Saturday, October 31, 2009

First Responder, a Ghost Story

In my previous post, I wrote about Downtown Petoskey's Ghost Walk. That event took place last night and a great, ghoulish time was had by all. It did rain but that did not seem to dampen the spirits of the participants who turned out in large numbers (over 100 people) to tour Downtown Petoskey and hear stories about the local ghosts who inhabit our town.

Now that the event is over, I can reveal the tale of the Artists Markets very own ghost, one of the spectral biographies presented on the tour:

First Responder

For the last six years residents and visitors have been coming to 445 East Mitchell to buy the creations of local Northern Michigan artists but that was not always so. This address has been important to Downtown Petoskey residents for many many years. Long before it was an art gallery it was a Montgomery Wards Department store and even longer ago it was a car dealership selling Studebakers from South Bend Indiana.

Many happy and tragic things have happened between these walls over all those years but one of the most dramatic took place on a chilly evening in October back in 1961. Late that afternoon, a customer in the Women's Clothing Department of Montgomery Wards told a young sales clerk that she smelled smoke. The clerk called the fire department and an older, red-headed fireman came to the store and searched all the nooks and crannies of the building and the A&P Grocery that was then next door in the attached building at 441 East Mitchell. He carried a lantern in his left hand and a fire axe in his right. Despite looking for about two hours, he was unable to find the source of the smoky smell and left.

Early the next morning, about 3:00 a.m., a truck driver delivering groceries to the A&P noticed a fire in the loading dock area in the back of the building. Soon there was heavy smoke and and flames shooting out the side of the building on all floors. Fire fighters fought the blaze for several hours but were unable to prevent over $100,000 damage to the A&P. They were able to keep the blaze itself from spreading to the Montgomery Wards but in the process the future home of the Northern Michigan Artists Market was filled with smoke and water reached a foot deep in the basement.

Accounts of the fire in the News Review the next day do not report the deaths of any firefighters in the incident. There is no mention of the red-headed fireman who had searched the building in vain earlier in the day. In fact, people say that they cannot recall there being any red-headed Petoskey firefighters at all at that time but several people reported seeing a man in a firefighter uniform carrying a lantern and a fire axe running into the building as the flames raged, saying that the blaze was all his fault. No one saw him come out of the building that night.

Now every year on chilly evenings in late October, just after dusk when the sky is dark and the Artist Market lights are dimmed, people walking by the Artists Market have reported a slight but distinct smell of smoke and some have said that they thought they saw in the window what looked like an older, red-headed fireman holding a lantern high in his left hand and a fire axe in his right searching the nooks and crannies of the building trying to find the source of the smoke smell and still trying to prevent the A&P fire of 1961.


The First Responder himself did appear last night during the Ghost Walk as one of the guides and raconteurs and is expected to materialize again today at the Artists Market where he is scheduled to distribute candy to the young trick-or-treaters who will be going from store to store. (Any slight resemblance between myself and the First Responder is, of course, entirely coincidental.)

The Ghost Walk, by the way, was a brand new event for Downtown Petoskey. Due to the fantastic turnout and enthusiastic response, the tour will likely reappear in the future on the Downtown schedule.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Downtown Petoskey Hosts Spooktacular Halloween Festivities

This is the time of the year when ghosts and other strange and creepy characters wander the streets, including the byways in our favorite downtown. The Northern Michigan Artists Market will be doing its part to welcome the ghosts and goblins of all ages to Downtown Petoskey and, in cooperation with Downtown Petoskey, provide a little spooky fun.

First, on Friday night, October 30, starting at 7:30pm, Downtown Petoskey presents our very first Ghost Tour, a guided stroll through Downtown featuring ghostly tales of the supernatural spirits known to inhabit the historic buildings. We have collected tales of Petoskey's own macabre and weird spectral creatures and assembled a crew of spooky characters to tell those tales as they guide you through the dark streets and dimly lit haunted shops of our town on the eve of Halloween.

There is a ghost that haunts the Artists Market on certain cool evenings in late October. I could tell you the story now but that would spoil the fun. [Perhaps I will post it here after the event.] Our ghost is featured in the tour and I personally will lead a couple of groups around Ghost Town Petoskey Friday night.

Tours are $5 per person. Reservations can be made at the Petoskey Downtown Offices, 216 Park Avenue. The walks will run approximately 30 minutes. Walk-ins will be accepted if space allows.

