Glen Arbor artist Hoagland leads off Center Gallery exhibits


By Katie Dunn

Sun contributor

The transformative power of the arts is a universal phenomenon—capable of elevating, unifying, and edifying communities irrespective of their size or demographics. From the bustling streets of Paris’ arrondissements to the sun-drenched landscape of Santa Fe to the dynamic energy of Tokyo, the arts have consistently served as a cornerstone of cultural development.

In Paris, the arts are an integral part of its identity, with institutions like the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay and the Centre Pompidou standing as global beacons of its heritage. The city witnessed the emergence of unprecedented artistic movements: Impressionism, Pointillism, Symbolism, Fauvism, Cubism, Surrealism, among others. Paris’ continued commitment to the arts is evident in its myriad galleries, vibrant cultural festivals, and public art (think: the whimsical Stravinsky Fountain). Its deep-seated reverence for creative ingenuity has not only attracted artists and tourists worldwide, but has also cultivated a profound sense of civic pride and cohesion. The City of Light remains a bedrock—and fountain—of creativity and connection.

Similarly, Santa Fe, with its rich tapestry of Native American, Latino, and Anglo-American cultures, has built its own artistic legacy that draws artists and visitors alike. It is where such creative luminaries as Maria Martinez (1887-1980), Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) and Agnes Martin (1912-2004) came into prominence and established themselves; they are still considered its most significant cultural figures. Santa Fe’s art markets, countless galleries, and annual events—like the Santa Fe Indian Market—underscore how a diverse and thriving art scene can preserve traditions while also promoting creative innovation and inclusivity.

Tokyo, a city known for its cutting-edge modernity, has seamlessly integrated traditional arts with contemporary artistic expressions—particularly with its neighborhood of Roppongi. Takashi Murakami (b. 1962) is widely embraced as one of Tokyo’s brightest stars, along with Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929). It is home to many prestigious cultural institutions, including the National Art Center Tokyo, the Mori Art Museum, and the Suntory Museum of Art. The galleries lining its neighborhoods are also renowned for their artistic abundance. The Japanese government has enhanced Tokyo’s status as an artistic hub with initiatives and policies designed to promote robust growth and cultural exchange—attracting a global audience.

Then, there is Glen Arbor, Michigan. Nestled in magical Leelanau County, its flourishing art scene has transformed the town into a bona fide cultural destination. Art enthusiasts, collectors, and tourists alike are drawn here—and rightfully so.

Lake Street Studios/Center Gallery (LSSCG) and neighboring Glen Arbor Arts Center (GAAC) serve as its pillars. The latter is a nonprofit organization dedicated to enriching community life through the arts, offering a variety of classes as well as frequent exhibitions. The former is a fine arts gallery that specializes in representing artists whose work reflects the landscape and culture of Leelanau County and the Sleeping Bears Dunes region.

LSSCG primarily, and most notably, dedicates itself to promoting and celebrating the arts with its annual summer exhibitions—titled “Center Gallery Art Shows”—serving as the centerpiece of its mission. This year marks the 34th anniversary of the weekly series of art openings that showcase local artists and include contributions from other prominent Michigan creative practitioners. They run every Friday evening from 6-8 pm. A total of nine artists will display their work this summer, June 28 through Aug. 31.

This annual summer event is not merely an exhibition series, but a vital platform for artists to connect with audiences—igniting creativity and dialogue within the community.

Friday night art openings were the ingenious creation of revered Glen Arbor artist, Suzanne Wilson. Indeed, Wilson was a true visionary. Allison Stupka, Wilson’s daughter, and her husband, Harry Fried, have been at the helm of LSSCG since 2004, one year after Wilson’s passing. The legacy—and longevity—of Friday night openings has been masterfully sustained over the decades at their behest.

Stupka reflected on the exhibitions’ importance to Glen Arbor and the surrounding community.

“The openings are an amazing weekly event. We have some wonderful regulars who attend every single one that they can, sometimes bringing their visitors. We have regulars who visit each time they are on vacation in Glen Arbor, and it is so nice to catch up with them every year. I’ve seen some kids grow up, and even felt honored to learn that attending our gallery openings stirred their interest in art!” Stupka said.

The featured media vary—primarily painting, but multi-media work oftentimes is included. Refreshments are served. (This year marks my fourth summer as the official volunteer wine-pourer!) Occasionally, music is paired with the art—generally, on an informal basis with an attendee, such as Glen Arbor’s Duncan McPherson, spontaneously strumming the guitar.

Reliably in attendance is a litany of local art devotees: Jane McSherry Cline, Maggie and Jeff Kato, Rita Witler, Jim Frixen, Kathy Cornille and her husband, Jeff Annatoyn, Karin Jacob, Angela Saxon, the legendary Cochran sisters, Corinne Cochran and Annabel Moore, Gary and Pam DeCoker, Sue Church, Darci Ricker, and Mary MacDonald. The list could go on and on, because these art openings are so genuinely communal and so deeply celebrated.

Michele Aucello, a Glen Arbor art pioneer and an admitted aesthete who faithfully attends these events, shared her insights on their appeal and resonance.

