Institute for Sustainable Living, Art & Natural Design


ISLAND is a non-profit arts and ecology center dedicated to connecting people with nature, art and community. ISLAND helps people become native to place by:

  • supporting artists — visionaries, conceptual explorers and compelling communicators — with dedicated time, space and resources to create new work;
  • restoring the old and developing the new skills and traditions of community self-reliance;
  • creating and sharing a broad collection of tools for ecological living.


Amanda Kik - Co-Director

photo: Amanda KikAfter spending both her undergraduate and graduate years at California Institute of the Arts, she moved to northwest lower Michigan where she has worked as a designer, writing teacher and nonprofit administrator. It is here that she began making cheese, canning vegetables, raising chickens and learning what it means to be part of a community. Amanda is also Co-Chair of the Northern Michigan Small Farm Conference, which works to build a local vibrant agricultural community.

Brad Kik - Co-Director

photo: Brad KikBrad Kik’s life has been an campaign against specialization. Pursuing film study, environmental activism, graphic design, community organizing, woodworking, chicken raising, music, ecology and permaculture, Brad found a way to focus his multiple loves by adding a new one. In 2005 he fell in love with his partner Amanda and, with her, co-founded and now co-directs ISLAND. Brad's role with ISLAND involves developing the farmstead, telling the story of ISLAND using graphic design, writing and awesome powerpoints, as well as managing staff and spending way too much time on the computer.


Jen Schaap - Food and Farm Projects Coordinator

photo: Jen SchaapAfter dappling in the industrial design world, Jen Schaap found the life-changing powers of dirt and began a second life working on, supporting, and promoting the small farm. On the side, she likes to sew, sing, and eat real food. Jen serves as the Administrative Coordinator of the annual Small Farm Conference, engages food communities through events like ISLAND’s From Farm to Frame photo contest, and is working to strengthen the network of small farms and local foods in northern Michigan.

Jeannie Voller - Food and Farm Events Coordinator

photo: Jeannie VollerJeannie Voller’s road has meandered through the arts, cocktail slinging, health care, managing a General Store and Cafe, wine and beer buying, and catering and event management. Jeannie found joy in the pursuit of the arts at an early age, starting with creative writing and then turning to theatre. She enjoyed her time as an actress in New York City after college, but soon found herself in massage therapy school where the world of the human body opened up to her; especially the world of food and its relation to our health as individuals and as communities. This began the long and continuing pursuit for knowledge in food, farming and community. In her free time, Jeannie is a book writing, wine loving, homestead seeking, garden creating, bum shaking, children chasing, coffee sipping, travel bugging, book devouring, seasonal food cooking and baking woman.

Marty Heller - Farmer Residency Supervisor

photo: Marty HellerMarty has committed the past ten years of his life to building sustainable, community-based food systems in Michigan. A product of a traditional farming community in southeast Michigan, Marty broke away from his agrarian roots to pursue a BS in chemical engineering from Michigan State and a PhD, also in chemical engineering, at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Disillusioned by the pharmaceutical biotechnology industry he was trained to join, he traveled to India in 1998 and used some of that biotechnology training to support campaigns against genetic engineering in agriculture. Marty has managed a few CSA farms, spent the 2006 growing season on a bicycle tour of CSA farms in Michigan and created a documentary video from the trip. He has worked as a researcher with the C.S. Mott Group for Sustainable Food Systems at Michigan State University, and currently does life cycle assessment research through University of Michigan’s Center for Sustainable Systems. Other current projects include growing heirloom dry beans on a small, intensive scale in Northern Michigan, developing a farmer residency program, and perpetual refinement of dj’ing skills.

Mary Brower - Communications Coordinator

photo: Mary BrowerMary Brower grew up out west, but has spent much of her life chasing geography. Her past is littered with partial careers in teaching, farming, writing, and cooking. Pleased to be setting down permanent roots in this part of the world, Mary’s favorite means of procrastination involve winter gardening, food preservation, and making supper for her husband and little boy.