Hopefully the ghost stories Friday evening will not keep you up all night because early Saturday morning it will be time to get all the kids in costume and bring them to Central Elementary School (corner of Howard and State Streets) at 10:00 am for the Children's Costume Parade. As soon as the parade is over, the begging begins. The Northern Michigan Artists Market and other Downtown merchants will be handing out goodies to children trick-or-treating throughout Downtown Petoskey until 12:00 noon. Signs will be posted at stores participating in this event.

The fun continues on into the afternoon as the Petoskey Public Library presents additional Halloween frivolity for children.

Come join the Northern Michigan Artists Market and the rest of Downtown Petoskey this Halloween. By the way we do have some great Halloween items in the gallery along with our usual assortment of art in all media by more than eighty-five of Northern Michigan's most talented and creative artists.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Petoskey UM and MSU Alumni Groups to Host Joint Crying Towel Before Big Game!

As I have mentioned here before, I am the President of the University of Michigan Little Traverse Bay Spirit Group and occasionally take advantage of this venue to point out significant upcoming events.

The annual MICHIGAN v michigan state football battle is rapidly approaching. As the recent WOLVERINE triumph over the leprechauns of notre dame and sparty's recent humiliation at the hands of Central Michigan demonstrate, this is likely to be a very interesting match-up.

[Switching to non-partisan mode for a moment. . .]

The local alumni of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University will gather together jointly for their annual Crying Towel pregame funfest and jousting session at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, September 30, at Knot Just a Bar, in Bay Harbor.

Please join us. Wear your loyalty colors. There will be door prizes, a 50/50 raffle and the opportunity to stand and make pointed observations about the other school and the quality of its football team (and alums).

The cost is just $15 per person for light snacks. Buy your own beverages. Proceeds will go to the respective clubs' scholarship funds, proving that some good may come from just about anything. You do not need to be an alumnus to attend.

Please RSVP by September 23 to: (U-M) Maureen Whitehead, 547-2728 or (MSU) Jeff Wellman, 582-2400.

[Switching back to my True Blue colors. . .]

On game day, Saturday, October 2, loyal MICHIGAN fans will gather in the Education Center at Camp Michigania, located at the corner of Camp Sherwood and Zenith Heights Roads, to watch the big game together on a big screen TV, enjoy some pizza and cheer on our conquering heroes to victory.

Game time is 12:00p.m., so we’ll gather beginning at 11:30a.m. We’ll order out pizza, but BYO Beverage. Follow the signs and balloons to the Ed. Center.

The cost is $15 per person, with children 10 & under $10.00. There is no charge for children 5 and under. There will be door prizes and a 50/50 raffle. All proceeds go to the club’s Scholarship Fund.

Please RSVP to Glen Williams, 231-582-6858, by September 29, so we can order enough pizza.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Artists Market Photographer Luanne Schonfeld Points the Way to the 2010 Vancouver Olympics

Next year the Winter Olympics will take place in Vancouver and Northern Michigan Artists Market artist Luanne Schonfeld is pointing the way.

Luanne just brought a boxfull of her black and white photocards to the Market. One of these cards is a black and white film photograph of an inuksuk, shown here. For centuries, the Inuit people of Canada’s Arctic made these piles of rock in human form as guideposts for travelers to show them the way or warn them of danger. In other words, an inuksuk is something like an Inuit version of a lighthouse. Over time, the inukshuk has become a symbol of hope and friendship.

So what does all of this have to do with the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver? The Vancouver Olympics mascot, Ilanaaq, is a symbolic representation of an inuksuk. Ilanaaq was designed by Vancouver artist Elena Rivera MacGregor. It stands for friendship and the welcoming of the world. Luanne hopes her photograph will help connect people here in Northern Michigan with the Vancouver Olympics and the cultural significance and message of friendship and welcome represented by the Olympic mascot and the Inuit inuksuk on which it is based.

We agree with Luanne and we thought that for some inspiration you might like to see what an actual Inuit inuksuk looks like so here is one of Olympic mascot Ilanaaq's most well known ancestors that stands at Vancouver's English Bay. Speaking of family ties, Ilanaaq has some American cousins as well. Piles of rocks, or cairns, are frequently used as trail markers in the United States, particularly in areas where there are no trees or structures where trail markers can be placed. Locally, some good examples exist in Wilderness State Park in the extreme Northwest corner of Michigan's Lower Peninsula.

