BEULAH — Artist Janet Krueger was influenced early on by her late father’s passion for protecting Crystal Lake.

“Benzie is such a rich area with the beauty of Crystal Lake, Lake Michigan and the dunes,” said Krueger, a Frankfort native. “I try to put it in my art.”

The clay and watercolor artist donated her “Lakestone,” a trinket dish capped with colorful glazed stone-like shapes to the Benzie County Conservation District for its inaugural Garden Party and Nature Art Auction on July 12.

The nature-themed auction showcases the talent and diversity of area artists and artisans. Works include jewelry, paintings, prints, sculpture and fabric art reflecting the wildlife, waters and woods of Northern Michigan.

The public event supports the district’s three youth nature discovery programs. Twenty-five area artists and several local business sponsors are onboard the effort to pass along the stewardship spirit to local children.

“We all love nature and art,” said district Outreach Coordinator Aime Merizon of the organization’s staff. “The event happened organically.”

Joe Cissell’s Frankfort family roots led him to settle in the community in 2004 to live the creative lifestyle. Cissell’s auction donation is a collage poster print titled “Handmade.” The work inspires protecting Michigan Mitten’s resources — his source of inspiration.

“It’s ever present and a beautiful thing we have here,” he said.

The Garden Party and auction takes place from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Benzie County Conservation District office in Beulah. Admission is $10 for adults 18 and older. The evening mixes art, libations and hors d’oeurves with silent auction bidding continuing throughout the evening.

Art may be viewed prior to the auction online at or during business hours at the office. Buyers do not have to be present to win.

Event proceeds support Benzie Conservation District’s experiential educational programming for Benzie students, including Leave No Trace on the Platte River, Nature Discovery at local elementary schools and Nuts 4 Nature environmental summer day camp. The aim: To teach youth respect and caring for the Earth and about humanity’s connection to the natural world.

Kama Ross, district forester for Benzie, Leelanau and Grand Traverse Counties presented the “Truth About Trees” at the Nuts 4 Nature day camp. Ross involved the children in hands-on experiments centered around chlorophyll production.

“They got it,” she said. “It was clear to them why plants are important in our ecosystem.”

Merizon said funds raised by the Garden Party and auction will help with program needs such as busing students, and other program items not covered by existing funding sources.

“We want to sustain what we have in Benzie County,” Merizon said. “It’s hard to put a price on something like that.”