Art Beat: The Art Barn | WMUK

Art Beat: The Art Barn

Aug 19, 2021

Carole Selner
Credit The Art Barn

Between the town of Fennville and the art community of Saugatuck, Michigan, is a barn that dates back to the 1880’s. You won’t find livestock there. You will find a world of color as you pull up.

Inside and out, the old barn is filled with art projects in the making. No experience is necessary. Anyone can walk in and discover their creative side: painting ceramics, fusing glass, stringing beads, creating mosaics, and a number of other projects waiting to take shape under your hands.

Owner Carole Selner calls it The Art Barn.

“I’m from Kalamazoo originally,” Selner says. “And at 17, my husband and I were in Saugatuck, and I said, 'Someday I want to have a business here in Saugatuck.' So then life gets in the way. We go to college; we raise a family in the Chicago suburbs; and once those children started leaving the nest, I thought, 'Okay, what’s the next chapter?'”

A young customer tackles a project at The Art Barn
Credit Zinta Aistars / WMUK

The next chapter was a return to Selner’s youthful dream. She brought together her love of art, her love of the Saugatuck community, and her idea began to take the shape of a barn. The pair found an old barn,in what was once a peach orchard on 130th Avenue between Fennville and Saugatuck. After it was restored, they filled it with the materials for art projects-to-be.

“It’s kind of our soft retirement,” Selner says. “The Art Barn is in its 19th season. I had the idea when I was 45 and it’s been an amazing 18 years.”

The Art Barn opens every spring and will remain open in 2021 through October 6, seven days a week, including holidays. Beginning October 10, the Art Barn will be open Friday through Sunday, then close for the winter season.

“Our most popular program is painting ceramics because literally everyone, from a toddler to a 99-year-old can paint ceramics,” Selner says. “People are no longer interested in things they have to dust. They're more interested in functional pieces. We’ve got cups and bowls and platters, and a good share of banks and figurines and Christmas trees just like Grandma used to have.”

Selner offers reservations for workshops in the mornings to guide people through more complex projects like fusing glass. Other projects are open as people come in, no reservations required.

“There’s an $8 fee to spend a day creating and most projects begin at $2 each,” Selner says. “Most spend $20 to $30 on average.”

Selner believes her dream of an artistic business in this particular barn was meant to be.

“A few years ago, I looked down and saw etched in the cement threshold of the barn the letters of the man who poured that concrete in 1914. And all that you could distinguish from it were the letters A-R-T, and two letters of his last name, which were B and N. I think this barn was waiting for a new life.”

Listen to WMUK's Art Beat every Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.