Meet the Artists

On a recent trip to St. Joseph, Kristin Bienert, editor of Michigan Travel Ideas, spent time touring the Box Factory for the Arts, a venue for local artists.

Built in 1907, this one-time box factory made fancy boxes until 1989 for companies like Marshall Fields. Now restored, the first floor and lower level house artists’ studios and galleries, plus a small gift shop. Owned by the Berrien Arts Guild, the venue sponsors writers’ workshops, music and theater performances, and other special events.

After wandering through the front and back galleries and gift shop on the first floor, plan to devote your time meeting the artists. Almost three-dozen artists rent space by the month. On any given day, visitors can find a handful of artists working in their studios. Note: All keep their hours posted outside their studio doors.

Artist Lynne Tan

The artwork is as diverse as the artists, including Lynne Tan from Singapore. Lynne’s clay pieces are simple yet stunning. She appreciates being able to work when the mood strikes—artists have 24/7 access. “This is my space, and I can come here anytime,” Lynne says. She also plans to show her installation piece Offering in Celebration of Mostly Grey at Grand Rapids ArtPrize, September 19–October 7.

Other artists include:

  • Besides showing her art, which has an Oriental flare, Elaine Harju reserves wall space for her photographer husband’s work.

  • A rainbow of colored pencils fills Susan Schirmer’s desk. She illustrates books and like most artists at the Box Factory, offers private lessons.

    Artist Susan Schirmer

  • Light streams in Jan Sonneman’s studio space, which she’s rented since 1997. Jan creates jewelry and collages from torn pieces of magazines and newspapers.

  • Bob William’s artwork looks like photography, but upon close examination, you’ll see the medium is paint.

  • A graphic designer by trade, Robin Maxon works in watercolor and among other things, designs wine bottle labels for Karma Vista Vineyard, an area winery.

  • Find Vicki Cook during the week (Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.) in her studio on the lower level. She creates jewelry from metals such as sterling, gold and copper.

  • Fiber artist Gwen Jones works on a loom set up in the lower level hallway.

  • Fractual artist, James O’Haver, uses mathematical formulas to create complex works of art. Just like looking at clouds, everyone sees something different in his work. Depending on the piece, I see an extremely intricate snowflake, vibrant spiral and bursting bubbles.

Box Factory for the Arts is free and open to the public Monday through Saturday (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and Sunday (1 to 4 p.m.).

Feeling inspired by her visit to the Box, Kristin Bienert went home and dug out her calligraphy materials with the goal of practicing her letter writing on a weekly basis.