Seek out Northern Michigan art nestled on a wildlife sanctuary along the Betsie River in Benzonia. Gwen Frostic Prints continues to preserve the legacy of the Northern Michigan artist behind it all in today’s shop, which continues to sell and produce the iconic nature prints.
The home and studio of the late artist reflects its surrounding nature. The building was constructed with native stones and old wood, and water trickles through the natural fountain by the front entrance.
“Gwen wanted it very natural,” says current owner Kim Forshee. “If you look at the wooden beams, none of them are on center the way a builder would normally do it. She wanted everything irregular. She would say ‘just push that rock up there and cement it in.’ There were no plans. She had the whole idea in her head.”
Since Kim and her husband Greg Forshee purchased the shop in 2010, their goal has been to preserve Gwen’s Northern Michigan artwork and home.
“We feel a big emotional connection as caretakers,” Kim says. “That’s how we look at ourselves— as caretakers of what she left behind. It’s very important that her legacy is preserved for future generations.”
The clatter of 12 Heidelberg Letterpresses in the basement of the shop is proof of this. Though the printing process is labor intensive, the Forshees and Gwen’s nephew Bill Frostic feel it’s important to continue to make Gwen’s prints as she intended. Bill has been running the presses for almost 50 years using each of his aunt’s 2,400 hand-carved blocks to create her stunning prints.
The history of the shop brings back memories for Kim, who moved up to the area in 1995 and worked as a marketing and sales associate for Gwen. Many who visit also have their own memories.
“Most of the people who come in here have an emotional connection,” Kim says. “People tell stories all the time of their connection— their grandma brought them here when they were little and now they’re bringing their children. It’s handed down from generation to generation.”
To continue to preserve the shop for future generations, Kim and Greg’s main focus right now is on restoring the building, which needs a new roof.
Last year, with the help of almost $30,000 from donations and fundraising, the Forshees were able to replace part of the roof. However, the sections over the main store and the back room still need to be completed.
“The business is able to sustain itself, but it doesn’t bring in extra money for big repairs,” Kim says.
To help offset the cost of the repairs, Gwen Frostic Prints is selling granite memory stones, boulders and benches inscribed with a piece of Gwen’s art and a personal message. The stones will be used to create pathways along the trails behind the building where Gwen used to sit and draw.