Making a mark on Traverse City’s art scene

Mar 9, 2017

Shanny Brooke moved from Florida to Traverse City about nine years ago. Soon, she noticed that her type of art, was missing. She sees a lot of what she calls “loons and dunes,” but little modern or contemporary art. 

Shanny says that’s because businesses cater to tourists and visitors.


"I think they fall into this trap where they only carry things or show things that they feel that tourists will buy and want," she explains. "Which they seem to think is only cherry trees and little tokens of up north that they can take back to Detroit, or wherever they’re from.”

Last November, she opened Higher Art Gallery in Traverse City with an intent to reach a broader audience. She hopes to build a contemporary art scene in northern Michigan, by getting more young artists involved.


“I’ve been speaking to a lot of young people in the community and they do feel shut out," says Shanny.

And she's reaching out to them with some unique ideas. One of the ways is incorporating a bit of competition into some of the events she hosts. 

Higher Art Gallery hosted a Mark Makers Competition between six painters in January. Shanny Brooke, the gallery owner, hopes unique events like these reaches a younger audience.
Credit Dan Wanschura

The Mark Makers Challenge was a painting competition between six artists. Over the course of three rounds, the artists were given a new theme to paint from. Audience members then voted for their favorite painting. Two painters were eliminated each round, until only one was left standing.

Courtney Klatt came in with a friend to check out the event and she was impressed.


“I think that brings something exciting and new to the art world," she says. "It just kind of gets the juices flowing - not just the creative juices but, you know, that competitive spirit.”

Another Mark Makers Competition is happening Monday, March 13 at the Cambria Hotel and Suites in Traverse City. For more details, click here.