Creative ‘Michigan House’ sets up shop at ArtPrize


Following a successful stint at a major festival in Texas, a hub that showcases the best of Michigan will open in a downtown pop-up space during ArtPrize.

The Michigan House will set up residence during the annual art event in the Trust Building on the corner of Pearl Street and Ottawa Avenue NW. The pop-up space will highlight some of the state’s biggest companies, organizations and artists with events every night of the 19-day ArtPrize.

Michigan House partners include Detroit-based economic development organization Creative Many Michigan, formerly ArtServe Michigan, and Middle West, which created the space.

Creative Many Michigan President and CEO Jennifer Goulet said she hopes the Michigan House will create opportunities across the state and accelerate business growth.

“With a rich legacy of creativity and innovation across our state’s history, Michigan’s creative and design industries are strategically poised today for increased growth,” Goulet said.

Among the house’s sponsors are the Michigan Film and Digital Media Office, GR Current, Herman Miller, Open Systems Technologies, Wolverine Worldwide, Start Garden, Founders Brewing and CWD Real Estate.

“It’s a unique event that brings some of our favorite things together under one roof — passionate people, innovative ideas, technology and design — with the backdrop being the great state of Michigan,” said Michael Lomonaco, director of marketing and communications at OST.

“We’re passionate at OST about telling our story through our people and the innovative solutions they provide. This is an utterly unique way to do that,” he said.

Middle West co-creator Ted Velie said the Michigan House at Austin’s South by Southwest, or SXSW, event in March was a great success and conveyed a compelling story about Michigan to the festival’s attendees.

“By creating a space that shows the energy we see all around, we could change a lot of people’s views about our state,” Velie said. “If I can sit down in an Eames chair, hand you an All Day IPA and have you listen to the band Jr. Jr. from Detroit, suddenly you’ll think, ‘Michigan — there must be something in the water.’”

The main challenge of the Michigan house in Austin was explaining the concept to those who hadn’t actually seen it, Velie said. That’s also the main challenge the producers face heading into ArtPrize.

“We feel like if you’re there, you’ll get it,” he said. “If not, we have to spend a few minutes explaining the concept. This time, we want to do a better job letting others experience Michigan House.”

The house’s main goal during ArtPrize is to show off the people and products that call Michigan home. Velie said he hopes it opens some eyes to what is being made in the state.

Herman Miller, Founders and CWD all made the trek to Austin, but with additions such as OST, Wolverine Worldwide, Klingman’s, Kendall College of Art and Design, Designvox, Brightly and more, Velie said more of Michigan’s industries will have a chance to gain attention.

“People may know we design furniture in West Michigan, but do they know we’re designing websites, software and systems that are used everyday around the globe?” Velie said.

How the sponsors work within the house is completely up to them, Velie said. The events range from pop-up shops to panel discussions to unveiling of new ideas.

The Michigan Film Office will kick off the Waterfront Film Festival at Michigan House Sept. 24. The next night will host Klingman’s Furniture Design and a West Michigan Soiree.

On Sept. 26, Wolverine Worldwide is hosting a Sperry pop-up store.

OST will host a panel discussion — “Is Michigan Culture Innovation Culture?” — that features Andy Haff, a senior solutions engineer from Google, OST Chief Innovation Officer Jim VanderMey and Atomic Object CEO Carl Erickson.

Other sessions include GR Current, legal sessions for creatives and a Failure Lab night Oct. 8.

Each night starting at 9 p.m. there will be a dance party featuring a local DJ.

“Sponsors get to enjoy all the good times, but they most importantly get to activate the space for an event of their own,” he said. “We say we’re telling a real Michigan story because it’s a many-layered story. Sponsors get to be one of those layers.”

Looking ahead, Michigan House will hit the road again. The next location will be in Detroit for the North American International Auto Show in January. A return to Austin for South by Southwest 2016 is also on the calendar.

After that, Velie said they’ll be looking at other events, possibly in cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City.

“Michigan House at ArtPrize is an introduction to what we want to do in other cities,” said Paul Moore, communication director for Start Garden.

“The Michigan House is a living, breathing experience — like a space capsule of the best things about this place we call home — that can be transported into crowds of people to show, not tell, the story they’ve missed.”

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