Studio School

Our professional faculty provides students of all ability levels with the fundamental skills that lead to full artistic growth. Small class sizes mean you’ll receive more one-on-one attention, and our topnotch facilities include spacious studios and specialized equipment – darkroom with enlargers, high-fire kilns, a jewelry/metals studio featuring a vacuum caster, and a computer lab.

Studio School Manager & Artist in Residence

Armin Mersmann designs a strong program of fundamental classes and specialty programs taught by the region’s most respected artists/instructors, inspiring students of all ages.

As Artist in Residence, he draws on a half century of experience in his medium and provides patrons the opportunity to become intimately integrated in the world of art.

“I never made the conscious choice to be an artist, it’s just what I did.”

~ Armin Mersmann

Armin Mersmann was born in Remscheid, Germany, in 1955 and immigrated to the United States in 1962 where he grew up in an artistic environment greatly influenced by his father, Fritz, a successful oil painter. Mersmann feels his career as an artist was inevitable. Following college, Mersmann began a very successful career as a portrait artist in Chicago. Although financially rewarding, he stopped doing commission work and soon found more interest in the fine arts, concentrating mainly on realism in graphite.

“My goal as a realist is to understand complexities and details. My interest is how the human eye perceives, not how a camera sees. By the time I complete the work, I have developed a deep understanding of the subject that’s both heightened and very personal. I change what’s in front of me, not for the sake of change but because it’s inevitable and expected. It’s filtered through 50-plus years of living.” It is not unusual for Mersmann to put in more than 1,500 hours on a drawing.

Mersmann lives in Midland, Michigan, where he is the Artist in Residence and Studio School Manager at Midland Center for the Arts and shares a studio with his wife, Valerie Allen, an accomplished artist in her own right. Mersmann has been involved in the world’s most lucrative juried art exhibition: ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, MI. There, he finished 4th place with his entry, Gabriella, in 2014. Additionally, he has finished in the top 100 each year and been invited to participate in a small group exhibition known as “The Best of ArtPrize” at the Grand Rapids Art Museum.

His works have been shown in more than 150 exhibitions regionally, nationally and internationally. Mersmann has taught drawing and the creative process at the American Academy of Art, Chicago, IL; the Colorado Academy of Art, Boulder, CO; Northwood University, Midland, MI; Midland Center for the Arts, Midland, MI; and countless workshops within the United States.

Visit his website.


Our professional faculty includes some of the most accomplished and well-known artists in the Great Lakes Bay Region. They provide students of all ability levels with the fundamental skills that lead to full artistic growth.

Nathan Adolphson

Nathan has a BS in Visual Art Education as well as a BFA with an emphasis in painting from Kendall College of Art and Design. Nathan has taught summer classes at MCFTA and currently works for Midland Public Schools as a middle school art educator.

Valerie Allen

Valerie Allen  received her BFA from the University of Cincinnati. She is a certified working artist for Golden Artist Colors, and lectures across the Midwest on acrylic painting. Valerie has exhibited nationally, including the Greater Michigan Art Exhibition (Award of Merit) and every year since 2009 at ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Sharon Berkan-Dent

Sharon is a jeweler who works in lost-wax casting using sterling silver and 14K gold, at times combining the two. Her work is very sculptural and maintains a high level of detail. A representational artist, Sharon sculpts 3-dimensional figures at a jeweler’s scale. Sharon is a lifelong artist, making her living professionally in the field for the past 20 years, and winning many awards.

Ju-You “Louise” Chen

Louise is originally from Taiwan. She holds a BFA from National Taiwan Normal University. Louise received an extremely formal education in traditional Chinese painting and also has been teaching this unique art to all ages and skill levels, in both Taiwan and the United States. Her work is represented nationally as well as internationally.

Michelle Courier

Michelle holds a BFA in painting from the University of Michigan (1987) and has also done undergraduate studies at Delta College. Her exhibition record includes shows at Midland Center for the Arts, Delta College, Saginaw Art Museum, the University of Michigan and the Flint Institute of Arts, among others in the state.

Judy Crawford

Judy graduated from the University of Michigan in 1990. After relocating to Indiana, she completed a Potter’s Apprenticeship at Conner Prairie, a living history museum in Fishers, Indiana, working as the first female production potter there, and turning out over 10,000 pots annually. Since returning to Michigan in 2008, Judy has been teaching all ages and levels of pottery, and has grown her own pottery business, Good Works Pottery.

