Replete with an incredible summer climate, ancient stone corals, wooded trails and roadside beaches - not to mention old-fashioned ambience, these two bayside downtowns are brimming with galleries filled with predictable landscapes. With a tourist-based economy, it is not surprising that many local artists are naturally seduced by living in the midst of this beautiful water wonderland, but refreshing - newcomers and transplants are challenging the artistic status quo.
More and more recognized artists are finding inspiration and solace here. Being an outside-the-mainstream artist is all about self-expression, exploration -- yet, seldom about beauty. Commercial artists, whose goal is to produce an admired product to make a profit, readily comply with the expectation of the defined aesthetic Northern Michigan, but others decide to be regional without becoming locked into provinciality. And a few ground-breaking artists choose to ignore the entire sales matrix and focus on redefining art. These artists may be readily snatched up by a visionary gallery director or may remain ready for discovery.
In the Little Traverse Bay region, there are a variety of venues for viewing all types of artists work. Commercial, artist-owned, not-for-profit, cooperative and rental galleries line the streets of both bayside towns. You may, in fact, stumble upon some rarified art salons, but you might also uncover some new highly collectible art.
Harbor Springs is a treasure trove of commercial galleries. Commercial galleries sell artwork as their primary income and take a commission (often an arbitrary 50%) on the sale of the artists work. In major city galleries, artists may be charged a reprehensible 90% and are chosen from a closed group of contacts, where critics, dealers and curators dominate the art business.
In the past, collectors believed that art only existed in large metropolitan areas and could only be purchased from dealers. Yet wise patrons know that good galleries exist in small cities and resort towns closer to home.
An example of such a gallery is the Ward Gallery in the old train depot, named after Craig and Diane Bells son. Ward Gallery is in its 14th season featuring wonderful bronze and marble sculpture of Karen Peterson, the obsessive work of Deborah Donelson and East Lansings Dustin Londons full-pigmented paintings.
Another commercial gallery, new to the area, is the Knox Gallery, one of five galleries around the country owned by Dean Knox, which shows premier bronze sculptures and displays oil paintings, watercolors and etchings.
Knox opened this latest gallery because of the location; he enjoys the nearby fresh water sailing.
Knox Gallery artist Glenna Goodacre is famous for her bronze compositions from small head studies to heroic public monuments. Goodacres most prominent monumental works are the 1993 Vietnam Womens Memorial in Washington, D.C., the 2003 National Irish Memorial in Philadelphia and the recent U.S. Golden Dollar project. For the latter, Goodacre was able to find a 22-year-old Shoshone woman, RanyL He-dow Teton, through the Institute of American Indian Arts Museum in Santa Fe and created the new Sacagawea coin, which won the recent U.S. Mint competition.
Storybook Harbor Springs also has its share of artist-owned galleries. Some interesting ones are Boyer Glassworks, Pierre Bittar Gallery and Tvedtens Fine Art.
Artist-owned galleries can be anything from a working studio to a storefront, rivaling commercial galleries. Tvedtens Fine Art on Third Street, owned by Margaret Tvedten and Jim Kopka, shows both Margaret Tvedtens and Stefan Kopkas works, but also a number of nationally recognized artists, many of whom are represented in galleries in Santa Fe, northern California, Texas and Florida. A gallery standout, however, is Michigan artist Danielle Bodine, who earned her Bachelors of Fine Arts in Weaving and Textile Design from the University of Michigan. Her conceptual, dignified works illustrate a strength in design and minimalistic vision.
Petoskey, charmingly historical, but also a haven where you can pick a direction -- any direction -- and once you start walking you will find yourself in front of another gallery.
Two notable artist-owned galleries, Valerie Studio and Fine Art Gallery and Luciano Fine Art Photography, are active members of the downtown art association.
Valerie Thomson was raised in Northern Michigan, studied at Kendall in Grand Rapids, and pursued a graphic career in Chicago and Dallas before returning home to paint. Her popular florals and tea boxes are a standard on the annual gallery walk in June.
Luciano Duse is a master architectural photographer. His extreme attention to detail and expertise is obvious in his stunning photographs. Dissimilar from portrait photography, architectural photographic work is more exacting: a balancing act of manipulating light and finding dramatic angles for spectacular compositions.
CROOKED TREE & ART MART
As a rule, the community non-profit art gallery is an established place to attend art exhibitions. No exception, the newly renovated Crooked Tree Arts Center is ambitiously offering classes, exhibitions, concert series and entertainers. While some non-profit organizations are able to offer groundbreaking alternative exhibitions, many others have to mimic commercial galleries to supplement their funding and bring the arts to the general public. Crooked Tree Arts Center fits into the latter category with ongoing exhibitions in the galleries and a lively sales selection in the gift shop.
Petoskeys newest cooperative gallery, the Northern Michigan Artists Market LLC, has replaced the former retail space that the Crooked Tree Gift Shop used during the art centers renovation. Locals have barely noticed the transition, as six Northern Michigan artists took over the restored space.
The co-op gallery is jointly owned by the six founding /exhibiting artists, with other artists providing support by paying monthly dues. The NMAM is now home to over 70 artists whose work can be found in well-known local, national and international collections, museums and galleries. The fine arts and crafts for sale represent a wide range of media including painting, pottery, photography, glassworks, fiber, jewelry, mixed media and sculpture.
A new remarkable artist is Jeff Krino from Bellaire, who uses a series of found objects to create unusual bas relief sculptures, each with an added ecological message. Instead of the usual technique where the background is chiseled and removed to raise the images, Krino uses a combination of acrylic and enamel paints, spray paint, and found objects assembled onto a wood panel. His found objects can be bone, rubber, wood, sinew, and various types of metal. His work illustrates ingenuity and calls attention to our undeniable impact on our natural surroundings.
Janet Reed, another Market artist, creates fiber baskets, which have both symmetrical and asymmetrical forms, but her chaotic approach is an interesting interplay of chance and custom. She thoughtfully takes rhythmic basketry work to a higher level of art.