Updated: Sep 23, 2020

The South Haven Center for the Arts celebrated the art and life of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo during 2020 with events centered around the themes of her work: Mexican Folk Art projects to do at home, window displays of Mexican artifacts, "Beyond, Behind, Beneath: Narrative Self-Portraiture"—an exhibition inspired by Frida's prolific body of portraiture—and the Frida Garden Walk.

An integral part of life for Frida was her garden at Casa Azul, her home in Mexico City. Thanks to a long list of local businesses, non-profits, and private homeowners, gardens full of the flowers Frida loved grew up around town. The gardens were complemented by original artwork created by South Haven artist Jen Sistrunk and a story about Frida's life's work—her gardens and her art.

Click here for the garden tour map.

South Haven Center for the Arts artists and members Joan Bonnette and Carol Niffenegger enjoy the Frida garden at the Scott Club on the corner Phoenix and Pearl streets. From left: Joan, Carol, Ojo de Dios, and a profusion of gorgeous blooms at one of South Haven's oldest buildings (1893).

Marigold (genus Tagetes)—“Orange or yellow marigolds, believed to help guide the spirits of the dead, are used to decorate graves in Mexico on Day of the Dead. In fact, they are known as flores demuerto (flowers of the dead). In folklore, orange and yellow are the only colors that the dead can see.”

Frida garden planted by Michelle Blackmon

Frida garden on Lakeshore Drive planted by Lyn and Barry Winkel

More than twenty downtown businesses participated in the Frida Garden Walk. From left: Decadent Dogs, Clementine's, and Taste South Haven, all on Phoenix St.

Frida garden planted at the Indiana School House

Frida's Garden mural painted by SHCA board member Megan Cannon to complement the blue pots on the art center terrace, donated and planted by board member Ginger Adamson. Frida's garden at Casa Azul contains a pyramid decorated with some of her favorite plants. The pyramid illustrates Frida's high regard for early Mexican culture and the hard work of the indigenous people of her home country.

Calla lilies, sunflowers, zinnias, elephant ears, and succulents are just a few of the flowers native to Mexico that Frida loved.

Frida favored blue pots for her container garden and there were many to be seen in South Haven this summer.

Garden arches, from top left, created by artist member Paola Gracida, South Haven residents Joan and Bob Hiddema, and the South Haven Community Garden arch created by art center board member Michele Blackmon with a little help from her friends.

The community made Ojo de Dios to decorate the gardens and the second floor windows at the art center. Learn about Ojo de Dios and how to make them here to decorate your garden!

Visit the art center's Frida Home Page to learn more about Frida, her gardens, her home, and other fun Mexican Folk Art activities you can do at home.

The South Haven Center for the Arts extends warm thanks to all the businesses, non-profits, and private homeowners who participated in creating these beautiful gardens for all to enjoy!

Rock 'n' Road Cycle

Crescent Moon


Harbor Light Brewing



Taste South Haven

South Haven Community Garden

Shooting Star Uniques

Captain Nemo's

Rambling Rose

The Flying Saucer

Su Casa Restaurante

The Art Box

Historic Hotel Nichols

Decadent Dogs

Renaissance & Papyrus

Phoenix Street Cafe

Wolverine Ace Hardware

South Haven Area Chamber of Commerce

South Haven/Van Buren County Visitors Bureau

South Haven Scott Club

Historical Association of South Haven

Liberty Hyde Bailey Museum

Lincoln Elementary School

Lyn & Barry Winkel

Mary & Daniel Nulty

Rosalie & Paul Plechaty

Joan & Bob Hiddema

Helene & Wesley Dubin

Bev & Larry Brown

Jennifer & Kirk Wiley

Michele Blackmon

Dorothy Sherrod

The Frida Garden Walk was sponsored by The Greater South Haven Area Community Foundation, Michigan Council for Arts & Cultural Affairs, National Endowment for the Arts, Edward Jones Office of Paul Hix, local businesses and non-profits, and private donations.

​Thanks to this generous support, the South Haven Center for the Arts was able to create this outdoor exhibition. Thank you to our funders and sponsors, and to our volunteers who tended the downtown planters throughout a gorgeous summer in South Haven!

