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My Pontiac Story: April Wagner of epiphany glass

Out on the outskirts of Pontiac, tucked away between trees, landscaping, and Beaudette Park is a former TV repair shop. It's a quiet part of town, bucolic even. Driving by, it's easy to miss the old shop. There are no signs on the side of the road, no way to know that inside the old TV repair shop is the home of epiphany studios, the gallery and hot glass studio of glass artist April Wagner.

Since 1997, the year she purchased the building, Wagner's business has remained in this unique part of town. From her point of view, it's a perfect fit. Wagner draws inspiration from nature, which translates to her glass work. She appreciates the quiet, and she doesn't like to draw too much attention to her studio.

An epiphany glass creation. Photo courtesy epiphany glass.Wagner runs two businesses out of epiphany studios--and even lived in the attached apartment once. There's epiphany, which is her line of gift pieces and functional pieces, like bowls and decanters. These items can be found at her gallery, and other galleries and stores. And then there's the April Wagner Line, which are larger, more ornamental pieces of glass art that often end up in the lobbies of hotels and hospitals, or the dining rooms and stairwells of people's homes.

Wagner appreciates being in Pontiac. She calls it the heart of Oakland County, and thinks its a great location for artists, citing a nice balance between cost and size in the space that's available. She's currently working on a piece for the donor wall of the recently renovated Flagstar Strand Theatre For The Performing Arts downtown.

"The community here, in particular, supports makers by buying their work," says Wagner. "I'm grateful to be allowed to be here and do my thing, and do it quietly and purposefully."

For a chance to see epiphany studios firsthand, Wagner's 2017 Spring Show is Saturday, May 6, and Sunday May 7, from noon to 6 p.m. both days. The event is free and open to the public. It features glassblowing demonstrations and even opportunities for visitors to try glassblowing, too.

We asked Wagner about Pontiac and the arts.

Q: What do you love most about Pontiac?

I love this piece of property. I love being on the water, and I love how quiet it is. It's gorgeous.

Q: Why did you move epiphany glass to Pontiac?

I moved to Pontiac because I could afford to buy real estate here and I felt that I could grow as an artist here. And because it was such a beautiful piece of property, it would give back to my artistic side just as much as I would give to it. 
 
The reason I stay in Pontiac is that I feel like Pontiac needs me. Pontiac needs stable businesses that have people working here. Pontiac needs people from other surrounding neighborhoods to come here and see how great it is. Even though I'm on the edge of Pontiac and not in downtown Pontiac, I still think I help Pontiac have a different reputation from what it has in the general media, like violence or poverty.

Q: What's Pontiac's biggest challenge and how do you think it can be addressed?

The biggest challenge has been coming out of a lack of leadership and now, moving forward with such strong leadership, I think they're doing an amazing job of working with the community and the government and the teams of developers to create this synergy to create a community where everyone will benefit. 
 
In the twenty years that I've been here, they tried to do a resurgence in downtown Pontiac before and it failed, in my opinion, because people weren't talking to each other. The government, the developers, and the community were not interacting. From what I've seen with what's happening today in downtown Pontiac, I'm so impressed.

Q: What are your hopes for the city?

I hope that everything that is going on right now continues. I would love to see it become an enclave for artists and galleries and boutique shops. The thing I would hate to see is if something like Buffalo Wild Wings moved in. I'd love to see little independent restaurants, and maybe a cat cafe would be super cool; boutique clothing stores. Just fun and quirky, kind of like Ann Arbor--different from any surrounding neighborhood and what those have to offer. So you're not competing, you're just enhancing the whole area.

Q: What should people in Metro Detroit know about Pontiac?

Pontiac is a gem that's about to get a really good cleaning and then everyone is going to recognize it for how great it is. Because there are lots of times you might not want to drive to Detroit to do something fun and funky. You might want to stay a little closer to home. Every neighborhood has its own unique flavor, and I think the flavor that Pontiac is going to offer is going to be something that isn't already nearby for a lot of people.

More information about the epiphany studios 2017 Spring Show is available here.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.
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