With its nearby Michigan Barn Art, Port Austin has become the acknowledged hub of artistic activity in the Thumb. With several galleries, the Art in the Park event on Labor Day weekend, and now the Ten Barns in Ten Years project the area is becoming known as a true artist colony. The barn project is particularly exciting as it is so accessible and larger than life. With three of the ten barns complete, we explore the progress and uniqueness of each barn.
Painted Barn of the Hygienic Dress League
Husband and wife visual artists Steve and Dorota Coy came to Upper Thumb in 2013 and changed the direction of Port Austin’s art scene. It was a simple idea. Paint a large mural on the side of a very weathered barn in the middle of the soybean and cornfields of Huron county. Transforming a once unnoticeable barn into eye-catching artwork.
Their business, Hygienic Dress League works in the community combining business and street art to create their own brand marketing campaign and bring art to the masses. The Hygienic Dress League has created public art in many different cities and countries over the past several years. With the painting of a colorful pigeon on one side of the barn and a version of American Gothic, in gas masks no less on the other, the outbuilding has a new life. (However, the work has faded over the past 6 years)
The Emergency Ark
The work has been called several names, The Barnboat, The Celestial Ship of the North, and Emergency Ark. The Emergency Ark was completed by sculpturing artist Scott Hocking in 2015. He has transformed an 1800s barn into a large object denoting sanctuary and safety.
The grey timber looks warped and wrapped. The old planks, taken from the virgin forests that once dominated the thumb have been intertwined. What was once a working farm building is now an art form. It sits among debris from decades of agriculture work. A rope is draped along a fieldstone wall.
Scott Hocking is a statutory artist with many works within the Detroit ruins. He has achieved international recognition for his on-location pieces constructed from materials found at the site. He came to the Thumb location in 2015.
The Ark can be found about a mile south of Oak Beach on Oak Beach road and Fehner. For more details about this magnificent barn-art see Emergency Ark by Scott Hocking.
Over the past two years, Catie Newell has been cleaving a slice out of a 100-year-old barn just north of Pinnebog. She removed a “slice” from the barn to create a walkable portal taking the visitor from one side to the other. When you walk through, you can’t see inside the barn. The portal is sealed all the way to the top.
Its east-west position also puts the slice in line with sunrises and sunsets at certain times of the year. At dusk, solar power lights reveal the barn’s internal structure in a new light.
From outside of the Secret Sky barn from a distance, you can barely tell that the barn has been split. However, your eyes soon begin to notice the strange out-of-place angles that encompass the entire corner of the barn. We are looking forward to the next Michigan Barn Art project in the Thumb.
The Port Austin Barn Project on PBS Newshour
The Barn Project – Under the Radar Michigan
53North – Ten Barns in Ten Years Map
Related Michigan Barn Art Reading
It’s the end of Summer Tradition. The Thumb Arts Guild’s Annual Juried Art Fair occurs each Labor Day weekend at Gallup Park in Port Austin. The Labor Day Weekend of Art in the Park
The Cove Gallery and Gift Shop in Port Austin Michigan has become a magnet to find arts and crafts from all over Michigan, but especially the greater Thumb area.
Drive from any point south of Michigan’s Thumb north to its tip and you will encounter small towns and villages hanging on by a thread. Vacant storefronts, abandoned shops, and remnants of roadside stands abound in the formerly robust four corner rural villages that were common in Michigan at the turn of the last century. How Art, A Farm Market, And Kayaking Saved Port Austin
Crazy and unique cottage road signs are found in Michigan’s Upper Thumb. Cottage Art: Upper Thumb Cottage Road Signs