Currently the building includes several studios and a seasonal performance space. Betsy Bowen Studio is located on the ground floor. The church was built in 1903 to house the Norwegian Lutheran congregation, holding services in Norwegian until 1929 when they shared an English-speaking pastor with the Swedes. In 1960 the growing Bethlehem Lutheran congregation moved further uphill to a new building, selling to the also growing Cook County Schools for classroom space. Some of our customers still remember being reprimanded and sent to stand in the cloakroom in the basement.
In 1972 the building changed hands again, purchased by Grand Marais Playhouse, a community theatre group. Many dramatic and magical moments occurred every summer until 1998 when a year-round performance space in the Arrowhead Center for the Arts became the new home of GMP. Costumes and props were stored in the old church until spring of 2002 when the building was purchased and renovated by Betsy Bowen. Apparently the Ghost is still here, keeping watch.
Betsy Bowen learned to make a woodcut in the back-alley garage workshop of her painting teacher, Herb Stoddard, in 1970, in Sarasota, Florida. In the mid 1980’s, after some time as a back-to-the-lander near Grand Marais, she got back to woodcuts, inspired by working as a clerk and picture-framer in Sivertson Gallery. A fortunate meeting there with children’s book editor Ann Rider led to the first woodcut book project Antler, Bear, Canoe: A Northwoods Alphabet Year first published in 1991. At that time, Betsy’s small studio was in her home out at the old homestead bought by her parents in 1963. To produce the art for the book, she arranged to work on a press housed at Grand Marais Art Colony. Middle son Jeremy Bowen signed on as the printer. This arrangement lasted for ten years, at which point Betsy bought her own press and moved the whole operation to a small cabin in town. Now for the first time everything was all in one place, and out of the house.
Well then, in a couple of years, she outgrew it, with Betsy, Jeremy, and assistant Staci Drouillard bumping elbows, and just then the aging Old Playhouse building went up for sale. So in 2002, Betsy dove into the big project of making the old church/theatre lovely again. Lots of heroes helped out. She decided since she didn’t have a million bucks, that she would try to make it look like a million bucks anyway. And so today it’s pretty darn nice! Room for two presses and lots of art and visitors.
Website © 2010 Betsy Bowen Studio