Great Northern Art Explosion will be held throughout downtown Grayling this summer

An event will be held in Grayling this summer to further put the community on the map as a destination for artists and art lovers.
The Great Northern Art Explosion will be held throughout Grayling’s downtown business district from Friday, July 19, through Saturday, Aug. 3.
Similar to ArtPrize held in Grand Rapids and the Art Walk Central in Mt. Pleasant, artwork will be on display at businesses located downtown and in nearby businesses.
Organizers considered starting the event after the July 4 holiday and ending it on the Saturday when the AuSable River Festival Classic Car Show is in downtown Grayling.
Instead, the event will start when the pre-car show cruise is held, will run through the AuSable River Festival and the AuSable Canoe Marathon, and end on its own weekend.
“What we’re hoping to do is take the audience that we have crammed downtown and at least expose them to the rest of our retail areas,” said Terry Dickinson, the director for the AuSable Artisan Village.
The artwork entered will be scanned into a computer system and nine jurors will look the artwork and pieces which will go into the show.
“The top tier among all the jurors is going to be displayed,” Dickinson said. “We want to make sure as much as we can that is a high quality experience for the public to come in and say, Oh my God, this is some really cool art in Grayling. That’s the reaction I’m hoping for.”
The eight categories for the event include: paintings, oils, acrylics, watercolor, pastels or 2D mixed media; sculpture/3D mixed media; jewelry;  functional, furniture, etc.;  drawings, graphite, charcoal, colored pencil, or pastel;  fabric and fiber; ceramics and pottery; and  photography.
A $500 prize award will be given to the winner in each category. A $1,500 people’s choice prize will also be awarded.
Dickinson anticipates that a large number of paintings and drawings will be submitted, with a limited amount of entries in the other categorizes.
“The odds of winning an award for a painting is going less than winning an award in some of the other categories,” he said. “That is just the way it’s going to be.”
Dickinson has considered putting the show on for several years, and decided to move forward with hosting the event this summer.
“Being the first year, it’s a kind of I think this will work sort of attitude,” he said. “It’s something I think can really boost the art cultural image of Grayling.” 
The AuSable Artisan Village was founded in 2010 and moved into its art center and gallery in downtown Grayling a year later.
For the last several years, funding for the non-profit organization has gone into converting the basement into classroom spaces and storage areas, fixing the roof, updating the lighting in the building and installing a new heating, air conditioning and ventilation system.
“We’re pretty much at the end of that for now,” Dickinson said of paying for building upgrades.
While looking at the budget for this year, AuSable Artisan Village leaders decided to host the Great Northern Art Explosion.
Funds are going into putting on the show, advertising, printing promotional materials, and funding the prize awards.  
Dave Vargo, the owner of Paddle Hard Brewing, came on board as a co-sponsor for the event. 
“That added another considerable little pot of money,” Dickinson said. 
The total amount budgeted for the event is $15,000.
A performing arts music competition will take place on the final day, Saturday, Aug. 3, concluding with an awards gala at 5 p.m. at the Paddle Hard Yard, 117 E. Michigan Ave.
Vargo is planning to develop the business venture, which will include a stage, seating areas, a beer garden and food trailers, in time for the event. 
“I think that is going to be an outstanding addition to the downtown once he gets that going,” Dickinson said.  
First, second, and third place awards will be given to musicians performing at the gala.
“That will be a public vote, so it’s going to be a popularity contest to some degree, but it ought to be fun,” Dickinson said.
The amount of art displayed will depend on the space made available at the specific venues.
“The real emphasis is I want a really quality show,” Dickinson said. “I don’t want to just hang artwork to hang artwork.”
Art juror Bruce Winslow will pick the final award winners for the competition. Winslow earned a master’s of fine arts degree in painting and art history from the Pratt Institute Graduate School of Fine Arts in Brooklyn, New York. He earned a bachelor’s of fine arts in painting and biology from Central Michigan University. He recently retired after 29 years at the Midland Center for the Arts, where he served as director and curator of the Alden B. Dow Museum of Science and Art.
The public will not know who Winslow has selected as the winners until they are announced at the gala.
“I want the public voting to be as free and clear as possible,” Dickinson said.
The people’s choice award  will be tallied daily. A booklet, which will describe each venue, the artwork on display and a map of the venues, will include a tear out ballot for the award.
Unlike bigger competitions, where ballots are counted electronically, the people’s choice award will be hand counted and tracked on a computer spreadsheet.
“It’s going to be a lot of hard work,” Dickinson said. “It’s going to be hard to keep up with, but it’s going to be a lot less expensive.”
The goal of the event is to further build on the success the AuSable Artisan Village, Main Branch Gallery, and Old  Lumberyard Shoppes have established in Grayling.
“My vision has always been that Grayling is strategically located in terms of traffic patterns to be the gem of northern Michigan,” Dickinson said. “This is just another step in that direction.”
The goal in future years is to make the event bigger and better with more categories, entries, and prize awards.
“We want to increase the amount of money we’re committing to this every year as we go, and just let this thing grow,” Dickinson said. 
The deadline to enter the show is May 31. The entry fee is $30 for  non-members  of the Artisan Village and $15 for members of Artisan Village, Main Branch Gallery, and Old Lumberyard Shoppes.
For additional information, go to

Crawford County Avalanche

Mailing Address
Box 490
Grayling, MI 49738

Phone: 989-348-6811
FAX: 989-348-6806

Comment Here