Ox-Bow at 100

Ox-Bow at 100


Painting chairs in the earlier days of Ox-Bow.

The appeal of Ox-Bow, School of Art and Artists' Residency, in Michigan, has been its bucolic seclusion and scenic beauty, the better to foster its mission “to serve as a haven for the creative process through instruction, example and community.”

Ox-Bow was founded in 1910 by Frederick Fursman and Walter Marshall Clute, artists associated with the School of the Art Institute in Chicago (SAIC) who sought a respite from their clamorous city (and from the formal ideas of the Institute) and found it in Saugatuck, a town surrounded by dunes, forests, lakes, rivers and a lagoon. There they began teaching summer painting classes. Ox-Bow was first called the Summer School of Painting, though craft courses were introduced early on, in makeshift studios; the first formal studios for specific media were not built until the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s, and they continue to be added.

Today, Ox-Bow’s 115-acre campus hosts programs in ceramics, glass, painting and drawing, papermaking, printmaking and metals. More than 400 students (from ages 18 to 90) come to the campus in the summer to be mentored and engaged by 60 faculty, 10 visiting artists and 15 residents. (In the last four years, winter sessions and a fall residency were introduced.) Among the numerous figures who have been students, instructors or resident artists are Lenore Tawney, Joseph Siegenthaler, Nick Cave, Paul Marioni, Hank Adams and Tim Barrett. A constant for the school from the start has been its relationship with SAIC, formalized in a sponsorship agreement in 1995.

For summer 2010, the craft courses being offered include ceramics with Andrea and John Gill, glass with Ryan Gothrup and jewelry with Anne Mondro. Ox-Bow has announced a Centennial Residency Contest, in which two-week residencies for summer 2010 will be awarded through a portfolio competition to three artists. Among several centennial activities scheduled in Chicago and around Michigan are three exhibitions of works by Ox-Bow artists at the Grand Rapids Art Museum (June 4-Aug. 22).

Studying craft at Ox-Bow, notes the executive director Jason Kalajainen, “provides a unique opportunity for artists who work in non-craft-based media to find avenues to engage these materials and traditions in their studio practices, as well as offer those who have strictly craft-based practices to move beyond that tradition and think about using the media in new ways.”