Is the sky really, really the limit: Arts and the United Way of the Lakeshore
Can arts create a greater United feeling in Newaygo, Oceana and Muskegon County? The answer has to be yes. Let's just look at the current week in Muskegon county. It's hard to put a value on the three events; yet clearly, something is happening.
1. Most of the participants in the Muskegon Museum of Art regional are hearing notice on juror decisions. It's a Michigan wide show, so I am already hearing word from artists in Holland, Grand Rapids, Ada and Grosse Isle who are coming to Muskegon to attend Thursday, May 23rd opening and awards ceremony. Or are arriving to pick up art that was declined. Art drives visits to our courthouse cities, Muskegon, Hart and White Cloud-Fremont-Newaygo. Literally, three to five hundred visits to Muskegon are driven by this regional event.
2. The Hackley Public Library just celebrated its annual lecture. Bob & Merle Scolnik were named Commendees of the library last night, as staff well might know. The library named two more commendees, local authors writing on Muskegon topics, Connie Ramirex Navarro and Daniel J. Yakes. A man who stands on the front line of the educational reform effort, Roy S. Roberts, came to Muskegon to speak, a native son done well. He fielded a call from Governor Snyder on the drive.
3. Tomorrow, the anchor tenant of the Russell Block, the West Michigan Symphony moves into their new quarters.
In the annual fund drive, representatives of manufacturing, medicine and education are named to lead the appeal towards goals. Similarly, the UWL has the caché to look at artists in our community, reach out to artists in all disciplines and coach selected artists on leadership of a United art community. The key is one artist would be selected to lead the artistic side of the campaign, and that artist would lead a team of discipline leaders. Artists keep a curriculum vitae of their accomplishments, and surely being named to one of these posts would be an item upon it. Hopefully, the local structure will eventually connect to a regional and national structure.
In a sense, this is making use of the powerful structure of ArtPeers.Org in Grand Rapids. For example, Art Peers mobilized to help SiTE:Lab "activate" a space in Grand Rapids August 2012. The guild structure is comprehensive, covering the following.
3. Poets & Writers
4. Photographers: The Muskegon Camera Club already goes out on missions, led by Dave Johnson. Joe Gee already epitomizes this group.
5. Thespians (Muskegon is actually the hometown to two Broadway producers).
6. Classical Musicians
7. Folk Musicians
8. Avant Garde Musicians
9. Performance Artists
10. Street Artists
As part of the UWL outreach, it would be hoped that the artists would accomplish the following activities during the year.
1. Mount an exhibition or performance at UWL headquarters. Not only does the Clay Street property have lovely walls and a great common room, it also has a lawn, garden and watercourse calling for small, manageable sculpture.
2. Teach classes and provide coaching to improve the capabilities of team members and help children find their way in the arts.
3. Provide art support to UWL events, such as photographing and posting images from the Day of Caring. Or in another way, painting murals during the Day of Caring. One muralist friend of mine has already expressed interest.
4. Create works of art or execute commissions with the UWL serving as a gallery agent, collecting a commission.
5. Create works of art to celebrate the investments made by UWL in the community.
6. Ride along on visits to traditional employers to add interest and excitement to pledge drive visits. A little music might go a long way to helping open a channel for the UWL message.
Now here comes the test: Is the sky really, really the limit? I like to think of myself as a professional business man as well as a writer living and working in Muskegon. I am a bit of a performance artist, too. So consider this a possible performance, submitted to the good taste of the UWL planners.
Lee S. Brown has volunteered to lend one or more sculptures to the May 30th event at the Muskegon County Airport, one of which is the Deep Space Wheel. Brown would make an excellent "campaign marshal", by the way.
In White Lake, opening on the same night as the Airport event, the Nuveen Gallery presents a show called Flight. It is one show out of a year long exploration of birds. In essence, they are playing your song, the Sky's the Limit. It has yet to be juried as intake takes place May 17 – 21st. It is to be juried by Catherine McClung, who has become a friend of mine, thanks to my participation in the Grand Haven Art Walk. Her husband is a great industrialist, sales person and designer of custom furniture.
Here's the paradox. UWL is at the airport, celebrating "The Sky's the Limit" at the same time an exhibition in Muskegon County opens a show called, "Flight", juried by one of the nation's leading painter of birds, Catherine McClung. How do we connect the events in order to build energy and excitement? I have opened an email conversation with Erin Charles, Director of the Nuveen Community Center of the Arts. She has been cordial, polite and helpful if a tad reserved. I have been clear that my conversations are exploratory and unofficial.
Here's the solution. The Sky's the Limit. Rex Vanderlinde and Ken Price are experts in Air Expedite. The Nuveen Gallery juries a traveling show in addition to the May 30th show, and many of these artists have a deep selection of work, such as the impeccable Sharon Smithem, who taught stained glass technique recently at the Nuveen Center. These are carefully stored in a crate spray painted on the side, "The Sky's The Limit". During the pinnacle of the Nuveen Gallery opener, this box is airlifted by helicopter from the main street in front of the Nuveen as the party waves goodbye. It is deposited at the hanger in Muskegon, where a team of volunteer preparators put it on display. The whole maneuver is filmed with iPhones, posted on the Internet. I will make personally sure that every art museum from the GRAM in Grand Rapids to the Tate in London, England knows about the process and Executive Air's capabilities. The helicopter fuel might be expensive; however, the publicity would be priceless.
I await further instructions. If this might be too big a "performance piece", there's still a number of artist who would like to add grace to the Thursday night event at the airport. Please advise.