Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Gwen Frostic and the Cherry Hut

(The front entrance of Gwen Frostic's print shop and store)

This summer I visited two popular destinations in Northern Michigan. One of these sites is
Gwen Frostic's print shop and store in Benzonia, Michigan. The other destination is the Cherry Hut in near by Beulah, Michigan.

(A portrait of Gwen Frostic)

Gwen Frostic (1906 -2001)was an artist who made linoleum cut prints using motifs from nature to make cards and books. A few of the cards feature unlikely themes for greeting cards (e.g. cards that feature rainfall or one animal devouring another). I feel Frostic tried to reveal nature's beauty without simplifying its complexity.

(Printing presses at Gwen Frostic)

Recently, Gwen Frostic's Printshop seems to have fallen on some hard times and was shut down for a while. However, with new owners the printing center and store have re-opened. Although the website for this popular destination could use some updating, the actual location is a fascinating excursion. Frostic created a facility where people could watch the printing of her uniquely designed cards. Many cards and products are featured in the store and are favorably priced. Year after year I have come back to visit the press and shop to buy more cards. Seeing the unique building and grounds, the press operation, and the many cards and books is well worth a few hours of time.

(Gwen Frostic's cards)

(Books by Gwen Frostic)

Finally, after I left Gwen Frostic's shop this year, I stopped at the Cherry Hut. The Cherry Hut is opened seasonally in the spring and summer months and is minutes from Gwen Frostic. The graphic sign out front is well known in the area (see the image below). This local diner (established in 1922) offers a fine cherry pie.

(The Cherry Hut sign and entrance)

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Pajama Factory

This summer I have traveled from Pennsylvania (near Philadelphia) to Michigan. I am teaching in the summer program at Interlochen Center for the arts. Interlochen is in Northwest Michigan, near Traverse City. On the way there, I stopped in Williamsport, Pennsylvania to visit the artist Chad Andrews. Chad has been an early tenant in the Pajama Factory. The Pajama Factory is a building that holds artist studios and performance space. It is owned by Mark Winkelman who is an architect from New York City.

This floor of the Pajama Factory has yet to be developed.

I have seen other cities convert old factory buildings into studios (e.g., the Crane Building in Philadelphia or the Goggle Works in Reading, PA) but I have never seen a building this large with so much potential. This makes me wonder if projects like the Pajama Factory will have a greater impact on the art we see in the future? As the internet has made images of artists' work more accessible and art fairs have made it easier for galleries to make sales in multiple markets, will artists seek out these new centers where the rent is relatively inexpensive compared to big cities? One of the smart choices that the Pajama factory has made was to start an artist residency program. This allows young artists to consider being an artist in a less than obvious place.

A renovated floor with new studios.

After touring the building with Chad Andrews, I began to feel that another advantage to a facility of this kind is that resources can be consolidated. For example, Andrews has refurbished several printing presses and just opened a printmaking workshop akin to Second State Press (located in the Crane Building, Phila. PA). So far Andrews has signed up several talented local artists (e.g., Jeremiah Johnson and Lori Crossley) for membership and access to his print shop. Only time will tell how large projects like the Pajama Factory will work. However, I feel a wider range of studio options will only benefit to the artists of the the future.

Chad Andrews's new printmaking studio.