Nurturing Haven for Artists

Experience Ox-Bow through open studio events, public workshops.
Plein air painting
A landscape painting student enjoys a plein air experience. Photography by Michael Buck

Tucked away in the wooded back dunes, across the Kalamazoo River and removed from Saugatuck’s busy downtown, Ox-Bow School of Art harbors students, fellows and working artists every summer. For more than a century, it has been a protected place where creative pursuits are free to flourish, where artists from all over come to find respite, inspiration and commune with kindred spirits in an energizing natural environment.

Through an affiliation with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, students can earn college credit in painting and drawing, printmaking, ceramics, sculpture and metal, glassblowing and more.

“I think those open studio nights are really great for the local community if they don’t have the time to take a full one- or two-week course. It’s really lively; there’s something for everyone.”
— Gabrielle Guerra

The campus is closed to the public, but Ox-Bow welcomes guests during programs like its Friday Night Open Studios. Held on select Fridays, this free event allows vacationers and residents to meet and mingle with artists, buy original art and visit the studios.

“I think those open studio nights are really great for the local community if they don’t have the time to take a full one- or two-week course,” said Gabrielle Guerra, marketing and communications coordinator. “It’s really lively; there’s something for everyone.”

Benefit party, old yoke
(Left) Supporters gather for a summer benefit party. (Right) An old yoke adorns an Ox-Bow building. Photography by Michael Buck

Ox-Bow offers year-round programs and classes for artists at all stages in their career, from degree-seeking students to professional and visiting artists to community members and children looking to explore their artistic side. Artists of all ages and skill levels can participate more informally through Art on the Meadow, a series of daylong workshops in a variety of media for children, teens and adults during the summer.

Glass blowing
Glass blowing is one of the art forms seen on Friday Night Open Studios. Photography courtesy Ox-Bow School of Art

Art on the Meadow workshops are geared toward local and seasonal residents and even vacationers enjoying Michigan’s art coast. Participants range in age from 6 to 87, and it’s a chance to experience Ox-Bow and make art without committing to an intensive course, said Chris Renton, former development director.

The July 8 Ox-Bow Summer benefit is the party of the summer, he adds. This ticketed event brings supporters together to celebrate the arts and raise money to support programs and the historic campus.

“Those are great opportunities to introduce yourself to Ox-Bow,” Renton said. “The courses are what we do best, but they are one to two weeks of intensive artmaking on campus. We’ve created these other opportunities, so people can come in on a less formal basis and see what we do.”

Friday Night Open Studios

Open studios and demonstrations, live auction, meet and greet students and faculty. June 16, 30; July 14, 28; and Aug. 11 from 7:30-10 p.m.  Free admission and shuttle from St. Peter’s Church, 100 St. Peter’s Drive, Douglas; runs continuously from 7:15-10:15 p.m.,
(269) 857-5811;

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