Wednesday, January 31, 2007

More Public Art for Petoskey, Michigan's “Cool” Downtown!

Downtown Petoskey needs more public art, preferably created by local Northern Michigan artists. This recommendation was part of a report presented to the people of Petoskey this past Monday night.

The report was the result of a study conducted by HyettPalma, a national consulting firm specializing in the economic enhancement of downtowns and older business districts. The study was supported by a Blueprints for Michigan’s Downtowns grant from the State of Michigan's Cool Cities program.

An increase in public art was one of many recommendations contained in the report, intended as a five year action plan for improving the already delightful character of Downtown Petoskey. Doyle Hyett of HyettPalma explained in Monday's public presentation of his firm's findings that he expected Mitchell Street to become the new entry route to Downtown Petoskey. He proposed
A grand entrance to Downtown at Mitchell and Highway 31, to include public art, landscaping, lighting, signage, and clear lines of sight down Mitchell Street from Highway 31.

Hyett called for more public art throughout downtown. He illustrated this portion of his presentation with a slide of one of Petoskey's best loved pieces of public art, the statue of Ignatius Petoskey that overlooks Little Traverse Bay from a vantage point near the Perry Hotel. (The statue was donated to the City of Petoskey by Robert Dau of Chicago and Bayview. It was sculpted by Pietro Vinotti of Petoskey. It is pictured here in a photograph by Northern Michigan Artists Market artist Carson Wright. )

The written HyettPalma report details the need for more public art in Downtown Petoskey:
A public art placement plan should be defined for Downtown. Public art in Downtown should be:
  • High quality and of significance;
  • By area artists, whenever possible;
  • Indigenous to Petoskey; and
  • Located, at a minimum, at the “grand entrance” to be created for Downtown at Mitchell and Highway 31, and on the Downtown Greenway [Pennsylvania and Arlington Parks].

The proposed plan for action includes numerous design, planning and business development recommendations. Northern Michigan Artists Market artists and customers will be interested in the high priority HyettPalma placed on improvements to Mitchell Street.
As was stated earlier, Mitchell Street must become a top priority of the effort to further enhance Downtown Petoskey. This should include:
  • Creating a boulevard down the middle of Mitchell Street to increase its feeling of intimacy for the pedestrian, as the City has plans to do;
  • Placing pedestrian-scale streetlights on Mitchell;
  • Adding landscaping and coordinated street furnishings – benches, trash receptacles, bike racks – to Mitchell Street, in order to make it more pedestrian-oriented and pedestrian-friendly; and
  • Creating a grand entrance to Downtown . . .

This new Petoskey Downtown Blueprint 2007 is filled with interesting and provocative ideas for improving our town. I particularly endorse its recognition of the importance of the arts to a vibrant, Cool Downtown and of the contribution of local artists in particular. I encourage everyone interested in Petoskey and Northern Michigan arts and artists to become active in the implementation of this plan and in advocating for local arts and artists.

The final written report is a specific five-year plan, which will be implemented by the Downtown Management Board, Downtown Division Petoskey Regional Chamber of Commerce and City of Petoskey staff, and volunteer committees to ensure the future of an economically viable downtown community. If you want to comment on the plan or become involved in its implementation, a good starting contact point is Becky Goodman, the Downtown Director, Petoskey Regional Chamber of Commerce, (231)347-4150.

Please click here to see and hear Doyle Hyett's final presentation of the Downtown Petoskey Blueprint Plan, presented January 29 in the H.O. Rose Dining Room of Stafford's Perry Hotel.
To read the entire written report, click here.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Winter on the Installment Plan

Some Northern Michigan Winter Notes:
  • Here in Northern Michigan, we seem to be getting our winter this year on the installment plan – a little bit each month. Today is a beautiful, bright, sunny winter day with snow on the ground. Tomorrow, who knows?

