Art isn't an Old Town problem. Getting the word out is

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By Sakiya Duncan
Old Town Lansing Times Staff Reporter

Art is driving the community of Old Town and other areas. The problem is, do people know about the activities?

MICA Gallery and The Arts Council of Greater Lansing located on Turner St. in Old Town Lansing. Photo by: Sakiya Duncan

MICA Gallery and The Arts Council of Greater Lansing located on Turner Street in Old Town Lansing. Photo by Sakiya Duncan

Katrina Daniels is the program director for MICA (Michigan Institute for Contemporary Art) Gallery in Old Town, located at 1210 Turner St. Daniels shared her frustrations in running the gallery. “I found when I started working here that it is a challenge to communicate to the community what we are doing.”

“I found more and more that it is less about our organization and more of a challenge for the whole community,” Daniels said. “I realized after talking to other people producing programs whether it be music or poetry, and maybe only a handful of people show up.

“I hear that there isn’t anything to do in Lansing but collectively there is a number of things each night to do, but it’s hard to get the information out.”

Kathy Holcomb owner of Absolute Gallery located at 307 E. Grand River Ave. Holcomb has been in Old Town for 14 years now and expressed that it is more than just a gallery.

“In the beginning you worked really hard to get traffic down here and now more and more traffic is coming especially tours, the hardest people to actually get to come into the area are actually the locals,” Holcomb said.

For the future Daniels and other creatives have created a group and are coming up with ideas on how to better support each other. They are also thinking about putting together an underground newsletter called “There is nothing to do in Lansing,” and it will list out all of the things going on that month along with a map to all the different locations to try to reach different audiences, Daniels said.

In the meantime, the groups are pressing ahead with events.

Daniels said, “we have bi-monthly exhibits openings usually the first Friday of the month and exhibit openings like a party. It gives the community a chance to come and meet the artist, we also have a dance group that comes here once a month, we have a poetry club. I develop programming to fit the visual work.”

MICA Gallery has moved from Sunday to Friday night gallery walks along with a few other galleries and has started lobbying Old Town to move along with them.

Absolute Gallery Photo By: Sakiya Duncan

Absolute Gallery Photo By: Sakiya Duncan

Holcomb has opened up her gallery to many different niches. “We’re involved in absolute music series that has four concerts in here a year, I do book signings we feature artist, it’s definitely more than a gallery its always featuring new things and bringing in new things for people,” Holcomb said.

Holcomb and MICA Gallery are not the only ones giving the people of Lansing an assortment of events. Kaitlin Lapka at The Arts Council of Greater Lansing located at 1208 Turner St. is the Arts Night Out Project manager.

Arts Night Out is new to Old Town and the Greater Lansing area. Arts Night Out will begin in May 2016 and carry on to December 2016 as a pilot project, Lapka said.

“Arts Night Out will be a series of free monthly public events held on one Friday evening a month,” Lapka said.”It will turn four different Greater Lansing neighborhoods into really creative and vibrant spaces, it will be a mixture of business art and community.”

“We invite businesses in the neighborhoods and collaborate with the artist to put art in their stores, we are trying to be as creative as possible and open to all types of art,”Lapka said.

The four areas in which Arts Night Out will take place are Old Town, Downtown Lansing, Reo Town and Downtown East Lansing. The areas will alternate each month. “We plan to reach 15,000 people from May to December 2016,” Lapka said.

“The Arts Council is a non-profit and the mission is to support artist and area creatives. It’s really to support our artist in 2016it will create 195 new exhibit opportunities for local artist of every kind that did not exist before,” Lapka said. “It will also support our galleries we have over five different galleries that can be supported through this and arts and cultural organizations and giving them a platform.”

Arts Night Out is also “a creative placement initiative, and it really brings together the collaboration of the community. It infuses an experience into our landscapes and our space, business and cultural collaborations,” Lapka said.

Unlike for-profit organizations, non-profits like these must sometimes work with stricter budgets. “It can be challenging for non-profits to market themselves because they usually have limited funding and their main mission is to achieve their purpose and they typically are running on a tight budget,” said Elizabeth Keenan, Assistant Professor of Business Administration in the marketing unit at the Harvard Business School.

How do they plan to promote Arts Night Out?

The plan to market Arts Night Out will be a mixture between digital and traditional media. On the traditional side they have partnered with City Pulse,an alternative weekly newspaper. As far as digital they plan to promote through all social media outlets including but not limited to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. They are also in the process of building an extensive website and have partnered with Red Head Design Studio,Lapka said.

Why is art so important to a community?

“Arts are quite important in a community especially because art creates an opportunity for a diversity of experiences, and voices to be part of the community,” Said John Fenn. Fenn is an Assistant Professor in the Arts and Administration Program (AAD) at the University of Oregon.

“We should think of art and community across all age groups, developing young audiences to be involved in arts. So that when they grow up they develop and appreciate and understand the value of art,” Fenn said.

Artist will get personal fulfillment and development. It isn’t just a matter of showing the work of the artist, but receiving feedback and engaging in conversation, Fenn said.

For more information on MICA Gallery you can visit their website at micagallery.org

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