Backed by a fascinating past, Leland’s Old Art Building is preserved by the Leelanau Community Cultural Center where members celebrate collaboration with diverse cultural, civic and educational organizations. Together they bring arts and culture to the Northern Michigan community. We checked in with Jenna Chapman, leader of the children’s classes, to learn about the building’s storied past and find out which programs kids enjoy most!
What skills and values do kids learn by attending classes at the Old Art Building?
Jenna: Our classes offer children an opportunity to express themselves through several different mediums. Through our painting, clay pottery, acting, and crafts classes, children get a more personalized instruction in art they may not have access to in their own schools. Many of our instructors are professional artists, and from them, our students learn the correct techniques as well as how to best use materials. We hold many of our classes outside as often as possible to enjoy Northern Michigan sunshine.
Out of all the summer classes offered at the Old Art Building, what are the top favorites for kids?
Jenna: Our Acrylic Painting class with Brenda J. Clark is a popular class year after year. Kids spend three days painting staged objects as well as spend time outdoors painting Leland scenery. Another popular class is our children’s theater production of Winnie the Pooh with Mychelle Hopkins. Our kids rehearse this production for 10 days and the play is held August 7th at the OAB. It is always a wonderful show and the kids have the opportunity to express themselves on stage as well as learn proper theater technique and skills.
Tell us about the history of the building. How does it continue to thrive?
Jenna: The Old Art Building itself has a very rich past. The Walter T. Best Building, named after a popular magician, was built as a community center for social and cultural events in Leland in the early 1900s. It served as such until the Great Depression caused the building to be seldom used. In 1939, Michigan State College art professor Erling Brauner had been charged by university officials with finding a good location for a summer art school. So began the 50-year relationship that continues to bring nostalgic alumni back to the Leland campus one way or another. In 1989, the Michigan Historical Commission added the Old Art Building to the State Register of Historic Places, in recognition of the MSU-Leland partnership. However, by that time the program had faded into non-existence due to dwindling enrollment. The Old Art Building sat vacant again until 1992, when a group of Lelanders began talks with MSU officials to rescue the building and revive summer art programs with a more local appeal. In coordination with MSU, they created the Leelanau Community Cultural Center as a non-profit overseer. Since then, the building has been upgraded and a large garden on the grounds is carefully tended. The summer sees all types of events such as the annual art show and benefit, Art Leelanau, an artist’s market, and numerous child and adult classes. Many wonderful people have volunteered their time, talents, and funds to ensure that the Old Art Building remains a vital part of the Leelanau community.
What does the Old Art Building provide for our Northern Michigan community?
Jenna: The Old Art Building currently has two full-time staff, a part-time summer employee, as well as a board of eleven. As previously mentioned, we have countless volunteers who help organize and carry out our benefits and events. Under our new director, we are creating new events all the time. We recently hosted a viewing party of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Final on our movie-theatre size screen. Held weekly through the summer, Leelanau Summinars — TED-talk-inspired meetings — feature topics such as Leelanau’s geologic history as well as Ernest Hemingway and his time in Michigan. We are currently planning a Derby Day celebration and benefit for the Spring of 2016. We also serve as a wedding and event venue.