Salt Valley Arts: Keeping Art Alive in Saline

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 02/11/2017 - 03:33
The Cake Eaters, who once met at Two Twelve Arts Center, meet each Friday morning at Evangelical Homes of Michigan. They are the force behind Salt Valley Arts.

For ten years, Two Twelve Arts Center served Saline as the center of all things artistic. Sadly, they had to close last September because the Cowan Slavin Foundation

could not continue to support the center.

Nevertheless, art has not left the city. Many organizations spawned by Two Twelve continue to meet and various businesses have become venues for displaying the works of local artists. Many of the former Two Twelve staff remain active in the area.

For example, Cindy Barnett who served as the program coordinator for Two Twelve now has a similar job at Eric Rentschler’s Eluminous Studios on Industrial Drive. Art instructor Keith McGuire also helps out at Eluminous.

Various groups that had their start at Two Twelve also continue to meet, perhaps most importantly, the Cake Eaters. The Cake Eaters was and is an informal gathering of local artists who get together weekly to talk about their art and potential group projects.

Cindy Baxter, a former photography and art instructor at Two Twelve, said that Cake Eaters was the social center of the organization. Now she said, it is the “bedrock social activity” of an incipient organization called Salt Valley Arts (SVA).

The founders of SVA began meeting soon after the closing of Two Twelve in what used to be the emergency room unit of Saline Community Hospital. Now, of course, the building is owned by Evangelical Homes of Michigan.

“They’ve been really wonderful landlords,” said Susan McDowell, Executive Director of SVA. Evangelical Homes offered free space to the artists group starting last summer. They maintain the area and have built in some much-appreciated enhancements such as track lighting.

The Steering Committee of SVA consists of eight members: Cindy Baxter, Katherine Daugaard, Lynne Friman, Karen Losee, Val Mann, Sue McDowell, Eileen Shivak and Ann Stofflet. They have filed Articles of Incorporation with the state of Michigan to become an officially recognized organization.

Once recognized, they will apply for 501c3 nonprofit status. This designation will make them eligible to apply for various public grants. They are continuing to elaborate their business plan.

“We have a business plan in place in terms of what we want to do, but you’re constantly working on that because that’s one of the things you present for funding opportunities,” McDowell said. “Who are you and what are you doing and why would our organization give you this grant.”

They are already doing quite a lot. They list twenty-five different art classes offered through Saline Community Ed. These may be accessed by visiting the Community Ed website,, clicking on “Adult Programs,” then “Saline Valley Arts.”

Classes offered include acrylic painting, water color painting, drawing, basket making, fairy doors, felt creations, glass fusing, indigo dyeing tea towels, Zentangle and Pysanky eggs. The website provides details, including the times and fees.

Of the money received in fees, 65 percent goes to the art instructor for time, talent and supplies, while the remainder goes to Saline Community Ed for their administrative services.

SVA is entirely a volunteer organization now. They have been receiving help starting and operating their group from Nonprofit Enterprises at Work (NEW) in Ann Arbor. They have also received help and encouragement from former City Council member David Rhoads.

In addition to classes, various specialized art groups meet at the Evangelical Home location. These include the Saline Painters Guild, the Beading Guild and the Fiber Arts Group. Their meetings may be for business or to work together on art projects.

The arts group continues to make plans for future classes, projects, events and exhibits. Exhibits will be in various public places like Saline District Library, Carrigan Café and Brewed Awakenings. Some of the artists’ work will be for sale at the NEWS.

Collaborative projects with Saline Main Street are in the works. These will include a soon-to-be-announced public art project and participation in events like Ladies Night Out and Taste of Saline.

 The group has members active in the Saline Arts and Culture Commission and the Arts and Culture Excellence In Pittsfield (ACEIP) Committee. This may lead to more collaborations.

Salt Valley Arts is still getting started, but clearly, the arts are alive and well in Saline.

Bob Conradi's picture
Bob Conradi Is a retired pharmaceutical scientist who has redefined himself as a photographer and journalist. He has lived in Michigan for 36 years and in the Saline area for 10. He enjoys researching and learning about new ideas. Reach him at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @RobertConradi.