Artists Selected for Fifth Annual Artist-in-Residence Program

Mackinac State Historic Parks is pleased to announce the artists selected for the fifth annual Mackinac Island Artist-in-Residence program, which is housed in the remodeled second floor of the Mackinac Island State Park Visitor’s Center, formerly the 1915 Mackinac Island Coast Guard Station.

 The Mackinac State Historic Parks Artist-In-Residence Program is designed to promote and encourage the creation of artistic works inspired by the history, natural wonders, and beauty of Mackinac Island. The two-week residencies will begin in early June and continue through late September.

 The selected artists will provide one public presentation (workshop, lecture, reading, demonstration, etc.) on the second Wednesday of their residency at 7:00 p.m. and contribute one piece of their work to Mackinac State Historic Parks within 12 months.

The residents for 2023 include:

  • Sample piece from Dustin Hunt.

     – Dustin Hunt, June 6 – June 18, workshop June 14: Hunt, from Ann Arbor, is a muralist. Their work begins with inquiry: who and what are valuable to a community, overlooked, and worthy of acknowledgment in a community? What stories have yet to be told? Who and what makes a place rich with character, history, and culture? Regional history, archives, interviews, and conversations lead the way to inspiration and often become the focal points of murals. When the focal points are determined, Hunt mixes techniques to create an eclectic mural composition. While on the island Hunt is interested in seeking out narratives often misunderstood yet worthy of highlighting.

  •  – Andrew David Perkins, June 20 – July 2, workshop June 28: Perkins is a composer, conductor, and GRAMMY® nominated music educator from Fenton. Their compositions for wind ensemble have been finalists for The National Band Association Revelli Award, Merrill Jones Award, and The Ravel International Composition Prize. Perkins’ music is regularly performed at state, national, and international contests & conferences, and at the Midwest International Band Clinic. Perkins won the National Band Association Alfred Publishing Young Band Composition Prize in 2018, and the 2021 American Prize in Wind Band Composition. Perkins is looking forward to the opportunity to do deep work surrounded by Mackinac Island’s natural and historical beauty.
  •  – Lauren Carlson, July 4 – July 16, workshop July 12: Carlson is a poet from Manistee. In Carlson’s work the quotidian violence of rural life, domestic duty, and dailiness give way to lush accommodating reveries. Grounded in landscape and rhythm, the body and soul are intertwined. Carlson is seeking a more holistic yet nonetheless rigorous approach to the spirit and its raptures, one that resists binaries and engages paradox. The natural environment is essential to their writing, and Carlson often use their observations of both violence and beauty in landscape and place to inform poems. Carlson is looking to become immersed in Mackinac Island’s singular environment for their current project.
  • Photography by Marilyn Murphy-Feather

     – Marilyn Murphy-Feather, July 18 – July 30, workshop July 26: Murphy-Feather is a photographer based out of Sterling Heights. Always having a passion for photography, Murphy-Feather embraced it just over a decade ago. Inspired by the great outdoors, Murphy-Feather’s ambition is to photograph landscapes and immerse themself in nature to enjoy emotions of awe, joy and serenity while creating fine art. While on the island Murphy-Feather will be able to continue their quest of “Find Your Park through Art” to preserve all national and state lands for current and future generations to enjoy and explore.

  •  – John Dempsey, August 1 – August 13, workshop August 9: Dempsey is a landscape painter originally from Southeast Michigan who now resides in Hillsborough, NC. The residency will allow Dempsey the opportunity to continue research for a contemporary landscape painting studio practice and spend extended time drawing and photographing on the island for future landscape painting projects. One of Dempsey’s extended series of contemporary landscape paintings is titled the Michigan Chronicle Series. Those paintings include a wide variety of environments from all over the state, and the residency will allow them to continue and expand on that series.
  •  – Patrick Mohundro, August 15 – August 27, workshop August 23: Mohundro is originally from Iron Mountain who now resides in New York City. For the past eight months they have been combining cast porcelain ‘canvases’ with stained glass. The new development is huge for Mohundro’s work, dealing with the structures around painting: form, texture, and color. Color has been one of the most challenging aspects of this project and stained glass has provided a beautiful solution. Each piece of stained glass is its own color field painting. While on the island, Mohundro will be mostly soldering the porcelain/stained glass constructions and getting to know the lay of the land.
  • Starling Shakespeare Company

     – Heron Kennedy and Jessie Lillis, August 29 – September 10, workshop September 6: Kennedy and Lillis are co-founding artistic directors of the Starling Shakespeare Company, a migratory theater company. They intend to adapt William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, to create a Mackinac Island-specific production. Not only will it tell the story of Prospero, Miranda, and the island-dwelling creatures in Shakespeare’s text, it will also serve as a celebration of Mackinac Island’s scenery, history, and atmosphere. They intend to combine their expertise– Shakespeare– with a deep love of the island by immersing themselves further into the community and setting, and creating something truly unique. This updated version of The Tempest will be performed on the island in 2024.

