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Exploring The Fine Arts

 

Brought together in one building, Saugatuck/Douglas' artwork and artists would rival any major metropolitan gallery. But they are not in one building; rather, they must be sought out in the nooks and crannies of these charming rural villages.

 

The inspiring beauty of the Saugatuck area has attracted both practitioners and patrons of the fine arts for over a century. The proliferation of galleries, artist’s studios, street art fairs and many diverse do-it-yourself art opportunities have built its reputation as the “Art Coast™ of Michigan.” From lively clusters of downtown galleries to the secluded campus of Ox-Bow School of Art and the intriguing array of studios dotting the countryside, what distinguishes this unique creative enclave are its enormous breadth and world-class quality.

The catalyst for the performing arts is the Saugatuck Center for the Arts, which provides a year ‘round, ever-changing, variety of cultural performances, classes and workshops by various artists for children and adults. From the humorous to the sublime, classical to contemporary, provincial to universal, the art experiences found in the Saugatuck/Douglas area offer connoisseurs of creativity a delightful artistic escape from everyday life.

As you enter Saugatuck via Lake Street you will discover Indian Summer, a unique art gallery exhibiting authentic Native American art and jewelry, so popular with collectors. In the heart of Saugatuck, high-style contemporary crafts, wearable art, furniture and fine art await the visitor at Good Goods, a gallery housed in a restored Victorian boardinghouse. Two blocks north Discovery Art Center features area artists who work in a variety of media. Only a few storefronts away you will come across the Janice Miles Gallery, featuring original bucolic watercolors by this charming British artist. On Water Street you will find Affordably French, a gallery aptly named to describe its array of fine art glass, original paintings and objets d’art carefully selected and imported from the owner’s homeland.

Next to the Village Square Park, the venerable Armstrong DeGraaf International Fine Art Gallery promotes the work of noted international painters and sculptors. On Butler Street, Saugatuck Gallery features affordable paintings from around the world. Centrally located on Butler Street is the James Brandess Studios & Gallery; this extremely popular artist can be observed right in the front window as he lays on the thick impasto of a new oil painting or portrait in his signature style. Around the corner on Hoffman Street, Koorey Creations – a third genertion goldsmithing gallery – presents handcrafted custom jewelry set with unique gemstones, original art and goldsmithing demonstrations throughout the year.

Over the bridge in Douglas is the Button-Petter Gallery, housed in an elegantly restored historic building on Blue Star Highway. Here one finds original paintings, bronzes and garden sculpture – both indoors and outdoors – by nationwide artists. Visitors can also enjoy tasting artisan wines on the premises as well. On Center St., one block west of the traffic light on Blue Star, LaFontsee Galleries features exceptional contemporary art in all mediums from more than 70 artists. On Center St. in downtown Douglas, Water Street Gallery showcases contemporary fine art, paintings, glass and sculptures of more than 60 accomplished regional and national artists.

The diversity of the global cultural experience is reflected by the Saugatuck/Douglas area’s specialty galleries. Amaru Leather, one of the area’s longest standing and most popular craft galleries, is located on Griffith Street in downtown Saugatuck. It is a craft gallery concentrating on custom creations in leather by two resident designers. Across the way on Culver St., Amazwi Contemporary Art features colorful paintings, extraordinary sculptures and fine crafts from Africa.

Located just north of Saugatuck on Blue Star, you’ll find Marcia Perry Sculpture Studio, an intriguing nature-lover’s environment featuring sculptures hewn from trees and stone, carving workshops and the annual Goddess Show. Southeast of Saugatuck, a little farther out in the countryside, visit Khnemu Studio on Fernwood Farm where artist Dawn Soltysiak creates her uniquely beautiful pottery in a pastoral country setting, and hosts ceramic workshops in her solar-powered barn. Also nestled in the countryside on 127th Avenue is Reverie Design & Craft featuring handmade pottery, a beautiful garden and the artist’s studio gallery. On the road to Fennville, the Peachbelt Studio and Gallery is housed in an historic red brick one-room schoolhouse circa 1867 surrounded by farms, fields and orchards. Here artist Dawn Stafford creates brilliantly colored floral, still-life, landscape and other oil paintings. In downtown Fennville on Main St. is Fernwood 1891 featuring fine art, fine crafts, artisan foods and the charming ROOT Coffee House. Also an area-wide cooperative called Blue Coast Artists sponsors popular open houses several times a year in participating artists studios that dot the countryside.

There are also opportunities – particularly fun on rainy days – for visitors and families with children to create their own art at Express Yourself Art Barn, Ox-Bow and Saugatuck Center for the Arts.

Brought together in one building, Saugatuck/Douglas’ artwork and artists would rival any major metropolitan gallery. But they are not in one building; rather, they must be sought out in the nooks and crannies of these charming rural villages that have not sold out to the homogeneity of modern times. This makes exploring the Art Coast™ of Michigan a delightful treasure hunt.

 
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Photography by Felicia Fairchild - All Rights Reserved