Thursday night's celebration makes the second night this week the Ewings have shown up to support the arts as the pair made an early appearance at last night's Centertown Block Party, even stopping to prop up a pair of fallen bicycles before crossing Washington Street.
Carla Hill had a moment to thank all of the leaders in the West Michigan Symphony community for helping bring The Block into fruition, a venue now with four concerts to add to the history books. The Ewings sat in the front row for a concert with Marcy Richardson, soprano from New York City's Greenwich Village.
Hill went touring around town for a place to sell tickets, and when she met developer Gary Post, the owner of the 123 year old Russell Block in Downtown Muskegon, her ticket office project rapidly transformed into a space to broaden the definition of the symphony pursuing world class status. Mike and Kay Olthoff heard the vision first, and gave Hill a green light by pledging a quarter million dollars. The community followed this leadership donation rapidly. The green light stayed green for The Block counted up six hundred thousand dollars in donations by tonight, even while the Muskegon Museum of Art raised seven and a half million.
In an classic irony, Mike and his wife Kay Olthoff made that commitment with a historical fact unknown. Three men named Olthoff started Nichols Paper Company, beginning business in the Russell Block building decades before. I am willing to bet even money that Dr. Ewing had the historical documentation to prove that fact in his personal library.
The green light still remains green and history still is being written. Tonight, Scott Speck, the maestro who makes his home in Muskegon while leading the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago, pointed at the third floor balcony and the ample space yet to be given purpose. Speck has a gift for speech as well as conducting, and he imagined all of the West Michigan Symphony players teaching private lessons on the third floor, making downtown a hotspot of musical education for all ages. No wonder the Ewings have found a home at The Block. The history is writing itself in beautiful letters.
Note: a charming entourage of volunteers, the Blockheads, greeted the arriving guests with smiles & postcards, classic street team style.