The Lenawee Council for the Visual Arts (LCVA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and supporting the visual arts in Lenawee County. Organized by a group of passionate local artists in 1998, the LCVA's first efforts were exhibitions of local artists in community locations. In 2000 the Millennium Project, consisting of 200 bronze panels done by 60 Lenawee artists was installed in Comstock Park in downtown Adrian. Seven or eight exhibits are presented each year by the LCVA and include the county-wide High School exhibition and K-8 show. The LCVA has been a vital cog in the development of the downtown Adrian Artalicious art fair that began in 2006. In 2010 an exciting collaboration with the Croswell Opera House moved the LCVA gallery into the heart of the Croswell where hundreds of patrons enjoyed both the visual and performing arts.
In collaboration with the City of Adrian, the LCVA established the Adrian Center for the Arts on an abandoned 55 acre former state property in 2015. The Art Center provides opportunities for established artists by making studios space available, for students of all ages wishing to learn about ceramics, woodworking, glass blowing, letterpress, painting, drawing, printmaking, and photography and for the public to be revitalized and empowered by the arts. The ACA enjoys broad support in the community as evidenced by the 4000 strong turnout for our Spring Fling event in 2016. The LCVA values high quality, broad based community collaborations with past programming with Adrian Symphony Orchestra, Boys and Girls Club, the Adrian College Youth Art Program, the HOPE Recreation Center, the Catherine Cobb Domestic Violence Shelter, and area businesses not only at our home site but also at venues throughout the county at Hidden Lake Gardens, downtown Tecumseh, and the Michigan Welcome Center in Dundee.
Our Future: Sculpting an Arts Community
It is a beautiful summer day to attend an Adrian Symphony Orchestra concert outside in this lovely, serene setting. As it concludes my out-of-town friend and I wander toward two artists at easels working in what is called “plein air”. We look at their progress painting the beautiful grounds, chat with them and learn a bit about the Adrian Center for the Arts. It sounds like we have much more than a concert to experience today.
Inside the Studio One building, we wander the halls filled with art. Many of the thirty artists who have studios in this building are working and their studios are open. It is a casual yet inspiring journey through the building, made all the more remarkable by conversations with the artists.
There is a rhythmic clattering coming from the studio beyond the painters and we are drawn to a flurry of activity as multiple prints come off hand operated moveable type vintage presses. We learn about the process of letterpress and see artists not only printing the pages but binding them into books, making paper, printing images and hear a writers group reading their original works. As we leave that studio we are see a glow coming from a studio across the yard. Drawn to the red hot molten glow, we watch as glass is taken out of a kiln on the end of what is called a pontil as the teacher instructs students new to glass blowing how to create a form. We are surprised to see pieces being created from molten glass right before our eyes. I immediately put this class on my bucket list!
Outside the next studio, potters are making works on the potters wheel and the newly retired woman we have been talking to amazes us with her facility especially since we learn she just began classes right here last year. Inside the clay studio, an artist is working on a large and impressive ceramic sculpture of a girl holding nine birds. She tells us of the history of the Girls Industrial School, originated in 1881 and the cemetery on the grounds where nine girls, casualties of a various epidemics in the 1800's, are buried. This remembrance will be placed there and join the many beautiful large-scale sculptural works around the campus created by the artists involved in all these studios. They direct us to the gallery where we see the finished works of many of the resident artists here.
My friend and I, ahead of the game, buy Christmas gifts although it is July! We also hear that the woodworker who is exhibiting Windsor chairs that are beautiful and delicate yet sturdy works of functional art is teaching a class that very day. We wander over to the wood studio in the breathtakingly high ceilinged, window ensconced, vintage industrial building and are amazed to find the chairs begin with a log and are made completely by hand, carving each of the parts with what is called a draw knife. An artist there is using a lathe to make bowls out of tree limbs that have fallen from the century old oaks that grace the campus. We need to take time to absorb all we have seen before heading downtown for dinner and a show at the Croswell. We stop at Fitzgerald, the restored arts and crafts style building near the front of the campus looking for the café and find you could stay here while taking a multi-day workshop. The café has an outside patio overlooking the studios and natural setting where we have that glass of wine.
Reflecting on the Adrian Center for the Arts, I am so proud and amazed to have this in Lenawee County! My friend is gushing with which classes to take and thinking of her many other friends who would be really thrilled to experience art first hand. I think this whole day has been revelatory. It has made me see what is really happening in a newly revitalized Adrian that I didn’t even know about. I can see this will draw not only locals but will be a destination trip for those outside our community and help our economy attract and retain business. The Adrian Center for the Arts has even more potential, to draw creative individuals to our community, to help retain some of the students who graduate from our three colleges, to give retirees another reason beyond modest housing costs, a large airport that is proximate, and excellent, close medical care to relocate here in Adrian. The Adrian Center for the Arts is a player in transforming our community into a more vibrant and unique place. A place you would be proud to call home.