“The openings provide a sense of community, with people who understand and appreciate the arts, especially the local art scene. The wine does not hurt! I know I’ll get to catch up with friends and meet new folks. It’s a great way to meet and greet the artists, some whom I know and others I’m meeting for the first time. There’s also that sense of excitement—will I find a new piece for my walls?” Aucello said.

To commence the 2024 summer season, Glen Arbor based artist, Shirley Hoagland, will exhibit her pastel work.

Hoagland has deep ties with Glen Arbor’s art community. She has been an instrumental part of the GAAC, serving as its vice-president in 2003 and then president from 2004-06.

Hoagland described the nascency of her pastel painting as being very much tethered to LSSCG.

“My passion for painting came first from visiting Suzanne Wilson’s studio. Her large, luscious landscapes became an inspiration, and it was the first art we purchased up here. When I signed up for my first painting class with her and found out it was already full, she kindly told me to come to her studio where she set up an easel outside, gave me watercolor paint and told me to squint and paint what I see. I remember the excitement I felt from putting color on paper that day, and I still have that primitive attempt. She gave me the ‘wings to fly,’” Hoagland said.

LSSCG Gallery Manager, Christine Deucher, shared how artists are chosen each year for this honorable recognition.

“As to the lineups, Allison and I sit together in the winter and talk about the artists—but I am just a second pair of eyes and ears. She collects the people—some are our usual suspects like Joe [Lombardo] and Margo [Burian] and, then some are new who have come on her radar…We want the people who come into the gallery…to be struck, drawn in, curious,” Deucher said.

For Hoagland, to be selected as the very first artist in a nine-week series of art exhibitions is entirely rewarding, and thoroughly validating. Hoagland exudes a deep appreciation for, and humility about, that exalted status.

“Being first up at Center Gallery is an exciting honor considering the lineup of talented artists, some of whom I’ve studied with and collected. This never would have happened without the encouragement of friends, and Beth Bricker’s [of Forest Gallery] words gave me the push and courage to try this,” Hoagland said.

With regard to her creative practice, Hoagland draws profound inspiration from the powerful, fleeting beauty of the natural world.

“The constant shift of colors, moods, energy, light and shadow of the Leelanau landscape is the muse and inspiration for most of my paintings. I have tried every medium, but gravitate toward pastels which is the closest form of pure pigment. The juxtaposition of colors and the ability to layer colors often sets up a shimmering effect and luminosity that is hard to achieve in other media,” Hoagland said.

Stupka fortuitously encountered Hoagland’s remarkable body of work online and found it entirely fitting for LSSCG’s weekly summer exhibitions.

“I knew that Shirley was a painter but had not seen her work except occasionally at the GAAC. She began posting her pastel work on Facebook two years ago and I was struck by their composition, color—she has a ‘je ne sais quoi’ energy and joy in them,” Stupka shared.

Hoagland finds her inclusion in the long and storied tradition of LSSCG summer art openings to be poetic—a completed journey.

“This is a full-circle moment for me. When I first started coming up to Glen Arbor, my visit always included a stop at this building [LSSCG],” Hoagland said.

Margo Burian, an iconic art figure in the Glen Arbor arts scene and a former instructor of Hoagland, has been very much impressed by the development of Hoagland’s artistry.

“The evolution of Shirley’s work over the years has been remarkable. It is a testament to her dedication—taking risks, and most importantly, spending time in her studio. It has been an absolute privilege to witness the growth and strength in her work as she prepares for her first solo show at Center Gallery,” Burian said.

Stupka recognizes how these openings have launched the careers of countless artists—serving as a veritable entryway into that which sometimes seems a rarified realm.

“We have been a stepping-off place for artists to introduce their art to an audience. We have been a place for artists to establish themselves as regional painters, and help create for them a following of patrons,” Stupka said.

Following Hoagland is an ensemble of exceptional artists, both emerging and well-established: Kathy Mohl, Joe Lombardo, Margo Burian, Mark Mehaffey, Susan Moran, Maureen Bolton, David Giordan, and Ruth Kitchen. Each of these artists brings a unique vision, illustrating Stupka’s tremendous and consistent ability to curate these exhibits.

Center Gallery Art Shows compellingly demonstrate that cultural vitality is not confined to the world’s great metropolises. Instead, it can thrive wherever there is passion, creativity, and a collective commitment to the arts—particularly in a place as glorious as Leelanau County.

“Glen Arbor is surrounded by some of the most beautiful land in the world and the quality of the light and the vibrant colors stimulate artistic expression. While art elevates anyone anywhere, exceptionally beautiful landscape tends to attract artists. Think of the south of France or the hills of Tuscany and that art that was produced there. The founders of Lake Street Studios and the Glen Arbor Art Association—now the Glen Arbor Arts Center—loved to create art, loved the landscape, had great fun together, and people became attracted to the shows, celebrations, and classes. Some artists got together, they created events, people became fond of the art and attracted to the process, and that grew into an appreciation of the arts,” Stupka said.