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Tales told out of school -- Christa Wise            

 I have been a member of the Saugatuck-Douglas Art Club for the past twelve years, and as the local art teacher I stand in awe of the mission of our club. Simply stated, the club members want to help anyone with an interest in art to have the opportunity to learn. We are really lucky. 

The club welcomes anyone, artist or not, to come to the meetings for hands-on workshops, educational programs, and field trips. Each summer we sponsor two art fairs. The first is the Waterfront Invitational held on the Saturday of the 4th of July weekend, and the Arts and Crafts Fair the last weekend of July. Money generated from these two events flows liberally back into the community through the generosity and good will of the Saugatuck-Douglas Art Club members. If you want to join, just watch for the meeting spot to be published in this paper and show up. If you bring $10, you can join!

This year, six seniors going off to study the arts received scholarships thanks to the kindness of the Saugatuck-Douglas Art Club.  At last week’s Academic Banquet, SHS students (pictured below left to right) Beth Jansen, Ellie Steiger, Wyndham Mead, Kelsy Lefler, Stephanie Cummins, and Michael Battjes won grants for $4000 apiece.

Beth will study art education at Kendall College. During this past year, Beth has been getting her “feet wet” in the classroom by assisting art teacher Jody Northuis at Douglas Elementary School.  

Ellie will major in graphic design at Carthage College in Wisconsin where she also hopes to continue breaking records on the cross country team. 

Wyndham, who has appeared in theatrical productions since he was nine, won a spot in New York University’s Drama Department. This summer he will appear in Cabaret at the Mason Street Warehouse before heading off to school. 

Kelsy will study art at Grand Valley State University. You will see one of her early graphic design efforts on this year’s poster for the Taste of Saugatuck. 

Stephanie has been offered scholarships at Savannah College of Art and Design, Kendall College of Art and Design, and Maryland Institute College of Art in addition to the Kansas City Art Institute where she will matriculate. She also won the Ox-Bow Scholarship and will be taking the Early College class there this summer. 

Michael, a two-time winner of the Congressional Arts Competition who currently has work on display in the State Juried High School exhibit at WMU, will major in architecture at Savannah College of Art and Design. As a member of the SHS Boys Golf Team that placed first in the state this fall, Michael will be able to pursue his interest in golf year round. 

A seventh senior, Sarah Fitzgerald, won the special one-time only Johnn Malloy Memorial Scholarship for $650. The art club offered this scholarship to a journalism student from contributions collected at the passing of their beloved Publicity Chairperson, Johnn. Sarah, who is a reporter for the school publication the Community Connection, will attend Michigan State University.   

The art club also offered scholarships for underclassmen, John Paul and Emily Zigterman to attend the Blue Lake Fine Arts camp for the instrumental music program this summer, and to Sean Eurich for a portfolio building class at Kendall and the Saugatuck Center for the Arts.

If you are adding this up in your head, it comes to $25,550! It is quite a sum the Art Club gives to the support of young local artists. It is also a lot of students studying art; ten percent of this year’s graduates! In the eleven years that I have been the Scholarship Chairperson, this tiny organization has committed $179,950 to students from Saugatuck wanting to pursue an arts education.  

The Saugatuck-Douglas Art Club is a low profile group of hard-working, big-hearted folks who never really ask you for money, but who lavish it on the children and art activities of our community. I once wrote an article wondering whether our art students are so good because they are supported by this community or does the community support them because they are good? It is a chicken/egg thing for which I have no answer. I concluded, however, that in no small way because of organizations like the Saugatuck-Douglas Art Club, this is a very good place for me and my art students to live.

Reprinted with permission from the Commercial-Record, May 4, 2006  

Tales told out of school – Christa Wise 

As the Scholarship Chair for the Saugatuck-Douglas Art Club, I received a letter from the father of Rob Miller (SHS ’94). To summarize, he said that after graduating from the Center for Creative Studies (CCS) in Detroit, son Rob is now an industrial designer in Chicago working for Wilton Industries who make Copco, Food Network, and Mario Batali products. He designed a "Trendy" tumbler and travel mug for Copco which Kohl's carries, and some stainless steel mugs available at Linens & More. He has also designed some bowls and cooking utensils that are currently in the new Food Network line at Kohl's. Rob’s pizza cutter, a peeler, ice cream scoop, and a French rolling pin can all be seen on line. He has designed a skillet, espresso maker, and a grill that will sell under the Mario Batali name. He said Mario used the skillet the other night on one of the late night talk shows. Apparently, Rob has also worked on some products that may soon be in Target stores. He said, “I'm pretty proud of Rob.”  

