Lakeshore art galleries offer a little bit of everything when it comes to fine art gifts, home décor and original paintings and pottery.
Rest a cold beer on a wood coaster with a Michigan map; hang a driftwood mobile or decorative glass fish on your patio; mount a large Lake Michigan sunset photograph or plein air painting over your couch.
With a unique downtown shopping district, Grand Haven offers everything from cheesy souvenirs to boutique clothing to art for your everyday life. Three locally run art galleries on Washington Avenue are filled with eclectic gift items, functional pottery, uplifting landscape paintings and fine art photography, and Theatre Bar and the Armory Art Center feature rotating exhibits.
Carlyn & Company focuses on eco finds, eclectic art and uniquely Michigan-made gifts and souvenirs. This funky and earthy gallery has jewelry, coasters, bottle openers, candle holders, ornaments, beach prints and more. Pick up a shoaling glass fish by Karen Nichols, driftwood art by Tom Jacobson, or Michigan coasters by Bryce Weenum’s Mittenwood Design Studio.
Lakeshore photographer Marc Hoeksema said his mom, Joanne, started the fine art Carlyn Gallery in 1989, and he opened a studio there in the mid-1990s. In 2010, the building was remodeled back to its original style and reopened as Carlyn & Company.
The storefront at 205 Washington features the work of about 70 artists, and the adjoining 207 Washington gallery space highlights rotating and special exhibitions.
“The gallery has a wide variety of art and collectibles that most people find quite interesting when they come into our store,” Hoeksema said. “I am trying to provide a new field in the 207 space by having a bit more of a museum-style fine art gallery.”
In July, Hoeksema organized a Surf’s Up! exhibition featuring surfing photography.
“I’ve spent most of my life in the waters of Lake Michigan and have found that to be very beneficial to the way I am able to photograph the lake and the motion of the surf,” he said.
Next door to Carlyn, the cooperative Gallery Uptown is the oldest artist-operated gallery in Michigan. The gallery at 201 Washington Ave. displays a wide range of work from 30 award-winning West Michigan artists, all of whom help staff the gallery. Artists such as Lynne Boezaart, Deb Bowen, Chris Brown, Linda Foley, Catherine McClung, Ann Trowbridge, Marlan Cotner, Julie Hegedus and others take inspiration from nature and the outdoor landscape.
Each month, Gallery Uptown hosts a special theme with work by gallery members and invited guest artists in the adjoining Walburg Gallery. Many local artists will also participate in the popular Art on the Riverfront from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Aug. 17 at Grand Haven Municipal Marina.
Meanwhile, local ceramics artist Cyndi Casemier opened C2C Gallery at 104 Washington Ave. in 2011 as a way for herself and other artists to have their work represented in a true gallery setting. C2C represents more than 40 accomplished Michigan and Midwest artists, but emphasizes local first and highlights artists from West Michigan.
The gallery includes ceramics, jewelry, sculpture, glass, photography and more. You can take home a print of the Grand Haven pier at sunset or handmade soap and a beach-themed ceramic soap dish.
As a potter, Casemier finds inspiration in local beach colors and textures. Her beach series incorporates images of coastal living, and actual grains of sand into her glazes, making functional ceramics.
C2C features colorful beach and lake paintings, prints and coasters by well-known West Michigan painter Christi Dreese, and framed prints of the Grand Haven lighthouse, beaches and sunsets by photographer Bob Walma. Other local artists include LeeAnn Frame, Stephen Bowen, Tonya Rund, jewelry maker Julie Sanford and more.
“I'm inspired, as a photographer, by West Michigan landscapes because our view of them changes all the time, depending on what the clouds are doing or which of the four seasons we’re in, and ferocious-looking storms rolling off Lake Michigan always make for dramatic photographs,” Walma said.
This lakeshore community continues to expand its retail and art offerings in downtown and beyond. The Western Market chalets, Century Club Retail Center, Art Cats Gallery and Muskegon Museum of Art’s gift shop showcase the work of area artists. Muskegon's landscape photographer Jeremy Church mans a booth at Muskegon Farmers Market, along with other artisans, and well-known regional artists and photographers display at Red Lotus Center for the Arts on the lower level of the Century Club.
You can find candles made with Lake Michigan beach sand and rocks plus cards and photography featuring local landmarks, alongside fine art depicting sailboats and the city’s historic Beachwood-Bluffton neighborhood. Artists who capture the region’s scenic beauty, nature and local scenes include Gwen Robles, Gail Howarth, Tom Gifford, John Herron, Fred Reinecke, Stacy Niedzwiecki, Michelle Mitchell, Azza Abbasi, Paulette Carr and more.
Artist Jon Workman has work for sale at Red Lotus, MMA’s gift shop and his studio at 3003 Lakeshore Dr. He frequently paints scenes of the historic Bluffton neighborhood and Muskegon Lake. Workman grew up there and said he has discovered this is where his soul and reflections live as well.
“I often see movies and shows centered on scenic places around the country and think to myself, 'Hmm. I'd rather be nowhere else than Bluffton Bay and Lake Michigan in the spring, summer and fall," he said. "I love painting this area with scenes from the early 1900's to the present. I have documented my little paradise."
The Red Lotus gallery has about 50 member artists and features a new juried exhibit every four to six weeks. Summer Fun runs through Aug. 24 and highlights a variety of summer themes.
Marketed as Michigan’s “Art Coast,” the Saugatuck and Douglas communities are filled with quaint shops representing local artists and high-end art galleries. West Michigan artists including Anne Corlett, James Brandess, Marcia Perry, James Connor, Jeff Blandford, clay artist Ellie Lotz Dietrich and ceramic artists Mike Taylor and Sandra Schneider, among others, have their very own studios in the area.
In Saugatuck, Amazwi Contemporary Art showcases original African paintings, jewelry and unique crafts. The Laffing Glass at 125 Mason St. features whimsical and colorful handmade glass art and offers classes. Armstrong-DeGraaf International Fine Art represents artists from local, national and international studios who are in museum collections around the world.
Douglas’ Button Gallery, located in a historic space from 1906, highlights both regional and national artists and offers an eclectic mix of artistic voices and expressions plus an outdoor sculpture garden. J. Petter Galleries, Water Street Gallery, Thistle Gallery, Roan & Black, Inc., Saugatuck Gallery, and Saugatuck Art Traders are other recommended stops while visiting the area. Or stop by Saugatuck Center for the Arts for its ongoing exhibition, Storied Drawing, with pop-up retail shops and classes this summer.
If you head to the coast for a day of discovery and art inspiration, you’re sure to find fascinating pieces from artists local and abroad.