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Updated: Feb 26

A few years ago, the South Haven Center for the Arts discovered that the South Haven Carnegie Library, home of the art center, was designed by a renowned American architect named Albert Randolph Ross (1869–1948).

Rendering of the South Haven Carnegie Library illustrated by its architect Albert Randolph Ross, circa 1905. Ross produced many such renderings for the buildings he designed.

Ross was a native of Westfield, Massachusetts. He studied at the Ècole des Beaux Arts in Paris, trained as a draftsman with his father ,John Ross, in Davenport Iowa from 1884 to 1887, and with architect Charles D. Swan in Buffalo, New York from 1889 to 1890. In 1891, Ross joined the prominent New York City architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White as a junior architect, and in 1898 formed the firm of Ackerman & Ross with William Ackerman. After he and Ackerman dissolved their partnership, Ross went on to design Carnegie libraries and many other public buildings throughout the U.S. Learn some interesting facts about the construction of the library.

Albert Randolph Ross, Architect of the South Haven Center for the Arts building, originally the South Haven Carnegie Library

McKim, Mead & White

Stanford White, who designed New York University’s Washington Square Arch in Greenwich Village, founded the firm of McKim, Mead & White in 1879, which became well known for its Beaux Arts masterpieces. He was considered one of the so-called Trinity of Architecture, along with famous American architects Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright, both of Chicago. Ross called White “an aristocrat in the art of architecture.”

Among the firm’s many achievements are the original Pennsylvania Station (demolished in 1963), the Columbia University Library, the Brooklyn Museum, the J. P. Morgan Library, The University Club at the corner of 54th and Fifth Avenue, the Manhattan Metropolitan Club, and the Boston Public Library.

Pennsylvania Station, circa 1910s

The firm of McKim, Mead & White also designed the second iteration of Madison Square Garden (the Garden is currently in its fourth).

Madison Square Garden #2, New York City, 1891. The Garden was the second tallest building in New York City, second only to the World Building (home of the Joseph Pulitzer's New York World newspaper), followed closely by the spire of Trinity Church in downtown Manhattan.

Ironically, White was murdered on June 25,1906 on the garden's rooftop cabaret by the mentally unstable millionaire playboy Henry Thaw.

McKim, Mead & White designed eleven Carnegie libraries in New York City and helped with a renovation of the White House. They were also commissioned by prominent citizens of New York, Newport, Rhode Island, and beyond to design their grand private homes.

Ackerman & Ross

In 1898 Ross formed the architectural firm of Ackerman & Ross with W. S. Ackerman, a mechanical engineer and designer of the Citizens Trust Building in Paterson, New Jersey. Ross was the principal designer during their tenure together. Ackerman & Ross practiced in New York City, and specialized in grand Beaux Arts style public buildings popular after Chicago’s 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. The pair designed libraries in Atlanta, Washington, D.C, and San Diego, as well as the Union County Courthouse in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and the Carnegie Laboratory of Engineering, Stevens Institute, Hoboken, New Jersey. Here are just a few of Ackerman & Ross’s achievements along with some interesting facts.

Carnegie Library of Atlanta, 1900

The structure was one of the few examples of Beaux Arts Classicism in Atlanta at the beginning of the 20th century. It was the first free public library supported by a Georgia city, built at a cost of $145,000, and sat at 126 Carnegie Way in downtown Atlanta. The building incorporated Ionic columns and pilasters and a cornice of dentil design. The entablature read “Erected in the Year of our Lord Nineteen Hundred, Dedicated to the Advancement of Learning.” The arches of Ackerman & Ross’s signature Palladium windows bear the names of the famous writers Aesop, Homer, Virgil, Dante, Milton, and Poe. The main arch bears Carnegie’s name. The windows derive the name from Andrea Palladio (1508–1580), who was influenced by Greek and Roman architecture and originated the arched window design.