I think it is really cool to be rooting for your son’s designs on late-night TV. 

I shared this information with another Art Club member, and we started recalling past SHS students and Saugatuck-Douglas Art Club scholarship winners who are now earning a living in art-related careers. “You should write a column about that,” she said. “I’ll bet people have no idea how many careers have started in the Saugatuck High School (SHS) art room and how important that ‘art start’ has been to the graduates.” 

Before I even came to SHS, I had heard about some successful art students. There’s Gary Van Dis (SHS ‘71), the Vice-president Corporate Creative Director at Conde Nast, Molly Erlandson (SHS ‘80) Associate Professor of Art at West Virginia State University, and free-lance graphic designer Christopher Boyce (SHS ‘85). The talented aforementioned Rob is a 2001 graduate of CCS which is a premier design school for those interested in automotive or product design. Since arriving at SHS in 1995, I have had the privilege of teaching or granting scholarships to the following artists:

Loring Randolph (SHS ’99), was a double art major getting a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in History of Art and Art Production from the College of Art and Design at U. of M. She went on to get an Master of Arts (MA) in Art Business from Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London. She now works in the center of the art world at the Casey Kaplan Gallery in New York City. 

Meg Perec (SHS ’99) and Aron Lowe (SHS ’01) made their first prints from linoleum at SHS and won many awards while students here. Both received BFA’s from Grand Valley State University (GVSU) in Printmaking. Meg has work on display locally at Good Goods and Thirdstone, and is represented in galleries nationally. She has an upcoming show at Flux, a Gallery in Grand Rapids. While on display the Raven Gallery in AZ, Meg sold out all of her work. 

Aron is currently working in fibers and clay showing at the Shaker Messenger in Holland and online at She will be in the Urban Institute of Contemporary Art show in Grand Rapids in November.  

Hillary Leben (SHS ’99) received a BFA from School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is a full-time graphic designer for Answers Media in Chicago. She continues to work as a free-lance designer and videographer. 

Maria Brooks (SHS ‘00), graduated from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in California where, last I heard, she was working in costume design. 

Julie Valleau (SHS ’02) has a BA in studio art from Hope College, and works at the Constance Petter Gallery. In her down time, she creates sculptures in her own studio. 

Justin Jakobson (SHS ’96) A CCS grad, Justin is an industrial designer for Sony where, according to his website, he is “involved in nearly the full spectrum of Sony products, and the complete range of the design process from initial brainstorming strategy all the way through to retail environment considerations.”  

His sister Alexis Jakobson (SHS ’01) is a recent graduate of the University of Michigan with an arts degree with a concentration in printmaking. She works for the Text Creation Partnership at the University which supports “the creation of accurately keyboarded and encoded editions of thousands of culturally significant works in all fields of scholarly and artistic endeavor.” She recently designed a book cover for U. of M’s Scholarly Publishing Office in addition to freelance graphic design. 

I remember taking “Billy” McVea (SHS ‘02) on Art and Architecture trips in high school. Always interested in architecture, he holds a degree in that field from University of Detroit Mercy and is now working for the design firm of Albert Kahn Associates in Detroit. 

The first time Nancy Von Ins (SHS ’01) went on a learning trip to Chicago, she vowed to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and live in the city. She received her BFA in Interior Architectural Design at that very school, and she currently loves her job as a designer at Ethan Allen in Skokie, IL. 

Rachel Houseman (SHS ’96) received her BFA at Goddard College. She recently finished her MA in Art Therapy at Prescott College in Arizona. She is employed as an art therapist for a private counseling company, exhibits her own work in a gallery in Scottsdale, and runs the Eye-On-The-Mountain gallery in Prescott. 

We have a big group of students currently attending art and design schools. Karl Sluis, Anna Lisa Schneider, Sean Eurich, and Will Gibbons are all studying design at CCS. Zack Wallerius, now a senior majoring in sculpture and art education at Maine College of Art, was the designer of “Not Sevens,” the blue steel sculpture on the south lawn of the high school completed when he was still here. Imagine what he is up to now.