Yvonne Stephens - Hill House Artist Residency Coordinator

photo: Yvonne StephensYvonne Stephens holds a degree in Botany from Michigan State University. Originally from Southeastern Michigan, she has lived in Bellaire since 2007 with her husband, Jason, and their son. Yvonne started as an intern with ISLAND in 2009, and went on to become ISLAND's Events Coordinator. She currently serves as Director of the ISLAND Hill House Artist Residency Program. Yvonne is a mushroom hunter and grower, a beekeeper and poet, and loves to cook, bake and preserve food.

Program Areas

The Artist Residency Program:

The information about our residency program now has its own page

Workshops & Events:

Resource Library:

ISLAND has already invested in over 4,000 library books covering the topics of sustainable living, alternative building, renewable resource use, natural design and art. The ISLAND library is currently open by appointment only, but will shift to a public space as time and funding allows. ISLAND accepts of any paperback or hardcover book in good condition.

Board of Directors

Aaron Allen

photo: Aaron AllenAaron Allen has a background in social activism and community organizing. He holds a B.A. in Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy, as well as a Juris Doctor from Michigan State University College of Law. He is currently employed full time as a public interest attorney, and has volunteered for organizations including Refugee Services, Lansing Voters Matter, Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, the American Civil Liberties Union, and others. In the little free time that he has, Aaron enjoys acting, songwriting, camping and travel.

Michelle Ferrarese

photo:Michelle Ferrarese is originally from the Great Lakes State; though she has lived on the east and west coasts and in between, she always returns to Michigan - she loves the lakes! Michelle studied botany and ecology in college and worked in outdoor and environmental education for several years. In 1998 she had the good fortune of volunteering at the Community Farm of Ann Arbor (the first CSA farm in Michigan) where she got hooked on CSA. Michelle went on to intern at farms in Massachusetts and Michigan, and helped to start and manage the Student Organic Farm at Michigan State University while completing her master's in Horticulture. Marty and Michelle spent the summer of 2006 on a 5-month bicycle tour of 31 CSA farms in Michigan, volunteering and making a documentary video. Current projects include purchasing the 20-acre organic farm where she's been farming the past three years, running a 40-share CSA, and learning "social accounting" as part of a triple-bottom-line approach to business.

Ric Evans

photo: Ric EvansGrowing up within the Great Lakes Watershed in Northern Michigan certainly helped form Ricʼs early passions for a clean and thriving environment. His college years inspired further studies in watersheds, ecosystems, energy and sustainability while obtaining his Bachelor of Science from Michigan State University. After studies abroad, lots of traveling and several various employment 'hats,' Ric was drawn to the building trades and building sciences, which eventually lead to him starting Paradigm Energy Services in 2006. In addition to helping families, businesses and organizations with their relationships to energy and its effective use (primarily through energy audits and energy efficiency consulting), Ric and his wife Jenn enjoy working on their ever-evolving small homestead in Ellsworth, MI. Ric and Jenn started up Odyssey Farm in 1999, and is home to a wonderfully comfy passive solar cordwood addition, various renewable energy systems, small gardens, the infamous Red Barn and a very fun little disc golf course. Ric is an instructor at Northwestern Michigan College, primarily teaching energy efficiency and building science. Ric is also a part-time rockstar, loves sailing, traveling, troupes through the woods and all things resilient and sustainable! Find Ric on Facebook or YouTube.

Nick Carlson

photo: Nick Carlson Nick Carlson was attracted to Traverse City, Michigan five years ago through an opportunity to be involved in the start-up of Pleasanton Brick Oven Bakery as an active community craftsman, baking sourdough bread in this village bakery. Through this position at the heart of Traverse City’s growing local, artisan economy, Nick fell into a community of supportive, active, social entrepreneurs like no other. Despite catching several temporary travel bugs over the last five years taking him away for months at a time, Nick has come home to Traverse City to live and work amongst a community of people who have aligned their life’s work with the real human needs and responsibilities, like growing whole foods, and incorporating sustainability and justice into our daily work.