Atlanta Carnegie Library circa 1950s

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress

The interior of the library underwent renovations in 1934, 1950, and 1966. The only major original feature that remained was a fireplace and mantle in the East Reading Room that was decorated with tiles depicting scenes from the Uncle Remus stories. The Carnegie Library became the Atlanta Public Library in 1950 and was the Central Branch of the Atlanta Public Library system. In 1952 the library became home to the Georgia State University Library.

Ackerman & Ross architectural design for the Atlanta Public Library, circa 1900

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress

Atlanta Public Library: Left to right: Main arch; Main staircase; Reference room; Ionic columns; Reading room; Palladium window with Dante inscription above

Photos courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress

The building was demolished in 1977 to make way for a new library, and according to an article published in History Atlanta, when the library was destroyed, many of the original building’s stone decorations were thrown into the old dumping grounds of the City of Atlanta. What is now referred to as the Carnegie Trail (not for public use), holds the remains of stone cornices and columns, the pediments dedicated to Virgil and Edgar Allen Poe, and other remnants of the once grand structure. All were deemed “high end trash” by Fulton County. The arched library entrance was saved and now sits at the corner of Baker and Peachtree streets in downtown Atlanta’s Hardy Ivy Park.

Architectural graveyard of the Atlanta Carnegie Library, City of Atlanta dumping grounds, Fulton County, Georgia. The main entrance to the library was saved and now sits at the corner of Baker and Peachtree streets in downtown Atlanta’s Hardy Ivy Park.

Photos courtesy of History Atlanta

San Diego Public Library, 1902

Ackerman & Ross were chosen from a pool of fourteen architectural firms to design the San Diego Public Library, funded by Carnegie in the amount of $60,000. Requirements included a fireproof building constructed of granite or brick, and that each room receive as much daylight as possible based on the building site. Similar to the South Haven Carnegie Library, the stately San Diego Public Library featured Ackerman & Ross’s signature Ionic columns and arched window design. The cornerstone was laid on March 19, 1901, and the building opened on April 23, 1902. It was demolished 1952.

San Diego Public Library, 1902–1952

Central Library of the District of Colombia, 1903

One of Ackerman & Ross's most famous designs is the Central Library of the District of Colombia in Mount Vernon Square, which was later the U.S. Historical Society of Washington D.C. The first racially desegregated building in the capital city, it was called the “University of the People,” as inscribed on the stone benches that once lined the curved wings of the building and guided library patrons of all races toward the main stairs. During the Great Depression, the library was commonly known as The Intellectual Breadline. "No one had money, so people went there to feed their brains.”

The building was created by an act of Congress in 1896 to "furnish books and other printed matter and information services convenient to the homes and offices of all residents of the District.” In 1899, a member of the D.C. Library board encountered Andrew Carnegie at the White House, where Carnegie donated $250,000 on the spot to build the library: the donation was written on the back of an envelope. Theodore Roosevelt attended the dedication of the library in 1903.

Ackerman & Ross's design was chosen from the submissions of twenty-four competing architectural firms. The Classic Revival, Beaux Arts-style building is constructed of Vermont marble affixed to structural steel manufactured by the Carnegie Steel Company. The exterior is decorated with Ionic columns, Palladium windows, and decorative friezes. Ackerman & Ross are credited as the architects on a tablet that hangs over the front door of the building, which is visible from the main interior stairway.

From left: Set of ionic columns, similar to the South Haven Center for the Arts building; Carnegie crest above the main entrance (Carnegie requested that all of the libraries display this feature); Reading Room.

Photos courtesy of the Library of Congress

The foundation is constructed of Milford pink granite and the interior, white marble. The heavily sculptured interior boasts vaulted ceilings of the Guastovino tile arch design, a prominent feature of Beaux Arts architectural vaults, and is filled with natural light from four huge skylights set into the green slate roof. The crown jewel of the building is the twisting grand staircase that connects the main hall with the entryways leading to the ground level, also signature Ross. The library eventually housed more than 500,000 books and was used as a library until 1970.

