MAC’s Northern Spirit Shop

From traditional Scandinavian rosemaling designs, to birch bark star ornaments, one will find a unique, handmade piece of art, designed and made by local artists at the Northern Spirit Shop located within the MacRostie Art Center in downtown Grand Rapids. ​

"The Northern Spirit Shop is what we call our annual holiday marketplace. It's a time when our exhibition program and our Art Shop merge into one, big space that showcases the work of local artists and provides a place for our community to get one-of-a-kind holiday gifts," said Katie Marshall, eight-year Executive Director, of the MacRostie Art Center (MAC). ​

"We have some rosemaling which always seems pretty festive to me (traditional Scandinavian designs) plus birch bark star ornaments," Marshall said. ​

This holiday show has been going on at the MAC for decades. ​

"It has taken different forms over the years. In the past it was a members show where any MAC members could display and sell work. Over the years we have evolved it into an expansion of our year-round Art Shop," Marshall said. "Anyone is welcome to submit work, and the MAC staff members install the works and arrange the displays." ​

The Northern Spirit Shop opens the day after Thanksgiving which holds their open house event from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday and Saturday, November 29 and 30. ​

"The Open House is a chance for our members and visitors to get a first look at the new artwork available for the season, plus we have refreshments and offer complimentary gift wrapping. It also overlaps with Small Business Saturday, which we participate in as members of the Downtown Business Association," Marshall said. "We're fortunate to have a beautiful storefront right in downtown Grand Rapids, so we are invested in supporting a thriving retail environment downtown." ​

The MAC, during the holiday season and after the open house, expands its hours to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, with regular hours on Saturday. ​

The Art Shop operates on a consignment basis, and artists are encouraged to apply to the shop throughout the year. A short application can be found on their website and if the Art Shop Coordinator feels like the work is a good fit for the shop, the artist is invited to bring in work and enters into a consignment contract with the MAC.​

"Throughout a year, our Art Shop typically sells work by over 90 different artists. We emphasize local artists, but also represent artists from the broader northern Minnesota region and a few from farther away who have long-standing connections to the community," Marshall explained. ​

Everything in the Northern Spirit Shop is handmade or designed by local artists. ​

"We have a great selection of two-dimensional art in mediums like painting, printmaking and collage. Most of the work for sale is framed, but we also carry a number of unframed originals and giclee prints," Marshall said. "Pottery is always very popular as a gift, and we have many local potters represented in the shop. There are carved wooden lures, wooden bowls and turned vases."​

In addition, Marshall added, "We have wearables like scarves, shawls, mittens and hats and other fiber art like woven table runners and towels. Our jewelry cases have a lot of really unique work in silver and copper, plus some artists who work with sea glass, Lake Superior stones, leather, gemstones and other materials." ​

A collection of books and CDs that feature local authors, photographers, artists and musicians, can also be found. ​

"We also have some sturdy wooden toys that are really popular gifts for kids," Marshall said. ​

Marshall mentioned she felt that shopping local and supporting artists is a good practice year-round.​

"But during the holidays when consumer culture is at its peak, it's especially important to capture that energy and those dollars and put them somewhere that invests back in our community. When people shop at the MAC or their local art center or buy directly from local makers, they can feel good about those dollars going to support a local artist that's adding value to the place where we live, or a nonprofit like the MAC that connects community members with arts experiences," Marshall said. "They also get a really unique, handmade piece of artwork that they're not going to find anywhere else. It's a win-win-win relationship, and we really encourage people to buy local whenever they can."​

Some of the MACs best sellers this time of year are things like hand-carved and painted fishing lures and decoys by Dan Root, jewelry by local metalsmiths M'lou Brubaker and Lily Winter and woven birch bark stars by John Zasada.​

Marshall explained ceramics are also popular because of their beauty and functionality.​

"We have work by local potters Mary Augustyn, Bruce Bartos, Joan Beech, Nathan Bray, Mike Jasper, Roy Kjorlien, Cyrus Swann and several others," said Marshall, adding Michelle Carlson (rosemaling) and Leah Yellowbird (painting and beadwork), are other popular artists. ​

For more information visit the macrostieartcenter.org. The center is open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. ​

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