The gallery is both named after their youngest son, Ward, and is also an acronym for Worldwide Art Resources and Design. The Bells other two businesses, the C.R.A.I.G. Gallery in Birmingham, Michigan, and their new Ciao Bella! Garden and Home Shop in Petoskey, are named after their other son and their daughter.
The current location of the W.A.R.D. Gallery was built in 1875 by Sidney J. Osgood, and the building that houses the gallery used to be a working depot, namely the Grand Rapids and Indiana Trunk Railroad Harbor Springs Depot.
GOOD OLD DAYS
The railroad served the resort communities of Little Traverse Bay, especially Harbor Springs, which hosts one of the deepest harbors in the Great Lakes. In the good old days, lake steamers would ply the waters up and down the lakeshore: Harbor Springs, Wequetonsing, Harbor Point, Roaring Brook, Bay View and Petoskey, and the train would bring people Up North to the area for the summer season. In its peak season back in the 1920s, the railroad averaged 500,000 tickets a summer - so, of course, a top-notch depot was needed to service all of this traffic.
After its use as a train depot was over, the building was utilized in various ways, including a womens dress shop, an ice cream store and other seasonal uses.
A quick look around at the interesting stick architecture showcases this authentic structure, which was kept mostly intact due to its historical significance to the Little Traverse Community.
So when Diane and Craig Bell were ready to move their art gallery from its Harbor Springs Main Street location, next to American Spoon Foods, they thought the old train station would make a great, unique location for their business. They purchased the building in late 1999, restored it in 2000 with the help of Carmen Ludy, and transformed it into the art gallery it is today.
Diane and Carmen have a common interest in restoring old buildings, Craig Bell explains, so the Depot was ideal.
But for year-round use, there was a lot of work that needed to be done, starting with the heat - the only heat for the uninsulated building was a pot belly stove, so insulation was obviously the first priority. This was no easy feat if the building was to be kept at historical status - each individual piece of bead board had to be removed, numbered and lettered (so as to be returned to its exact correct spot later) and cleaned of grimy pot belly stove smoke residue.
The building also kept its original glass windows and cargo doors, and the paint colors were done to match what was found in historical records. The Bells and Ludy kept the ticket and telegraph room intact, restored all of the floors in the lower rooms to their natural Butternut color, restored the baggage room floor to its original railroad red shade, and converted the baggage room itself to a third gallery with plain walls for displaying paintings, which could include some of Bells own works.
Diane Bell, a painter, majored in studio painting and interior design at Hillsdale College, and has taught painting to both college students and to disadvantaged youth. An accomplished interior designer, shes included original art in each of her major projects in the Little Traverse Bay area.
Both Diane and her husband Craig have always, as they put it, had a passion for discovering good art. Their first gallery was established 20 years ago, initially concentrating on Native American and Inuit antiquities, folk art, and museum-quality crafts.
Our passion has grown over the years, Craig Bell says, and, as the art market is historically cyclical, this commitment has allowed us to weather its volatile cycles.
Each season, the Bells bring new art to Harbor Springs, both from established and emerging artists. They are currently showcasing works of art from Chicago, Boston, New Mexico, and France as well as Michigan. The duo discover new artists by word of mouth, by inquiries through their website, or in their travels, where they always make a point to visit the local galleries.
New for 2006, they will be featuring a young still life painter from Tulsa, Oklahoma; a figurative painter from New Zealand; a geometric abstract painter from New York; and a pen and ink artist from Williamston, Michigan, among others.
While the artworks may be commer-cially appealing, the Bells characterize their choices of art and artists as being in more serious styles, ranging from abstract, expressionism and contemporary realism works to photography and sculpture. Its a diverse collection that the Bells deliberately try to keep at a reasonable price range, so that pieces can be acquired by even the most beginning art collectors. There are also Giclees (high quality digital print reproductions, produced one at a time, vs. long-run lithographs) available for some of the artists, which are an even more approachable way to purchase art.
The Bells and the W.A.R.D. Gallery will also be showcasing several of their artists this summer through a half-dozen or so two-person art shows, several of which will include the artist present and which may also include live music - visitors will see that the train depot and its attractive lawn space are perfect for these events, which should prove to be crowd-pleasers this summer.
W.A.R.D. Gallery is located at 111 West Bay Street in downtown Harbor Springs, telephone 231-526-4366. Their hours are Mon.-Sat. 10 am to 6 pm, Sundays 11 am to 4 pm. Visit them online at