Central Library of the District of Columbia, Mount Vernon Square, 801 K St. NW, Washington, DC. Left to right: Grand Hall; Ackerman & Ross architectural drawing; One of the first floor stairwells; Reference Room; Circulation Desk; Reading Room

Photos courtesy of the Library of Congress

The building opened in 1972 as the U.S. Historical Society of Washington D.C., and at one time housed the D.C. History Center, and The University of the District of Colombia’s graduate library. It opened in 2019 as an Apple Store (Apple Carnegie Library).

Union County Courthouse, Elizabeth, New Jersey, 1903

The Union County Courthouse, located at 2 Broad Street, was dedicated in 1905. The three-story Classical Revival structure boasts a three-bay principal facade, portico, Corinthian columns, and a three-story rotunda—one its best-known features. The second and third floor hallways are open to the rotunda and still house offices and facilities used by county government. A tablet on the building reads "Union County Courthouse Commenced February 1903, Completed April 1905, Architects Ackerman & Ross." The building is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Union County Courthouse, circa 1905

Ross: On His Own

After dissolving his partnership with William Ackerman, Ross went on to design Carnegie libraries in Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York City, and Michigan. He also designed The Milwaukee County Courthouse, the Union County Courthouse in Elizabeth, New Jersey, the Montclair Art Museum in Montclair, New Jersey, and many other buildings throughout the U.S., many of which are still standing. Ross also designed architectural monuments in many locations on the east coast, including one for President McKinley and another for Union Soldiers and Sailors.

Atlantic City Free Public Library, Atlantic City, New Jersey, 1903

“A place in the city where children and adults of all races, creeds, and cultures could mingle, learn and grow.” When the library opened in 1905, records show that it became the second home for many resort children, and hundreds of local children would spend time there every day after school.

A combination of Classical and Neoclassical design, the 9,000 square-foot, three-story library included an art gallery, museum, and meeting rooms on the third floor, so that the library could "use all avenues of education, not just books.” The granite building encompasses, marble, terra cotta, terrazzo floors, Scagliola-finished columns, marble and iron staircases, and plenty of natural light in the public areas.

Atlantic City Free Public Library, Atlantic City, New Jersey, built 1903. The building is now the Carnegie Center, Richard Stockton College.

The central stacks were open to the public and Ross designed separate public spaces to house specialized materials like newspapers and periodicals, rather then one large reading room. The library collected and shipped books to soldiers serving in World War I, and during the Great Depression patrons searched the newspapers for jobs, sales, and answers to newspaper and radio quizzes. During World War II the library supplied visiting soldiers with paper, pens, and mail service so they could write letters home.

Even though the building has lived through several periods of improvements and minor renovations throughout the last hundred years or so, the exterior has remained virtually intact and the interior has only been altered in small ways. It remained a library until 1985 and is now the Carnegie Library Center of the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.

Columbus Metropolitan Library, Columbus Ohio, 1903

Ross was commissioned to design the Carnegie Building at 96 S. Grant Ave. in downtown Columbus—now called the Columbus Metropolitan Library. The Classic Revival structure was built of Vermont marble and granite at a cost of $200,000. The interior of the building is constructed of marble and the second floor is constructed of Guastovino arches, another of Ross's signature architectural features, that are embellished with stained glass.

Decoration is in the Beaux Arts style, including eight cherubs representing arts and letters—each cut from a solid block of marble—and numerous carvings, including “My Treasures Within,” at Carnegie’s suggestion. The cornerstone was laid in 1904 and the library opened to the public on April 4, 1907. A new library wing was added in 1991 and part of the original building is now used as an exhibition space.

Columbus Metropolitan Library. Left to right: Central foyer; Detail of stained glass and Guastovino arches; One of two marble staircases leading from the foyer to the second floor

Denver Central Library, 1910

Built with $200,000 of Carnegie funds, the opulent Denver Public Library opened on February 15, 1910 and was hailed the “Greek Temple of Literacy.” It was built of Turkey Creek sandstone from quarries near Pueblo, Colorado. Typical of Ross’s Greek Revival style, the library boasts an Ionic colonnade that surrounds the entire building. It has been reported that Ross didn't like the building, which he designed to the city's specifications, because it had "too many columns."

