washing machine. An interesting combination that used to provide comfort, but now stands as a bittersweet inspiration to so many.

The old 1950’s washing machine placed on the sidewalk was the signal that Michael’s in town. The traveling hair stylist spent his time on ten-day cross-country shifts, traveling between New York, Kansan, and Monterey. He eventually fell in love with Thailand, spending a majority of his time there, but always made time for monthly homecomings to Monterey.

The Outer edge was his shop, where he cut hair using an old refrigerator as his workstation. It also served as a home for his expansive collection of fifties antiques. The antiques were more of a hobby. “Not for sale,” was a common statement when it came to the “merchandise.” But when he found the right person for the right antique, Michael was known to practically give it away.

Michael Keenan was a familiar face beloved by many in the community. Some even call him a local legend. "He was a pretty amazing human being is the blanket statement for Michael, a casual conversation was always a real conversation," says Andrew Jackson, whose art studio was not far away. Andrew went to Michael's place looking for advice and good company. He found both.

Michael had a way with his customers. A good stylist is like a good therapist only the trimming is more off the top than off the pocketbook. The Outer Edge was a special place for many. "Michael made everyone think like they were his favorite..." Andrew pauses, "I was one of those people."

Even in mid-haircut Michael found time for friends like Andrew. "He would say, ‘get over here and
give me a hug'. He became part of your day." Always awaiting the return of his friend, Andrew drove down Alvarado St. with one eye on the road and the other looking for that old fifties washer.

Andrew Jackson is a painter who found early success showing his paintings in Hawaii. Despite being paid handsomely, his encounters with what he calls the underbelly of the art business drove him back to the Monterey Peninsula where his grandfather had brought him years before, first exposing him to the arts. Andrew became one of the youngest gallery owners ever in Carmel, but that artistic endeavor only lasted three years. Through the ups and downs of his painting career there were always words of wisdom from his good friend, Michael.

"You know there are a lot of artists in this town but you're the only one doing something about it and not talking about it." Andrew calls this the most important thing Michael ever said to him. And Andrew wouldn't forget it.

Before Michael left for what was to be his last trip to Thailand, he handed his keys over to Andrew to hang some of his paintings. "He never came back. He gave me the keys and he never came back. Then I found out he passed away. He had a heart attack in Thailand," says Andrew with a sigh of sadness. The community, so used to his long absences, was grief stricken by the reality that this time he wouldn't be coming back.

There was a large memorial for Michael. The alley in front of the Outer Edge was shut down. Hundreds came to pay their respects to the man so many called a friend. Andrew remembers, "Everyone he knew, everyone he touched was there... it was so sad." Many told stories about how Michael had a special way of not only connecting with people but motivating them as well. "What are you going to do about it," was one Michael's best-known quips - a kind way of nudging people into finding solutions for their problems.

It was at that memorial that Andrew ran into close friend, Chris Delaney. Standing in sorrow, looking at the place that had been so special, they felt heartsick. "I can't believe this place is going to be gone...! I don't want to see it turn into a real-estate office," Andrew told his friend with desperation. "I want to board it up and leave it as a memorial to Michael,"~ Delaney responded. In their shared moments of grief came a shared vision for the future. They decided to "do something about it." A plan was hatched to turn the former Outer Edge into an art gallery in Michael's honor. With blessings from the family to keep Michael's washer and the refrigerator where he cut hair, the new era of the Outer Edge Studio was born. The familiar washer would soon be back on the street, and the Outer Edge would change from an antique shop that happens to cut hair to an art gallery that happens to cut hair. Andrew was the artist helping turn a great idea into reality, instead of just talking about a really great idea.

The Outer Edge Studio plays host to international, regional and local artists. The art on the walls is untraditional and funky. "You can't find anything like this for 200 miles,"~ says Andrew, with obvious pride. According to Andrew, the prevailing style is, "What art is today and what will be coming out of the art schools tomorrow."

Keeping the hair chair is not only paying homage to the man who used to stand behind it. 'The hair cutting allows us to show edgier art, more urban." Andrew jokes that without the additional money from the hair salon, the gallery would be hanging only seascapes. Andrew says, "People are starved for real art that is pretty affordable."~ It's not what one will find in a more traditional gallery, but it is selling. The gallery has stood on its own feet since it opened just nine months ago.