Having studied the traditional trades of Sourdough bread baking, and wooden boat building, with a recent experience learning the skills of farmstead cheese production, Nick takes away from his continuing education a desire to pursue a small diversity of craft trades through social entrepreneurship, which promote both function and beauty “Utilitarian Art” within a responsive community.

Nick’s current projects involve wooden boats and local cheese:

Grand Traverse Longboats is a project collaboration with a local youth organization and a local maritime non-profit. It is designed to combine youth mentoring for high school students, traditional wood working skills, and the experience of team rowing for community youth and adults in a fleet of student built rowing gigs.

And cheese:

Since returning home to Traverse City following 5 months of immersion in farmstead cheese production on farms in Vermont and Germany. Nick pursues community resources, and sweat equity towards the addition of a local value added dairy processing facility in Leelanau County. The project would help bring local dairy products within closer reach of consumers in the Grand Traverse Metro area.

Nick makes a living operating Carlson Tree Service in the Grand Traverse Metro Area. As a branch of a family business started by his grandfather in 1946, Nick is happy to offer his community a light footprint tree service option from roots dating back three generations.

When Nick was asked to consider joining ISLAND’s board of trustees in early 2010, Nick saw an effective opportunity. It meant a chance to contribute to this community, through the mission of ISLAND; preserving and celebrating our human heritage trademarked by ecology and arts. Nick looks forward to continuing to work with ISLAND leveraging his community interests and personal passions through the diverse and supportive network that ISLAND has become in our community.

Lillie Wolff

photo: Lillie WolffBorn in New York City and raised in Traverse City, Lillie Wolff earned a BA in Human Development and Social Relations from Kalamazoo College. She brings with her experience in community organizing and coalition building, and a commitment to working toward ecological and social justice. Lillie has spent most of her non-profit career working for farmworker and immigrant rights, and currently serves as the Advocacy Coordinator for the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center in Kalamazoo. She is also a successful entrepreneur and artist, as well as registered yoga teacher and dedicated practitioner. Lillie has spent significant time in Ecuador and India, and offers a global view on culture, place, community, tradition, and the creative and healing arts. In her spare time Lillie loves to grow food, cook, and dance.

Heather Miller

photo: Heather MillerHeather Miller grew up in a close, extended family surrounded by apple orchards and strawberry fields in rural, southern New Hampshire. As a child, she and her sisters spent their summer days picking strawberries and green beans at a local farm, and she still shudders at the thought of the huge tomato worms they encountered. Excited to see more of the world, she left NH to attend Alma College, traveling to France for a year to study, and returning to receive a B.A. in English and French in 1971. That same year she was lucky enough to find and marry Toby, who she would love forever. She and Toby raised two daughters, Kate and Rachel, who are now living with their families in the Minneapolis area. After spending time raising their family, Heather returned to school and received a Master’s Degree in Speech/Language Disorders in 1986. She worked for Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District, primarily in Antrim County with children from birth to 18 years old, who had communication difficulties, ranging from articulation to autism. Since retiring, she has been committed to environmental activism and learning about and creating a sustainable homestead with Toby. She loves watching her grandson Eian grow and learn, as well as growing vegetables and flowers, making maple syrup, keeping bees, bicycling, hiking and enjoying nature and drawing and painting. Learning has continually been and remains an important personal goal. Heather and Toby’s goals include supporting and growing community, working toward greater energy efficiency, and growing their own or buying food grown locally.