  •  – Amy Haimerl, September 12 – September 24, workshop September 20: Haimerl is an author and journalist from Detroit. Haimerl will spend their time on the island interviewing residents, taking oral histories and researching the island’s history. Haimerl looks to record the sounds of the island to make a mini soundscape documentary of life there, and they want to get a sense of the day-to-day rhythms of Mackinac Island and the people who keep it alive, something that reporters can only do by being present for an extended period of time. Haimerl is also interested in the “off-season” months, before and after the tourist season.

“Mackinac State Historic Parks looks forward to welcoming a very talented group of artists to Mackinac Island throughout the 2023 season,” said Mackinac State Historic Parks Director Steve Brisson. “We’re excited to see how each is inspired by Mackinac and how they share their creativity while on the island.”

A jury of representatives from Mackinac State Historic Parks, the Mackinac Arts Council, and the Mackinac Island Community Foundation selected from a pool of 197 qualified applicants. Selections were made solely on the basis of merit and how the artist’s work can advance the program’s goal of encouraging the creation of artistic works inspired by the history, natural wonders, and beauty of Mackinac Island.

More information on the Mackinac Island Artist-in-Residence program can be found here.

2022 Mackinac State Historic Parks Collections Acquisitions

In 2022, the collections committee accessioned 176 objects into the Mackinac Island State Park Commission collection and archives. In addition to several purchases, over 90 items were donated to the collection. The summer collections internship program was restarted and Kendra Ellis, from the Maritime Studies Program at East Carolina University, was hired. She assisted Curator of Collections Brian Jaeschke with the inventory of Fort Mackinac buildings and Special Storage inside the Heritage Center.

 In 2010, five pen and ink drawings of Mackinac Island were loaned to the park for exhibit in The Richard & Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum. The loan was changed to a donation early in the year. The five drawings were done in the early 1840s by Francis Melick Cayley who moved to Canada in 1836. The views are some of the most precise pre-photographic images of the island known to exist. They are so well proportioned that it is believed he may have employed artificial means to prepare the sketches, such as a “camera obscura,” which permitted projection of a scene onto paper for tracing. The drawings continue to be displayed in the main gallery of the art museum.

 During the course of procuring images for the new Dr. William Beaumont Museum exhibit this winter, the park purchased four paintings of the doctor and his wife from the Wayne County Medical Society of Southeast Michigan. Two of the paintings are miniature portraits of Dr. Beaumont and his wife Deborah. It is believed they were done around the time of their marriage in 1821. The other two paintings are reproductions of images showing Beaumont later in life. The portraits need conservation work and will eventually be placed on display.

 The park purchased two black and white panoramic photographs showing Mackinac Island scenes. The first image, by island photographer William Gardiner, was taken from a naval vessel, quite possibly the USS Michigan. The ship is entering the harbor with downtown, Fort Mackinac and Grand Hotel visible. The second image was taken by H.J. Rossiter from the fort pasture and shows the officers’ and commanding officer’s quarters, Fort Mackinac and Trinity Episcopal Church. The images were taken around 1900 and give us a unique historic glimpse of the island.

 Donated to the park collection this summer was a painting with a unique perspective from a path behind Trinity Episcopal Church looking toward Fort Mackinac. The oil on canvas by German-born Curt Bielefeldt was done sometime between 1940 and 1960. He lived in Buffalo before moving to Detroit in the early 1930s. He worked in oils and watercolors and was also known for murals. He was a cousin of German boxer Max Schmeling. Bielefeldt won the grand prize in the 1930 Buffalo Society of Artists in the Albright Gallery. His work was displayed in many locations including the Detroit Institute of Art and the J.L. Hudson Company Gallery.

 This is only a small sample of the type of objects Mackinac State Historic Parks collects during a given year.  We are always looking for donations and items to purchase which will help the commission to continue its mission of educating the public about the history of the region.

Early Accounts of Arch Rock

On an island known for awe-inspiring natural wonders, Arch Rock is Mackinac’s most iconic. This seemingly delicate natural bridge “excites the wonder of all beholders” as it defies gravity, rising more than 140 feet above the waters of Lake Huron. Whether you gaze up from the lakeshore or peer down from the adjacent cliffside, the views that your breath away have been enjoyed by visitors for centuries.

  The first known description of Mackinac Island’s geological formations was penned by Dr. Francis LeBaron on October 30, 1802. The doctor recently arrived at Fort Mackinac to assume the duties of post surgeon. In a letter to the editor of Boston’s Columbian Centinel & Massachusetts Federalist, he wrote:

A black and white photo of Dr. Francis LeBaron

Dr. Francis LeBaron

 “The island of Michilimackinac is about three miles long and two wide, situated in the straights that join lake Huron to lake Michigan
The curiosities of this place consist of two natural caves, one of them is formed in the side of a hill, the other in a pyramidical rock of eighty feet in height, and thirty-five feet in diameter at its base, which is situated on a plain and totally detached from any rock or precipice… There are also two natural arches of the Gothic order which appear to have been formed by some convulsions in nature, one is eighty feet in height, the other is forty.”

