“We are the biggest little community arts center!” – Elizabeth Ahrens, Executive Director
When a meeting was held in the basement of the Petoskey Library one cold winter evening for people “interested in the arts,” attendance was thin. Exactly seven local residents and one member of the Michigan Council for the Arts showed up. But the seeds took root.
More than 40 years later, executive director Liz Ahrens describes the resulting Crooked Tree Arts Center as a true community art center with multilayered financial and volunteer support, more than 2,000 members and twelve full-time staff. The Center’s priority is to be nimble and responsive to the interests of the community. It maintains a rigorous schedule of high-quality educational programs which touch more than 50,000 people each year.
“We surprise everyone with our breadth of programming and our broad base of support,” says Liz, who is especially proud of the pre-professional dance program and its dancers who have been chosen by professional dance companies.
Crooked Tree’s Petoskey home is a distinctive former Methodist church built in 1890. When the historic Carnegie Library adjacent to the church became available to the Center a few years ago, its 7,000 square feet were the perfect answer to accommodate the increasing requests for programs and classes. It also generates income when its rooms and galleries are rented for special events.
From that daunting first meeting to its present annual budget of $2 million, Crooked Tree Arts Center has become a sustainable arts organization that plays a central role in the lives of the people and the Northern Michigan communities it serves.