Blog > The First Traditional Arts Gathering on the Yellow Dog River

The First Traditional Arts Gathering on the Yellow Dog River

anvil photo art shot
Florence Zender and Tenzin Hurtado working with clay. photo: Alexandra Kralova

Through a grant from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve’s Nature School hosted its first Traditional Arts Gathering on May 23-25 at the Yellow Dog’s Wilderness camp along Deer Creek and the Yellow Dog River. Eight Upper Peninsula artists demonstrated and explained the process of their art to eighty high school students from the Marquette Alternative High school on Thursday, and 35 students grades 1-8 from Powell Township School and a small home school group on Friday. On both days, students rotated throughout the camp, visiting each artist and gaining hands on experience in traditional drumming with John Jungwirth, split ash basketry with Dan Nye, birth bark canoe building with Jan Zender, Wild Ricing Techniques with Roger LaBine, traditional hide tanning with Sarah Heuer, Blacksmithing with Gordon Gearhart, pottery with Sarah Goodman, and Primitive fire making with Adam Jones. In addition to the artists’ demonstrations and chats, visitors on Saturday, the day for the general public, were treated to a variety of foods cooked over the fire or in the clay earth oven. Master bread baker, Jim Argeropoulos, graciously supplied a dozen loaves of artisan bread baked in the earth oven that he and his daughter helped build back in 2016. Also on the menu were venison, morel, wild leek soup, and a hunter’s stew made with at least three types of wild meats home cooked by Roy Sarosik.

Fresh bread from the clay oven. Photo: Alexandra Kralova

The Arts Gathering generated enthusiastic responses from all attendees including the artists themselves. Some artists were already planning their revised approaches for next year, and non- participating artists who attended on Saturday offered ideas and their services for next year. Definitely, there is a need and desire for these kinds of events. One high school student wrote that “In going there, I felt I had stepped back in time. It was amazing to take a breather from life’s rush. Instead of focusing on the future, I was finally in the present. “ All students agreed on one thing: there was not enough time. Students from Powell Township 5th and 6th grade classes and their teacher wrote poetry inspired by their day at the camp.


Powell Township School, volunteers, and TAG artists. Photo: Ted Carland

Yellowdog , Yellowdog

By Johnathan W. Chapman

 Yellowdog, Yellowdog with yellowfog

Dancing with a prancing log

Shingle shangle times dangle

And don’t make us learn right angles

Yellowdog, Yellowdog learning with logs

Air holes clog inside the fog

Now you’re laying on a rock

Waiting to catch the flock,

And now I’m sleeping on a lock!

(this is a fast line) TICK, TOCK!


Hosting a three day event is no easy task, and this one would not have been possible without the support of the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the local re-granting agency CUPPAD. In addition, it could not have been a success without all of our hard working and steadfast volunteers who persevered through  rain and discomfort,  our board and staff, and local businesses and community members who donated food and supplies: Dead River Coffee, Marquette Baking Company, Cram’s General Store, Rock River Farms, Winter Sky Farms, Moon Rae Cakes, Jim Murphy, Jim Argeropoulos, and Adam Jones.  Thank you!