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 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.
When it opened in 2015, the White Church Gallery was the sole art gallery in the Thumb. The uniqueness of the restored church and remoteness of location makes it an amazing place. The owner Connie Zaitz told me that they had to renovate the church totally. “Mother Nature had taken over.” She indicated. They have been working on the Gallery for over three and a half years.
Grindstone City’s Little Hidden Gem
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.
First True Dedicatred Gallery in the Upper Thumb
Doing a search on Yelp showed that in 2016, the White Church Gallery was 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.
Explore Works by Local and Michigan Artists and Craft Workers
In 2016 the gallery had works displayed by 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.
Port Austin Art Oasis In Northeastern Michigan
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 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 and the Lake Huron shoreline between Port Austin and 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.”
The reduced vacationers during the pandemic in 2020 gave the gallery challenges. However they look to be back for the summer of 2021
Related Adventure in the Upper Thumb
Michigan Barn Art in the Upper Thumb – 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 a true artist colony. The barn project is fascinating 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.
The Faded Glory of Huron City Michigan – Michigan small towns have a special place in the hearts of their inhabitants. However, some towns slowly fade from their once-busy streets to a scene resembling a stopped clock. No longer functional but certainly recognizable. One such town is Huron City, Michigan.
Prepping Your Boat For The Sailing Season On Lake Huron – There is nothing more exciting for Great Lakes sailors than looking forward to endless summer days spent on the magnificent waters of Lake Huron or any of the other marvelous lakes. For generations, Michiganders have enjoyed the rugged shores and clear waters of northern Michigan and the upper lakes. Each year as the spring approaches, sailors start prepping their sailboat to be ready for the seasonal first-day sail of the summer.
The Crazy Cottage Art Along The Road Of Michigan’s Upper Thumb – If you’re driving along M-25 along the coast of Lake Huron and Saginaw Bay in the Upper Thumb, you may start to notice a decorative version of “cottage sign art” that typically gets overlooked. These little gems of folksy creativity signal what lay beyond and out of reach for those who are not guests. Yet these cottage art ideas say “welcome here” are colorful cottage decorations to the passing eye hurtling down the ribbon of pavement at 60 MPH.
Explore Art In The Park In Port Austin – It’s an end of Summer Tradition. The Thumb Arts Guild’s Annual Juried Art Fair occurs each Labor Day weekend at Gallup Park in Port Austin. It’s a chance to indulge in a variety of outstanding artwork by local and statewide artisans. You name it, pottery, weavings, paintings, photography, jewelry, wooden bowls, stained and fused glass, yard art, fiber woven artwork abounds.