Inaugural Great Northern Art Explosion puts Grayling on the map as fine arts destination
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
By all measures the Great Northern Arts Explosion was a success, drawing people into Grayling area businesses, making cash registers ring, and showcasing art from artisans from throughout Michigan.
The AuSable Artisan Village and Paddle Hard Brewing joined forces to finance The Great Northern Art Explosion, Grayling’s first statewide fine arts competition.
The show was on display from July 19 through August 3 at nine venues throughout downtown Grayling: Old Lumberyard Shoppes, Rolling Oak Brewing Co., Paddle Hard Microbrewery, Main Branch Gallery, Flowers by Josie, Ron’s Fly Shop at Gambles Corner, Bear’s Den Conference Room, Paddle Hard Brewing, and the Artisan Village.
Four large sculptures were displayed on the sidewalk: the Ram’s Head Wood Stove and the Scorpion, both by Eric Wiltse, the Great Escape by Lon Gauthier, and Sun Bells by Neil Nettles.
On Saturday, August 3, an awards ceremony was held at the Artisan Village to recognize winners in seven categories as well as the people’s choice award.
The top eight vote getters in the people’s choice award were Dan Feldhauser, Eric Wiltse, Jason Glicker, Roger Smith, Kim Diment, Rick Davis, Ken Wright, and Lisa Oliver.
Ultimately, Glicker won the award for his 3-D art display, which was at Flowers by Josie/Thanks a Latte, called 20 Level Merkaba.
Glicker draws the geometric designs and colors them in with markers and gel pens. LED lights are used to change the rotating images in the display along with the use of 3-D glasses
“That kind of just enhances the experience and people really, really like that,” Glicker said.
Glicker pocketed a $1,500 prize for the people’s choice award, which he said he will use to finish developing a website to promote his art.
“I’m very happy and the only other thing I can say is that I have a lot of respect for all the other artists that were in this,” Glicker said. “They’re all amazing artists. I think a lot of them are better artists than me in a lot of ways.”
One participant in the Great Northern Art Explosion said Glicker’s display helped draw the interest of youth to the art.
Glicker, who is a substitute teacher in the area, said his art was enjoyed by all viewers.
“I think it just really resonated with everyone of all ages,” he said.
Terry Dickinson, the director of the AuSable Artisan Village, said people were puzzled with the fact they could only select three artists for the people’s choice award.
“People did struggle with that part of it,” Dickinson said.
A total of 1,500 ballots were distributed, with around 1,000 being turned in and counted.
Bruce Winslow selected the best in each of seven categories from sculpture to jewelry. Winslow earned a master’s of fine arts in painting and art history from the Pratt Institute Graduate School of Fine Arts in Brooklyn, New York. He earned a bachelor’s of fine arts in painting and biology from Central Michigan University. He recently retired after 29 years at the Midland Center for the Arts, where he served as director and curator of the Alden B. Dow Museum of Science and Art.
Winslow said he was impressed with the first-year show.
“I think there is a lot of potential for this to be an annual event for you folks and this can grow and grow,” he said.
Paddle Hard Brewing, Forest Dunes, and Kabinetree Koncepts, a one stop shop for building and remodeling projects in Houghton Lake, provided financial backing to support the show as sponsors.
“I’m am flabbergasted by the financial support that you have gained for these awards,” Winslow said. “That’s a dream come true.”
Winslow acknowledged the artists for opening themselves up to praise and criticism, and worse yet, indifference.
“You’ve got to have big shoulders,” he said.
Checks for $500 were given to the winning artist in each category for the show.
First place in the painting category went to Rod Lawrence, from Kalkaska, for a piece called “A Bird In Hand.”
The painting features a cart made by Lawrence’s grandfather, leather gloves made by himself, deer antlers, animal hides, and bird feathers.
“There is just a lot of personal symbolism in there, so the painting meant a lot more to me than some of the other pieces I have done,” Lawrence said. “I’m very thankful to be part of this and to have lucked out and won that award.”
The honorable mention award for painting went to Diment for “Sunset, Moonrise,” which features an owl among vegetation on a river.
“I cannot comprehend a world without animals,” Diment said.
First place in the drawing category went to Erwin Lewandowski, from Alpena, for a piece called “Shoreline Ripples.” The honorable mention award went to Gerald Mulka for a piece called “Nocturne From Belle Isle.”
First place in the 2-D mixed media category went to Melvyn Rettenmund, from Grayling, for a piece called “Blue Gills.” The honorable mention award went to Megan Shilobod for a piece called “Disappearing Giant.”
First place in the photography category went to Gretchen Dorian, from Brutus, for a piece called “Keewatin.” The honorable mention award recognized Winnie Charzanowski for a piece called “Slot Canyon.”
“She sees world with new eyes, showing the power of black and white,” Winslow said.
First place in the sculpture category went to Lon Gauthier, from Grayling, for a piece called “The Great Escape.”
“This is sheer masculine ambition and mind over matter,” Winslow said.
The honorable mention award went to Roger Smith for a piece called “The Watchful Doe.”
“This was a very ambitious work,” Winslow said. “It’s a technical process, which merges science with art.”
The first place in the jewelry category went to Gary Anthony, from Roscommon, for a piece called “Sea Glass Ring.” The ring features Hawaiian sea glass.
“It brings an international significance to the ring itself, using glass fragments that are from an era of 1880s to 1920s from glass fragments retrieved from the Pacific Ocean,” Winslow said. “It’s a pretty cool and historical charm.”
Clare Spaulding was recognized with an honorable mention award in the jewelry category for a piece called “Garnet in the Garden.”
Carl Shubert, from Grayling, won first place in the functional category for a piece called “Easy Sitting.”
“It’s an incredible honor to receive any award for things that I love to build and gives people so much enjoyment,” Schubert said.
Schubert sees good things on the horizon for the art community in the area.
“The community of Grayling is an up and coming place for art and artisans and people who enjoy life. To have the Artisan Village sponsor this and all the people who put money up for it and made it happen, and Bruce Winslow is an amazing judge to have pick things from here is absolutely phenomenal,” Schubert said. “We have a community of great artists, great artisans, and people that love art. This is the start of Grayling going in a great direction. Hopefully, this will go on for years to come and I will certainly be a supporter of it.”
Jan Wachowski received the honorable mention award for a piece called “Cherry Cake and Coffee.”
“Ceramics are an integral part of my life,” Wachowski said.
Dickinson was quick to disavow the notion that he organized the show himself. He said Mary Ann Ferrigan, the president of the AuSable Artisan Village Board of Directors, Rose Nettles from the Artisan Village, Traci Cook and Hayley Strohpaul from the Grayling Regional Chamber of Commerce, Pam Meland from The Old Lumberyard Shoppes, and Ken Wright and Kim Diment, co-owners for the Main Branch Gallery, helped organize and put on the show.
“They all worked together and worked out the kinks and put together a really smooth running show,” Dickinson said.
Dickinson said the Great Northern Art Explosion served its purpose for the greater Grayling community.
“What is does for us and does for the community is bring people down to see the artwork that may not otherwise show up,” he said.
Winslow said he was impressed with roots artists have put down to make Grayling a destination for art lovers.
“It encourages creative interchange,” he said.
The Grayling Promotional Association awarded a grant for the Great Northern Art Explosion to have musicians perform prior to the awards ceremony.
Guide books for the show were produced and donated by Kirtland Community College.
“The guide books were a very outstanding production,” said Dickinson, adding that all the books made available were handed out.