Michigan Fine Arts Competition enriches community with thought-provoking artwork

By: Mary Genson | Birmingham-Bloomfield Eagle | Published June 29, 2022

  “All I wanted was a Pet Pony,” by Birmingham resident Terry Matlen.

“All I wanted was a Pet Pony,” by Birmingham resident Terry Matlen.

Photo provided by the BBAC

 Matlen’s painting titled  “Sigmund’s Last Painting”  won a $500 MFAC Award.

Matlen’s painting titled “Sigmund’s Last Painting” won a $500 MFAC Award.

Photo provided by the BBAC


BIRMINGHAM — For 41 years, the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center has held the Michigan Fine Arts Competition.

Artists from Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin are invited to submit to the MFAC, and this year, over 450 pieces were submitted and 80 were selected by the juror, Marina Pacini.

In addition to the pieces selected by Pacini, nine MFAC submissions received awards. The winners of MFAC awards include Marcia Guetschow, Robert Beras, Terry Matlen and Anne Furnaris.

Other awards were given to Christina Haylett, Valerie Mann, Jaye Schlesinger, Barbara Baker and Kelly Hansen.

Matlen is a Birmingham resident and was awarded a $500 MFAC for her piece, “Sigmund’s Last Painting.”

“I like submitting to the show because it gives me an audience to share my work and my language,” Matlen said. “I think painting is a language. It’s sharing who you are and what you are trying to understand in your world.”

Matlen has been a resident of Birmingham for 27 years. She said it is meaningful to her to be a part of a show that is in her community.

“I love our neighborhood, and this is another way to connect with my neighborhood and my community,” Matlen said.

In addition to being an artist, Matlen works with women with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder as a psychotherapist.

“As a psychotherapist, I’m really interested in the world of people that I work with and my own inner world, so I have been exploring symbolic things that are of interest to me,” Matlen said. “What I like about it is I inject a little bit of humor, a little bit of curiosity and a little bit of wonderment into these pieces.”

Each artist was able to submit two pieces into the MFAC. Both of the pieces that Matlen submitted were juried into the MFAC, the second one being “All I wanted was a Pet Pony.”

For both of these pieces, Matlen uses symbolism, which she hopes is interpreted by viewers in their own way.

“I just love the way that it brings curiosity into my work that draws you in without any flat-out explanation,” Matlen said.

BBAC President and CEO Annie VanGelderen encourages families to bring children to the exhibit to experience the artwork together.

“Children see art differently than us adults, and it might be revealing what they see versus what you might see,” VanGelderen said.

VanGelderen said the artists in the exhibition are also used as inspiration for the BBAC’s youth campers throughout the summer.

“It’s twofold,” VanGelderen said. “It’s great that it brings art lovers to the Art Center to see what is current and what artists are making now, because the work has been completed in the past year, and it is a learning tool and inspiration for all our campers all summer long.”

This exhibition is free and open to the public through Aug. 18.