Saturday, January 10, 2009

Flint Portraits: Bill Stolpin

Artist Bill Stolpin discusses his career and the story behind his evocative prints of Flint landmarks...

I was born and raised in Flint. My dad took the family to Milwaukee in '48 to help set up the AC Spark Plug operation there. We moved back in '53 when I went to Garfield elementary, Emerson Junior High and old Northern High School, where I am currently a Distinguished Alumni with my picture on the wall at the new High School. We lived on Detroit street between Rankin and Taylor streets (across from the Salem Lutheran Church). I graduated from Northern in 1960, and went directly to GMI. Graduated with my BME in 1965. By the way, I earned my Eagle Scout rank while at GMI.

While I was in Junior High, I was making linoleum block Christmas cards. One card in particular had 7 blocks and about 15 colors. I realized, at that time, that I had a knack for printmaking, and have been making images ever since.

I used to draw pencil portraits of my classmates, and took some classes at the old Flint Institute of Arts when it was located behind the Bell Telephone building. My mother was a Cub Scout Denmother, and I was her Den Chief. As a result, I learned many arts and craft skills that my mother taught at her Scout meetings. I was an active member of the IPA (International Platform Association) and helped to arrange and hang their art show in Washington DC for years. One year international lithographer Emil Weddige (then a professor of art at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor) took me under his wing, convincing me to focus on my printmaking skills. It was under his guidance that my first lithograph "...and the Santa Maria" was completed. A print from that edition was subsequently acquired by the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum for their permanent collection of space art along with my screenprint entitled "One Giant Leap." I went back to school and earned an Associate of Fine arts degree from Mott Community college, and was working toward a BFA at Eastern Michigan University when I retired from GM in 1993.

The Flint images started as a project proposed by the late James Anthony. Jim was the fourth member of DAS Print Co. Jim (who died in 1999), Carole Brender, Stefan Davidek and I have been printing in my studio (in Holly) religiously once a week since 1980. Back in '83 he and Stefan suggested that we print a portfolio of four silkscreen prints of Flint. This was similar to a project that they had done back in the ‘60s with John Davies and Bob Knapman. Jim did the old library; Stefan did the Milner arcade; Carole did the Halo Burger on Saginaw St, and I did the Original Flint Coney Island on Saginaw St. The portfolio was an instant success. Individual prints from that portfolio have increased significantly in price and are exceedingly rare, while complete 4-print suites are nearly impossible to find today. As a group, DAS Print Co. produced several additional 4-print suites, while Carole and I continued to make individual Flint building prints. We all have positive memories of Flint in our younger days, and I personally wanted to share those memories with others.

I currently live in Holly, about 20 minutes South of Flint. I recently completed a long stretch on the Board of Trustees for the Greater Flint Arts Council. I am a member of Flint Artists Market (An association of professional artists in Flint) and was a member of the (cooperative) Left Bank Gallery until it finally died after fifty years. I currently teach printmaking at the Flint Institute of Arts.

My work shows up everywhere! Hurley and McLaren hospitals both have our work prominently displayed. A number of professionals (doctors, dentists, attorneys, banks etc) have been acquiring our work for years. The late Frank DeLorenzo (Don Francos Hair Styling) had/has an immense collection of our city prints. They show up in waiting rooms, and other popular public locations like the Sarvis Food Center.

People tell me that the prints act as an immediate icebreaker. Everyone has memories to recount after seeing them. Stefan, Carole and I regularly have our set-ups at the Flint Art Fair in June.


  1. Bill's work is great. My wife, Debbi, bought me his Smith-B's print for my 58th birthday last year.

    In the summer of '69, I worked downtown at A.M. Davison's selling men's clothing and she worked as a waitress across the street at the "Carriage Room" on the mezzanine at Smith-Bridgman's.

    The "Carriage Room" had an atmosphere all its own. It had a low ceiling and was brighter toward the front—where the windows stretched from the street upward—but got progressively darker toward the back of the long, narrow room. The place was almost always filled with people and noise—lots of noise. The conversation, the clatter of plates, ringing of glasses, and the chink of silverware was non-stop. Lunchtime at the "Carriage Room" was a study in controlled chaos. Move ‘em in, serve ‘em up, and move ‘em out—somebody was likely waiting to take your seat.

    In the midst of the chaos and clatter, Debbi and I met, and the rest (as they say) is history.

    Thanks for the memories, Bill!

  2. If I am seeing the bottom painting correctly-the second house on the right toward the back is where my mom was born in 1930! I have seen these at the Art Fair but not this particular one. Does Bill have a web site as I would love to see if he has one of Sports Bar in the Alley (long gone) but it was where I met my hubby.

  3. Hi Jan, here's Bill's website:

    You can also click on his name in the opening paragraph of the story.

  4. my God, I think I'm feeling homesick. Or at least feeling the tug of heartstrings anyways...and it was that last print that did me. Great Art...Many Thanks.

  5. I love Stolpin's work and it's so nice to see this info about him on your site. I have one of his big Celtic knot prints on my wall. I have several much-cherished Jim Anthony prints, too, and one of Carole Brender's iris prints. DAS is one of the coolest art collaboratives going -- they've had a lifetime of inspiring and prodding each other to do great work.

  6. Great Prints!! I have great memories of our family trips to downtown Flint. No saturday was complete without a stop at the "Dime Store"

    We lived close enough to Downtown Flint to walk or ride our bikes as we got a little older,
    But usually the "neighborhood gang" would follow the river and check out the homeless people who used to live in the sewers and amongst the trees by the river.(My mother would tell us to stay away from the bum's),but we didn't. They were colorful characters to us. Does anyone remember them? It was fun crossing the old Water Street bridge as well! (anyone have pictures of that?).

    Our trips downtown included a stop at Smith Bridgman's to jump in between the escalators(the up and down were built together), until security kicked us out!

  7. My first job was at Smith B's jewelry-notions-greeting cards-gift wrapping in '69. Stayed a few years part time while going to Flint U of M. Saw lots of friends from first floor of Smithy B's. I always said the Genesee Valley Mall killed downtown Flint, I was a witness.

  8. Anyone with info for Jim Anthony art please help me out. I found a beautiful print signed in pencil of "Nude before mirror" Cant find much about Mr. Anthony

    1. I have 2 signed pictures by Jim Anthony. One is "woman in bathing suit" 1954 and one is "city street" 1957.

    2. I have 2. 1954 & 1957


Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at