Williamston growing into more of an artisan town

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By Sierra Resovsky
Williamston Post staff writer

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As more and more cities are catering toward the arts and becoming more “artist friendly,” Williamston has noticed its own residents doing the same.

City manager Alan Dolley has noticed new shops popping up around town giving light to a new view of how people portray the city. Dolley said that increased tourism is just one of the many benefits this change has to offer and he strongly encourages it.

“Tourism is an important factor to our economy. If more and more people are coming to Williamston to see what we have to offer, everyone is going to benefit,” Dolley said.
With other vendors arriving downtown such as glassblowing, knitting and jewelry making, it brings more business into the city, creating more jobs and revenue.

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Diane Lee Creamer, Williamston resident and local artist, wishes the town were more of a fine arts destination. A local vendor on the second floor of Keller’s Plaza, Creamer paints landscapes that are put on display every spring at Williamston’s Art in the Park in May.

“I would love to see a greater turnout for the Art Walk and Art in the Park, the fine arts is something people can overlook,” Creamer said.

She, along with other local artists such as Marge Clay and Mark Mchaffey, say that with several events put on by the Chamber of Commerce, the town will have a more distinct reputation for the arts.

Another industry booming in Williamston is the craft of homemade beer. Tavern 109, the most recent addition to the downtown area in 2009 has seen an excellent few years, according to owner Steve Eyke. With plans to turn the police station’s building into a new microbrewery, the trade of handcrafted beer can also be considered an addition to the city’s development in the arts.

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Williamston is known for its extensive selection of antiques. Mary Reed, a co/op worker for Sign of the Pineapple Antiques, sells in-home brewing items as well as cheese and yogurt makers with her husband in their spare time. Reed is looking forward to seeing Williamston make a comeback.

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“It’s nice to see the town filling up again after so many empty businesses from the recession,” Reed said.

Reed isn’t the only one looking forward to Williamston becoming an art town. Other craftsmen want to see the city make more of a name for itself, similar to Old Town Lansing.

Another type of artistry the city has to offer is Williamston’s award-winning professional theater. So far it has been making a name for itself in the fine arts department by attracting audiences across the state. Emily Sutton-Smith, the theater’s development director, said she would love to see the performing arts take off in Williamston. The theater and performing troupe deliver six plays a year.

Children and young adults are also encouraged to participate in the arts with guitar lessons and several dance studios in the area. Kelsey Weyhing, Michigan State University student and Williamston native, got involved in the arts early. Weyhing recalls riding the bus to school with all of the storefronts being antique markets and malls. Now, years later, she notices the changes being made to try and revive tourism while giving the city a new reputation.

“I think most of the restaurants and stores opening up are definitely trying to channel the artsy vibe to recover the tourist appeal,” Weyhing said.

If local residents are noticing the changes taking place in the community, so will visiting tourists. You can find these businesses along with more on Williamston’s Chamber of Commerce website at www.williamston.org.

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