Watch artists at work, purchase pieces at new Three Oaks co-op

Published 9:08 am Thursday, April 23, 2015

(Leader photo/ADAM REBELLOSO)

(Leader photo/ADAM REBELLOSO)

THREE OAKS, Mich. — Spring has begun to dapple the white of winter’s canvas, reviving local moods with vibrant color and warm tones. Aptly emerging in the seasonal bustle of Three Oaks is Nido Bianco, located in the former J.L. Powell building, a new haven for art whose name means “white nest” in Italian.

“That’s what this environment is,” said Heather Hanson, director and curator of Nido Bianco. “It’s supposed to nurture…to be a comfortable, warm place where we can help each other put a little happiness and good into the world.”

The expansive 9,500 square-foot “nest” serves as a hotbed for artists and their art, from creative process to customer purchase.

Nine rental studios have quickly filled to capacity by tenants like Susan Henshaw, a locally-renowned multimedia artist and lifelong-resident of Union Pier. Henshaw displays pieces in her studio and outside with those of fellow artists, creating an aesthetic, spatially efficient gallery in Nido Bianco’s hallways and open areas.

Lining one of the halls circling Hanson’s office epicenter are the candid and inviting “transient studios,” where artists find flexibility in renting by the month, week or day.

One local multimedia artist saw the fresh opportunity and shares transient space with two generations of her family. Her daughter focuses on graphic design, while her 11-year-old granddaughter naturally explores a variety of media.

For those seeking a creative experience outside the studio, Nido Bianco boasts a large special events room, where a locally donated baby grand piano hints at events to come.

Open-mic nights, performances by local musicians and poetry readings are part of Hanson’s plan to gather the community in creative celebration … often in the form of a pot-luck. She anticipates some weekday evening events and hopes to fill every weekend with inviting moments of casual tone.

“Everyone gets to be a part of this creative process,” Hanson said.

Including those eager to be taught, Hanson saw a perfect classroom separated from the special events area by glass walls. Henshaw plans to lead classes in pastel instruction in May, and others like Chicagoan mosaic-artist Francine Gourguechon only add to the assortment of endeavors made available to the public. With the near-soundproof room aiding against distraction, artists are even able to teach their processes throughout the day.

While sound may be dampened from the events area, it is hard to miss the spectrum of colors that spill in from the conjoining artisan market — a shop for art and craft items that are 100 percent handmade in America. A garage door conveniently makes up half the outside wall, which will open in nice weather to extend vendor space for local growers to sell fresh flowers and produce.

Even appetites are met in warm welcome by a mobile, vibrant-canopied kiosk selling a variety of sweet treats handmade by Jessica Klidaras of Gary, Indiana’s Great Lakes Café. Visitors can enjoy anything from coffee and chocolate to unique baked treats like toffee-covered Cheetos.

Hanson’s reception in Three Oaks is about as sweet as they come, which fuels her community centric vision further. With the quick-approaching Art Attack weekend, she’s pulling out all the stops to ensure that Nido Bianco is a “must-stop” destination. Holding two full days of activities, including a culinary demonstration by Collins Caviar’s Rachel Collins and an indoor art market, she’ll get to be a central part of what drew her to the area.

“Three Oaks has become a phenomenal destination,” she explained of her decision. “When you see a community come together like that, you want to be a part of it.

“Well, that — and this is the greatest building in Harbor Country.”