  • I guess it depends on where you are in Northern Michigan. Last week, Northern Michigan Artists Market artist Mark Klemp stopped by with some more of his incredible wooden spoons. They come in all shapes and sizes from right and left handed spatulas to long paddles (He said he developed the first paddle for a friend who needed something to stir the large vats of salsa he prepares for wholesale distribution.) and a variety of beautiful woods including cherry, birds-eye maple and curly sugar maple. Anyway, he lives in Laurium, way up in the Keweenaw Peninsula at the top of the Upper Peninsula. He reminded me that they measure the snow depth up there in feet (and yards), rather than inches, and that they already have quite a bit. Mark lives on Pewabic Street, which I thought was interesting for an artist, because of Detroit's famous Pewabic Pottery. He explained that Pewabic is a Native American word for copper colored and that therefore there are a lot of Pewabic Streets in the UP's Copper Country. Pewabic Pottery gets its name from the fact that its glazes are the green and blue colors of copper ores.

  • Of course snow is no laughing matter in the Petoskey, Michigan area either. It is a major driver of the economy here in the winter. So for those of you who don't live here, I assure you that the ski areas have plenty of snow. No matter what the weather is like where you live, get up here and ski and experience the joy and beauty of winter in the North. If you need any reassurance, feel free to check the snow conditions at our major ski areas, Boyne Mountain and Boyne Highlands and Nubs Nob.

  • Most of you are familiar with the great paintings, photographs and other works by Northern Michigan artists depicting the bay, sunsets and other Northern vistas in the summer. But we love it up here in the winter too and have the artwork to prove it. Check out the examples in this post, Northern Michigan Artists Market artists Kris Busk's breathtaking winter birds and Sandy Selden's oil painting capturing a view of Little Traverse Bay in winter.

  • Bet you Didn't know that in the Northern Michigan town of Charlevoix, they actually take the parking meters off the posts in the winter!

  • And let's not forget Northern Michigan's zany winter festivals, as distinguished from our zany summer festivals. Every town worth its name has one or more. For example, you will never forgive yourself if you miss this weekend's Annual Winterfest in Mackinaw City, featuring the memorable Outhouse Race, shown is this photograph from the event's website.

Don't miss winter in Northern Michigan!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Stop Cleaning Your Brushes !

I came across a great artist story the other day and I want to pass it along to you for a couple of reasons. One is that it gives me an excuse to tell you about the great art email newsletter I got it from but more on that later. First the story.

The artist telling the story admits to being somewhat lax with respect to all the rules one learns about cleaning brushes. From our first art experience we are generally taught to clean up after ourselves and particularly to carefully clean the paint brushes. My dad was not an artist but he frequently told me that the job is not done until the tools are properly put away.

However, I must say that many of the artists I know are not particularly fastidious. Looking at the messy condition of their studios, I sometimes wonder how such beautiful work can emerge from such a god awful mess. This little story gave me some insights into this apparent contradiction:

My bad habit goes back to an experience I had in art school. There was this chap--I won't mention his name--who spent all of his time cleaning and getting ready. He'd even clean stuff before he was going to paint--and then he wouldn't paint. He never really did. After a semester or two he got kicked out and went into dentistry.

After telling his story, the artist observed, “Brush cleaning can be just another avoidance activity. ... I feel I'm a painter, not a cleaner. I failed cleaning.”

I remember as a child getting a beautiful diary with block prints by the delightful Northern Michigan nature artist Gwen Frostic on every page but never using it because I couldn't think of anything important enough to say to write on those beautiful pages. A friend who knew me well once told me that often it is important to stop worrying about whether you will obtain perfection and just do something.

All of us need to remember, artists and those who have not yet discovered their inner artist, to stop cleaning our brushes and just PAINT!

The Artist who wrote the story is Robert Glenn. I read it in his inspiring and informative Twice Weekly Letter, which you can receive in your email inbox for free. Sign up at his website, The Painter's Keys Community.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Two NMAM Artists "Horsin' Around" in East Jordan

East Jordan is a wonderful little town on Lake Charlevoix in Northern Michigan. One of its treasures is the Jordan River Arts Council. JRAC runs a number of excellent programs out of East Jordan's former library building. It is a strong supporter of local artists and holds frequent art exhibits featuring local artists.

Its next show, Equine Devine or Horsin' Around opens Sunday, January 14th. The show includes images of horses in a variety of media. Among the participating artists are Northern Michigan Artists Market artists Joanne Cromley and Meredith Krell.

