I have always envisioned starting an artist residency and participating in the development of an intentional community. When this property was given to me, it wasn’t clear how those lifelong ideas would unfold until I was invited to join the board of Inspiration Alcona — a local 501c3 arts organization dedicated to making our northeastern area of Michigan an arts destination.
My first role was helping to launch the Farm to Fork initiative in Alcona County, in 2017. That was so much fun! It fit seamlessly with my lifetime dedication to healthy, local food choices. It also fit with my experience as a private chef in Los Angeles, known for my awareness of quality ingredients, farm-to-table eating, and the imperative to support local farmers.
Around then, my part-time hobby with clay blossomed into a passion. I expanded the existing art studio to include a kiln room and began my relationship with ceramic art from a non-traditional perspective. Solitude is important for me; contemplating the liminal spaces suggested by living next to one of the world’s largest inland seas is like being submerged in deep waters of consciousness where everything is possible.
My life has evolved from a fast-paced LA vibe to a more introspective meditation on how to be of service to my community. When the world erupted in early 2020, it felt time to offer this oasis of calm to those who might not have ready access to a muse such as this. Inspiration Alcona contributed to my confidence in making the residency a reality. Together, we want to help community flourish.
Entering the art world as a septuagenarian proved challenging. Through attending workshops, residencies, and exhibiting my work in galleries and public venues, I began to build a community that continues to foster my career as an artist. Accessing these opportunities was not always easy; there was hesitation on the part of others and sometimes rejection, though most importantly these experiences were all learning opportunities. The hurdles overcome and those I still face have highlighted the importance of supporting one another, especially artists entering the art world through unconventional paths and new doorways.
Here you will find a comfortable cottage and a stunning landscape, a refuge for the exploration of creative talent. The Huron Artist Residency is an intuitive retreat shaped by my devotion to the creative flow; it is meant to be gifted as a unique opportunity for others to go inward and find the best of who they are, to be inspired in the making of their world.
For more information on Helen Hierta please visit Instagram @helenhiertaceramics
Helen Hierta, Chair of the Board
In her volunteer work, Maureen Castern-French fuses skills honed as a professional environmental engineer to help bring visions into reality. Engineering addresses problems by finding reliable, simple, cost-effective solutions and Maureen brings this approach to her work with local non-profits.
Maureen graduated from Wayne State University, receiving a degree in Chemical Engineering; she was the first woman at Wayne State elected to Pi Beta Tau, the professional engineering fraternity. She has a master's degree in Environmental Engineering from Virginia Technical University.
She served as the Environmental Manager of the City of Roanoke in Virginia, in which one of her roles was administrating $500,000 flood-mitigation grant from FEMA to four local governments in the Roanoke Valley. She founded her own environmental consulting firm and ended her engineering career as Senior Project Engineer for a company that specialized in air pollution regulation compliance services for industries in the Mid-Atlantic states. As a consultant for local governments raising funds for large public projects such as water treatment plants.
Since retirement, Maureen has worked to raise funds for non-profit organizations and churches in Northeast Michigan. She believes in building resources to enable goals to be implemented. Resources are financial, but also human, and she works to bring people and organizations together into partnerships that utilize the strengths of each to build a balanced, fully functioning team that accomplishes the dreams of all.
Erin is a fine artist and arts administrator, in recent years splitting her time between Brooklyn, New York and Michigan. As an arts administrator, she has served as the Fulbright Program Advisor and Faculty Committee Chair at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) for over a decade— helping hundreds of alumni to complete the rigorous application process for international cultural exchange projects; seventeen of whom were awarded the Fulbright grant to complete their community engaged artistic endeavors in thirteen different countries. In addition, she has taught Professional Practices courses for fine artists at MICA.
Throughout the years Erin Treacy has also worked independently as a consultant, advisor, and grant writer for many arts organizations including Queens Council on the Arts, New York, MI+RO Dance Company, Pennsylvania, and Attenborough/Naftel Arts, Maryland. Erin has served on national juries granting financial support and space to underrepresented artists and presented on all of these topics at colleges and arts organizations.
Currently, she serves as a Program Operations Associate for Open Society Foundations - focused on humanitarian and democracy grants within Eastern Europe and Central Asia and teaches at Rutgers University- Arts Online division. As an artist in 2023, she was awarded residencies at the Golden Foundation for the Arts and Weir Farm National Historic Park, as well as exhibited at Basin Gallery in Brooklyn, NY.
Hether is an experienced curator and fine art consultant; having worked for 15 years at various galleries in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and later operation her own gallery, Canyon Fine Art in the Canyon Road arts district. Previous to art galleries, Hether was creative director for twelve years of a signature boutique jewelry line based in handcrafted heritage Native American bead- weaving techniques.
Through her work as a Gallerist representing artists, and experience being a working artist, she has extensive background in marketing, client development, and arts education. She earned her BA from Principia College in Elsah, Illinois and post-graduation moved to Boston to work in multi-media production in radio and museum exhibit design, with a focus on spirituality.
Hether currently lives in Bloomington, IN and works as Communications & Client Development Director at a leading men’s clothier.