Luanne Schonfeld is a very talented photographer. She takes black and white pictures with real film and develops and prints them in a darkroom the traditional way with chemicals and an enlarger. We are privileged to have a wide selection of her prints and photocards at the Northern Michigan Artists Market.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Artists Market Artist Steve Webster Selected to Create Official Downtown Petoskey Collectable Holiday Ornament

The Downtown Petoskey Events Committee chose Northern Michigan Artists Market artist Steve Webster to create and produce the 2009 Stafford’s Downtown Petoskey Holiday Parade collectible holiday ornament. This year's ornament will be an actual Petoskey stone carved into the shape of a tree.

For several years, the Committee issued manufactured ornaments. This year for the first time, the Committee decided to select a handmade ornament created by a local artist. Webster is a Northern Michigan artist well known for his Petoskey stone creations. The Committee is delighted and proud to be able to provide a collectible ornament made from Michigan's state stone and our town's own indigenous treasure.

The Downtown Petoskey Events Committee presents this year's ornament by Mr. Webster as the first in what it plans to be an annual series of Petoskey stone ornaments cut
into holiday shapes. The 2009 tree ornament will be a limited edition and will sell for $15 each. It will be available at the Northern Michigan Artists Market and at other participating Downtown Petoskey stores.

The ornament will be issued in connection with the 2009 Stafford’s Downtown Petoskey Holiday Parade, to be held on Saturday, November 28 at 10 am. The ten o’clock hour gives time so that the streets can be reopened and shopping and dining can begin.

IT'S BACK! Win a $1000 Downtown Petoskey Gift Certificate and PARK FREE for a Year.

Downtown Petoskey's Fall Treasure Downtown Contest is on. A similar Spring contest was held in March, April and May of this year and was a fantastic success. The fall contest, like the one last spring, promotes the new Downtown Treasure Certificates that shoppers can redeem in stores all over Downtown Petoskey, including the Northern Michigan Artists Market.

The winner of the contest, which runs from now until December 1, 2009, will receive a $1,000 Downtown Treasure Certificate and a parking pass good all over Downtown Petoskey for one year.

To enter, shoppers must accumulate sales receipts totaling $500 from stores in Downtown Petoskey dated September 1, 2009, to December 1, 2009. Entrants place the receipts in special envelopes available at the Chamber of Commerce, 401 E. Mitchell, and the new Petoskey Downtown Office at 216 Park Avenue. Then turn them in at the Chamber office or Downtown office. The winner will be announced at the Holiday Open House.

The winner will be announced at the Downtown Petoskey Holiday Open House, December 4, 2009. Entrants need not be present to win. Detailed rules and additional information are available on the Downtown Petoskey website.

The spring contest was a lot of fun and the fall version is shaping up to be even better. Kristy Fralich was the winner of the Spring contest. She is still having fun spending her Treasure Certificates. Kristy is a new mother and used the certificates to buy clothing and toys for her baby as well as other shopping and restaurant dining. She was one of 154 entrants last spring and was very surprised to be notified that she was the lucky winner. Kristy said that she saw the contest as a great incentive to support the local businesses she has grown to love and that getting to the $500 entry amount was not that difficult. Other entrants also reported that just saving their lunch receipts added up quickly or that a couple of dinners out and some occasional shopping and maybe a haircut easily tallied up to $500. Several people collected enough receipts to enter several times.

You know you are going to be shopping in Downtown Petoskey over the next few months. You will be buying holiday gifts at the Northern Michigan Artists Market and eating at the Downtown restaurants. Just hold on to the receipts and you may be parking for free for the next year and spending $1,000 in Treasure Certificates. Enjoy winter in Downtown Petoskey as seen in this painting, Petoskey Impressed #5 by local artist Doug Flewelling.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Global Warming a Threat to Northern Michigan?

When we think about the dangers of global warming, images of shrinking icecaps, starving polar bears (or penguins like this one photographed by Kris Busk), flooded coastlines and other far away perils most often come to mind. But could the next images from Al Gore's video presentation feature our local landmarks? A recent study indicates that our Northern Michigan lifestyle may be in danger.

According to an article in this month's online edition of the University of Michigan publication Michigan Today, climate change is driving Michigan mammals farther north.

Researchers at the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Ohio's Miami University, in findings published in the June issue of the journal Global Change Biology, have concluded that some Michigan mammal species are rapidly expanding their ranges northward, apparently in response to climate change. In the process, these historically southern species are replacing their northern counterparts. The researchers analyzed distribution and abundance records of opossums and eight species of small forest rodents.

The Michigan Today article reports that the data shows:
Of the nine mammal species examined, four have established strongholds or increased in abundance, while five have declined. The increasing species—white-footed mice, southern flying squirrels, eastern chipmunks and common opossums—all are southern species, while the declining species—woodland deer mice, southern red-backed voles, northern flying squirrels, woodland jumping mice, and least chipmunks—are all northern species.

