An Art Enthusiast’s Guide To The Art Coast
Nestled along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan amidst a backdrop of stunning natural beauty, Saugatuck/Douglas has always called to those with a passion for creativity. Our area has long inspired artists of all mediums and captivated the art lovers who visit. Home to numerous galleries, studios, exhibitions, and public art installations, art aficionados will find much to appreciate in the Art Coast of Michigan.
The Saugatuck Center for the Arts regularly featuring exhibits throughout the year. From June 4-September 10, 2021, see Elevating Humanity: Forging Healing Through Connection, artist Sandra Antongiorgi’s collection of work which allows viewers to reckon with their shared legacy of inhumanity and invites people to connect with individuals most marginalized by systems of oppression.
Launched in 2021, the Saugatuck Douglas Fennville Arts Initiative is dedicated to placing highly interactive visual, performing, culinary, healing, and horticulture arts in public venues at no cost. From July 1 through October 10, 2021, Art of the People: Anishinaabe Contemporary Artists: Making Moves to Break Down Barriers will be on display at the Saugatuck Douglas Old School House. Prepare to discover a dynamic and evolving culture where history, identity, social justice, and environmental issues are brought up in the works presented by seven regional artists from the Anishinaabe culture. From July 15 through August 15, 2021, eight Latino artists take over the Fennville District Library with the ARTE:LATINO Contemporary Latino Art: Creativity Takes Courage exhibition. Never before seen contemporary works delve into civil rights and immigration as these artists look deeply inside themselves to find a voice of their Latino identity.
While the long-established Fall Gallery Stroll is known for being the premier arts weekend of the year in Saugatuck/Douglas, other inspiring Gallery Strolls featuring special exhibits and activities happen here each season. Wander through dozens of galleries and artists’ studios, chat with the artists, watch live demos, enjoy live music, and sample delicious local bites and refreshments, all while expanding your artistic tastes. The picturesque streets of downtown Saugatuck and Douglas make for a charming backdrop as you stroll leisurely from one unique gallery to the next.
Each year in July, the Saugatuck Douglas Art Club hosts two juried outdoor art fairs—the Waterfront Invitational Fine Art Fair and the Village Square Arts and Crafts Fair. Both are open-air art fairs that attract art collectors and art lovers from near and far. The fairs showcase the work of fine artists from around the nation working in a variety of media, including painting, photography, glass, woodworking, ceramics, jewelry, basketry, fibers, and sculpture.
Experience art at its source and get the opportunity to speak with artists directly with a studio visit. Discover the artist-owned Peachbelt Studio in Fennville, where original oil paintings by Dawn Stafford are exhibited in a rural historic red brick one-room schoolhouse circa 1867. Stop by the James Brandess Studios & Gallery, housed in the historic Post Office of Downtown Saugatuck, to see the artist in action painting landscapes, still-lifes, and portraits. Enjoy the ambiance of the 1890’s Fernwood Farm, which houses the solar-powered Khnemu Studio where resident artist Dawn Soltysiak makes handmade art and functional pottery. Of course, no artist’s farm would be complete without chickens and ducks roaming free, along with a horse, llama, and a few peacocks!
Art is everywhere around the Art Coast, and here are some of the places you can encounter it as you’re out and about.
One of the most iconic sculptures in Saugatuck, Family of Man IV, created by artist Cynthia McKean, resides in Coghlin Park, overlooking Lake Kalamazoo. Vibrant red with a dramatic silhouette, the sculpture represents the cyclical nature of mankind’s existence from the present to the past and the future.
Encounter Seurat in Saugatuck just across from Wicks Park. Adorning the walls of the public restroom is a stunning recreation of Georges Seurat’s Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. The mural has been a Saugatuck fixture since 1977 and was painted by artist Carol Miron. Visitors can often be seen lounging leisurely on the grass around the park, just as the subjects do in the painting.
Located nearby on the Dockside Market Place building on Water Street is the colorful Smile! You’re in Saugatuck mural, which makes the perfect backdrop for a pic to commemorate your time with us.
The Village Square Park and playground is home to Romero Britto’s Big Temptation sculpture as well as the “Girl With Puppet” statue, erected by the Saugatuck-Douglas Art Club and Friends in honor of Burr Tillstrom, the famous puppeteer and creator of Kukla, Fran and Ollie and distinguished citizen of the area.
Stop by our Visitors Bureau in Douglas and see Big Fish, a colorful 12-foot by 8-foot rainbow fish sculpture created by artist Stephen Rubinkam in collaboration with local artists Jeff Blandford and Josh Russell.