Cromley is a very accomplished and well known tapestry weaver. A true Northern Michigan artist, she moved here from Chicago ten years ago to live a more intentional life. She and her husband Micheal purchased 240 acres of abused land near Afton Michigan that had been logged off and over-grazed. They placed the land in a conservation easement, forever protecting it from development and allowing the land to begin to heal. They build a beautify energy efficient home, complete with a functoning windmill that generates electricity. Her tapestries are bold and colorful.

Krell lives in Charlevoix, across the lake from East Jordan. She is an outstanding painter and printer. Colorado Horse, one of her oil paintings appears in the show. She is well known for her linoleum block prints, many of which are available at the Northern Michigan Artists Market, including Truth Destiny Courage pictured here.

The exhibit runs through February 18 and is open daily 1-4 pm, at the Jordan River Art Center, 301 Main St., East Jordan. For more information contact curator, Sylvia Walworth, 231-599-3065.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

So what is Northern Michigan Art Anyway?

When you run an art gallery called the Northern Michigan Artists Market, people are bound to ask you the question you see in the title of this post. In fact, a reasonable person in my position may be inclined to ask himself that once in a while. As I spend many of my waking hours surrounded by thousands of pieces of Northern Michigan art, it is only fair that I take a stab at answering that question.

The easy answer is that Northern Michigan art is art done by Northern Michigan artists or art done in or about Northern Michigan, but that, while true, is hardly satisfying.

A great deal of NMA (How many times in one post do you expect me to write it all out?) expresses, presents or otherwise deals with the beautiful lakes, woods, hills, sunsets, etc. that attract so many of us to this place or keep us here despite the call of family, fortune and reason. [The photo on the left is Sunset Bench by Northern Michigan Artist Market artist Carson Wright.] On the other hand, many outstanding and well known artists in NM utterly refuse do paint, draw, photograph, carve or even imagine anything that even obliquely suggests a bay or (egad!) any solar presence approaching its surface. “Trite!” “Done that! “ Or, dare I say, “Derivative!” they disdainfully exclaim. Yet they are certainly all NM Artists and their creations entitled to inclusion as NMA.

Perhaps it is not the subject matter but the inspiration that defines NMA. I have often wondered whether there are so many artists per capita in NM because the beauty of the area attracts those who already have a well developed artistic sensibility or whether it ensnares otherwise sane people who have come her for other reasons and forces (inspires) them to become artists. Either way, does NM constitute a calling muse that is the unifying and categorizing force that defines NMA? [This painting is Out of the Void by NMAM artist Will Espey.] Surely the ubiquitous sand dunes or, in season, snow drifts do not bar the entry of other muses not of NM origin into the region and into the hearts and minds of its inhabitants. Are all NM artists somehow immune to the songs of these foreign muses and susceptible only to the tunes played by their cousins of more domestic origin? Of course not. NM Artists and hence NMA is not nearly so parochial.

To be fully inclusive, perhaps we should consider the argument of some that NMA is not a standard of subject or inspiration but one of quality. Such people might suggest that the local product is just not as good as that originating in other regions south of the 45th parallel or outside the embrace of the Great Lakes. To them I would say that a belief that the exotic is uniformly superior defies logic and experience. As for logic, such a belief would argue that pasta consumed in Italy is of lesser quality than that enjoyed in the US because it is generally made with domestic (i.e. Italian) ingredients. As for experience, a simple tour of the Northern Michigan Artists Market and the many examples of NMA contained therein will convince any honest observer of the quality of NMA.

So after all that, we return to the definition we started with. Perhaps it is not so unsatisfying after all. There is great variety in NMA. It cannot be defined by subject or inspiration or quality. Perhaps the answer really is as simple as Northern Michigan Art is art by Northern Michigan artists, in all of its variety of splendor, spirit and wonder.

A Little About the Northern Michigan Artists Market

On October 1, 2003, five other local artists and I opened the Northern Michigan Artists Market. We had been discussing the fact that with all of the art galleries in Petoskey, none handled only Northern Michigan art. Many of our friends who were local artists were bemoaning the fact that there was no suitable place to exhibit their work. The six of us decided to do something about it.