Andrew credits the gallery's success to the team behind the vision, saying, "I never planned to own a gallery again but I have great partners." Chris Delaney, owner of the popular Monterey restaurant Hulas, Andrew's wife, Sunshine, a local photographer, and Anne Parodi, the hairstylist, are all behind the business that stands there today. The antiques have been replaced by edgy, contemporary art, but many elements of what was, remain the same. You can still get a haircut or drop in for a chat. Andrew still holds the key, but he still calls the Outer Edge Michael's place. "About four different people throughout the day in June came in and said it was Michael's birthday... a couple got teary. I don't know many people that have the ability to touch so many people..."~ says Andrew. When asked if Michael would like the new version, Andrew replied, "He'd get a kick out of it, it's right up his alley." And right up the alley where so many went to find a friend is where Andrew and company await, open for business marked by the familiar antique washing machine on the sidewalk.

Give me a hug, ya mug
Jerry Gervas, Monterey Herald
Sep. 21, 2004

Calling all friends of Michael Keenan.

Perhaps you remember the column I did about Michael back in July. He was the bon vivant/ raconteur/philosopher who also styled hair at his shop, The Outer Edge, on Bonifacio Place.

He lived in Thailand, then flew to Monterey, where for 10 days each month, he kept our heads cool while people all around us were losing theirs. His sudden death in January stirred an outpouring of tributes, including a memorial service at the shop. Bonifacio was closed off as almost 200 persons listened to Michael's friends describe what his friendship meant to them.

Some close friends of Michael's, among them Chris Delaney, took over the lease on the shop and turned it into a combination barber shop/art gallery, keeping the name The Outer Edge. They thought Michael would appreciate the combination. Anyone who knew this gentle man would agree it was a perfect way to keep Michael's spirit alive in downtown Monterey.

Chris and his friends kept Michael's signature turquoise old-fashioned wringer washing machine. Michael placed it curbside in front of the shop. It was his unique way of reminding his customers he was back from Thailand and open for business.

Michael had adopted three little girls in Thailand and was providing for their education. His friends decided to have a coffee mug made in the shape of the washing machine. The mugs would be sold at the shop, with the funds from the sales going to the children in Thailand. I asked Chris to make sure he called me when the mugs were ready, so I could get one.

He called the other day, so I went right down to The Outer Edge to pick one up. The mugs were designed by Paul Nielsen, another close friend of Michael's. Paul's company, Munktiki, produces the extraordinary ceramics on sale at the gallery. The mugs are six inches high. The top part, the wringer, comes off, and the bottom holds 8 ounces of your favorite beverage.

"The Outer Edge" is printed on one side of the mug -- "Give me a hug, ya mug" is printed on the other side of these cool ceramic cups. Regulars know that no one left Michael's shop without getting a hug from him.

The problem is that although Michael had scads of friends, there is no list of who they are. So Chris has no way of letting persons who would want a mug know they are available. Enter your intrepid columnist. My July column about Michael elicited responses from people around the country who were e-mailed the column from locals, so I know there are many of you out there who would want to purchase a mug to help the children in Thailand. If there were no sentimental value to the mugs they would still sell, due to their unique design and their excellent quality. The cups are numbered like a fine print by Picasso (or Jane Seymour). Mine reads 10/200, along with the year and the maker's name. They sell for $36 -- but remember, they are collectibles, numbered, and as adorable as Michael.

So come forward, friends of Michael -- get down to The Outer Edge at 146 Bonifacio Place and place your order -- or call Chris at 655-2788. The mugs are produced in small batches, so you may have to wait to get one.

No, I didn't get one free. I plunked down my $36 and was glad to do it. The next day I drank my coffee from the mug. It was like sitting down with Michael while he convinced me that my aquiline nose dictated that he style my hair in the manner of Julius Caesar. I would have told him about going to the Italian Festival because it's one of the few places I can go where my nose looks small -- kind of an extreme makeover with pasta and pepperoni.

He would have laughed, then pulled me toward him and said:

"Give me a hug, ya mug."

No elitists allowed! Gallery opens first 'Locals' show
This article comes from, Articles / Arts & Essence
Sep 28, 2004

The era of fine art wanes in favor of graphic art and unconventional endeavors. “Live with it;” said gallery co-owner Andrew Jackson, “that’s the new fine art.”

With the recent opening of downtown Monterey’s Outer Edge gallery, residents can live with it. The gallery provides a platform for art that might not otherwise get to be seen in our area.

“If it gets shown in Carmel, we pass it by,” said Jackson.

With keen focus on new art styles, past Outer Edge installments include work by Shepard Fairy (co-founder of Obey Giant), David Choe, and savvy serigraph draftsman Marco Almera.

The gallery will host its first bi-annual “Locals Only” show Sept. 24 from 6-9 p.m. Jackson refers to it as a “show your own” opportunity for native artists.

Among the artists on display is R.B. Morris. This Humboldt State graduate has done several murals locally and designed skateboard graphics for 68 Skate, a Pacific Grove skateboard shop.

