VISITOR CENTER ARTIST CAMP
Visitor Center Artist Camp is a near-wilderness artist residency site in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We seek to combine wilderness living and resourcefulness with a contemporary art making practice and a conversation around self-sufficiency and collaboration. Our goal is to promote creativity and ingenuity through sculpture and building workshops focused on local materials and accessible processes, and to encourage new perspectives through do-it-yourself practices, collaborative design, and a discussion of sustainability in art and in life.
Artists from around the country are coming to Ewen to make art, exchange ideas, examine sustainability, and get to know the vibrant and resourceful community in the Upper Peninsula.
Using simple tools and mostly handmade equipment, we are teaching and learning as we build community and explore our passions. We dig our own clay from the ground, hand-process it, and fire it on site. We source local sand, clay, and recycled aluminum to make molds and cast metal sculpture. We work with local homesteader, saw mill operator and timber-framing expert Mel Seeger - who built his own saw mill from a Mac truck! - and from whom resident artists can learn milling, building, and a variety of homesteading techniques.
The seeds for a sustainable arts community near Ewen, MI were planted in 2007 with the donation of a building from the nearby Sylvania Wilderness Area. Their gift of a 1960’s A-Frame to long-time Forest Service volunteer Cameron Coleman came with the stipulation that he remove it from the forest.
That year, three artists from Minneapolis disassembled the building and transported its components to our current site. In 2008, a group of fifteen artists from across the country met to re-assemble it. This building was used as the Sylvania Wilderness entrance station. Being something like a forestry Visitor Center, this became the namesake for the camp, and our first point of departure for the growing creative endeavor that has ensued.
Each following summer, artists have gathered on the land surrounding the A-Frame with the intention of building relationships between creative people and the U.P. community, developing arts programming using local materials, and focusing on environmental sustainability and cooperative practice.
DIY & SUSTAINABLE PRACTICES SYMPOSIUM
The Visitor Center hosted its first annual DIY Sustainable Adventure Art Symposium, August 15-24, 2014. We gather to make art, share skills, exchange ideas, build community, and examine sustainability in life and in artistic practice. In tandem with our inaugural year, we founded the Ewen Arts Festival, which included an exhibition of work by local artists and VCAC artists, with artist presentations, live music, raku firing and metal pour demonstrations, all open to the public.
Early on, we teamed up with local homesteader, saw mill operator and timber framing expert, Mel Seeger, who builds everything he needs himself. He built our beautiful timber-framed barn which we dubbed the Seeger Studio Barn! Resident artists now have the opportunity to tour Mel's homestead, learn milling and framing techniques, and can have a hand in milling their own rough-cut lumber for building or woodworking projects.
Other highlights include trips to beautiful nearby scenic places such as the many waterfalls along the Ontonagon River and the gorgeous shore of Lake Superior.
We collectively design and build low-impact infrastructure for our camp's basic needs, host 10-day intensive workshops in Local Clay, Metal Casting, Sustainable Building, and Woodworking, and host artists for Independent Projects of creative inquiry that embrace the VCAC's rugged setting and adventurous spirit.