Art in Michigan’s Upper Thumb
It’s a rare event where we go away stunned by a new visitor experience in the Thumb. However, that’s what it felt after leaving White Church Gallery in Grindstone Michigan. Located in the rural remoteness of an old Methodist church in what was the heart of a long-abandoned 1800’s grindstone quarry operation, the owners Michael and Carrie Zaitz have created an artist oasis for the Port Austin art community at the tip of the thumb.
We stumbled upon the White Church Gallery while exploring Grindstone City’s two popular ice cream shops; the Grindstone General Store and Rybak’s Ice Cream Store. The gallery is across the street from Rybak’s. Little did I know, but the gallery opened on July 7, 2015.
Doing a search on Yelp showed that White Church Gallery is the first truly dedicated art gallery in the Thumb. The uniqueness of the restored church and remoteness of location makes it an amazing place. Carrie told me that they had to totally renovate the church. “Mother Nature had taken over”, she mentioned with a smile and a little eye-roll. They have been working on the gallery for over three and a half years. The centerpiece of this renovated church is a beautifully restored qua-trefoil stained glass window at the front of the gallery crafted by Tom Newton. You can sit on the pews of the old church at across the street at Rybak’s Ice Cream on the front porch. Carrie has pictures of the renovation process on her White Church Gallery Blog.
The gallery has works displayed of fifteen artists in various mediums.st notable are Joe Flosky’s stained glass, Pat Hardin’s cartoons, Duane Bilyeu’s woodwork and turnings, Laura Landrum’s jewelry, Susan Drescher’s eco-friendly furniture and decorative products, Carolyn Kinnison’s textured paintings using layers of paint and finishes over molding compound on wood, Bill Stolpin’s paintings and resident artist; Michael Zaitz abstract and surrealist works.
When you first walk into the gallery it’s like stepping into a different world. There is no equal in the Upper Thumb. The unique colors and subtle light treatment show off the various artwork. Everywhere you turn there is something to explore. I’m certain that the White Church Gallery will not be the sole art gallery in the Port Austin art community for long. However, it will stand alone as being the first in the area with a powerful debut. The gallery is located five minutes east of Port Austin at 8686 Rouse Road.
The Evolving Gallery
In 2016 the gallery has expanded to house a woodworking shop and a large scale studio for Mike Zaitz’s larger than life paintings found in the main gallery. The White Church Gallery will be the home plate for the yearly Thumb Artists Studio Tour each June, along with the Lake Huron shoreline between Port Austin to Caseville. Each Port Austin artist has open studios for the weekend. It’s a great way to see the beautiful lakeshore while stopping at studios along the way to view the artistic process and purchase gorgeous works of art. Information can be found at thumbstudiotour.com. Visit the White Church Gallery’s Facebook Page and give it a “Like”