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They say, “It can be lonely at the top,” but Maureen Cassidy Keast, president of the Downriver Arts and Crafts Guild for the past five years, believes it can also be “lonely” when you’re an artist.

“Being an artist can be a very lonely thing if you’re in your studio all the time. It’s important to have someone to talk to who has the creative mindset, and understands how involved you are when you’re creating something.” That’s why she encourages members of the guild, which began more than 60 years ago, to be supportive of one another in their creative endeavors.

Keast, who lives in Wyandotte, said, “It (the guild) began as one thing — to foster and encourage any plan or project that will improve Downriver arts and crafts. It still does that, but I like to include that it’s primarily for artists to get together as friends and talk about the many aspects of being an artist, (and) it’s not really just your painting and sculpting. I like to strive to foster a friendly atmosphere for artists to enjoy each other’s company and to learn from one another the numerous types of creative forms.”

Along with Keast, board members include vice president Nancy Knapp of Woodhaven; treasurer Judy Nelms, Grosse Isle; secretary Jackie Waloch of Huron Township, historian Joan Hoffman, Taylor, membership chair Jenny Vaughn of Trenton, and scholarship chairwoman Colleen Wilson of Riverview.

There are approximately 78 members, and many are painters, sculptors and crafters, while some are people who simply enjoy participating in guild activities, such as gallery crawls and wine and paint events. Members, mostly 60-something or older, meet at the Southgate Veterans Memorial Library (14680 Dix Toledo) from 6-8:30 p.m. every second Tuesday of the month (except January, July and August) for various programs, including art demonstrations, talks and programs led by other professional artists, ranging from courtroom illustrators to jewelry designers/makers.

However, Keast noted there are no qualifications for membership. “I try to make it open to anyone interested in the arts — photographers, sculptors, ceramic artists, painters, fiber artists, precious metal clay artists, wood workers, needle artists (etc.).” Dues are $20 a year, which entitles members to entry fee discounts for art shows, and participation in members only shows.

The guild organizes the Fall Festival of the Arts, sometimes held at the Downriver Council for the Arts in Wyandotte, which, according to Keast, is “the largest juried art show in Downriver,” with over 70 participating artists.

Members also host an annual art show at the downriver campus of Wayne County Community College, called the Downriver Arts and Crafts Holiday Fair. Money raised from the donated table fees is used each year to award scholarships to two (sometimes three) Metro Detroit high school seniors with plans to pursue a degree in the visual arts.

“That scholarship fund, which is run by Colleen, is one of the main differences between the Downriver Arts and Crafts Guild and any other downriver arts groups,” informed Keast. “The two primary groups are the Downriver Arts and Crafts Guild, and Art Ambience. We’re merging together because so many of us belong to both groups, and when we do a function, we do everything basically together.” The merger is expected to be complete sometime this summer.

Although the Downriver Arts and Crafts Guild focuses “primarily” on visual arts, Keast added, “We like to encourage community building and support of other art forms, such as music presentations and plays. We have a lot of theater groups in the Downriver area. Sometimes we get together for music presentations and plays.”

The group’s next meeting is Tuesday, and features a powerpoint presentation by Detroit artist Denzel Parks, “whose work has been on display at many Detroit venues, such as Blossoms in Midtown and Water Street Gallery in Douglas.” The public is welcome. Admission is free.

Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, jbrown@detroitnews.com or facebook.com/Detroit/NewsHandmade.

Contact the Downriver Arts and Crafts Guild at (734) 777-6109 or on Facebook. Email: mkeast1@aol.com.

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