Take one incredibly creative artist who sees the promise of engaging the community through art in a vacant building. Add a multitude of partners, volunteers, and artists and you begin to see how Paul Amenta of SiTE:LAB has created unusual art installations that welcome tens of thousands of visitors from all walks of life every year. Paul and an ever-changing crew of volunteers have organized more than 30 temporary art exhibits over the past decade, all housed in underutilized buildings in and around downtown Grand Rapids.
More than 140 students at West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology (WMCAT) are learning how to apply their creative skills to change the world. At the heart of WMCAT’s Teen Arts + Tech Program is using creativity to empower high school kids to affect change in their own communities.
When a meeting was held in the basement of the Petoskey Library one cold winter evening for people “interested in the arts,” attendance was thin. Exactly seven local residents and one member of the Michigan Council for the Arts showed up. But the seeds took root. More than 40 years later, executive director Liz Ahrens describes the resulting Crooked Tree Arts Center as a true community art center with multilayered financial and volunteer support, more than 2,000 members and twelve full-time staff.
The hub of community entertainment in small towns has often been a theater hosting everything from talent shows and traveling vaudeville to opera productions and movies. The Vogue Theatre, which opened in the pretty riverside town of Manistee in 1938, was one such place. Amid blocks of ornate 19th century Victorian buildings, its Art Deco design and huge size made it a standout. It was ultramodern, luxurious and high tech by 1930s standards, and for decades, it was a busy place. But for lack of a strategy to keep it going, the Vogue closed in 2005 as the economy spiraled downward and businesses moved away.