While many local Northern Michigan residents and disappointed visitors who have come to the area in the last few weeks expecting to put in some quality beach time and return home with tans scoff at any mention of global warming here in the Frozen North, researchers point to some evidence of a warming climate. (Stained glass sun by Michael Myers.) Michigan Today reports:
The researchers downloaded maximum and minimum daily temperatures from the National Climate Data Center for 16 weather stations in the Upper Peninsula, where changes in the small forest rodent community have been especially pronounced. They then calculated monthly averages for minimum and maximum daily temperatures for each year between 1970 and 2007 for each station and for the region as a whole. Across all 16 sites, average annual minimum daily temperatures increased significantly over the 37-year period.

I have been giving some thought to the dangers that these results may foretell for our way of life here in Northern Michigan, and in particular for our tourism and resort industry. Lets see. Southern rodents migrating to Northern Michigan. Is it possible . . .

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Celebrate the Pasty

One of the best things about Northern Michigan is all of the festivals. Every town with a history or a favorite vegetable, fungus or fish has at least one every year. (And what N Mi berg doesn't have something to brag about?) We occasionally point out some of the more notable of these events here.

This month the historic mining town of Calumet salutes the venerable miner's meal with its annual PastyFest. The pasty is, of course, one of the indigenous hallmarks of Upper Peninsula life and well deserves this honor.

As with all good Northern Michigan festivals, there will be a lot going on at PastyFest. The excitement kicks off Friday night with a community service awards ceremony. Saturday features the Pasty Parade, free horse-drawn wagon tours and a pasty bake-off in the park. There will also be most of the normal Michigan festival standards like vendors, artist, crafters, live music, kids games, food and refreshments of all sorts including the star of the show, pasties. PastyFest will be topped off by a Richie Havens concert in the Calumet Theater.

Calumet is a great town to visit. It was established in 1875 and is filled with the history of the UP's mining boom days when then town had more money for civic projects than it knew what to do with. While you are there, be sure to see the historic Calumet Theater. The Theatre opened on March 20, 1900 with a touring Broadway production of Reginald DeKoven's The Highwaymen. All the great stars of the era performed there including Madame Helena Modjeska, Lillian Russell, John Phillip Sousa, Sarah Bernhardt, Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., Lon Chaney, Sr., Jason Robards, Sr., James O'Neill, William S. Hart, Frank Morgan, Wallace and Noah Beery, and Madame Schumann-Heink, to name a few. Also don't miss the Coppertown USA Mining Museum and the U.P. Fire Fighters Memorial Museum.

Take this opportunity to travel through the Upper Peninsula and celebrate the UP's famous and humble pie by relishing in its history and eating as many pasties as you can.

TRAVEL TIP: If you are going to Calumet for PastyFest, leave soon. Calumet is a long way from wherever you are and the festival takes place on June 26-27.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Karen Kubovchick Painting on Cover of the Dining Guide

We love to brag here when one of our fine Artists Market artists receives an honor or some press coverage. Watercolorist Karen Kubovchick just scored big in both of those categories. One of her watercolors was chosen for the cover of the Summer 2009 edition of the Northern Michigan Dining Guide.

The watercolor is a beautiful still life of fruits and flowers. You can pick up a copy of the Dining Guide for free all over Northern Michigan. It was just released and is available now.

Here is another example of Karen's watercolors, River Bridge, showing the Bear River and the US 31 Bridge in Petoskey. See much more of Karen's work at the Northern Michigan Artists Market in Downtown Petoskey or online.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Tom Jacobson Featured in The Graphic

Northern Michigan Artists Market wood turner Tom Jacobson was featured in the May 28th issue of The Graphic, the local Petoskey weekly.

In the interview, Tom explains how he creates his beautiful turned wood pieces including burl bowls, sculptural pieces like this vase of tulips, wooden pens and pencils and pierced wood marvels. The article includes a photo of Tom hard at work at his craft and shots of many of his excellent creations.

You can read the article online or pick up The Graphic at locations all over Petoskey and the surrounding area. Of course the best thing to do is to come in to the Artists Market and see many of Tom's works in person, touch them and, if you wish, buy one to take home or for a gift.

