Art park explores 'the possibility of art'

Special to the Record-Eagle/Michigan Legacy Art ParkJoseph Beyer stands in front of a sculpture at Michigan Legacy Art Park in Thompsonville. Beyer is the park's new executive director.

THOMPSONVILLE — Michigan Legacy Art Park recently announced the hiring of a new executive director — and his name may be familiar.

Joseph Beyer, who resigned in May as executive director of the Traverse City Film Festival after just three weeks on the job, started as the Art Park's new executive director this week.

Beyer said he looks forward to making a positive impact on the art world by facilitating new ideas to new audiences at the park, which sits on 30-acres of land at Crystal Mountain.

“I connected with the board of directors here, and we hit it off very quickly,” he said. “I never thought that all of my experience would lead me to this opportunity.”

Originally from Holland, Michigan, Beyer spent more than 20 years in California and prior to moving to Traverse City last summer worked for Sundance Film Festival.

He joined the Traverse City Film Festival briefly in April before resigning, saying the position wasn't a good fit. Most recently he was director of audience engagement and brand strategy for MyNorthMedia, which produces Traverse Magazine.

Although most of his career has been in the film industry, Beyer said that movies are art in their own form. Two summers ago, he produced a series of pop-up events in California that included four art galleries in the woods.

“He’s coming from a different type of art. He’s coming mostly from movies, and he’s coming from a different part of the country,” said Maree Mulvoy, president of the MLAP board of directors. “I’m excited about his perspective and the experience he will bring to us. I think it’s going to broaden our outlook on things.”

Beyer is inheriting a “well oiled machine,” he said, tipping his hat to his predecessor Renee Hintz, who was the park's executive director for 12 years.

A few of the projects he'll oversee initially include expanding the park’s residency program, which currently brings selected artists to create works of art in the park, and working with the Boardman Lake Trail rotating art program. The first piece of art installed through the latter will be the “Machine Sculpture” by Robert Sestok. MLAP partnered with the Traverse City Arts Commission for the sculpture to be installed along the trail for two years, starting in the spring.

“I think that’s a wonderful idea. I think the more pieces that are along the TART Trail, the better,” said sculptor Dewey Blocksma, whose works are part of the Michigan Legacy Art Park collection.

Each year, MLAP adds two new art works to the landscape. Currently, four rotating pieces and 50 permanent pieces are scattered throughout the wooded park. The park is accepting new art submissions through April 15, 2019.

Works of art include sculptures of various sizes and poetry written on stone. The board is hoping that they can expand the type of art offered in the park, with the help of Beyer.

“We’re looking at finding different artists with maybe a different medium,” Mulvoy said, noting that not all art in the park has to be sculptures. “We certainly can’t have watercolors in the park, they won’t survive.”

Blocksma, who also created the River Guardian sculpture on the Boardman River, especially loves the park's sculptures.

“I think it’s important for people to learn to see sculpture, and the art park provides a variety of ways to see sculpture,” he said. “You have a more realistic piece, which is the frog piece, which is obviously a frog. And then you have more abstract like ‘Five Needles,’” a representation of the white pines of Michigan and the sails of sailboats on a lake.

David Barr launched the park 20 years ago, and Blocksma knew him well.

“David Barr really wanted a place where instead of having literal work here, he wanted to give artists an opportunity to interpret Michigan history in their own way,” he said. “I think that the art park is so necessary, especially to give school children a much broader view of the possibility of art.”

The park hosts bus loads of kids every year, giving them an opportunity to experience art in an outdoor setting.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct a reporter's error. The development of Crystal Mountain Resort was incorrectly attributed. The resort was developed by the Petritz and MacInnes families with early help from a group of Benzie County neighbors. — Nov. 30, 2018