History of the Ludington Area Center for the Arts

The Ludington Area Arts Council was formed as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in February 2004 with the mission to sponsor, promote, and encourage participation in and appreciation of
arts and culture for those who live in the Ludington area. The following year, the Council hosted its
first events: the Artrain USA Native View: Influence of Modern Culture, an Artrain USA exhibition celebrating Native American artists; and the Carrom Festival, a 100-year retrospective of the Ludington wooden game manufacturer.

In 2006 the Ludington Area Arts Council began discussions to consider purchasing the former United Methodist Church in downtown Ludington, a gothic-style structure built in 1894. Following a vote by the church congregation to construct a new facility on the outskirts of the city, and the completion of that construction, the congregation was eager to see their former home preserved and put to good use.

Arnold Burke and Bill Carpenter seal the deal.A generous donation by a church member launched the Ludington Area Arts Council’s capital campaign to raise funds for purchase of the building. The campaign generated two-thirds of the necessary funds from community members, making the purchase of the building possible.

The 25,000-square-foot structure includes performance and gallery space in the former sanctuary and social hall, a commercial kitchen, and 10 Sunday school classrooms, which have been converted to artist studios, craft room, writers studio, offices, meeting rooms, and small rehearsal/performance space.

Programming Begins
In 2008, the first exhibition was held at the Ludington Area Center for the Arts,
 “The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Mental Hospital,” a national traveling
display intended to raise awareness of the recovery possibilities of persons with mental
health and developmental disabilities. Presented in collaboration with local mental health
agencies, the exhibition drew 700 attendees from throughout the state.

The Center's first exhibition in 2008. Photo by Bill Kerans

Since then, the Center has hosted a wide range of programming including exhibitions, film screenings, music and dance performances, theatrical productions, courses, lectures, and online photo contests. The Center is also home to open mic nights, book signings, and writers workshops through our partnership with Ludington Writers, the Center’s in-house literary arts program.

Prior to the purchase of the building, Arts Council members consulted with historic restoration specialists and church representatives to ensure a sensitive and economic renovation procedure. Thanks to many hours of volunteer assistance, individual and in-kind donations, and grant funding,
the structure transformed into a functional art center.

Exterior building renovations. Photo by Bill Kerans

Renovations to date include:

  • Conversion of the former fellowship hall to a multi-purpose gallery/banquet hall
  • Construction of a proscenium stage in the former sanctuary
  • Window-darkening shades in the performance hall
  • Electrical upgrades
  • Heating upgrades
  • Partial roof replacement
  • Masonry reinforcement
  • Installation of a gallery hanging system
  • Construction of administrative offices and gift shop

Future renovations will include improved theater lighting, sound equipment, and seating in the performance hall in the performance hall, installation of an elevator and air conditioning.

History of Arts in the Area
The Ludington area has a long history of art appreciation, from the 19th century when locals filled the opera house on James Street for an evening of Shakespeare or traveling acts such as Nathoo, the Hindu Magician. Countless local theater ensembles have formed over the years, from amateur troupes that performed at the Lyric vaudeville house to the Little Theater group organized in 1956 to the casts of productions of the West Shore Community College Performing Arts Series.

Every Fourth of July the parade down Ludington Avenue features the musicianship of the Scottville Clown Band. Also in July the West Shore Art League sponsored an annual outdoor fine arts and craft fair. They ran the fair from 1967 until the league's disbandment in 2013. At that time, the fair came under the auspices of the Ludington Area Center for the Arts. The West Shore Art Fair has since been named one of the Top 100 fairs in the United States by Sunshine Artist Magazine. In 2000, the first in a series of sculptures was erected at Ludington Waterfront Park, and three years later, the Ludington Mural Society was formed to bring paintings depicting Ludington’s history to its public spaces.

"Follow the Leader" at Waterfront Sculpture Park. Photo by Bill Kerans

Writers from throughout the state find in Ludington an inspiring retreat where they may compose their poems and novels – and join their fellow scribblers at seminars and conferences at the Ludington Area Center for the Arts.

The Center brings together many local artists and arts organizations in a supportive community of courses, advocacy, and the chance to showcase their work. Within this nurturing environment, artists are supported in their efforts to join the ranks of locals who have gone on to successful careers in the arts:

  • Merrie Amsterberg, Ludington, singer/songwriter
  • William M. Anderson, Ludington, founding director, Michigan Department of History, Arts and Libraries; author, Victory Township
  • Manierre Dawson, Riverton, considered to be the first American abstract painter
  • Marty Erickson, Scottville, principal tuba player, United States Navy Band
  • James Earl Jones, Dublin, actor
  • Maynard James Keenan, Scottville, multi-Grammy winner and frontman for rock bands Tool, A Perfect Circle, and Puscifer
  • Kenny Simmons, Ludington, actor
  • Edgar Struble, Scottville, musician, composer, television and music producer


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Visit our gift shop

The gift shop at the Ludington Area Center for the Arts features artworks from artists throughout Michigan. Our collection now includes selected merchandise from the Sable Points Lighthouse Keepers Association.

Contact Us:

Ludington Area Center for the Arts

107 S. Harrison Street

Ludington, MI 49431

Phone: 231-845-2787

Business Hours -

Open - Tuesday thru Friday –11:00 - 4:00pm, Saturdays 12-3

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