Thanks and kudos to The Graphic's Maggie Peterson for another revealing article about a local Northern Michigan artist. By the way, Maggie says Tom does not consider himself an artist and feels more comfortable being described as a wood turner. He certainly is an outstanding wood turner but visit us and judge for yourself whether he is also an artist.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Work Begun on Petoskey Breakwall

As we reported here a couple of months ago, The Army Corps of Engineers is going to repair Petoskey's damaged breakwall this spring and summer.

Well, work has begun. The work barges are in place in the Petoskey harbor and the damage done by the ice storm a couple of years ago and by years of wear and tear is about to be fixed.

The Corp of Engineers will conduct Phase One of reconstruction this spring. The 300-foot outer section of the wall from the lighthouse in to the end of the damaged portion will be replaced first. Construction is expected to last the rest of the year.

You may remember a couple of summers ago when the breakwall looked as it does in this pastel by Artist Market artist Jan Vandenbrink. The gap was temporarily filled in later that year.

People's Path Update

This week we found out that the Powers That Be had a different plan for the People's Path across Pennsylvania Park. Rather than coopting the will of the people by paving over the natural, foot-worn diagonal, as we suspected in our previous post, they have resorted to repressing the rightful and democratic will of the people by resodding that venerable trail worn by the feet and the perseverance of the masses.

I note that even the mighty Powers-That-Be were unwilling to provoke the public ire further and wisely did not take any additional futile measures like roping off the fresh sod or posting Stay off the Grass signs.

In the end, these misguided tactics will be defeated as the people continue to vote with their feet. Before long, the People's Path will rise again in all its revolutionary and muddy glory!

Friday, May 15, 2009

The People's Path

One of the many purposes of this blog is to help keep you up to date on the major and trivial goings on in our town, particularly for those of you who only spend a part of the year in Petoskey but still feel a spiritual connection to our special corner of the earth. I'm not sure where this event ranks on on the trivial-to-major scale but it meant something to me so I pass it along for whatever it is worth to you.

This week they have been repaving the pathways through Pennsylvania Park in the middle of Downtown Petoskey. Today I walked by on my way to lunch and saw that, at long last, they are paving the long, diagonal path that cuts across the park from northwest to southeast.

If you don't spend much time walking in Downtown Petoskey, you may not instantly appreciate the significance of this. That diagonal is, without a doubt, the most common route people take across the park. It goes roughly from American Spoon Foods across the park to Meyer Ace Hardware (an then on to the Northern Michigan Artists Market). Until today it has been one of those natural routes that, despite all the plans of the experts, never gets officially established but is the creation of the people literally voting with their feet.

Over the years the grass along this path has been beaten down by thousands of feet in all sizes that refuse to follow the establishment guidelines and instead strike out on their own spontaneous, leaderless people's revolution. It is a meek, humble path, in some places little more than a size double-e flip-flop in width and often deep with mud. Grass seed has not conquered this path. Mud puddles have not kept the people away.

I must say, I have some mixed feelings watching all this spirit paved over. But in the end I will not miss the mud. Thank you to the powers-that-be for giving in to the will of the masses by officially sanctioning, and paving, the people's path!

Friday, May 1, 2009

UM's Lloyd Carr to Speak in Petoskey

As some of you may know, one of the many hats I wear is as President of the University of Michigan Alumni Little Traverse Bay Spirit Group. I normally don't discuss alumni events here but we are putting on a pretty spectacular luncheon next month and I thought you might like to know.

Join us on Wednesday, June 24, 2009, in the Rose Dining Room, Stafford's Perry Hotel in Petoskey for a luncheon featuring Lloyd Carr, Associate Director of U-M Athletics and former Head Football Coach. There is a no host bar at 12:00 noon, and the luncheon begins at 12:30. The cost is $25 per person, which includes entrée, salad, dessert, beverage, tax and gratuity.

Please send your check payable to "U-M Little Traverse Bay Spirit Group" by Friday, June 12 to Marty Scott (, 406 W. Lake Street, Petoskey, MI 49770. Send your check today, space is limited!


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Answering the Eternal Question

What is art?

Morris Shapiro,the Director of the Park West Gallery in Southfield, Michigan, took a stab at this eternal question in an essay Experiencing Rockwell that appeared on April 28th in the gallery's official blog. This post, while well reasoned, expertly informed and fascinating to read, adds to the piles of ink, real and virtual, that have been created searching for the answer to this intellectually interesting but essentially unanswerable question.

At the outset, I must admit that I have myself, in this very blog, made my own contribution to that ink heap with a post titled So What is Northern Michigan Art Anyway? I raised and then knocked down several straw-person explanations before finally, exasperated with the impossibility of the assignment I had given myself, ended up with the lame and unsatisfying conclusion that 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.
I suggest that Mr. Shapiro's geographically broader question has a similar answer.