Toby Miller

photo: Toby MillerRaised on an old country farmstead in Eaton County, Michigan, Toby Miller grew up in an area of intact family farms, most having fields of oats, wheat, corn and alfalfa, a big garden, a few pigs, chickens, and a small herd of milk cows. After graduating from Alma College in 1970 with a degree in English Literature and natural science, he got a different education working on the brutally monotonous assembly line at Oldsmobile. He met and married Heather at Alma in 1971. One of their favorite things to do was to look at copies of Organic Gardening and Farming and dream about the piece of land they would buy and homestead together. They lived and worked in a variety of small Midwest towns and had two wonderful daughters together. As they raised their kids, Toby worked first as a teacher and then a principal, retiring from Elk Rapids Schools in 2007. Throughout their lives, Toby and Heather have worked to be better stewards of our world and have started or joined groups ranging from climate action initiatives to smaller focused topic groups on sustainability. In 1987, Toby and Heather fell in love with 73 acres of hilly ground near Alden that is more beautiful than fertile, and in 2006, they built their home there together. They continue to work on improving the thin Kalkaska sandy loam to grow fruits and vegetables. Other than leaning on a shovel, Toby’s favorite activities include cutting wood for the wood stove, gardening, learning about ways to balance the natural world and human culture in a more sustainable way, hiking, wilderness canoeing, bicycling, cross-country skiing, making jewelry, meditation, and reading.

Andrea Eckert

photo: Andrea EckertAndrea Eckert comes from a background in studio art. Andrea earned her BFA in Painting/Printmaking from Michigan State University, and an MFA from Kendall College of Art and Design. She regularly participates in solo/group/invitational exhibitions regionally, nationally, and internationally. Currently, she works at the College for Creative Studies, teaching and managing the student gallery, and is the Career Advisor for Fine Arts, Crafts, and Photography students. Andrea also enjoys spending time with her children, banjo wielding husband, and her backyard chicken flock.

Rolf von Walthausen

photo: Rolf von WalthausenRolf grew up in a family of hard working, quietly activist parents who lived in the same, small house just outside Detroit for 54 years. Dad was definitely ahead of the curve. He and the kids made the choice to walk to work and school every day. Milk was delivered in glass bottles. The family shared one car, and everything from yard waste to other people’s "trash" was carefully gleaned and either recycled or reused—all 30 years before such ideas became relevant or hip. While the burning of Detroit in 1967 was certainly a catalyst, it was the Cuyahoga River catching fire and burning in 1969 that became the impetus for Rolf’s life-long quest to find ways to live without doing harm to others or to the earth. These images continue to inform much of his work and the passion he brings to his own quiet acts of living conscienciously.

A piano technician by trade since age 16, Rolf studied piano performance at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music where he spent the next two decades immersed in the arts and head of the Piano Technology program. While in search of a simpler life, and before moving to Traverse City in 1998, he took a two year sabbatical to complete work on a Masters degree in Labor & Employment Relations. For the next ten years his focus in northwest Michigan centered on non-profit sector management and developing ways to better organize work around people. Rolf lives with Mari, the love of his life, and their dog Hasek on nearly 50 acres of protected land that includes a 20 acre wildlife sanctuary. He dreams of one day being allowed to live legally, on earth, in the small cabin he and Mari built by hand a few years ago.

Board of Advisors

Stephanie Mills

photo: Stephanie MillsStephanie Mills is an author, lecturer and longtime bioregionalist. Her books include Tough Little Beauties, Epicurean Simplicity, and In Service of the Wild.

Since her emergence in 1969 as an ecological activist Mills has written prolifically, edited numerous periodicals, participated in countless conferences and served on the boards and advisory committees of dozens of ecologically oriented organizations from the local to national level.

Since 1984 she has lived and worked in Northwest Lower Michigan. Her forthcoming book, On Gandhi's Path: Bob Swann's Remarkable Work for Peace and Community Economics will appear in spring of 2010. Stephanie Mills was recently awarded an honorary doctorate by her alma mater, Mills College, and is a Fellow of the Post Carbon Institute.

