Buchanan Art Center celebrating ‘Sweet 16’

BUCHANAN – Exhibits showing off the works of emerging and veteran artists, art classes for young and old, a gift shop filled with one of a kind items: all are integral to what makes the Buchanan Art Center a vital part of the southwest Michigan art scene.

The center is celebrating its “Sweet 16” anniversary Saturday, Aug. 14 with a day filled with activities honoring the past, present and future. As most visitors to Buchanan know, the art center is located at 117 W. Front St. in the building that previously housed the local library.

Center Director Danielle Wilborn said the day will actually start off with a memorial mass Saturday morning for longtime art center member, teacher and artist Shirley Roti Roti. The Roti Roti family will host a memorial for her at 11 a.m. at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church followed by graveside services and a luncheon at Lehman’s in downtown Buchanan.

Roti Roti’s artwork is currently on display in the Roti Roti and Hess Galleries at the art center in an exhibit called “Remembering Shirley Roti Roti.” Roti Roti taught art at Buchanan High School for 20 years and was also an artist in her own right. The other exhibit up right now is an “all members” exhibit featuring artwork by center members.

Wilborn credits the dedication and commitment of art center volunteers over the years for the center’s success.

“The biggest reason for our success was that the founders gave us a good foundation with by-laws and an endowment that put us on a good path,” she said.

“The city helped as they sold us the building for a dollar, mortgage free,” she added. “We also have some really, really dedicated volunteers. Overall, we haven’t gotten too big for our britches and haven’t strayed from our vision.”

The official Sweet 16 celebration at the art center kicks off at 2 p.m. and runs through 7 p.m. A presentation honoring Roti Roti and others will begin at 2:30 p.m. Besides Roti Roti, the art center founders, past directors and longtime volunteers will be honored at the presentation as will city officials who gave the center founders the chance to get the building.

Wilborn said the short ceremony will also include a ribbon cutting for the Hess Library which now has books that can be loaned out to the community and the center’s Empty Bowls donation to Redbud Area Ministries. In addition, local and area officials will be on hand to present the center with a proclamation from the governor.

Wilborn said this year’s Empty Bowls effort was different than past years as all the pottery was done at the center without participation from the schools due to the pandemic. Despite the changes, the center was able to raise $2,500 which is the most raised to date.

People attending the celebration will be able to see art demonstrations, take part in activities and enjoy hotdogs, chips, popcorn, drinks, a cash bar and custom treats from J KRU Sweets and cookies by volunteer Mary Lysy.

Demonstrations will include woodturning by Neil Benham, silversmithing by Marge Collins, wheel throwing by Cathy Tapia and plein air painting in the gardens by other art center artists. In addition, kids will get the chance to take part in the Messy Arts Village project led by Jen Munoz and a collaborative art project led by Nani Murphy.

If people can’t make it to the Sweet 16 celebration, the current exhibits will be up to Aug. 22. The next round of exhibits will feature “Ideas on the Land” by regional painters and an exhibit based on the “One Book One Buchanan” project the center is doing with the Buchanan District Library.

Welborn noted that the center offers new exhibits every six weeks.

“Our goal is to highlight area artists, give them a chance to develop their talent and create sales opportunities for them,” she said. “We work with a lot of artists where their exhibits here are their first show but also with seasoned and career artists.”

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