For emerging artist Michelle Martin, events like Wine About Winter provide confidence, exposure and even some commission work.
Despite studying commercial art in a high school vocational program, Martin shelved her artistic endeavors after a bad experience in an art competition. She gave it up for more than two decades, but then a conversation with her son a few years ago brought on a revelation.
“I told him to do something he enjoys in life,” she said. “I realized, ‘I’m not doing that. I’m being hypocritical.’ I decided, Why not? It’s what makes me happy. I’m going to try it again.’”
Martin picked up her colored pencils, charcoal and ink pen and got busy drawing. She is now among 30 emerging and regionally-renowned artists participating in Grand Haven’s Wine About Winter.
Now in its eighth year, the event is both a juried art competition and a wine tour along Washington Avenue.
It was created as a way to showcase the city’s snowmelt system and draw people downtown during the winter, said Sharon Behm, owner of Borr’s Shoes & Accessories and chair of Grand Haven Main Street’s board of directors.
“We always kind of hope that it’s a snowy night,” she said. “We have snowmelt in the first three blocks and since then we’ve added the shuttle. We want people to go into center town and along Seventh Street.”
The event opens at 5 p.m. with the Artist Awards Ceremony at Tri-Cities Historical Museum. Then attendees depart on their own tour, sipping on samples of Shiraz and Chardonnay as they meet and mingle with artists, business owners and friends.
It’s a spirited and social evening with wine tasting at 15 of the 30 locations, free appetizers, a shuttle, and live music and demonstrations at a few venues. Guests can catch the trolley throughout the evening as well.
“We call it the party bus,” said Diane Sheridan, executive director of Grand Haven Main Street.
“It’s wonderfully engaging and you have a chance to make new friends and warm up.”
The event, sponsored by Santo Stefano del Lago and Gallery Uptown, is free to attend and is a fundraiser for Grand Haven Main Street. It has grown from 500 attendees to more than 2,500, drawing visitors from Detroit, Behm said.
During the first year, Behm ran out of appetizers and had her upstairs neighbors bring down snacks. Then she sent her husband Howard to the store.
“It was a riot,” she said. “We had such a great time.”
Even for the businesses without wine tasting, it’s a chance to get new faces in the door and support local artists.
“They really enjoy meeting the artists,” she said. “They don’t necessarily come down to shop — they’re coming to taste wine and have free appetizers. It is just a really nice crowd and it’s a great release after the holidays for people to come out and have an excuse to walk around.”
Down the road at C2C Gallery, owner Cyndi Casemier will throw pottery on her antique wheel as a demonstration. A native of Grand Haven and a fourth-generation retailer, Casemier returned from Vermont in 2007 and opened C2C in 2011.
“When we moved to Vermont, I started taking pottery classes as a way to meet people,” she said. “I ran a nonprofit (clay studio and gallery) out there, continued taking classes and started doing shows.”
Meanwhile, Martin has elected to continue working her day job as a database administrator, but she’s been encouraged by the response from events like Wine About Winter and ArtWalk. Martin has won a couple of local awards, including ArtWalk’s People’s Choice in 2015, and sells at craft shows, on Etsy, and through social media. This is her third year participating in Wine About Winter at Borr’s Shoes.
“It’s certainly a lot of fun,” she said. “(Owner Sharon) loved my work and has supported me ever since. I’ve gotten lots of followers and support, and I’m doing commission work all the time. It’s encouraging for me and fascinating to see someone look at one of my pictures and get emotional about it. It makes me very happy that they’re happy with it.”
Martin said everyone has a creative side and she encourages people of all ages to pursue their passion, no matter how long it’s been.
“Don’t listen to what anybody else says,” she said. “Listen to your heart. You’ve got to tell yourself what feels good. Someone will take notice.”
Wine About Winter
Downtown Grand Haven
Jan. 13, 5-9 p.m.
“Wine, Art & Friends – The Perfect Blend” featuring red and white blends from around the world at 15 locations, plus a juried art competition at 30 businesses, galleries and other venues.
Tasting glass is $5; tastings are $3 each.
downtownGH.com, (616) 844-1188