In the U.P., Dreaming Up a Place for Artists

Aug 18, 2014

In the small town of Ewen in the Upper Peninsula, a wilderness art camp is well underway.  

It’s called the Visitors Center Artists Camp.  This week about fifteen artists are gathered for the camp’s first run.  They’ll be firing ceramics and pouring metal using simple and sustainable methods, and having an arts festival at the end of the week.  WXPR’s Natalie Jablonski sat down with two of the organizers behind the project to hear about how it began.  


The Visitors Center Artists Camp is named after a small A-frame building that artist Margaret Coleman helped salvage from where it was once used as the entrance station to the Ottawa National Forest. 

Her family rebuilt the Visitors’ Center on their land in Ewen, near Bruce Crossing, Michigan.   Now Coleman and a group of friends are using the site to stage 10 days of ceramics and metalworking workshops.

As Coleman describes, the workshops are focused around sustainability and simple technology…including rustic methods for firing ceramics. 

“We’re doing pit firings in the ground.  We do have a small raku firing kiln that we made with a garbage can and a propane tank.” 

This week at least 15 artists have traveled to Ewen from around the country, from Portland Oregon to Washington DC. 

Coleman says one criteria that unites them all is the willingness to work outdoors with simple materials. 

“Well everyone is rugged and ready to rough it – and most people have some experience with what we’re working in, but we will start people at a basic level if they need a little more help.” 

The symposium culminates in an art fair open to the public, that will include work from local and traveling artists, as well as raku and aluminum pouring demonstrations. 

The art fair is Saturday at Ewen’s Centennial Hall.