Northern Michigan Fall Arts Preview: Crooked Tree Arts Center in Petoskey

The fall events season is kicking off with gusto at the Crooked Tree Arts Center, a community-driven arts center—with room for live performances, exhibits and classes. Crooked Tree Arts Center is housed in an ornate 1890-built former Methodist church at the heart of downtown Petoskey.

Inside the landmark sits a 235-seat thrust stage theater, two galleries, and studios for art, dance and music lessons, with exhibits, concerts, classes and other events year round. The building itself is a good reason to visit, with its stunningarchitecture and original stained glass—but the programming is top-notch, too.

“We stay true to our mission to create, stimulate and perpetuate the arts in our community,” says Liz Ahrens, the center’s executive director. “There’s a huge spectrum of possibilities each year for programming. What we strive for is balance.”

Fall is a particularly pretty time for a visit—Ahrens says she is amazed each year by the number of people from around the region who drive upwards of an hour to come take in the center’s exhibits and shows. “Petoskey is really a great day trip destination,” she says. “You’re here at Crooked Tree, and then you have great places for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and shopping, and the bay.”

This September is a busy month for CTAC, with an outdoor concert overlooking Little Traverse Bay featuring the 10th annual eddi Awards (Sept. 17), and an Art Song fundraising concert featuring a mélange of song, arias and duets in English, French, Italian and German (Sept 19). The annual Juried Fine Arts Exhibit (Sept. 18–Nov. 6), showcasing as many as 80 pieces by novice and professional artists ages 18 and up, promises to be an incredible experience—in its 30th year now, this is the first time artists were allowed to submit their work electronically, meaning the pool of entrants was much broader.

Further into the season, look for the perennial favorite holiday bazaar (Nov. 19–Dec. 23), which features handmade, original art pieces—home décor, textiles, paintings, pottery, jewelry, clothing, and much more—for sale at a wide range of prices.

“It’s very much like the eat-local movement, the one-tank drive concept. You’re supporting something local when you wander through our holiday bazaar,” Ahrens says. “It’s a great shopping experience. Not to pick on malls, but there’s no fake, piped-in Christmas music here. This is very genuine.”

The seasonal celebrations continue with performances of The Nutcracker by CTAC dancers (Dec. 3 and 5), and a family-friendly New Year’s Eve party, complete with performances, workshops and a Times Square–style ball drop (Dec. 31).

For an events schedule, tickets or information on becoming a CTAC member (which gets you discounts, invitations to special events and other bonuses), visit CTAC’s website. 231-347-4337, crookedtree.org.

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