  Arch Rock received even broader attention in 1812, when a short description appeared in the sixth edition of Reverend Jedidah Morse’s American Universal Geography. Known as the “father of American geography” (also father of Samuel Morse, inventor of the telegraph) his books influenced the educational system of the United States, being widely used in classrooms for decades. In part, his description of Michigan Territory reads:

A color image of Rev. Jedidah Morse

Rev. Jedidiah Morse

An issue of The American Universal Geography from 1812

The American Universal Geography, 1812

 “Islands. The island Michilimackinac lies between Michigan and Huron, and is 7 miles in circumference….The fort is neatly built, and exhibits a beautiful appearance from the water… On the N.E. side of the island, near the shore, and 80 feet above the lake, is an arched rock. The arch is 20 feet in diameter, at the top, and 30 at the base… The island is one mass of limestone, and the soil is very rich. The climate is cold but healthy. The winter lasts for 5 months with unabated rigor.”

A map of the island of Michilimackinac from 1817

Map of the Island of Michilimackinac [Arch Rock Detail], W.S. Eveleth, 1817

  After the War of 1812, American military surveys and inspections produced a flurry of descriptions, sketches, and maps of Mackinac Island. During an 1817 survey, Lieutenant William Sanford Eveleth, U.S. Corps of Engineers, composed a highly detailed map, including miniature drawings of Arch Rock, Sugar Loaf and Skull Cave. One can imagine curious visitors strolling each dotted pathway through the woods, in search of geological wonders.

  While sharing his reflections on the arch, Captain David Bates Douglass later revealed, “Several officers have walked over it, among which are Lieutenant Curtis and Pierce and my lamented friend Evelyth, at the dizzy height of 147 feet. However, I should think it a rash enterprise.” [In October 1818, Lieut. Evelyth tragically drowned in a violent Lake Michigan gale during the wreck of the schooner Hercules with all hands lost.]

The Arched rock, Michillimackina, F.S. Belton, Sep. 1817

  Major Francis Smith Belton completed the first known artistic rendering of Arch Rock in September 1817. Also on a military inspection tour, his view is shown from a boat offshore, rendered wild, exaggerated and fantastical.

Detail of The Arched rock, Michilimackina by F.S. Belton, Sep. 1817

  One of the two tiny figures drawn at the top of Belton’s image may be Judge Advocate Samuel A. Storrow, who was also on the Island that September. His written description of Mackinac Island and Arch Rock was published as a pamphlet entitled, The North-West in 1817: A Contemporary Letter. In part, it reads:

 “On the eastern side, I found one of the most interesting natural curiosities I have ever witnessed. On the edge of the island, where as elsewhere, the banks are perpendicular, you creep cautiously toward the margin, expecting to overlook a precipice; instead of which you find a cavity of about 75 degrees descent, hollowed from the direct line of the banks; and across it on the edge of the precipice… an immense and perfect arch. Its height is 140 feet from the water, which is seen through it… Looking from the interior, the excavation resembles a crater; but, instead of an opposite side, presents an opening, which is surmounted by this magnificent arch… When on the beach below, you see this mighty arch 140 feet above you, half hid in trees, and seemingly suspended in the air… From the Lake it appears like a work of art, and might give birth to a thousand wild and fanciful conjectures.”

  From these early, enthusiastic descriptions it’s clear that Arch Rock has cast a spell upon Mackinac Island visitors for centuries. To learn more about Arch Rock and the Island’s other natural wonders, watch for future blog posts, exhibits and publications and visit

Reynold Weidenaar at the Mackinac Art Museum

Reynold Weidenaar at the Mackinac Art Museum

“Bridge Builders, Mackinac Straits”

Reynold Weidenaar (1915-1985) was an internationally acclaimed artist known for his use of Intaglio-style etching. This complicated process involves etching or engraving a solid piece of copper, placing ink upon the etched copper, and running it through a rotary press with a piece of paper over it to which the ink is then transferred. This creates a print of the etching previously done on the copper. This meticulous process can take anywhere from a few hours to several days to complete. Within the Intaglio process there are many different methods. Two of these can be seen in the prints above. The Bridge and the Storm, Mackinac Straits and Bridge Builders, Mackinac Straits are done in Mezzotint, which involves a rod called a “rocker” used to make the etching. The other, Building the Bridge, Mackinac Straits, is aquatint which utilizes resin for the same etching purpose. (more…)

WPA and Mackinac

WPA and Mackinac

The Works Progress Administration (WPA) was a New Deal work program established in 1935 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It provided skill-based jobs to unemployed Americans affected by the Great Depression. Through the WPA over 650,000 miles of roads, 75,000 bridges, and 8,000 parks were built. (more…)

Mackinac in Color

Mackinac in Color

Gardiner Arch RockWilliam Henry Gardiner was born in 1861 in Canada, and he began his photography career in Toronto around the age of 20. Around 1890, Gardiner made the decision to move to Detroit, since it was difficult to make a living doing photography in Canada. At some point after moving to Detroit he made a visit to Mackinac Island, and relocated both his family and business there around 1895.