Visiting artist impressed with what Alpena has to offer

News Photo by Darby Hinkley Water photographer Marc Hoeksema visited Alpena for the first time recently. He was one of 13 artists in the Surf’s Up in the Sanctuary exhibit held June 15 at Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center. He is pictured here with one of his large pieces of artwork at the show.

ALPENA — When Alpena brings in artists from outside the area, residents here benefit from meeting them and viewing their work, the artists benefit from the exposure, and the community benefits from the commerce. And many of these artists are so impressed with this town and all it has to offer, that they start planning their next visit right away.

“The more exposure that a community has to different forms and types of art, it generates even more creativity,” said Katie Wolf, NOAA liaison to the Friends of Thunder Bay Marine Sanctuary. “I think we learn and get inspired from each other, so I think that exposure is wonderful.”

Take the recent exhibit, Surf’s Up in the Sanctuary, held on Saturday, June 15, at NOAA’s Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center. The surfing and paddling art exhibit featured 13 artists hailing from all over the Great Lakes area. Many were from Michigan, but none were from Alpena.

Artist Marc Hoeksema had never been to Alpena before, but he will definitely be back.

“This is my first time in Alpena, and I like it a lot,” said Hoeksema, from Muskegon. “I’m coming back for various reasons.”

The water photographer wants to try diving to view the shipwrecks in Thunder Bay.

“I’m not a scuba diver, but I’ve always snorkeled and stuff like that,” he said on June 15. “In fact, tomorrow we’re going to try to snorkel a wreck or two, and I’m going to try to get some shots. We’ll see what the day’s like. I’m pretty excited.”

Hoeksema said he and the other visiting artists enjoyed the art and entertainment options available here.

“We had a blast last night,” he said. “We went to the talk here in the theater, about women around 1800 going to war dressed up like men, then we went to the cabaret show (at Thunder Bay Theatre), then we went to Mango’s for dinner and some tequila, and then we went to Latitudes. We maxed it out pretty well,” he said with a laugh.

Then on Saturday they visited Art in the Loft and Thunder Bay Arts Council Gallery downtown.

To sum up his impression of Alpena, Hoeksema said, “It’s awesome.”

Born and raised in Muskegon, Hoeksema currently lives on Lake Mona. He was among the first to surf in the wintertime on the Great Lakes. He will often jump in the water with his camera and take pictures of breaking waves and floating icebergs. His work has been featured for several years in the prestigious Art Prize festival in Grand Rapids.

Hoeksema’s art is big, with three four-by-eight-foot photos of majestic waves on Lake Michigan in the show. It’s hard to imagine how he was able to capture the shots, but he doesn’t just stand on the shore. He gets more than just his feet wet.

“They are all water photography, all shot with a camera with a water housing,” Hoeksema explained. “In these, I’m swimming. Usually with my wetsuit, if it’s cold. If it’s a big day, I’ve got my flippers out. If it’s a small day, I’m just out there wading around or swimming around.”

The 49-year-old has been doing photography for more than 27 years, and he started wind surfing when he was 14. He tried kite surfing in 2001, and he’s been doing it ever since then.

“Kite surfing really takes up a lot of my life,” he said about surfing on Lake Michigan.

He and exhibit coordinator and fellow artist Pat Noyes were planning on taking this Surf’s Up show on the road to Hoeksema’s studio in Grand Haven.

To view more of the artist’s work, go to his website at hoeksemaphoto.com. To contact Hoeksema, call 616-842-1840 or email hoeksemaphoto@yahoo.com.

Community partners that collaborated to present the Surf’s Up in the Sanctuary event in Alpena include the Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan, Thunder Bay Arts Council, Art in the Loft, Alpena County George N. Fletcher Public Library, the 2019 World Tour Paddling Film Festival, and Friends of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

An after party was held at Nucleus Lounge and Thunder Bay Winery inside the Center Building in downtown Alpena.

When Wolf moved up here from Lansing about four-and-a-half years ago, her friends asked her what she was thinking, moving so far away.

She told them, “You need to come experience this area. It’s spectacularly beautiful, the people are awesome.”

She said there is never a shortage of things to do.

“Every night you have to make tough decisions of what you do and don’t do, because there’s so many things going on here that I absolutely love it.”