Copper Country Associated Artists
The Copper Country Associated Artists is a community based art organization, encouraging artistic expression and helping artist to market their products through a member-operated Art Gallery and the Eagle Harbor Art Fair. CCAA is based in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in the historic village of Calumet.
The CCAA was founded in the 1960’s. The Eagle Harbor Art Fair is currently in its 60th year.
Nancy McCabe, CCAA Founding Member, Passed Away on August 2, 2019.
Miriam Pickens, member of CCAA and columnist for the Daily Mining Gazette, has shared this touching article with us.
About 15 years ago, I joined the Copper Country Associated Artists (CCAA) in Calumet, and there I met a group of artists, mostly living in Calumet, Laurium and Keweenaw County, who were some of the most impressive artists of the Copper Country. One woman who had been a founding member of the group over 60 years ago, stood out as an inspiration and a really good friend. Nancy McCabe passed away on August 2, 2019 at the age of 94.
Nanc was born in Laurium in 1925, graduated from Calumet High School and then got her bachelor’s degree in Art Education at Northern Michigan Teachers College (NMU). She taught art at several schools in the Copper Country, but mostly at the Hancock and CLK Schools. During her extensive teaching career, she taught every grade from kindergarten to high school, and also at the Summer Youth Program at Michigan Tech as well as in several State Parks and in Door County, WI. She loved to teach, and really enjoyed working with young people. It was easy to tell that she was a good teacher, because she was so encouraging toward developing artists; she had that way that good teachers have of giving solid feedback while always being positive and encouraging. Virginia Douglas was a fellow CCAA artist and art teacher at the CLK schools, spoke of Nanc; “I first knew Nancy in 1970 when I was hired to ‘fill-in’ for her when she took a maternity leave. Nancy had set a very high bar by producing excellent projects for her students almost out of thin air. It took me a while to begin to fill those very big shoes. Though small in stature she was a dynamo in her beloved field of art. Over the years we shared the wonderful job of teaching art. Nancy was always enthusiastic and inspirational to those around her and approached every situation, and there were many, with humor and good will. She will be missed by all who knew her.” Clyde Mikkola, an artist friend and member of the CCAA recollected “Nancy told me one time about when she was teaching art in the public schools. She was in the grocery store one day and ran into one of her young students who was with her mother. The little girl’s eye grew wide and she turned to her mother and said, “Mrs. McCabe eats!”” She passed that love of teaching down to her daughter Sherrie, who taught in the Ontonagon Schools and occasionally teaches classes at the Calumet Art Center. Of retirement, Nanc wrote “Upon retirement, I was able to spread my wings and enjoy my Keweenaw, face to face. I have had time to walk the beaches, to pick berries, and to breathe in the musty odor of the deep woods and the sweet odor of pine and cedar. I can watch the changing play of light on the trees in the sky and on the water and I have time to take these images back home where I try to recreate them in glass, clay and watercolor. Never enough time to fashion all of the things of my mind, but I’m working on it.”
In December of 1958, a small group of dedicated artists met at Alden Steck’s flower shop on Fifth Street in Calumet, and started the CCAA. By January, there were 26 members, including Steck, Alice Reynolds, Nancy McCabe and many others. They met several times each year at different interesting venues and did everything from sketching to potato prints. In 1960 they started the Eagle Harbor Fair, which celebrated its 59thyear last weekend. Nancy was a vital member of the CCAA for over 60 years. She consistently attended meetings, volunteered, produced work for sale and was a welcoming presence in the organization. She taught watercolor, silk painting and sketching to members, and often came up with small project ideas for Christmas. Her fused glass creations included everything from sculptural work to jewelry, and her Keweenaw Wild Wings cards were beautifully adorned with feathers and porcupine quills. When the CCAA started doing First Fridays, she was in charge of coming up with projects, and attendance at the gallery flourished. Every Thursday morning, rain or snow, Nanc would meet with CCAA members to discuss plans for First Friday, ideas for projects, and time for discussion and looking over each other’s new works with an encouraging but critiquing eye. We’d share joys and concerns and then go for lunch at Jim’s Pizza where Nanc always ordered the chicken tostada pizza. We’d miss her for weeks at a time when she traveled to visit her “kids”. But then she’d return, telling us of marvelous adventures; sailboat races, swimming with dolphins and parasailing. Kayaking on Lake Superior and recalling that it is not easy to get out of the Kayak after a hip replacement, and gratitude that she was able to wave down a neighbor to help her out. She once told me that as scared as she was watching her children explore the limits of their abilities with daredevil acts, she always tried to inspire confidence rather than fear.
Gary Olds was a student of Nancy’s when he was a child. “In 1964, I was an eleven year old sixth-grader attending the M.M. Morrison School in Calumet. That year our art teacher took the class on a field trip to a clay pit located in Maple Grove, just outside the village limits. Back in school afterward we were taught to make ceramic pinch pots. In another art lesson the class was taught to make objects from papier mache’ using tissue and starch. Over the span of fifty-five years with an undergraduate degree and graduate work in fine art, and still using the experiences of my sixth grade art lessons, I have taught many dozens of others how to dig clay for pinch pots and make objects from papier mache’. My sixth grade art teacher, the person who made a lasting impression on my life as an artist and in turn the lives of many others, was Mrs. Nancy McCabe. Thank you Nancy for your lessons of so long ago that were never forgotten.”
Millie Little, fabric artist, wrote ““Nancy was always humble and kind. She put others ahead of herself. She loved to laugh and joke. She was a dear friend.”
Yes. She was a dear friend. And if she was here now I know she would tell me to make sure I tell people to stop by the Houghton Township/Eagle River Museum Building to see an exhibit of work by Nancy’s dear friend Alden Steck, a nationally recognized Copper Country artist who owned that flower shop where the CCAA got started. The collection includes sketches and paintings of scenery and mining imagery, many of which are of significant historical interest. Steck was born in 1904 in Calumet Township, married Pauline Margaret Picchiottino in 1941, and they lived in Eagle River. Steck taught art at what was then known as Suomi College, and gave private lessons to many students in his flower shop. His work has been displayed at the Chicago Art Institute and the San Francisco Museum. He died in 1982 in Calumet. The exhibit at the Eagle River Museum will be open through August 24 during the regular museum hours; Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, noon until 4pm.
These are a few pictures of Nancy's Art. If you have a picture of her art that you would like to display, please email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also use the Contact Us menu item in the header.
Irma Bombeck said it best…“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say ‘I used everything you gave me’”
Except from Nancy’s Journal
Provided by Ginny Douglas
Latest News from the CCAA
The CCAA maintains a Gallery and Workshop in Calumet Michigan. Visit the gallery; you might meet your favorite artist.
Eagle Harbor Art Fair
The CCAA organizes the annual Eagle Harbor Art Fair. Click below to see details including a link to the Vendor Application form.
Click below to meet the member artists of CCAA.