THOMPSONVILLE — If art is life and life is art, Bob and Jane Holdeman got the picture decades ago.
On Saturday night, the Traverse City arts advocates were scheduled to win public recognition for their long-held belief that art is important to life and communities. They were expected to receive the Michigan Legacy Art Park's fourth annual Legacy Award for the indelible mark they have made on the area arts community — and landscape.
For starters, think Dennos Museum, Milliken Auditorium, Hagerty Insurance River's Edge, downtown Traverse City's streetscape, Artruck and St. Francis Catholic Church's stained glass windows.
Bob Holdeman has designed many of Traverse City's important public and privately funded buildings for more than 40 years. He is co-owner with architect Bob Sommerville of AAI, an architectural firm they formed in 1974.
The award, presented at the Legacy Gala at Crystal Mountain, honors people who have made a positive impact on Michigan arts, culture, environment or history. Last year's winners were former state Gov. William and Helen Milliken.
As Crystal Mountain's architect since 1992, Holdeman was instrumental in the founding of the art park. In 1993 he introduced Novi sculptor David Barr to Crystal Mountain chief executive and operating officers Jim and Chris MacInnes and resort owners George and Althea Petriz, Chris' parents.
Barr founded the Michigan Legacy Art Park two years later on 30 acres of wooded hills at the Thompsonville ski resort and spa. Today, the outdoor park features 45 sculptures that focus on and interpret Michigan's history and heritage. Holdeman designed the park's outdoor amphitheater used for summer concerts and other events.
Jane Holdeman was Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District coordinator of communications and marketing for 20 years, working with schools in 15 local districts and several parochial and private schools. She helped create Artruck, a Michigan bookmobile on loan from the state that a group of Traverse City school teachers converted into an art gallery on wheels.
Each year, for more than a decade, an exhibit of original art from local artists and private collections was scheduled into every school building in the five-county Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District. An art appreciation or art history lesson was included with the exhibit. Adults in the various communities often visited, too.
"Artruck was an eye-opener," she said. "People need to see original art."
Support for the arts has been a central theme in the Holdemans' lives since 1965, when they decided to settle in Traverse City after he finished architectural school at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio.
The pair are founding members of the Traverse Area Arts Council, formed in the 1960s by a group of area artists to encourage and support arts in the five-county Grand Traverse area.
Bob and one of those artists, Northwestern Michigan College art instructor Paul Welch, formed Welch Holdeman Stained Glass in 1968, which for 22 years, created several windows and sculptures in the faceted glass. The St. Francis windows are the most significant example.
The Holdemans met in Traverse City in the early 1960s when Bob, originally from Indiana, was doing an internship with a local architectural firm. They married in 1964. They have two sons and two grandchildren. Both sons — Scott in Seattle and John in Golden, Colo., are professional artists today.
Jane is a 1960 graduate of Traverse City High School, attended Northwestern Michigan College for two years and then earned a degree in English Literature from the University of Michigan. She taught for three years, one in Suttons Bay and two in Traverse City, before her sons were born.
She considers art a lifeblood.
"It's one of those things you need, like air, food and water because there has to be something to speak to the spiritual part of our nature," she said. "Obviously, humans from the cavemen on down have had that need."
For Bob, a water colorist whose painting are in many private collections, the world would be a "void" place without art in its many forms.
"Art and the humanities are a very significant part of one's life," he said. "They put excitement and pleasure into our lives and our heritage. All the fine arts, dance, music and theater, are important to keeping our wonderful society together."