Legacy of WMU Alumni Gwen Frostic Transcends Art, Culture
Artist and entrepreneur Gwen Frostic was born April 26th in 1906 and died one day before her 95th birthday in 2001. She was a Western Michigan University (WMU) alumnus who gifted the university thirteen million dollars.
Director of the Gwen Frostic School of Art in the at WMU, Tricia Hennessy says that while there have been many donors, without the Frostic gift the school probably would probably not have some of the facilities they have today.
Student Nick Erard was screen printing when he explained that Gwen Frostic was a famous Michigan printmaker artist who is well-known for her images of nature. The school has a permanent exhibit of her work in a hallway.
“Gwen Frostic built a little, it looks like a hobbit house up in Benzonia, Michigan,” says photography teacher, Ginger Owen. “A really interesting place that many tourists would go to. At her greeting card company they are still pulling her original block plates and still making greeting cards.”
“She was an entrepreneur,” says Associate Professor of Art, Nichole Maury. “She had the skill, which was printmaking and she used that to support herself, to make a living. She made a variety of prints and books and commercially accessible objects like cards and bookmarks and things of that nature so that she could work in the medium that she loved and make a living at it.”
Printmaking involves images made on a surface and then through a process are transferred on to paper, fabric, wood, a variety of materials.
Lithography is made by drawing with a greasy material on a three-or-four-inch thick flat stone and then, transferring the image. When the printing is finished, the surface of the stone is sanded down removing the image so that another can be made.
In 2007, WMU honored her by naming the art school the Gwen Frostic School of Art. “A great thanks to Gwen Frostic. We hope we can carry on her legacy through our own future,” says Hennessy.
Under new ownership, Frostic’s shop in northern Michigan is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this year, having been opened by Frostic on April 26, 1964. It opens May 9th for the season.