Krista Mickelson and Tyler Beachnau are pleased to show the prints they made in Nobuko Yamasaki's "Introduction to Japanese Woodblock printing.

GPAA grows as an advocate for the power of art

The spirit of the Grosse Pointe Artists Association (GPAA) began in 1927 when a group of artists organized a juried exhibition at a local club. Soon after, the Association began offering art classes, and by 1942 the American Federation of the Arts listed GPAA in its American Art Annual. The Association has had many homes in its 93-year history. Its first home was at The War Memorial, and after years of moving from one commercial space to another, GPAA returned to The War Memorial in May 2016. In a published history of the organization, GPAA founding member John Vogt passionately describes the organization’s efforts to “improve the quality of life in the Pointes by making art an integral force in the community.” Ninety-three years later, the only major changes are:

  • GPAA has broadened its scope to invite participation from other communities
  • GPAA has become more proactive in using the power of art to improve the private and public lives of individuals

Art classes and workshops
GPAA schedules approximately 40 art classes and workshops a year, offering a mix of traditional and cutting edge topics taught by instructors who are always pushing themselves to learn new processes and techniques and are willing to share their experiences with their students.

Exhibitions address current issues
The exhibition committee experiments with new themes and reaches out to jurors whose experience adds depth to traditional shows like the perennial favorite, Our Rivers, Our Lakes. Senghor Reid of Cranbrook, who had just completed a series on water, juried that show and shared his story of being oblivious to the water that surrounded him while growing up in inner-city Detroit. Justin Newman was another juror who was a perfect match for the exhibition, Mind.HeART.Health. His story of using art to break a heroin addiction was the basis for an Emmy-award winning documentary, “Never Forget the Pain.”

The 3rd Annual Promising Artists Exhibition drew 86 art students from five area high schools and was juried by Ryan Patrick Hooper, host of Culture Shift on Detroit’s NPR affiliate WDET. The Association holds eight exhibitions a year. A Personal Journey, which asked artists to talk about where they came from and how it affected their work, brought new people to the Association, thanks to cooperation from the International Institute, ACCESS and the University of Michigan, Dearborn. Taurus Burns juried the show and talked about how having an African-American father and white mother has affected his art.

Lectures are a time of sharing
All jurors give gallery talks at the opening of their exhibition and the Association holds forums to give artists in the exhibitions the opportunity to talk about their art. Both are open to the public and are well attended.

The Association also hosts Your Old Mansion, a lecture series/fundraiser on Sunday afternoon each winter. Topics include public art, architecture, design and community planning.

Making art with friends
The Association invites the elderly and their caregivers to A Morning Out program every other Friday morning. Art therapy for veterans is held the second and fourth Tuesday evening of each month. The high school students in the Promising Artists Council are active year round lending their support to existing programs and creating new opportunities. Currently they are working with the Rosa Parks Art Therapy program at the Capuchin Soup Kitchen.

How does all this get done?
GPAA volunteers power all of these programs, even raising the money to pay the certified art therapist to work with the veterans.

In addition, the Association reaches out to individuals and organizations for expertise and help. We’ve already mentioned some of the exhibition jurors who donated their time. The following are more people who added to the success of our exhibitions, lectures and programming in 2019: Leah Rutt of Murals in the Market, public art blogger Tom Leeper, muralist Nicole Macdonald, photographers Jim Haefner and Bruce Giffin, authors Dale Gyure and John Gallagher, Lauren Parker and Angela Wyrembelski of Quinn Evans Architects, the Rev. Faith Fowler of Cass Community Social Services, Leslie Horn of ThreeSquared Inc., Mark Zapico, Jane Stewart and CPAD at the College for Creative Studies, Ani Garabedien and Charlie Garling of the Detroit Institute of Arts, Melissa Jones of the DAM exhibition committee, the Art Therapy Program at Wayne State University, Donald Cronkhite, Pat Duff, and the art teachers at area high schools.

The Value of Art

“Art is a nation’s most precious heritage. For it is in our works of art that we reveal to ourselves and to others the inner vision which guides us as a nation. And where there is no vision, the people perish.” –Lyndon Johnson, on signing into existence the National Endowment on the Arts

“Combining creativity and community” is the motto of the Grosse Pointe Artists Association. It drives everything the Association undertakes from arts programming to lectures and exhibitions.

The Association’s recent juried art exhibitions have asked artists to explore issues important to themselves and their communities like immigration, mental health and climate change.

Its art classes offer students the opportunity to work and learn with exceptional local artists, some with national and international followings. The teachers are selected for their willingness to help students hone their own skills, as well as add new techniques and materials to their work.

For its annual fundraiser, the Association organizes a lecture series on winter Sundays.  Artists, art historians and community activists come together to celebrate the old and new in Detroit-area neighborhoods.

All year long, the Association organizes opportunities for individuals to socialize and nurture their own creativity through free programs like its Tuesday Night Artmaking for Veterans, A Morning Out and Promising Artists.

True to its mission, the Association is proactive in finding ways to partner with existing community groups on programs that leverage the power of art to solve problems, meet challenges and enrich lives and communities.

Grosse Pointe Artists Association—Board of Directors

Karen Pope (President)
Nobuko Yamasaki (Vice President)
Pete Gargasoluas 

Jacquelyn Block
Chris Charron
Kathy Conlon
Alex Fedirko

Sofia Lulgjuraj
Dan McCrary
Marcia Nowakowski

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