Caitlin Strokosch

photo: Caitlin Strokosch Caitlin Strokosch has 10 years of arts management experience in marketing, development, communications, and program management. Most notably, she served as General Manager of Bella Voce, one of the country’s premiere professional chamber choirs, and as Executive Director of CUBE, a new music ensemble based in Chicago. Strokosch has lectured at Columbia College Chicago, Roosevelt University, Brown University, Roger Williams University, and the Rhode Island School of Design on a range of topics, from grantwriting to contemporary music to intersections of art and architecture. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in music performance from Columbia College Chicago and a Master’s in musicology from Roosevelt University, where her research focused on music as a tool for building communities of resistance and social dissent. She moved to Rhode Island in 2002 as a PhD candidate in Ethnomusicology at Brown University. She continues her creative work as a songwriter, poet and writer, and in 2005 she was an artist-in-residence at the Ucross Foundation.

Holly Spaulding

photo: Holly SpauldingHolly Wren Spaulding received degrees from the University of Michigan and from Trinity College (Dublin) where she was a fellow at the Oscar Wilde Center for Irish Writing. Her work has appeared in The Nation, The Ecologist, Clamor, Earth First! Journal, Z Magazine, Alternet.org, Corpwatch, The New Internationalist, and in the book We Are Everywhere (Verso Press). She worked as a researcher and consultant for the award-winning documentary FLOW, about the global water crisis. Her poems and essays have received numerous distinctions, including five Hopwood Awards, The CuChulainn to Kavanaugh Award for Poetry (Northern Ireland), The Leelanau Poetry Prize, Shaman Drum Poetry Prize, The Current Poetry Prize, and an Environmental Journalist of the Year Award (2003) from Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council. She serves on the board of the Dunes Review and is a previous editor. She teaches writing at Northwestern Community College and her first collection of poems, The Grass Impossibly was released in 2008.

Diana Milock

Information Coming Soon!

Corie Pierce

photo: Corie PierceCorie Pierce was born in New Hampshire and began vegetable farming as a teenager. On this farm she developed and deepened her reverence for the land and our environment and where our healthy food comes from. She fell in love with growing food and teaching others how to grow food. After attending Middlebury College in Vermont where she studied Biology and Environmental Education, she moved to California where she worked teaching and developing curriculum. In the meantime, she maintained her connection to growing food and farming and worked on various farms and gardens and completed the farming and gardening apprenticeship in Agroecology at the UC Santa Cruz. In 2005 she became the co-Farm manager at the Student Organic Farm at Michigan State University and laundhed a new year-long farmer training program – the Organic Farming Certificate Program at MSU. Now she is the Garden Manager and Sustainable Agriculture faculty at Sterling College in Craftsbury Common, Vermont.

Susan Fawcett

photo: Susan FawcettSusan Fawcett works full-time as an artist and musician. She is a member of the Earthwork Music collective, and co-founder of Fox on a Hill Productions, LLC, a company founded to support the arts in Michigan. In the past she has worked as a union organizer, a bus driver, a botanical illustrator, a waitress and a muralist. Over the years she has volunteered for the Green Party on the local, state and national level. In her free time she enjoys playing fiddle tunes, cross country skiing and creek dipping.

Mari von Walthausen

photo: Mari von WalthausenMari has journeyed from a small rural Michigan town hither and yon trying to make some sense of this human community and all of its curious expectations, nonsensical routines, and destructive behaviors. Healing, helping and hoping have been the threads carried through work life from California to Maine, through Massachusetts and Montana. In some workshop long ago, there was a question, “What is your greatest accomplishment?” While others feverishly listed all the dollars they had saved their companies, the only answer which demanded to be written was “My relationships with people are my greatest accomplishment.” She now adds to that her relationship to the Earth, the Stars and all of creation. Leading others back to the Earth is now what her life is fashioned around, homesteading alongside her love, Rolf and their Waldhausen.

ISLAND Philosophy

ISLAND’s Philosophy on Art:

The production of art is more than taking brush to canvas, pen to paper, back of hand to forehead, or bow to string. Given the time and space, Art will bubble up from depths in the earth, and forms pools that benefit us all. Without art production, our communities are culturally crippled. It is ISLAND’s desire to support the work of artists and art in all its forms.

