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Robert Ziebell: Visualizing Keweenaw History


Artists Robert Ziebell (BFA 1979) and Liz Ward are seeking support for Visualizing Keweenaw History in the Eagle Harbor Store, a series of art workshops, exhibitions, and cultural events to be held in Keweenaw County, Michigan.

The Eagle Harbor Social Aid and Pleasure Club, located at the former Eagle Harbor General Store in Keweenaw County, Michigan, will host a selection of innovative cultural events, art workshops and exhibitions in the summer and fall of 2016. Programs will focus on the artifacts, mementos, historical photos and ledgers in the General Store’s collection as inspiration for creative responses in the arts. Keweenaw County history can be told as a story of nature, industrialization, and post-industrialization, as well as the vibrant native and immigrant communities that made this rocky landscape part of the unique heritage of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Visitors to the Eagle Harbor General Store encounter this rich history in an environment shaped by memory and reinterpreted through contemporary cultural activities. 

The Eagle Harbor General Store was founded in 1845 and was an important provider of groceries and dry goods to the Keweenaw area for over 150 years. During these years and though the efforts of various owners, the Store became more than just a general store, but also a repository for artifacts collected by the owners and the local residents. Items such as historic photographs, antique tools and household items, a large oar from a life-saving ship, hand carvings, and vintage toys, were displayed on the shelves above the merchandise, creating an ad hoc museum of the cultural artifacts that have shaped the collective memory of the township.

The store is now called the Eagle Harbor Social Aid and Pleasure Club, in reference to the clubs in New Orleans that sponsor Mardi Gras parades and benefit their communities. (One of the current owners is from New Orleans.) John Foley, an original founder of the Store and an active band member, celebrated his birthday every year in Eagle Harbor with a parade that marched in front of the Store.

Although the Eagle Harbor Social Aid and Pleasure Club is no longer a functioning general store, its collection of artifacts and memorabilia were preserved and are now shown in their original display cases. It is the current owners’ intention to use this eclectic collection to inform the residents and visitors about the Store’s and the community’s history by using visual art as a vehicle for learning and expression. Overall, this will include workshops for children and young adults, discussions and lectures, gallery shows of artifacts and artworks, film screenings, and local musical performances.

Visualizing Keweenaw History in the Eagle Harbor Store | Hatchfund