The time was right. The local art center had just completed a major remodeling project. While they were remodeling, they used this wonderful storefront with lots of large windows on East Mitchell, Petoskey's main street, as a gallery. Now that their building was ready, they were moving out. So there was an interesting space that people were used to thinking of as an art gallery and there was a group of artists looking for a place to show their work. After much gnashing of teeth, we pooled the minuscule amount of money we had available and bravely launched the Market. [Thanks to Artist Market artist Bruce Love for the photo.]

What we lacked in funds we made up for with ideals. Our first founding principal was that the Market would be “artist friendly.” We all had horror stories about galleries loosing our work, not paying us promptly (or at all without begging or threats) and being primarily about something other than the art. To minimize the chance of this happening to us, we decided that our new Market would forever (gosh, that sounded nice though perhaps overly optimistic) be owned, run and staffed entirely by Northern Michigan artists.

Next, we wanted our Market to be welcoming and friendly to customers, not in any way intimidating or pretentious. To symbolize this and proclaim it to the world, we decided to not call it “The [Something Clever] Gallery” but rather the Artists Market. Our plan was to include the broadest conceivable spectrum of creative works and artists and thus represent Northern Michigan art in as much of its diversity and variety as possible.

Anyway, here we are, three years and some months later and it all seems to have worked out rather well. Our artists do seem to find us friendly. Our initial group of about thirty local artists has grown to a rather healthy ensemble of about one hundred. We keep attracting new customers and our existing customers keep coming back and bringing their friends. (Thank you!) Along the way a few of our partners have pursued other interests. There are now three of us -- Vivi Woodcock, Susan Lange and myself, Marty Scott. Vivi paints watercolors and makes mixed-media collages. Susan is a jeweler. I make mobiles.

Most of our artists are year round residents of Northern Michigan, although some spend only their summers here. The majority live within about fifty miles of the Market -- Petoskey, Harbor Springs, Charlevoix, Walloon Lake, Boyne City, East Jordan and the surrounding countryside. Some live as far south as Traverse City, as far east as Alpena or as far north as the tip of the Upper Peninsula.

The artwork in the Market includes many media including oil, acrylic and watercolor paintings, various types of prints, photographs, sculpture, pottery, blown and fused glass, weaving, knitwear, jewelry and a wide assortment of art and greeting cards. Prices range from a few dollars to a few thousand. We have works for the casual shopper, gift giving and casual and serious collectors of Northern Michigan art. In short, the Northern Michigan Artists Market has the best selection of Northern Michigan Art anywhere!

The next time you are in Petoskey, stop in and say hello!

Welcome to This Blog -- Northern Michigan Art

In this blog, we will be discussing Northern Michigan. While anything that happens up here is fair game, we will pay particular attention to the art and artists of Northern Michigan. We will focus to a degree on the art, artists and activities of the Northern Michigan Artists Market, an art gallery that two of my friends and I own in Petoskey, Michigan. [My next post is a brief introduction to The Market.]

This blog welcomes comments from all of you. Please feel free to join in the discussion at any time and to introduce new topics. I will gently moderate the submissions and include as many as possible.

Candidly, this blog has a partially commercial purpose. I hope it will lead you to take some interest in our gallery and to visit it in person in Petoskey, Michigan, or through our website. The launch of this blog is timed to precede [hopefully by not too much time] a major revision of The Market's website. This substantial upgrade will add online shopping, a general improvement of the graphic design and overall appearance and many of those invisible technical enhancements we hear so much about in connection with the release of any software upgrade.

Those of you who know me or who have been to our Market any time in the last eight months or so know that I have been promising this upgrade for quite a while. I have learned from this experience that there are many uncertainties and delays inherent in the website improvement process and that consequently it is better and more honest to be somewhat vague about expected completion dates so I have stopped making promises.

In the meantime, our current site is pretty darn good. Of course, it gives you lots of information about the Northern Michigan artists Market [like location, hours, contact info, etc]. It also contains a complete list of our current artists and our inventory of the thousands of pieces of their works that we have for sale. Increasingly it includes descriptions and photographs of those works. It also includes our toll free telephone number so you can call us to discuss any of these works or make arrangements for purchase and shipping.

So lets get to know each other and swap tales, news, rumors and the like about life and art in God's country!