Monday, December 14, 2009

Traverse City Record-Eagle 11/13/09

Whither goes Gwen Frostic?

Popular Benzie County studio is closed -- for now


BENZONIA -- A sign taped to the door of Gwen Frostic Prints reads simply "closed."

The Benzonia shop and popular tourist stop showcases the legacy and works of the late artist Gwen Frostic, who died in 2001. The rambling stone and wood building is tucked away in a natural setting off River Road in Benzonia. But late last week, the building was dark and one end of the long driveway roped off.

It is under foreclosure, said Honor State Bank President Michael Worden, who declined to say what happens next or specify a timeline.

"(The) whole process has to work itself out," he said.

Frostic reportedly left her business to Pamela and Kirk Lorenz. Pamela Lorenz, who could not be reached for comment, was listed as president and secretary on a corporation document filed with the state in 2001. Kirk Lorenz, who declined comment, was listed on that document as treasurer and vice president of Presscraft Papers Inc., which, according to state records, does business as Gwen Frostic Wilderness Prints.

Kirk Lorenz told the Record-Eagle in September that a financing agreement tied his Brookside Inn business in nearby Beulah to an unrelated printing business he runs, creating financial problems for both companies.

The acclaimed artist's nephew Bill Frostic, who has worked at the print shop for decades, said the shop was shuttered in late October.

"We are working with the bank, trying to get something going. They don't want to close it down," said Bill Frostic. "Within another one or two weeks we should have some kind of answer, one way or another."

The shop is a cultural destination in the region that attracted more than 1,000 visitors on busy days, Bill Frostic said.

"It was the No. 1 request for information when people would walk into our offices," said Mary Carroll, president of the Benzie County Visitors Bureau and chamber of commerce. "We are confident that things will work out for the best in the long run. And, obviously, it is sort of an institution for us."

The bureau has received calls from people curious about the shop's future. Carroll said because the bureau doesn't "have any answers" it is collecting people's contact information and plans to call them back when it knows more.

Frostic's work evokes northern Michigan. Her soft and sweetly rendered designs of flowers, birds, trees and critters adorn stationery, tote bags, placemats and even mouse pads. She was also a generous benefactor, bequeathing $13 million to her alma mater Western Michigan University.

Her artwork attracted fans from all over. Penelope Olson of Benzonia has been a regular customer for years and always made a point to visit when she traveled to the area before moving here.

"It was always interesting to go to the shop, and (see) the way that the shop just blends in with the whole terrain, and go on the little nature walks and just see the area," Olson said.

She especially liked Frostic's sympathy cards, which "expressed the sentiments better" than other commercial cards. Olson often gave Frostic pieces as gifts. The art is "simple, but beautiful in its simplicity," she said.

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