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Gwen Frostic Prints owners Greg and Kim Forshee are shown outside the studio. (Photo courtesy of Michigan Economic Development Corporation)

“Despite being an artist and a physically disabled businesswoman functioning in a man’s world, Gwen Frostic defied the odds and became a much honored and beloved Michigander. She was an inspiration both for people with disabilities and women in Michigan and beyond, as a renowned artist, writer, nature lover and entrepreneur ”, said Debra Ball Johnson, AIA, architect, historic architect and architectural historian at SHPO. “Designed by her and reflecting her love of nature, the studio represents Gwen Frostic during her productive life and more directly reflects her importance and contributions to art in Michigan. With the help of this designation, the Gwen Frostic Studio will continue to be a destination – and a source of inspiration – for art lovers, history buffs and tourists for years to come.

Located in the rural county of Benzie, south-east of Frankfort in the township of Benzonia, Frostic’s studio is multifunctional and contains all aspects of his professional and personal life. It opened in 1964 and housed his Presscraft Papers business, including the printing house and retail store, as well as his personal office and residence.

Expressing love for nature, it is built in an organic architectural style, wedged into the hillside and using natural materials from the site with long, low-pitched roofs to blend in with the natural surroundings.

With floor-to-ceiling windows letting in natural light to allow views of the bucolic landscape around the building, it features local rock walls and buttresses, thatched roofs, a “round house” addition to accommodate increased visitors and summer sales, and natural materials used inside and out. The original 40-acre site, which included his beloved Frog Pond, grew to over 200 acres as Frostic acquired and preserved the adjacent fields and wetlands.

Gwen Frostic, circa 1976, is shown. (Photo courtesy of Kim and Greg Forshee)

The studio building is important for the art she created while living there with nature; the books she wrote, illustrated and printed based on her love of Michigan’s natural environment; its unique boutique which has welcomed millions of visitors; the printing operation over which it had full control; and its actions to conserve and promote Michigan’s natural environment.

When she died in 2001, she donated $ 13 million to Western Michigan University – the largest donation in school history at the time. The university has used the funds to support art installations and a wide range of funds and scholarships, including the establishment of the Gwen Frostic School of Art.

After his death, the property was divided into three plots, and in 2010 local residents and husband-and-wife team Greg and Kim Forshee purchased the printing house and 10 acres of the property. Gwen Frostic’s printing operation and legacy have flourished to this day.

“We are delighted that Gwen Frostic Studio has been named to the National Register of Historic Places. We see ourselves as the stewards of the property and our mission is to continue to raise awareness of Gwen Frostic and share what she accomplished during her time in northern Michigan. This opportunity is a step in the right direction to teach current and future generations to stay true to their passions, whatever the obstacles ”, said Kim Forshee, co-owner of Gwen Frostic Prints. “Thank you to the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office for not only submitting nominations, but also working diligently in this effort to ensure that Gwen Frostic’s legacy lives on nationally.”

More than 95,000 properties across the country, including nearly 2,000 in Michigan, have been listed on the National Registry since the program began in the 1960s. The National Registry is a program of the National Park Service and administered by the States .

The interior of Gwen Frostic Studio in Benzonia Township is shown. (Photo courtesy of Michigan State Historic Preservation Office)

To be considered for inclusion in the National Register, a property must generally be at least 50 years old and must also be significant when assessed in relation to major historical events or trends in the history of their community, state or nation.

A property must also have historical integrity – the ability to convey its significance. Listing a property in the National Register is honorary and does not impose any restrictions on what an owner can do.

They are not required to open the site to the public or display a plaque acknowledging the listing, although many companies do offer plaques to recognize the hard work and effort put into getting a property officially listed. In addition, registration in the National Register offers opportunities for promotion, provides certain incentives such as subsidies and tax credits that promote investment in our towns, cities and villages, and allows for the consideration of historical resources where federal funding or permits are involved.

For more information on the Michigan National Register of Historic Places program and how to nominate a property, visit https://www.miplace.org/historic-preservation/programs-and-services/national-register- of-historic- places /.

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About Douglas Mackenzie

Douglas Mackenzie

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