Glen Arbor Arts Center stays out late on Friday nights

The PULSE Saxophone Quartet performs on a boat near the Glen Lake Narrows on June 17 as part of the Manitou Music series, a project of the Glen Arbor Arts Center. Photos by Michele Aucello.

By Katie Dunn

Sun contributor

To enhance its presence and augment its own legacy, the Glen Arbor Arts Center (GAAC) has developed a new program, Late Night Fridays (LNF). Designed to facilitate further creative engagement with the community, the GAAC Main Gallery will be open to the public every Friday from 5 to 8 p.m., June 9 through Aug. 25. Additionally, LNF includes four events this summer: two opening receptions for art exhibitions and two Front Porch Concerts (FPC).

“We’re keeping the lights on a little longer on Friday nights this summer during Light Night Fridays,” shared Sarah Bearup-Neal, GAAC gallery manager.

Visibility has always been a challenge for the GAAC. Nestled in the woods off Lake Street in downtown Glen Arbor, the GAAC is a serene, quiet nest for thriving creativity. Its magical seclusion in the woods, however, can be an obstacle. Folks—locals, summer residents, and tourists, alike—can easily pass it by.

“The GAAC is located off of Lake Street, a short way down the driveway—but down-the-driveway enough that it is easy to drive by,” Bearup-Neal explained.

To amplify its presence, several ideas have been considered over the years: easier access from both Lake and State Streets, a conspicuously placed flag, or more signage. “The colorful, metal sculpture by the driveway has helped call people’s attention to the GAAC’s presence,” said Bearup-Neal.

Ultimately, the GAAC decided to host a four-part series of creative and communal affairs right there on its sprawling campus on Friday nights in the summer for the purpose of drawing public interest. And, with that, LNF officially came to fruition.

“We created the Late Night Fridays idea after receiving some feedback from [the GAAC] board members [who had been] inquiring about keeping our gallery open later in the summer, and the idea aligned with our mission of enriching community life through the arts,” explained Sarah Kime, GAAC executive director.

“The goal is to increase accessibility and visibility to our Glen Arbor campus for visitors and residents who can’t make it during regular business hours, and to provide a creative opportunity for folks visiting our community,” Kime continued.

The first LNF was the Members Night exhibition, which was held on Friday, June 9, and will be on display through Aug. 10. The exhibit is comprised of 49 pieces by 49 different artists. The works represent a variety of media: oil paintings, acrylics, watercolors, collage, photography, ceramics, sculpture, textiles, and more. This inaugural, nascent event was met with an outpouring of support.

“We had over 100 guests this first evening [of LNF]. Of course, it helped that it was also the opening reception for our Members Show which is up in the gallery through the summer. We hope others will swing on in on Friday evenings and check out the creative energy of our artist members,” shared GAAC board member, Georgia Gietzen.

Jan Price, a Glen Arborite, and former intensive care nurse turned artist, displayed a landscape for the event, entitled “Diamond Afternoon.” Her pastel portrays a river speckled with sunlight, trees hovering overhead. The setting for this painting was the Upper Peninsula, but Price rendered the scene in such a way—with muted, luminous colors and quiet shadows—that it takes on a universality of sorts. Indeed, the depicted river could easily be mistaken for the Crystal or Platte Rivers.

“I just remembered that the water was so calm, and yet when I looked up, I could see all the sparkles, and I want to try and capture the light of the water. It was midday and it was warm…I could feel the warmth on the bank of all the pine needles and the smells. I just love the UP because it reminds me of what I grew up with in Glen Lake 50 years ago’” shared Price.

LNF continued June 16 with a FPC featuring the PULSE Saxophone Quartet. This unique chamber ensemble, comprised of Michigan State University students, is a part of the GAAC’s Musicians-in-Residence program as well as Interlochen Public Radio’s Sound Garden Project. PULSE proceeded to make numerous appearances throughout the Glen Arbor area during their 12-day residency, including playing at Inn & Trail, the Gietzen residence on the Crystal River, and the Leelanau School Beach. PULSE even performed aboard Glen Arborite Michele Aucello’s pontoon boat. Aucello steered her pontoon to the Narrows area of Big Glen Lake on Saturday, June 24, where the quartet serenaded the fortunate boaters who happened to be anchored there that afternoon.

Aucello recounted: “We advertised with a 1 p.m. start time at the Narrows on Big Glen. We were fortunate with the best weather possible—calm, sunny, but not too hot. I suggested that the players begin playing before we headed under the [Narrows] bridge so that we’d come out on the other side with a bang. It worked! The sound was quality perfect…PULSE played for about two hours, with a following of a couple dozen boats at any time, plus two kayakers and several people watching and listening from the bridge. Watching boaters come from under the bridge to an unexpected concert was entertaining, too…Social media comments indicated a request for this to be an annual event.”

The next FPC is scheduled for July 7 with a performance by the B-Side Growlers, an acoustic trio from Grand Rapids who characterizes their genre of music as “tradition inspired, toe-tappin’ fired, vintage acoustic blues, jazz, and country.”

LNF will conclude on Aug. 18 with an art exhibition entitled In Translation which explores how visual artists perceive and translate the world through painting, mixed media, ceramics, sculpture, fiber and more. According to Autumn Kirby, GAAC administrative assistant: “In Translation [contemplates]: what is the role of the visual maker. Art can be political, express beauty, express ideals, be a continuation of life or show the banality of life.” This exhibition will be on display at the GAAC Main Gallery through October 26.

LNF will complement the historic, ongoing, 33-year long Lake Street Studios/Center Gallery (LSSCG) Friday night art openings, which commence on Friday, June 30 with the work of Wendy McWhorter. The GAAC’s and LSSCG’s roots and histories are very much intertwined—there is a real synergy between these two storied institutions.

“More is more. There is a critical mass of interesting galleries and artist studios clustered on that end of Lake Street. The fact that we’ll all have later hours on Friday nights automatically means visitors will have more than one good reason to drop by,” Bearup-Neal shared.

LNF may very well evolve into a Glen Arbor tradition unto itself. “We are piloting the LNF model and will see if it will be a permanent part of the exhibit programming. We hope it will gain some traction—we are so fortunate to have so many creative offerings in our small community,” enthused Kime.