Denver Central Library, 1910–1955. Left to right: Foyer, circa 1910; Exterior of the "Temple of Literacy" circa 1910; Seven stories of glass and metal constructed to hold up to 300,000 books

The building was designed to accommodate 300,000 books that lived on glass and metal stacks measuring 7’ x 7’ and extended seven stories, built as a free-standing structure unconnected to the floor or walls of the building. The third floor housed a spacious hall for art exhibitions, memorials, and other events.

The building was completed in 1909, but the opening was delayed until 1910 because the furniture makers were behind schedule. According to Denver Municipal Facts, the furniture was made of oak "with an exquisite finish that excites the admiration of even the most fastidious." Some of the tables now reside in the Western History Department.

Newspapers from all over the country were kept in the reading room and were "attached to handsome table racks, and he who reads them must stand, as no seats were provided for the peruser of the daily paper,” so that patrons wouldn’t monopolize them. There was space for forty-six people to stand at the newspaper racks.

On February 15, 1910, the Denver Public Library opened its new home, "the first to be truly adequate." The building was home to the central library and still stands at the corner of La Veta Place and Colfax, between Acoma and Bannock. It was renamed The McNichols Civic Center in 1999.

Monclair Art Museum, Montclair, New Jersey, 1914

The Neoclassical building just a few miles west of New York City was the first public museum in New Jersey and the first dedicated solely to art. The museum’s collection was also the first dedicated to collecting the art of Native Americans. According to the New York Times, Montclair was home to “more prominent artists and wealthy art connoisseurs, probably, than any other place in New Jersey.” Well-known artists often commuted to Montclair from the city to work in their studios. A large addition to the southeast side of the museum was built in 1931 and includes a sculpture rotunda. A 2001 renovation doubled the building’s size from 20,000 to 40,000 feet.

Rendering of the Montclair Art Museum, circa 1914

Milwaukee County Courthouse, 1929

The Milwaukee County Courthouse is one of Ross’ most monumental undertakings—the three-story, 300,000 square-foot building occupies an entire downtown block. The Neoclassical structure is composed of 36,000 polished limestone blocks and dominated by a Corinthian colonnade that wraps the building. Carved entablatures, denticulated cornices, and an inscribed frieze embellish the courthouse.

Central pavilions that project outward and rise above the main façade flank the building, breaking up its flat surface and strengthening its imposing character to reinforce its function as a civic structure. An arcade of groined arches trimmed in Travertine and Italian marble form the interior, and is surrounded by two levels of mezzanine windows.

Ross’s design surpassed those of thirty-three architects invited to participate in the competition, including Frank Lloyd Wright, who reportedly “lost with some amusement.” Ross won a $10,000 prize for his design.

In 1927 Ross told the Milwaukee Journal, “When I went into the competition I considered whether to design a building in the modern and experimental trend for a great public courthouse. I made modern sketches, but in my opinion, they fell flat for this purpose. They were not typical and expressive of public work, so I turned to that type established by our forefathers. I have no quarrel with trends in modern architecture. I take a fling at it myself. But it simply won't do for public buildings. It violates the dictates of a definite style built up through one hundred and fifty years of our history. A departure into modernism would not be suitable for a courthouse. We must be trained slowly to things violently new. The public's money cannot rightly be used to force experiments down its throat.”

Milwaukee County Courthouse, circa 1929

More Ross Designs

Many other buildings and structures of Ross’s design are still standing in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, Ohio, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Colorado, Michigan, and many other parts of the U.S. It's fair to say that the South Haven Center for the Arts' building was designed by a prolific, sought-after, and talented architect; a master of architectural design.

Left to right: Taunton Public Library, Taunton, New Jersey, Photo courtesy of Kenneth Zirkel; East Orange Public Library, East Orange, New Jersey, rendering; Nashville Main Library, rendering (looks much like the SHCA)

Pennsylvania State Memorial, Vicksburg, Pennsylvania, 1906

The Pennsylvania State Memorial is located at Grant Circle, Vicksburg, Pennsylvania. Dedicated on March 24, 1906, the memorial was designed by Ross and sculptor Charles Albert Lopez at a cost of $12,500. A granite shaft was placed at the back of the elliptical platform that is approached by a flight of three steps. The five bronze medallions portray commanders of the Pennsylvania unit.