Art provides us with an alternative way of exploring ideas — of not simply seeing in new ways, but seeing in ways that are impossible to otherwise achieve. Dialogs are sparked and ideas are reshaped. Art does not stand alone, but is interdisciplinary in nature. In an experimental environment like ISLAND, it is imperative that ideas are fully and deeply explored; art is one tool with which this task is undertaken.

ISLAND’s Philosophy on Natural Design:

First and foremost, we are all designers. Specialized design (such as the architecture taught in most universities) is merely one more tool in a vast toolbox — design is a language that we all share. Good design is a natural result of a slow and thoughtful interaction between person and place. Influences: Christopher Alexander, Victor Papanek, Janine Benyus and David Orr.

ISLAND’s Philosophy on Sustainable Living:

Sustainable Living is defined in many ways; the one we prefer comes from The Sustainable Living Network:

Sustainable living is an approach to social and economic, indeed, all activities, for all societies, rich and poor, which is compatible with the preservation of the environment. It is based on a philosophy of interdependence, of respect for life as well as non-living parts of Nature, and of responsibility for future generations.

ISLAND believes that sustainable living is a natural law being resisted, unsuccessfully, since the advent of the industrial revolution; that technology alone will not create a sustainable world, and that it is equal parts culture, intellect and practice. Influences: Wendell Berry, Wes Jackson, Helen and Scott Nearing.

The Story of ISLAND:

ISLAND began because of Brad and Amanda Kik‘s strong and shared belief that the arts and sustainable living are intertwined and essential to an enriching community.

Amanda spent both her undergraduate and graduate years at California Institute of the Arts and as an active participant in the art community in Los Angeles before moving to Northern Michigan. She quickly learned that art is a vital part of any community, no matter the size or cultural composition. Amanda’s strong desire to contribute to the cultural community of Northern Michigan, coupled with her commitment to the development of new work, led her to the beginnings of ISLAND.

Brad worked for five years as a community organizer both during and after college at Michigan State University. Through his work organizing communities in four states around environmental and consumer rights policy, he learned two important lessons: first, that there is deep and widespread concern (amongst what many consider an apathetic public) about the state of our communities and our place in the world; and second, that policy shift battles are necessary but cannot effect real change without the cultural shift that creates them.

After leaving that work Brad spent seven months in New Zealand working with a rainforest sanctuary and sustainable living organization, and saw the power of intensive individual experience. Realizing that design is the province of everyone, not just architects and other professionals, and understanding the power of attraction of pastoral, rural living, Brad sought to combine the two.

Brad and Amanda met on the fourth of July, 2004, and realized that each was complementary to the other, not only in their vision for an energetic new non-profit organization, but in life. They began ISLAND in May and were married in August of 2005.

Download our brochure

Download and view our 10" x 16" .pdf print brochure (Adobe Acrobat will shrink the brochure to fit a standard letter size page for printing).

photo:Dave Jacke’s Edible Forest Gardening Workshop

Dave Jacke teaching that permaculture is all about perspective.

photo:design work for Brad’s Permaculture certification

One of the final plans from Brad’s permaculture course real-world design project.

painting: VanGogh’s pollard birches

Vincent VanGogh - Pollard Birches

photo: Earth sheltered hut at Sirius Community

An earth and stone sheltered hut at Sirius Community

photo: Geodesic Dome & Rooster at the Eco-Learning Center

Jayne Walker’s dome and happy rooster at the Eco-Learning Center in Leelanau County

photo: a chestnut opening

A chestnut opening. Photo courtesy stock.xchng

Institute for Sustainable Living, Art & Natural Design | 5870 Cottage Drive, Bellaire, MI 49615

(231) 622-5252 | info@ARTmeetsEARTH.org | http://www.ARTmeetsEARTH.org

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