Leelanau wineries focus of yearlong art project

Artist plans to produce a painting for each of area’s 24 wineries

By Marta Hepler Drahos
Traverse City Record-Eagle

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Stephanie Schlatter first came to northern Michigan on her honeymoon 20 years ago. Now the region and its wine country is like her second home.

“It’s been a growing passion,” said the landscape artist from Grand Rapids, whose work has been featured locally on everything from wine labels to Traverse City Wine & Art Festival canvases. “I’m a world traveler and I rate this up there with anyplace I’ve traveled. It’s in my top-five favorite places to visit.”

Schlatter told the Traverse City Record-Eagle that she’s drawn to the beautiful landscapes of wine country wherever she goes, including Italy, where she spent a month studying in Florence, last September, and Ethiopia, where she regularly leads art exploration projects for children. But she’s particularly enamored with vineyards on the Old Mission and Leelanau peninsulas. They helped inspire “On the Michigan Wine Trail,” a series of paintings she launched four years ago to explore the link between art and wine and the relationships between the land and its people.

“The reason I love wine is that it’s a story in a bottle,” she said. “I want to know who owns the winery and vineyard, what their passion is, what’s in their wine.”
Now Schlatter is launching “Project 24,” a yearlong undertaking in partnership with the Leelanau Peninsula Vintners Association. It involves visiting all 24 wineries on the Leelanau Peninsula, soaking up their surroundings and getting to know the people behind their wine. She’ll produce at least one painting from each.

“I want to honor what’s unique about each place,” she said, adding that pieces could include everything from landscape paintings and portraits of the area’s early wine makers to framed sketches. She’ll blog about the process throughout the year at stephanieschlatterartblog.com.

Schlatter started the project May 26 during a two-week visit. L. Mawby and Vineyards in Suttons Bay, an early supporter of the wine trail series, was her first stop.

“A few years ago when Stephanie came . I thought, ‘This is great. It’s two different modes of artistic expression: winemaking and painting,’” said owner Larry Mawby. “She represents an idea that is really nice and that is what we’re doing as winemakers. We’re trying, through our medium of growing grapes and making wine, to help this place represent ourselves.”

Mawby is taken with both Schlatter’s style, a blend of realism and abstraction, and her palette — mostly acrylics and oils.

“I think her color sense is really cool,” he said. “She uses vibrant colors that are alive.”

Schlatter said she and the LPVA plan to debut the Project 24 series at the 2016 Traverse City Wine & Art Festival, where the artworks will be paired with representative wines. Eventually they’ll be available for sale, with 10 percent of the proceeds going to the Leelanau Conservancy.