It’s time you start noticing the art in East Lansing

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By Katie McCoy
Entirely East Lansing

Map of different art locations around downtown East Lansing

EAST LANSING, Mich. – The art scene in East Lansing is a creative and eclectic culture that could exist only in a college town.

With many different features, such as the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, the East Lansing Art Festival, and the up-and-coming cultural mosaic, the amount of public art leaves East Lansing with a unique presence.

World-renowned architect, and winner of the architect’s Pritzaker-Prize, Zaha Hadid designed the Broad Art Museum which opened in 2012. The stainless steel structure and uncommon architecture brings artists from all around the world to feature their art. Hadid has only designed two buildings in the United States, which makes East Lansing a destination for anyone interested in art and special architecture.

“This museum provides a place for viewers to experience international contemporary art in a world-renowned architectural landmark,” said Whitney Stoepel, the museum’s director of public relations.

Andrew Sendor, a world famous artist, had his exhibit featured in the Broad Art Museum in February. Sendor was drawn to East Lansing because of the diverse art.

“I really like how it is so different,” said Sendor. “I have been to a lot of college towns, and I can say that East Lansing is one of the most unique.”

One thing that sets the city apart is the diversity of people who contribute to the scene – from world-renowned artists exhibiting in the museum to local groups producing public art for commuters.

Coming this spring, The East Lansing Seniors Program has teamed up with children from MacDonald Middle School to create a cultural mural/mosaic to be shown in the alley of Division Street.

The three by 15 feet mosaic will feature art assembled by children and senior citizens and is set to open this spring.

Kelly Arndt, director of East Lansing Seniors Program, loved working with both age groups on this project because she felt it brought the community closer together.

Arndt’s passion for the art culture in East Lansing has grown over the years, but this project sets her joy over the top.

“I have been a fan of the arts since a very young age,” said Arndt. “I have always participated in anything artistic over the years but this project is the one I’m most excited about”

Due to her work with kids, Arndt believes the future of the art culture in East Lansing is in good hands.

“We had a waiting list of [kids] who wanted to be a part of this project,” said Arndt. “These good hands have created a model for our town. I like to call it the City of the Arts.”

Art causes conversation and brings a city together, said Susan Bandes, an art history professor at Michigan State University.

“The appreciation for art increases in this city, especially in the summertime,” said Bandes. “East Lansing offers events like the Art Festival that brings citizens and artists together to appreciate art as a whole.”

Celebrating its 53rd year and taking place May 20-22, the East Lansing Art Festival features artistic platforms designed and performed by local citizens.

The Art Festival is ranked 50th for art festivals around the country and has over 70,000 attendees, according to Michelle Carlson, the East Lansing Art Festival’s director.

Carlson said this event gives the community an opportunity to enhance the city’s creativity and awareness.

“The art exhibited at the art festival is of a high caliber,” said Carlson, “and it represents 19 different genres.”

Carlson said artists will be coming from all over Michigan, 20 other states and a few artists are visiting from Canada.

Carlson said she expects artists from every age group and a various amount of volunteer work to contribute to the festival.  Even the Broad Art Museum will contribute.

Britany Benson, public engagement coordinator, and Stoepel will represent the Broad Museum at the festival.

“We will have an art making center for children using artwork from local community members that we gathered through a call for submissions,” Benson said.

Stoepel said Broad takes part in almost all regional summer festivals as part of their summer programming.

With the increase of more and more art coming to the city, many artistic contributors of East Lansing believe the future of the artistic culture will be beneficial to the community members.

“I believe the art scene will continue to grow and evolve,” said Carlson. “There is a lot of creative energy and there is always a need to have art and creativity in all we do. … Community members love and appreciate the arts.”

Employees at the Broad Art Museum see a positive future for the culture as well — not only in the museum itself, but outside in the streets of East Lansing.

“I think it will expand,” said Benson. “I think the community’s support of the art is great.  The rich history of the festivals add an enormous asset to the community and we wouldn’t thrive the same without it.”

Steven Bridges, assistant curator at the museum, hopes that the museum adds to the community.

“I hope the Broad Art Museum will continue to play an important part in shaping its ongoing development in this great city,” said Bridges.

Bandes said that she has been in the area long enough to be able to say that the art scene is constantly evolving.

“I love seeing the change this city goes through,” she said.

Arndt is especially excited to see how the mural contributes to the community.

“This project helps us grow good citizens, and I couldn’t be more ecstatic to be the director of this fine program and add to this city,” said Arndt. “This will enlighten East Lansing’s creative side.”

East Lansing has a unique and whimsical feel to it that can only be expressed through art.

“Everything helps,” said Benson. “This community thrives through the love and support of our citizens and their creative eyes, ears, and hearts. I don’t know any other college town that offers the passion that East Lansing has.”