By Jolynn Paige
Many would say that the village of Northport at the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula has been in a bit of a slump over the past several years. Businesses have closed, including the towns major employer, Leelanau Memorial Hospital. Families have been forced to move away due to lack of work, and the towns school has seen a drop in enrollment.
But a renaissance is on the horizon, in the form of a declaration by the prolific and populous art community of Northport shouting out, We are here. We love this place and were not going anywhere. Come join us!
Woody Palmer, for example, is undaunted by stories of doom and gloom.
Over the course of the past several years, Palmer has transformed an old downtown warehouse into what is now The Painted Horse Gallery an airy, classy gallery to be proud of.
I bought a main building in the center of Northport with the dream of transforming it into useable, attractive commercial space, Palmer says.
THE DOG NEXT DOOR
Adjacent to the gallery is a fabulous little bookstore Dog Ears Books owned by Northport year-rounder Pamela Grath.
We are planning all kinds of wonderful events for the future here, said Grath. Goals include hosting artists workshops and authors visits in the bookstore/gallerys new home.
A native of Ada and a talented landscape painter, Palmers vision is to create a professional, eye-pleasing space with great art and books in the hope that people will come.
Indeed, those who have come have been impressed.
We had a woman wander in here a few days ago. She spent a bunch of time looking at the work, and she came to us and said that shed been to galleries all over the world, and this one was her favorite, said Palmer.
The past year of blood, sweat and tears has been worth it to him because he believes in the town. I love Northport, and I think it has a great future ahead of it, he says.
LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT
Palmers expertise in design architecture, his second career, is evident in the gallerys color scheme, lighting, wall space, and ceiling.
When I first saw this space, I fell in love with the wood-beam ceilings and skylights. We wanted to create the feeling of both a clean, inviting barn and an upscale gallery. I think we did it. Im pleased with the way its turned out.
He was drawn to a barn scheme because he and his wife, Bonnie Marris, a wildlife artist and partner in sweat equity, share a passion for horses.
We have four horses three of them painted and that is why we named our gallery The Painted Horse, said Marris.
We hope that this is a shot in the arm for Northport, she added. This is just an incredible place, with so many wonderful, talented, creative, and loving people. It deserves all the best that we can give.
In addition to Palmers landscapes and Marriss oil paintings of wildlife, the gallery includes works by several Northern Michigan artists.
Palmer said there will be more art events in the near future for the town. There are six galleries all together in Northport. We are joining together and working together to create events and art walks throughout the summer.
The Painted Horse Gallery in Northport is open seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. throughout the summer. The following artists work will be on display and for sale, with prices ranging from $200-$10,000. Call 231-386-7209 for info.
Mary Beth Acosta, collage artist
Chip Gadek, furniture and wood sculptor
David Grath, painter
Philip Kellogg, sculptor
Bonnie Marris, painter
Gene Rantz, painter
Donn Palmer, painter
Woodruff (Woody) Palmer, painter
Bill Perkins, rustic furniture maker