BBAC fights winter blues with new free exhibits

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published February 8, 2016

 Ceramicist Marie Woo will show a retrospective of her work, dating back to the 1950s, at the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center.

Ceramicist Marie Woo will show a retrospective of her work, dating back to the 1950s, at the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center.

Photo provided by Hope Brown, PublicCity PR


BIRMINGHAM — There’s no time to waste at the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center. As the gallery prepares to close one exhibit, it’s gearing up to open a new, highly anticipated show.

Since Jan. 22, the art center has welcomed visitors to enjoy its annual student works exhibition. The collection, juried by local artist Laurie Tennant, features pieces from about 125 current BBAC students across all of the center’s available mediums.

“It’s an inspiring glimpse of the talent and creativity we have in our own walls here at the BBAC,” said center President and CEO Annie VanGelderen. “I always (write) the word ‘student’ in italics because I don’t think that really represents what you’re seeing on these walls. They’re true artists in their own right, and the exhibit shows what you could possibly learn in our classes.”

VanGelderen beams when she talks about the students enrolled in the center’s variety of art classes, which are for participants of every skill level.

“Many of our artists and students here haven’t taken art classes in school, and this is not their profession. They use their tie at the art center to tap into something else they might not be able to do at home. But with instruction and some guided inspiration, they can take their art to a different level,” she said.

The show is also a great opportunity to purchase pieces of unique artwork from talented creators at more modest prices than professional works. VanGelderen said several pieces have already been swiped up by buyers.

But visitors and collectors should hurry, because the student works exhibition will wrap up Feb. 19 to make way for “Marie Woo, Clay Odyssey: A Retrospective.”

VanGelderen said she’s tried to convince West Bloomfield ceramicist Marie Woo to show her work at the BBAC for several years. Finally, Woo gave in.

“I’ve decided to close my studio soon. I’m not getting any younger, and clay work is very physical,” said Woo, 86. “And I have other projects that take a lot of time.”

Since there’s a good chance this could be Woo’s final showing, the BBAC is making the most of the opportunity by showing a range of her work, which dates back to the 1950s.

“Marie is a true cultural gem. She is a ceramic artist above all, not just a ceramicist,” said VanGelderen. “We are very, very fortunate to be able to showcase her work, which is a retrospective, but includes current work she’s produced in the past year for this exhibit.”

Woo’s ceramic pieces can be seen in museums around the globe, since her other passion of researching and documenting Chinese folk pottery has taken her to galleries and classrooms around the world. It’s that research work that Woo plans to focus on when she retires from her own studio.

“(The research) was a more than 10-year project. It was on exhibition in 2013 at the UMMA, which is the University of Michigan (art) museum. Then it sort of took on a life of its own and has been traveling ever since. It’s booked until 2018,” said Woo.

“We’re hoping that everyone will come out and see this, including children who are working with clay in their grade school classroom and can see what can arrive from a simple form of dirt coming from the ground,” VanGelderen said.

Woo’s retrospective show will be on display through March 25.

Both exhibitions have free admission and are open during the BBAC’s normal hours. For more information, call the BBAC at (248) 644-0866 or visit

The Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center is located at 1516 S. Cranbrook Road in Birmingham.