The Huron River Art Collective, or the Collective as it is informally known, has been a part of the local art community since 1951 when it was founded by a group of women painters.
In 2002 it changed its name to become the Ann Arbor Women Artists (AAWA). In 2008 it began to accept members other than women and in 2020 it changed its name to become what it is today, the Huron River Art Collective.This recent name change helps “demonstrate its growth into a more diverse and inclusive organization, and to better represent the area it serves.”
With approximately 300 members from more than six counties, it is a welcoming organization with artists working in a wide range of mediums. It has, for a long time, held events such as monthly presentations, exhibitions, and class offerings. However one of the main reasons to join the Collective is the community aspect it provides.
Within the organization, which is completely artist led, there are opportunities to teach, learn, become active through volunteering, and forge new relationships with other artists.
President Lizzy Wilson, along with other active board members, has been a key part in implementing many new developments, over the last couple of years, such as the organization’s current name.
In addition, the Collective received funding to revamp its website plus funding for interested members to attend leadership training that included DEI (Diversity, Inclusion and Equality) coaching, together with a cohort of Leaders of Color.
Ms. Wilson states, “this informed much of our thinking in the process of changing our name and in redefining our committee work with DEI. Before this our membership had been asking for a new name and overwhelmingly backed this change to expand the membership to include all genders as well as increase racial and socioeconomic inclusivity.”
Fueled by the urge to support their DEI mission, the organization formed a new program, titled Empowering Women Artists program which is a collaboration between it and other arts nonprofits: the Women’s Caucus for Art Michigan Chapter, and the Detroit Society of Women Painters and Sculptors.
Since the pandemic the program offers monthly online gatherings where relevant art topics are discussed among the participants. In addition, Ms. Wilson explains that, “for our members, supporting women artists, in particular, was crucial. I led the development of the Empowering Women Artists program and brought in the collaborating organizations to enhance the potential and reach of the program.”
This program, along with others, such as Artshare (a members’ networking program) have continued to foster community during a time when many artists turned to virtual gatherings.
Another exciting change is currently happening. In early February, the Huron River Art Collective moved to a new location at trustArt studios on Jackson road. In partnership with artist and gallery owner, Liz Barick Fall, who runs trustArt studios, the Collective will have a designated exhibit space and a venue to hold gatherings and presentations, all in a locale which already hosts several artist studios.
When asked about her hopes for the organization for the next few years president Wilson says, “We are rebuilding our educational offerings and will be improving our sustainability (financially and organizationally). As a member run organization we will continue to take our cues from the artists in the organization and reach out to them to engage them in upcoming strategic planning.”
Applications are also open for artists to speak in their speaker series or to teach classes and workshops. To apply for either of these, you can fill out the online form HERE or email Anne Rogers, Education Chair, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Huron River Art Collective trustArt studios at 7885 Jackson Road, Suite 1, Ann Arbor, MI 48103