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Follow the Artrail Roadmap to Artown in Alcona County

By Kathryn Fritz Kniep
According to its website, Artown, Michigan is "a region, a destination and a state of mind." It's also a succinct statement on the impact of the arts on rural Northeast Michigan. The 2011 Artrail Roadmap spans slightly more than 100 miles and covers seven counties along Michigan's Sunrise Side Heritage Route (US-23). The route includes 44 cultural venues ranging from art to theater to history along the way. Beginning in Standish in Arenac County it makes its way through Oscoda, Alcona, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan and Mackinaw Counties, spotlighting cultural locations and events on or near the shores of beautiful Lake Huron.

Artown is coordinated by Michigan Arts and Culture Northeast (MACNE), a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing the arts, local business and non-profits together to bring the area's arts to a broad audience. Venues along the Arttrail range from the venerable Cheboygan Opera House and Alpena's Jesse Besser Museum and Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary to the Tawas Bay Players theater program and the Standish Historical Depot. Events include art shows, musical events, workshops and classes and food tastings scheduled between Memorial and Labor Day 2011.

Alcona County offers eight venues along the Arttrail, including the Lincoln Railroad Depot, Harrisville's East Shore Artist Guild and Gallery, the Craftmakers' Cabin, Hollyhock Quilt Shop, the Alcona Historical Society's Sturgeon Point Lighthouse and Old Bailey School, the Alcona County Library, and Greenbush's Great Lakes North Gallery and the Kahn Gallery.

Events in Alcona County included on the Artrail include the Labor Day Art Show, held on the courthouse lawn and featuring hundreds of artists and craftspeople from all over the country. Visitors can pick and choose from the venues and types of art on a casual basis, or can participate in "Passport to the Arts," a summer program highlighting the rich array of cultural programs available along the Artrail.

Passports are free and are available through a number of "passport offices" in each community, or can be printed directly from the Artrail website Each venue and event offers its own distinctive stamp for those presenting their passport.

In order to be eligible for prize drawings, visitors must obtain one stamp from each of the host organizations: Art In The Loft, Besser Museum For Northeast Michigan, Thunder Bay Arts Council and Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary as well as six additional stamps from participating organizations or events listed in the events calendar on the website. A special prize is also available for the individual obtaining the largest number of stamps. In Alcona County, passports are available at the Craftmakers' Cabin located near the US-23, M-72 intersection.

Artown Michigan promotes collabor-ation between the organizations and businesses of our region while highlighting and marketing all of the art, culture, history and heritage that is here to be savored and enjoyed," writes MACNE President Mary Ellen Jones on its website. "If you are a visitor, Artown Michigan welcomes you. If you are lucky enough to live here, your town is Artown."

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