Both Michael Battjes, who is majoring in architecture, and Andrew Milauckas, who interned at Fairly Painless Design Studio in Holland this summer and is majoring in advertising design, are at Savannah College of Art and Design. Karley Beery is in her senior year studying photography at Columbia College in Chicago. In Kalamazoo, Alex Borja is an art major at Western Michigan University while Melissa Moore majors in Art History at Kalamazoo College. Stephanie Cummins is thriving as a sculpture major at the Kansas City Art Institute, and Jessie Kleino is an art major at MSU. Beth Jansen, Ellie Steiger and Walter Schneider are all at Kendall College of Art and Design (KCAD) with more to come. 

Jordan Matthai already attends Kendall for part of his day during his senior year at Saugatuck High School. Seniors Whitney Williams and Kelly Fleming are applying several different art schools. We have had a representative from CCS come to talk to students last week, and we will see several more at the Portfolio Day at the Kalamazoo Art Institute next week.  

It’s a little like that sports expression, “we don't rebuild; we reload." High school is a time when students begin to discover their gifts and passions, and every year at Saugatuck there is a group of students who realize that they want to be artists or designers. The art room is where many careers start. I’m not sure every department can claim its stars, but I don’t think it is hubris to be proud of those listed here. They took a risk and followed a dream. Their success demonstrates the nurturing power of parents, friends, and teachers who inspire confidence. It is also about an art program that continues to evolve, the generosity of the Saugatuck–Douglas Art Club, and a supportive and vital arts environment in the community that gives our young artists a chance to go out and make the world a better place. 

Reprinted with permission from the 10/22/2007 Commercial Record.


The Saugatuck-Douglas Art Club began their Art Awards Program in 1971 when two senior students, Gary Van Dis and Debby Shields, were each awarded $250.00 in a senior art contest.  In the next two years the program was extended school wide with awards given from the 1st grade through the 12th.  About $500 was given to each school through these individual student art awards.

In 1974-1980 the money amounts were increased and averaged about $1500.00 each year to students from both schools.  Also several individual gifts were given directly to the high school as well.  Two potters wheels were equipped with motors and $1000.00 was donated to furnish the metals-jewelry area of the art room.  Funds were furnished to pay for a bus trip to the Chicago Art Institute in 1981.  Both the elementary school and the high school have received numerous books and magazine subscriptions from the art club.

In 1978 or ‘79 the Art Awards Program to individual students was dropped at the elementary and the money that was given to the students was instead donated to the overall art program thus gaining additional supplies for all the students.  This same thing happened at the high school in 1981.  When the classroom art program was discontinued at the elementary for five years no more funds were given until art was once again made a part of the elementary curriculum.

In 1980 the art club decided to donate funds to the SHS graduates going on to college, majoring in the arts.  This was the beginning of the scholarship program which has been so helpful for Saugatuck’s college students.  These students must be full-time and the money to be used for art supplies.  In 1980 three students received $300.00 each; John Fox and Jim Van Oss were attending Kendall College and Peggy Manifold was at Western Michigan University.  In 1981 there were five students in college majoring in art (Fox, Van Oss, Peggy Manifold, Jim Manifold, and Kevin Ball.)  $1500 was given in 1981, $2000 in 1982 and the same in 1983.  SHS recipients in 1984 numbered five: Kevin Ball at the University of Michigan; Jim Manifold, Jim Modrak, and Robin Gannon at Western Michigan University; and Marta Mieras at Hope College.

Each year since 1981 the art club has also donated $400.00 towards extra art supplies at the high school thus assuring, for example, a fully equipped oil painting program and individual sketch books.  It would seem that more students in art would benefit from such a program than
to single out a few individuals for awards. This amount was increased over the years and now in 2005 the high school receives $2000 and the elementary school receives $1000 each year for their art programs.

Many thousands of dollars overall have been given the Saugatuck Public Schools and their students to support the Visual and Performing Arts.  This has not only encouraged interest and motivated the young people, but it has also been a great financial aid to those in college working towards careers in the arts.

Cathie Moore
Art Teacher
Saugatuck Public Schools





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