As the ArtPrize outdoor installations reveal themselves and receptions begin, it is important to note the long commitment and community support of the region’s arts and creative endeavors for some of Michigan’s oldest institutions.
Most of these venues, from Muskegon to Kalamazoo, participate in some manner as ArtPrize opens the window on the legacy of a design community as old as the furniture-making apprentices and artisans who left their imprint on the region’s DNA.
Or, as Ferris State University’s Kendall College of Art Design President David Rosen noted in a recent story: “Art is in the skin and blood of this place.” Rosen said it was the motivating reason for his move from Woodbury University in Burbank, Los Angeles and San Diego, where he served as senior vice president for academic affairs at the private college that specializes in art, architecture, media, design and business.
The examples are no less apparent in the dance of Grand Rapids Ballet — Michigan’s only professional ballet company — and in the sculptures at the enormously sprawling Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. Grand Valley State University also honors the legacy with its continued investment in a world-class art collection on both its downtown campus and in Allendale.
Every local college and university offers a full roster of impressive performances in varied genres, further complementing — and fueling — local professional groups. The fall season for no fewer than 14 performance groups, including Grand Rapids Symphony, begins the same week that ArtPrize calls its crowds.
The Business Journal recently highlighted the success of Grand Rapids Civic Theatre Director and Education Director Penelope Notter, who was honored by the American Association of Community Theater with its Fellow Award, the highest honor within the organization. Notter believes the Grand Rapids community distinguishes itself by its commitment to education of young performers.
“The biggest, number one thing (they learn) is self-esteem because they are encouraged to think for themselves and be creative for themselves,” Notter said.
“There is no question that there is a commitment in this community for not just theater but for the arts. Otherwise, none of these places could sustain the ballet, the opera, the symphony. How many communities this size have that kind of stature? So there is a wonderful support system here.”
And so the legacy lives on, with the support of philanthropists and business leaders who continue to be the recipients of a unique talent pool.