One of the first things visitors to Old Town may notice are the large letters reading “Art District” along the fence at the end of Turner Street. Old Town Lansing is known as the Art District, and for good reason. There are several art galleries located here, including Absolute Gallery, Great Lakes Artworks, Katalyst Gallery, and the Michigan Institute for Contemporary Art Gallery. These galleries feature a variety of artists. Great Lakes Artworks, located at 306 E. Grand River Ave., features artwork created exclusively by artists in the Lansing area.
For areas like Old Town, it is essential that they keep money within their local community. Many of the businesses are owned and operated by individuals who rely on their business for their livelihood. This is easier said than done. However, the Old Town Commercial Association has devised a program with the hope of keeping money in Old Town. Old Town 4-3-50 is a project within community, and its goals are to support the businesses in the neighborhood and keep money in the community, according to the OTCA’s website.
Volunteers are oftentimes the unsung heroes keeping small communities alive. In Old Town, the volunteers allow the community to not only survive, but to thrive. Ken Schroeppel, an assistant professor at the University of Colorado Denver and an expert in downtown revitalization, said that if people are really committed to their local community, there is a much greater chance for success. The people of Old Town have certainly taken this concept to heart. Matt Hund, a resident of Old Town as well as a member of the Board of Directors, said that volunteers are an integral part of the community.
As he sits in his restaurant, Olympic Broil owner Mike Alexander interacts with almost every customer that walks through the door, and he knows many of them by name. Like a typical boy growing up in Michigan in the 1960s, Alexander spent his summer days wandering down to the river with his friends to drop a fishing line in the water and hang out. “One summer they were building the Dog n Suds,” Alexander said. “Being the young guys we were, my friend and I thought it was great to watch the welders work.”
At the time, Alexander had no idea he’d spend the majority of his life working in this very same place. Originally a Dog n Suds in the 1960s, Mike’s father Jim Alexander acquired the property at 1320 N. Grand River Ave.
Anyone who has ever been to a city has more than likely experienced the frustrations that come with trying to find parking. This problem is not isolated to bigger cities; even smaller communities experience such issues. More than likely, any place that attracts larger numbers of people will face struggles when it comes to parking. Old Town is no exception. During her day job, Jamie Schriner-Hooper, president of the board of directors for the Old Town Commercial Association, works in communities across the state.
From the outside, Great Lakes Artworks may simply appear to a passerby as a place that sells art. After all, that’s technically what an art gallery is. Darrell Taylor, director of the University of Northern Iowa Gallery of Art, states that an art gallery is any space that seeks to present art forms.
Great Lakes Artworks fits this definition. However, it is also so much more than that. Great Lakes Artworks has been an artist owned cooperative gallery since 2011.
Once a bustling, prosperous community, North Lansing — known today as Old Town — fell into disarray in the second half of the 20th century. However, toward the end of the 20th century and into the 21st century, people in the community began to take an interest in the revitalization of the area, with the hope of restoring it to its former glory. Revitalization of downtown areas is not unique to Lansing. Ken Schroeppel, an expert in downtown revitalization as well as an assistant professor in urban planning at the University of Colorado Denver, said this phenomenon can be seen all over the country. “Up until World War II, cities were vibrant.