Sharif Munir, a business partner of Morris’, recalls fondly, “While R.B. was having a display, one of his pieces was stolen. But rather than get all bummed about it, he actually felt complimented that somebody liked it enough to steal it.”

Khalid Hussein is scheduled to participate in the show as well. The artist and student has won the American Civil Liberties Union art & essay contest twice consecutively and is entering UCLA’s studio art program.

Hussein’s imagery incorporates an active role of color and bends lines “as a lens skews light.” Although not planned deliberately, the series to be featured is car themed.

The “Locals Only” show will also feature the spiritual and surrealistic artwork of Dabo. Having applied his talents to skimboard, surfboard, and longboard decks, Dabo is constantly seeking new ways to approach art. He has even been known to use torched metal as framing material. Dabo originals have been on display at the Fender Museum of Music and Art, and currently at the Monterey Museum of Art.

Go and see what the Monterey area is capable of at 146 Bonifacio Place.

Art From the Edge: Punk counterculture graffiti art marries hair salon in Monterey’s Outer Edge Studio
Kathryn Petruccelli, Monterey Coast Weekly
May 20, 2004

Wash and Dry: The Outer Edge Studio’s new owners are updating the former salon with art.

When the trio stopped in at City Hall a few months ago to get a business license for a combination art gallery and hair salon at 146 Bonifacio Place in Monterey, the clerk recognized the address right away. Hey, she wanted to know, isn’t that the place that always had the bright blue 1950s washing machine out front?

It still does. After operating for ten years as a funky hair salon known as The Outer Edge Salon, the business closed in January when owner and hairdresser Michael Keenan passed away.

The washer outside the salon was representative of the general décor that graced the Outer Edge. Keenan, who studied set design in San Francisco, originally designed the walls and the ceiling of the business to look like a movie set. Later, he stocked the tiny space with treasures and kitsch—mostly from the ‘50s—so that teal kitchen appliances and fringe lamps filled all available window space. Most recently, he had added pieces from Thailand, where he spent three weeks of every month.

After Keenan’s death, his friends hatched a plan to keep the space open while remaining true to its kitschy roots.

“We wanted to keep it out of the hands of the corporate chains,” says Delaney, co-owner of Hula’s restaurant in Monterey.

The revamped salon and concept gallery, set to open its doors May 21, will be rechristened The Outer Edge Studio. A blue washing machine will provide the business logo, and the real thing will still grace the curb during business hours.

Jackson says that the space is “important psychologically for lots of people.”

Jackson, a local artist whose series of blurry night scenes in Monterey bars currently hangs at the American Art Gallery in Carmel, had a dream—or by his account a nightmare—about what could happen to Keenan’s store. In the dream, he walks by and sees “a cheesy dress shop going in.”

But according to Jackson, with the new space, edgy art will prevail over cheesiness, and even over more traditional art.

The gallery will feature four- to six-week installations of very affordable, original art. The plan is to hang big name artists next to local unknowns.

One of the rebel artists to grace Outer Edge walls this month will be Los Angeles graffiti artist Shepard Fairey, whose giant images of a black-and-white face accompanied by the word “obey” have been safety-pinned to punk kids’ backpacks and also hung at fine art galleries.

Another young LA artist on display for the inaugural show will be David Choe. Choe says he got fired from his first job doing children’s book illustrations because his work was “too scary.” Besides counterculture canvases, the opening show includes light-hearted “Munktiki” ceramics put out by Pacific Grove residents Miles and Paul Nielsen.

Numerous Outer Edge artists, including Fairey and Choe, come courtesy of Red Ink Studios in San Jose. Red Ink Studios is a nonprofit art movement, a kind of “squatter” studio that creates and displays work in unleased space until it is rented by a long-term tenant. With the Outer Edge’s plans to exhibit aspiring artists from Monterey’s Youth Arts Collective and faculty and students from the area colleges, the potential exists for young Peninsula talent to find an audience in other cities.

It would seem all this art talk might please Keenan. According to Joanne Kelly, a friend of Keenan’s for more than 20 years, “Michael had the eye of an artist. The view was his—always original, not always soothing, always provocative.”

Kelly says her family went to the Outer Edge for haircuts, but got much more.

“[It was] also a place to discuss the world, the arts, politics, our personal sorrows and triumphs,” she says.

As the three new owners prepare the space for their opening, some of Keenan’s friends are just hearing about his death. On occasion, paint brush in hand, the new business owners have to inform people just back in town for the season or who somehow haven’t gotten word.

Delaney concedes that they “expect mixed reactions at the start” due to Keenan’s popularity in the community, but he wants people to know they are working hard to keep his spirit in mind while forging an identity for the Outer Edge Studio.

“I think Michael would have loved it,” Jackson says.