It is almost evening, and there is some great light still left in the sky. Michael has a few minutes for me to photograph him before he needs to get to the gallery. Tonight is the night of the monthly art walk. Soon, downtown Charleston will be bustling with art admirers visiting galleries looking for new and fresh art from the many talented creatives in town.
The rich art culture of this city was the reason Michael decided to move here almost two decades ago. He chose Charleston for its combination of small town and thriving art community.
Originally from Wisconsin, Michael took a detour through California before planting himself here. While out west, he was part of the team that launched Ofoto.com, a web-based photo-editing and printing service that was eventually acquired by Kodak. After leaving Ofoto, he decided to move here.
Photography is still part of his daily routine. He owns and runs Photographics, a busy portrait photography studio on Kiawah Island. He tells me, “Can you believe it has been 13 years?” as he thinks back to his start in Photographics.
For many of those years he also owned a fine art gallery that represented his own paintings along with the work of other artists. When I asked him if the world had enough art in it, he heartily disagreed. Always in search of inspiration, ideas and good conversation, Michael will often visit galleries when traveling to other cities.
At some point in the interview, our conversation turned to food. Michael loves to cook and is great at it. If you need a restaurant recommendation, he is your man. Just as an artist may follow the works of another whom they admire, Michael follows local chefs. Good thing he is in a city known for its excellent food.
Michael paints in oil and is currently represented by Reinert Fine Art Gallery in downtown Charleston. His landscapes invite you in with his use of color and light. It isn't surprising to hear that one time a painting sold within hours of being delivered to the gallery. There was another time when two different customers wanted the same painting. Unfortunately one customer left unhappy.
He told me that art is his retirement plan. While the photography business is thriving, painting is still his first love. His path as an artist does not include plans to make reproductions of his paintings, however. So if you want a Michael Cyra painting, you will have to buy an original.
On a rare occasion, he mentions his Polish heritage. Knowing that about him adds even more dimension to an artist who is comfortable with himself and his abilities. Someone who is happy to cheer on other artists with ideas, community and good conversation. And good food, definitely the food.