The starting point for Mr. Shapiro's essay is the Detroit Institute of Arts' current exhibition, American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell. Shapiro points out that many experts consider Rockwell a great illustrator but not a fine artist. He then tours the exhibition, discovering evidence to refute this conclusion.

This issue is not unique to Rockwell. Experts have created an extensive lexicon of labels for works that, while they may appear to the uninitiated to be art, should more correctly be called something else. Sometimes that other thing is, as with Rockwell, illustration. At other times the label is commercial or craft work. A few years ago in a controversial letter to the editor of our newspaper here in Petoskey, Michigan, a local expert claimed that the works in a local show were not true art but were all derivative. No doubt other terms of [non] art will occur to you.

Mr. Shapiro's efforts to discredit the illustration label and establish Rockwell as a true artist fall into the trap of accepting that such distinctions may be valid but asserting that, in Rockwell's case, the more complementary term, artist, should apply.

Shapiro argues, based on what he sees as he walks through the Norman Rockwell exhibition and other galleries in the DIA, that Rockwell deserves to be considered an artist for several reasons:
  • His work contributes to the culture and artistic identity of America.
  • He displayed a mastery of oil on canvas.
  • He had the chops to do the French Masters and include their work in his own.
  • He embodied artistic discipline.
  • He was highly productive.
  • He had an unparalleled ability to communicate and to touch people.
  • His work is enormously popular.
  • Norman Rockwell's work fits perfectly into the pantheon of the masters.

I do not dispute the truth of any of these statements. However citing them as criteria for being an artist as opposed to an illustrator necessarily accepts the validity of this distinction and implies that it would be appropriate for a properly credentialed expert to affix the illustrator label to some practitioner of lesser merit than Norman Rockwell.

As an expert himself, Shapiro has a personal and professional stake in the existence of the sort of distinctions discussed here and the right and ability of experts to be the arbiter of these distinctions. Mr. Shapiro also candidly discusses his own extensive professional and commercial interest in the works of Norman Rockwell and thus in establishing him in the highest possible echelon of artists.

At the end of his essay, Mr. Shapiro returns to what he considers to be the important question:
How can an artist of such power, possessing spectacular technical genius and an unparalleled ability to communicate and touch so many, be so often dismissed by those who claim to wield the power of judgment as to what is and isn’t “art”?
He answers saying, “The answer is too long and complex to be addressed here.”

The answer appears complicated primarily because the question is too narrowly stated. The true question is whether any artist should be similarly dismissed or degraded by such experts or, more precisely, whether distinctions such as illustrator/artist have any validity or meaning.

Mr. Shapiro speaks to far more artists and art collectors than I do. I would think that from years of working with and listening to them he would realize that, as intellectually unsatisfying as it clearly is, perhaps the only viable answer really is:
Art is what artists do, art museums display, art galleries sell, art collectors, well, collect and art enthusiasts enthuse over.
While such a recursive definition is inherently unsatisfying, it may be as close to the truth as it is possible to get.

What do you think? Please post your comments.

The Ancient Art of Glass Blowing is Alive and Well in Northern Michigan

Glass is truly ancient. People have been making things out of glass about 3,500 years! In pre-Roman times, glass makers were making vessels, but glass blowing had not yet been invented. These early glass jars were made by wrapping hot glass around a core made of clay and dung (yuck). Glass blowing was invented in the Roman Empire in about 50 BC.

Glassblowing came to America in 1607 with the settlers of the Jamestown colony. Glass was used mostly for bottles and windows. Artists and designers didn't become an important part of the glassblowing scene until early in the 20th Century. In 1960, glassblowing finally moved out of the factory and into the artist's studio. The studio glass movement began in America but almost immediately spread around the world. When the artists took over, innovation and creativity exploded and glass became firmly established as an art medium. (Here Artists Market glassblower Lynn Dinning demonstrates this ancient/modern art.)

Today that experimentation continues. Glass artists are creating new techniques, making imaginative use of color, creating a wide variety of decorative, sculptural works and smashing barriers as quickly as they are created.

In Northern Michigan in general and the Petoskey area in particular, we are blessed with several talented and creative practitioners of the ancient yet modern art of making and shaping glass.