Aaron Gaertner

Chef Aaron Gaertner was voted 2012’s Best Chef in the Great Lakes Bay Region.  Aaron works as Culinary Instructor at Saginaw Career Complex, is Executive Chef at Golden Glow Ballroom and is the owner and chief photographer at

Stephen Grewe

Stephen has worked in our photography program for three years. He is primarily a black-and-white photographer who thoroughly enjoys darkroom work. Digital photography is another of his interests. He has taken numerous classes in photo technique, lighting, and composition, and enjoys sharing his interest in photography with his students.

Emmy Heger

Emmy has been working with fusing and casting glass for over five years and has taken classes at Corning Museum of Glass, Bullseye Glass and the Toledo Art Museum. She currently works as the Senior Graphic Designer at Midland Center for the Arts.

Ruth Howell

Ruth received her BFA from the University of Michigan. She has worked for numerous years as an artist doing production illustration and layout work. Even after finishing school, Ruth has remained active attending workshops, painting, and participating in such programs as “Art Goes to School.” Ruth is an award-winning artist excelling in both watercolor and drawing.

S. Preston Jones

Preston has studied photography under such well-known photographers as Paul Caponigro, George Tice, Nathan Lyons, Oliver Gagliani and Howard Bond. He has had work included in the Detroit Institute of Arts exhibition “Michigan Artists,” and has won awards both locally and nationally.

Kathy Kaunitz-Jones

Kathy has a MFA in painting from Central Michigan University. She teaches part-time at CMU and at Midland Center for the Arts. She has taught at Saginaw Valley State University and Northwood University. Kathy exhibits her work regularly, both state-wide and nationally.

Christy Kelly

Christy has been teaching photography for various art programs in Midland since 1999.  Her passion is creating images in the darkroom using alternative processes. Christy is a lifelong photographer, and has been making images professionally since 1997.  Her studio, Christy’s Big Picture, specializes in family and children’s portraiture.

Armin Mersmann

Armin has been teaching art for 35 years at various institutions such as the American Academy of Art in Chicago, the Evanston Art Center, Art Train, Midland Center for the Arts and Colorado Academy of Art. He is currently the Studio School Manager and Artist in Residence at Midland Center for the Arts. Armin’s work has been shown regionally, nationally and internationally, including his ArtPrize 2014 4th place award, Gabriella.

Melissa Nuttall

Melissa is a graduate of Michigan State University with a degree in ceramics, and has been teaching at Midland Center for the Arts for six years. Melissa exhibits her work locally and regionally.

Steve Parkhurst

Steve Parkhurst has been working and studying at MCFTA for 15 years, including teaching ceramics and serving as the kiln tech. He has also taught metal point drawing at SVSU.  He draws in graphite and metal point; paints in oils and encaustic, and has assisted Armin Mersmann in his Art and Skill of Drawing classes.  He has a Master of Arts in Humanities.

Tim Ricketts

Tim received his BFA from Northern Michigan University, and has taught classes at Northern Michigan University, Studio 23 in Bay City, and Northwood University through MCFTA. He has demonstrated and exhibited his pottery throughout the state of Michigan.

Roger Schmidt

Roger has a MFA from Central Michigan University. He is a graduate Gemologist from the Gemological Institute of America. Roger has over 30 years experience in the jewelry industry.

Fran Seikaly

Fran studied at the Kendall College for Design in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Wayne State University, where she earned her B.S. in Art Education. She is an active exhibition curator and juror, in addition to teaching across the state of Michigan. Professional affiliations include the Great Lakes Pastel Society, Farmington Art Foundation and Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center.

Pat Smith

Pat was an art teacher and art coordinator for Midland Public Schools for many years. Her numerous achievements have affected hundreds of individuals in the region, including developing MCFTA’s Project Art Museum.

Jan Zender-Romick

Jan received her BFA at Whitman College in Washington state. She is currently the Alpine Kiln Technician, and for several years was a ceramic technician and teacher in the Studio School. Her particular interests in ceramics are in firing techniques and glazes.

The Studio School is funded in part by the Maxwell Pribil Memorial Trust.