Check back soon to learn more about Ross’s architectural contribution to South Haven.

by Nancy Albright

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Updated: Dec 18, 2020

The last few years has seen the cultivation of a growing collection of downtown public sculpture created by accomplished Michigan artists. Take a walk down Phoenix St. and you will see work near Black River Tavern, Great Lakes Eye Care, Johnny's Lakeside Jewelry, and Taste Restaurant. Each conveys in its own unique way the natural landscape that defines South Haven and the Southwest Michigan coast as envisioned by these artists.

"Summer Breeze" led the way in 2017—a piece fashioned in metal and glass by South Haven sculptor and ArtPrize artist Kathy Kreager that sits in front of Taste Restaurant at the corner of Phoenix and Kalamazoo streets. Mark Toncray, Carolyn Robinson Finks, and John Sauve are the most recent Art On the Town artworks under the auspices of the Grow Your Own Sculpture program.

“Dune Anchor,” by Mark Toncray, was inspired (as are many of his pieces) by "the intersection of our influence upon nature and nature’s influence upon us.” After a thirty-year career as a working artist, Toncray creates spare images that are "stripped of complex techniques" borne of "gesture; almost three-dimensional sketches." Wander down to Black River Tavern, 403 Phoenix St., and you can see what Mark means.

Originally from Chicago, Toncray now lives in Benton Harbor and studied sculpture at Southern Illinois University. He has fabricated pieces for many Chicago-based artists and installed hundreds of sculptures for individual artists and Chicago art expositions. Mark now works as a sculpture conservator and installer with the Harbor Country Public Arts Initiative in New Buffalo, Michigan, and The Krasl Art Center and The Box Factory for the Arts in St. Joseph, Michigan.

“Surround Me with Sun Wind and Water” by Carolyn Robinson Fink of Portage, is in front of Great Lakes Eyecare, 412 Phoenix St. According to Fink, the piece depicts finding purpose and renewal in nature. Fink, a graduate of Kendall College of Art and Design, is a career graphic designer as well as a sculptor of steel. “I hope the person seeing my works might experience a bit of the peace, joy, relief, or hope that I myself feel as I create it.”

Detroit area sculptor John Sauve created “Faust”—named for the mythical German character who sold his soul to the devil in return for “worldly knowledge and pleasure.” The piece is in front of Johnny's Lakeshore Jewelry, 501 Phoenix St. “Faust” is reminiscent of Sauve’s Man in the City sculpture project—forty sculptures installed on rooftops throughout Detroit and Windsor, Canada. Suave has exhibited at the Chicago Sculpture International Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition, the Krasl Biennial Sculpture Exhibition in St Joseph, and created sixteen sculptures for Benton Harbor and St. Joseph in the likeness of Muhammad Ali as part of the I Am the Greatest project, designed to help youth in Southwest Michigan learn about community, art, and creative expression.

Those interested in purchasing one of these pieces for donation to the City of South Haven or for a private collection, please contact info@southhavenarts.org.

Click here if you would like to participate in Art On the Town.

"Sun, Wind, and Water" by Carolyn Robinson Fink was purchased by financial planner Paul Hix of the Edward Jones Office of Paul Hix in South Haven. Carolyn's work can be seen in front of Great Lakes Eyecare, 412 Phoenix St.

"Dune Anchor" by Mark Toncray sits in front of Black River Tavern, 403 Phoenix St. "Dune Anchor" is available for purchase.

"Faust" by John Sauve is located in front of Johnny's Lakeshore Jewelry, 501 Phoenix St., and is still available for purchase.

"Summer Breeze" by Kathy Kreager was purchased by the South Haven Downtown Development Association and is located in front of Taste, 402 Phoenix St.

The Grow Your Own Sculpture program is made possible by the South Haven Downtown Development Association.

Visit the South Haven Center for the Arts' Donations page to help the art center continue this tradition of public sculpture in South Haven.

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