Lynn Dinning's path to becoming an outstanding glassblower is as long and winding as her journey from the big city of Detroit, where she was born, to her current home and studio in Northern Michigan's tiny Good Hart. In Detroit, her art form was theater lighting, sound, and scenic design. When she migrated north, Lynn began designing wearable metal objects and fiber garments. In 1982, she seized the opportunity to try glassblowing in North Carolina. She has been creating beautiful glass ever since. Many Northern Michigan residents know Lynn as a professional ski instructor who has been named one of the 100 Top Instructors by SKI Magazine.

Harry Boyer of Harbor Springs was a science major at Bowling Green State University when he met Dominic Labino, head of the glass blowing department. He had been interested in art primarily as a fun distraction from the rigors and discipline of science but he was immediately struck by the relationship between science and art. He then met a second creative genius, Erie Sauder, an incredibly gifted woodworker and innovative businessman who developed the Sauder Museum and Craft Village in Ohio. Harry worked with Sauder for eight years. In over thirty years as a glassblower, Harry has continued his complete fascination with the mixture of art and science, the chemistry and physics and the history of glass, from the natural formation of volcanic glass to the ancient development of glass blowing, to being able to mold the beauty of Northern Michigan into the properties of glass.

The glassblowing team of Jay Bavers and Glenna Haney live in East Jordan, Michigan, where they create award-winning lighting, wall groupings and vessels as Jordan Valley Glassworks. Unlike Lynn and Harry, Jay was born with a love for glass and a family connection to its history. He is a third generation glassblower. His grandfather was a glassblower in Vilnius, Lithuania. He came to the United States and started blowing glass and he set up his shop in Brooklyn. The family lived above his shop. Jay would go downstairs first thing in the morning before school and help set things up before the men came to work. He enjoyed sitting there, watching the guys work and eventually apprenticed with his grandfather. Jay and Glenna enjoy working together and with Jay's son and daughter, the fourth generation of the glassblowing family.

There is more to making art from glass than just glassblowing. Linda Manier of Wolverine, Michigan, practices the even older art of kiln formed fused glass that dates back over 5000 years to the era of the Phoenicians. The knowledge they gained while working with this unpredictable and exciting material continues to inspire creative work to this day. Linda creates bowls, plates and a variety of beautiful decorative items by shaping and fusing together various colors of glass at high temperatures.

Toni Hansen and Dolly Osborne of Petoskey have been using still another technique to make glass jewelry designs for almost five years. Dolly encountered dichroic glass jewelry at an art fair. She and Toni decided to attend a class to learn how to make their own fused glass jewelry and have been making stunning glass jewelry ever since. Dichroic glass uses thin layers of metal oxides within the glass that allow light to be simultaneously reflected and transmitted, producing vivid color combinations. The artists fire layers of different colors of dichroic glass together in a kiln to create colorful, one-of-a-kind pendants and other items.

We are extremely lucky to have so many talented artists in Northern Michigan producing an incredible variety of beautiful creations using the ancient, modern and constantly evolving art of working with glass.

Source of information on the history of glassblowing:

This Fundraiser is a Little Different!

Getting a little tired of all the standard fundraisers? Been to enough auctions? Tasted enough wine and cheese? Taken enough Walks for whatever? Looking for something totally new?

Then here is a fundraiser in Northern Michigan for you. The Michigan Community Blood Centers offers you HOPE ON A ROPE – Sign Up to Go Over the Edge! Donate at least $1,000 and you can register to go Over the Edge off the 17th floor of the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa Tower. That's right. You rappel down 17 stories of this Northern Michigan landmark.

Appropriately enough, all proceeds from this unique event will go toward the cost of tissue-typing and screening of prospective marrow donors, providing hope of survival for other people in a life threatening situation. Those people, of course, are not volunteering to pass up a perfectly good elevator to slide down a rope on the outside of a very tall building. They are facing very serious (and non-voluntary) life-threatening blood diseases such as aplastic anemia or some kinds of leukemia.

Don't believe me? There actually is an organization that puts on these events all over the country. Why not invite them to conduct your next fundraiser? If you still don't believe me, this group of course has a promotional video. Check it out on their website.

It sounds like a great cause to me and I suppose there are some (relatively) sane people out there who will actually pay a lot of money to subject themselves to this ordeal, described by the sponsors as an opportunity to take in the fresh breeze off Lake Michigan and enjoy the scenic beauty of Traverse City while experiencing what they describe as a controlled rappelling descent

The descent takes place in Traverse City on May 16th. If you miss it or if you survive it and want to try your luck again, there is another one on June 6th at the River House Condominiums in Grand Rapids.

At least it is not another pancake breakfast.

