Glen Arbor Arts Center’s “6ft Apart Art” holds outdoor artist demonstration

From staff reports

Early on, when it became obvious that COVID-19 meant indoor programming at the Glen Arbor Arts Center (GAAC) could not go forward, the GAAC staff began brainstorming alternatives. That’s when the 6ft Apart Art series came to be, writes the GAAC’s Sarah Bearup-Neal.

6ft Apart Art is a group of activities—from exhibitions to poetry readings—that take place outdoors. The Arts Center turned both the GAAC parking lot and the GAAC grove—a lovely, wooded space behind the building—into performance and event venues. The GAAC built social distancing and mask-wearing into events that were sure to bring many people together at the same time.

On Saturday, September 19, the Arts Center will offer the second 6ft Apart Art artist demonstrations in the driveway. All the exhibitors will work, and show a little of what they do and how they do it—from painting, to creating a collage, to techniques involved with building twig furniture.

“If one understands—even just a little—how something is created, it automatically increases their ability to appreciate and enjoy the thing,” writes Bearup-Neal. “It puts the activity into context. And demystifies the creative process. The artists participating in our pop-ups are all working professionals, and all of them are as skilled in talking to people about how their creative work works.”

“We live in a world where most of our objects are manufactured by machines. These pop-up demonstrations are also a way to show how work made by hand is still a going, necessary concern; and an intrinsic part of being human. It grounds us.”

We spoke with potter John Huston, co-owner of the Glen Lake Artists Gallery, who today will demonstrate a live firing using the ancient Japanese technique of raku:

“I will be firing pots in a small raku kiln. There will be lots of smoke and fire (all at a safe distance). It’s all very dramatic. The pots emerge from the firing looking very different from before they are fired.”

“Raku involves placing pots in a hot kiln, firing them for about a half an hour to about 1900 degrees, and removing them from the kiln while they are still red hot. In Japan the pots are left to cool naturally, but in the West we place the red hot pots in combustible materials to create different visual effects. I became interested in this firing technique while studying pottery in Japan in the early ’70s.”

“We made the difficult decision to remain closed this summer, but feel that was the most responsible thing to do as our space is small and our artwork invites people to touch and linger over it.  We plan to reopen next spring. The upside is I have had more time to spend in my studio, more time to experiment with new ideas.”

“Summers are usually very busy for me. Our gallery is open 7 days a week, and I run a clay program for the Glen Arbor Arts Center at Thoreson Farm. This year because of the pandemic, we canceled all of our face-to-face instruction. I was able to run a limited contact open studio, Together While Apart, to encourage and sustain my students’ passion for clay. People picked up clay, worked at home, and brought things back to be fired. Glazing was done by appointment. We are all hoping to return to in person classes next year.” 

“The pandemic has kept me close to home where fortunately I have a studio overlooking Sanford Lake in Benzie County. Like most people, I have been more introspective during this time. While I have enjoyed having the time to look at the work of potters from all over the world through social media, I have been primarily inspired by my own imagination. It has been a welcome retreat.”

“Fall is the season for potters. The changing colors and cooler temperatures speak to the changes that occur when making pots. You don’t always have control over every aspect of the process, but the results are usually pleasing.”