Northern Michigan: It’s been just a year since the Elizabeth Lane Oliver Center for the Arts moved into its new home in the former U.S. Coast Guard station, just steps from downtown Frankfort. With its airy feel and views of Lake Michigan, the refurbished building is the ideal space to showcase the visual, performing and literary arts in Benzie County and the surrounding area, says associate director Eliza Forrest. A native of Beulah who studied at Interlochen Arts Academy, Forrest was promoted to associate director in 2011. She provides a peek at upcoming events, which include juried shows as well as culinary classes and exercise classes (think yoga and Pilates overlooking Betsie Bay). 231.352.4151, oliverartcenterfrankfort.org.
Tell us about this amazing new space.
It’s nice because it’s a renovation of an old Coast Guard station, and it has all this history. People like to come see it just because of that aspect. It’s a very unique spot because you can see Betsie Bay, Lake Michigan and the lighthouse. Once you come in, you think it’ll be something historic—something old—but the architect did a very good job. There’s an almost nautical-industry feel, but it’s very open and light and with clean lines. It’s a great gallery space—all gray walls, which really makes the art pop. You have the views of the water, but you’re still focused on the various art on the walls.
Your class space benefited too?
Yes. The kitchen has been renovated, but it still has the stainless steel cabinets from the old kitchen and a big island that’s great for the culinary classes. Then the upstairs opens up into three big rooms, and those are great rooms for art classes. We also have what we call wellness arts: yoga, Pilates. All of those rooms have views of water. The floors upstairs are open and light. Our big goal is to have this be a space for the local community to have cultural space, and a place for community events. We want to increase the cultural tourism. We’ve noticed that the level of interest in art as far as classes and gallery shows is steadily increasing. People can come here and take high quality art classes, or beginning classes. And we’re looking to add a gift shop and a ceramic/sculpture area as well.
What’s on tap for this fall in terms of art shows?
We’re looking to do some exciting shows with local artists and artists from out of the area, too. Our big thing is a juried show that’s open to anybody and all media, so visitors will get a variety of things. We had about 100 entries last year. It brings in some artists we haven’t seen before and artists we’re not familiar with. It’s always fun to see what’s in the area. We’ll give four $400 awards for excellence, and Gary Kulak, the head of fine arts at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, will be picking what goes into the show and which pieces are worth prizes. The exhibition will take place September 7 through 30, with a reception September 7.