Be Part of the Benton Harbor Arts District

Benton Harbor is home to a thriving art and culture scene – including events like Artoberfest, an Oktoberfest-style celebration of art, culture, music, and food that’s coming up on September 21. Read about Artoberfest and more in the guest post below from Joshua Nowicki.

Shortly after moving to Southwestern Michigan two years ago, I fell in love with the Benton Harbor Arts District.

My first introduction to the Arts District was during one of the Art Hops organized by the New Territory Arts Association (NTAA).  I was amazed at the number of people downtown and by the variety of local businesses, restaurants, and galleries that invited artists to show their work.  The Art Hops, which are free and family-friendly events, are open to everyone; many of the participating organizations provide light refreshments for guests.  The upcoming Art Hop dates are October 18th and December 20th, 2013.

"Icarus" by David Kolka located in Thayer Park (part of the Krasl Art Center Biennial Sculpture Invitational)

One of my favorite places in the Arts District is Water Street GlassWorks, a non-profit, studio, gallery and school which is dedicated to the glass and metal arts.  Visitors are invited to overlook the school’s ‘hot shop’ and watch students’ and artists’ glassblowing and casting.  The perfect complement to the warmth of the GlassWorks is ice-cold gelato from Water Street GellatoWorks.  The GellatoWorks which serves Palazzolo’s gelato and Uncommon Grounds coffee, is an arm of the GlassWorks and provides funding for the organizations’ FiredUp! program and job skills training for the participating students.

While in the Arts District, you will probably notice a number of orange metal sculptures located on various rooftops and walkways. These sculptures were created by Michigan based artist, John Suave, and are part of the ‘I Am The Greatest Project,’ a program of Anna Russo Sieber Gallery.  The gallery features exhibits of both local and national arts, along with art, language and cultural classes, and outreach programs.

The artist studios at 210 Water Street offer a great opportunity to meet local artists working in their studios. 3 Pillars Gallery, an intermittent urban gallery, offers various creative events. The Arts District is also the location of Richard Hunt Studio Center which is one of the galleries/studios of internationally acclaimed sculptor, Richard Hunt.  Moreover, it is home to The Citadel Dance & Music Center along with The Oak Room at the Citadel; both are performing arts organizations.  Further, the Arts District has recently expanded with the addition of the Wall Street Studios just across Main Street.

There are a variety of unique dining options in the Arts District including The Phoenix, Larks Bar-B-Que, Charlie’s Piggin’ N’ Grinnin’, The Library Pub & Eatery, and The Ideal Place.  Also nearby are Cafe Mosaic and Bread + Bar by Bit of Swiss.  If you love Michigan beer, The Livery offers a tasty selection of ‘hand-forged microbrews’.  The Livery is also the place to go for concerts and entertainment including Open Stage sponsored by the NTAA which features regional musicians, poets, and storytellers on the first Monday of every month.

Interior of a loft in the Benton Harbor Arts District

Earlier this year, the NTAA hosted a Loft Hop which gave participants an exclusive look at the unique living spaces in downtown Benton Harbor. The level of comfort and luxury that the historic downtown buildings provide to their residents is amazing.  In fact, downtown living is so poplar that there is a wait list for available spaces.

If you are in Southwest Michigan on September 21, you will not want to miss Artoberfest, an Oktoberfest-style celebration of art, culture, music, and food. This year, it features two headliner bands: The True Falsettos and Deacon Blues.  Artoberfest will feature Michigan microbrews from Arcadia, Bells, Greenbush, The Livery, Shorts, and Tapistry.

Be sure to visit the Arts District as part of your next trip to Southwestern Michigan.

To learn more about the Benton Harbor Arts District, Art Hops & Artoberfest, visit www.newterritoryarts.org.

Joshua Nowicki is a St. Joseph, Michigan based photographer and a member of the New Territory Arts Association board of directors.