New Munising art gallery slated for May opening

The gallery’s logo. (Image courtesy of Munising Bay Arts Association)

The gallery’s logo. (Image courtesy of Munising Bay Arts Association)

by Jim Pennell

A storefront in Munising where years ago people bought paint will once again be offering it for sale, albeit in a slightly different form. The building that stands at 109 W. Superior St. for many years housed a hardware store. Now, through the efforts of the Munising Bay Arts Association and people like Donna Shields, it will soon open as the UP~Scale Art gallery.

“It’s been an idea for several years. We had a small gallery inside of our local chamber of commerce for a few years, but that space didn’t prove to be enough for a print gallery’s sake, so in January we started looking at other properties,” Shields said. “Munising has many empty storefronts, as do a lot of towns up here unfortunately. We were finally able to come up with a solution and now we have

a very nice place. It’s only in the last two or three weeks that this hasa become a reality.  We’re really in the infancy stage.”

In Munising, the building is known as the Kelley Marketing Building, named after a marketing firm previously housed there. In recent years, the space has been home to offices for lawyers and engineers, and an area in the back of the building that had been an exercise space was converted to apartments.

Now, the space will be home to the art gallery and those private residences.

The Munising Bay Arts Association is the owner and operator of the gallery and, according to Shields, will run it as a cooperative. Artists chosen to be on display in the gallery will pay a share of rent and utilities.

“Commissions, based upon whether they work in the gallery or not, will be taken out of anything that is sold,” Shields said. “Individual artists will have the opportunity to work in there, otherwise the MBA Association will provide any extra workers if we don’t have enough working artists. I’m hoping we’ll have plenty.”

The gallery is still in the process of selecting artists, but it already has a variety of media to choose from.

“So far we’ve taken in applications for fiber artists, who do quilt-type wall hangings,  and we have jewelry; we have beaver chew furniture, which is furniture made from wood that beavers have chewed the bark off of. It’s very nice high-scale stuff,” Shields said. “We have glass artists, we have oil and watercolor painters as well as photographers. We’re taking in artists from around the Great Lakes area so it’s kind of a broad spectrum.”

Shields said the logo—a whitefish with the name of the gallery overlaid on top—symbolizes the type of work the association is hoping will be sold in the UP~Scale Art Gallery.

“We’ll have somewhat of a fish theme to it, but not everything in there is going to be nautical, per se,” Shields said. “I think it’ll be a very interesting place and we’ll try to keep it, as the name says, very upscale.”

Along with the gallery and exhibition space there is room in the building for other art related events, too.

“That’s the beauty of the building,” Shields continued. “It actually has two rooms and one can be closed off separately from the other if need be by glass French doors. We plan to display art in there and then perhaps in the evenings after hours we can hold workshops or classes in that room as well. We may be holding business workshops to help artists take their art from a hobby level to a business level, and what it takes to start a new business as well, and maybe have artists hold classes there in whatever medium they work in. There are a lot of possibilities there and we’re really excited about that.”

A rendering shows what the storefront of the new UP~Scale Art Gallery will look like once it’s open. (Image courtesy of Munising Bay Arts Association)

A rendering shows what the storefront of the new UP~Scale Art Gallery will look like once it’s open. (Image courtesy of Munising Bay Arts Association)

The location has been found, the art work is coming in and the name has been chosen.  The only thing that remains up in the air is the opening date for the gallery, but the association is sure it will happen in May.

“Our landlords are in the process of remodeling and tell us it might be the first or second week of May before they can let us in. We’re trying to pull it all together so we’ll be up and running by Memorial Day weekend at the latest and go from there to a busy summer,” Shields said. “The main thing was to get the word out that ‘Hey, this is happening,’ so that artists can think about whether they want to apply or not. We have to have artists before we have doors to open.

“We know it will grow as time goes on because some artists may be a little unsure whether they want to apply or not until they’ve actually seen the gallery and the quality of the work that’s there. That’s understandable so we’re prepared for that.”

Information on the opening date can be found on UP~Scale Art’s website, on social media sites and by calling the gallery at 387-3300.

Artists looking to sell their work at the gallery can request an application by emailing

For those who miss the opening and aren’t in Munising this summer, the gallery has plans to be open past the end of the summer.

“We are very hopeful that this will be a year-round venue. That is our intention,” Shields said. “We do have seasonal contracts with the artists because we realize that not all artists live in the U.P. year-round. Many go south or southwest for winter, and they’ll have the choice if they want to stay in the gallery through the winter.

“They can also change from a working artist in the summer when you’re here to a non-working one in the winter when you’re gone. There’s quite a bit of flexibility in this design we’ve come up with. We think it’s pretty unique to the area and we’re hoping it’s a very workable solution for all the artists.”

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