For the generous . . . and brave, details and registration are available on the Michigan Community Blood Centers website.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Coolest Small Town Update

Last month we told you that Budget Travel Magazine was taking a poll to determine America's Coolest Small Towns. Well, the voting is complete and the results were announced on April 15th. Petoskey did not crack the top ten but we did get 1,338 votes and came in 14th, just behind Port Austin, the only other Michigan town to get votes. The winner, America's Coolest Small Town, according to the voters was Owego, New York, with 24,692 of the 101,622 votes cast.

Kudos to Owego (and Port Austin) but we hereby officially invite everyone who voted, yep all hundred thousand or so of you (and all of you who didn't vote), to come to Petoskey this summer (or any other season) and experience America's TRUE coolest small town. And as evidence, we submit this watercolor, Artists Market artist Carol Rossman Brossard's Snowy Evening Downtown Petoskey showing a very cool Lake Street scene.

As for Budget Travel Magazine, you can come visit too. You must not be entirely confident in your results because, according to your website, you are voting again in 2010 and are now accepting nominations. Hint, Hint!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Ten Top Things to Photograph or Paint in Northern Michigan

Some days I sit here in the Northern Michigan Artists Market looking around at the amazing creations by our approximately eighty wonderful Northern Michigan artists and think that I would like to have more abstract, outsider, edgy pieces. Everyone here seems to want to do landscapes, still life and nature. And I can understand that. After all, it IS beautiful here in Northern Michigan.

The great outdoors is, after all, great. Most artists who live here can't seem to help themselves. The beauty and awesomeness of it all just overwhelms us and we have to paint it or photograph it. So I guess it is not surprising that the art here in our gallery is just going to be different than it would be if this was the Big City Downtown Artists Market.

So, in recognition of the fact that Up North is the beautiful place that it is and that we will all just have to live with that, I offer as a public service to all would be Northern Michigan artists, my list of

IN NORTHERN MICHIGAN (with examples) . . .

10. Ice and Snow -- While most of the subjects in this list are hot and warm and sunny, it is important to remember that it is cold here most of the year. So we start with this shot of a ship, shot by Jack Keck in the COLD ice.

9. Barns -- Face it, barns are just plain arty, especially if, like this one photographed by Luanne Schonfeld, they are a little past their prime.

8. Flowers -- Nothing says the beautiful outdoors like flowers. This is so true that we have an irresistible urge to cut them and bring them inside with us, as in the case of this Girl with Tulips by Nicki Griffith.

7. Trees -- They are majestic, uplifting and awe inspiring, and surprisingly photogenic, like this poplar Bruce Murray calls Stretch.

6. Trilliums -- Our favorite local wildflower seems to make its way into more than its share of pieces like this Karen Kubovchick watercolor.

5. Birds -- The animal kingdom cannot be ignored. And owls are such dramatic camera hogs like this one by Kris Busk. (And I managed to slip in another winter shot!)

4. Mackinac Bridge -- For man-made attractions, the Mighty Mack is the unchallenged king of obligatory subjects for every Northern Michigan painter and photographer. Fortunately, artists can find an infinite variety of perspectives to give us fresh insights into even the most familiar objects like Gerry Pas did here.

3. Unique Downtown Storefronts -- Almost nothing makes a better subject than the shops in our favorite, friendly, chain store free, Northern Michigan downtowns, like this shop on Pennsylvania Park in Petoskey by Kurt Anderson. (I resisted the temptation to include our own Artists Market storefront here.)

2. Lighthouses -- They are romantic, historic, iconic and all those other ic's that make them such excellent subjects to represent the charm and character of Northern Michigan. There are so many well known, beautifully restored choices for this one but I like this Sam Gibbons painting of the abandoned and deteriorating Waugoshance Lighthouse in Northern Lake Michigan off the coast of Wilderness State Park.

And . . .


OK, so it is the same thing I picked for first place on my last top ten list, The Top Ten Reasons to Visit Petoskey, but really, is there any other choice? The absolute most famous, most photgraphed, most painted, most admired, most popular post card subject, most inspiring sight in all of Northern Michigan just has to be the million dollar sunsets over Lake Michigan, like the one captured here from Little Traverse Bay by Geoff Guillaume.

So there you have it, the reason I finally just have to give in and recognize that our gallery of Northern Michigan art is just not going to have as many abstract, outsider edgy pieces as I would sometimes like to see. This is who we are. This is where we are. And I admit that I love it.

Did I leave out your favorite Northern Michigan art subject? To add your thoughts, critiques or (imagine this) plaudits, click on the comment link below and share your thoughts.