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.
When you think of Ann Arbor, the University of Michigan might first come to mind. But did you know that Ann Arbor is also home to a number of unique cafes, storefronts and art galleries? With a mix of eclectic shopping, world-renowned music venues and more than 200 restaurants, it’s a town that offers something for everyone.
This past Saturday, May 26th, Peter Greenberg put Ann Arbor in the spotlight to explore these unique offerings during his weekly radio show. While broadcasting from the University of Michigan Museum of Art, Peter spoke with local influencers and subject matter experts that helped him answer questions like “How did the town of Ann Arbor gets its start?” and “What on earth is a ‘fairy-door’?”
- Dhani Jones, former University of Michigan football star and current collaborator on the non-profit organization Bow Ties for a Cause
- Tom Murray, owner of Conor O’Neills, Ann Arbor’s “real” Irish Pub
- Jonathan Wright, founder of urban-fairies.com and creator of Ann Arbor’s “fairy-doors”
- Joseph Rosa, director of the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA)
Check out a recap at PeterGreenberg.com, or visit iTunes or stitcher.com to download the full show.
Karman Hotchkiss, contributing writer for Michigan Travel Ideas, shares insider tips on how to successfully navigate and get the most out of any art fair this season.
This year, I plan to kick off the art fair season with a one-two punch of festivals—the East Lansing Art Festival and the Michigan State University Arts and Crafts Show. These dual events—across the street from each other in East Lansing—give me a taste of just about every kind of art you can imagine.
As you head to art fairs in your area this summer, here are a couple of tips:
- Pack a cheat sheet with measurements and paint colors. My friend Susan doesn’t venture into an art show without her little zipper bag of home data. She knows the exact measurement of that space above the fireplace and has paint chips for her hard-to-match lavender bathroom. So when she falls in love with a painting, vase or rug, she knows if it will fit or match.
- Chat with the artists. Art fairs usually put you face-to-face with the creators. What a great way to learn the story behind each piece. At last year’s East Lansing show, I learned delightful details about wood turning from Michigan artist Ted July, whose wooden bowls with bark rims intrigued me. This year, you’ll find him at booth #94.
- Don’t miss the kid art. Most festivals sponsor a hands-on area for children and display works from local schools. This is a wonderful place to experience the pure joy of unaffected artistic expression. It might even draw out your inner artist.
- Check out companion shows. Wherever there’s a sophisticated juried art show, you can bet there’s probably a grassroots arts and crafts fair nearby. (In East Lansing, a mere boulevard separates the two.) These craftier shows offer plenty of fun, interesting, sometimes more practical finds that complement the work of the professional artists.
- Go home with something. If a big piece isn’t in your budget (or won’t fit in the car), you can still go home with a memento. Many artists sell note cards, magnets or other small reproductions of their work. These are a great way to celebrate artistic spirit without spending a lot.
For a listing of art shows in Michigan this summer, please visit michigan.org.
Karman Hotchkiss, a native Midwesterner, is a contributing writer for Michigan Travel Ideas. Every time she attends an art fair, she wants to go home and lock herself in her crafting room for a week.
Grand Rapids is changing the conversation about art. The Grand Rapids ArtPrize is an international art competition which opens tomorrow, September 21st, and continues through October 9th. This event was created to reset and broaden the conversation about public art, and offers a rare opportunity for people to view art from around the world in a single location.