Traverse City Record-Eagle

October 11, 2013

Arts leaders begin collaborative effort in the region



TRAVERSE CITY — Leaders of 18 arts organizations met recently and announced this week that they’ve resolved to work together to make northwest Michigan an arts destination.

“We wanted to break the barrier of turf protection that has existed in the arts centers,” said Paul LaPorte, board chairman for the Artcenter Traverse City. “There’s always been this hesitancy.”

The group represented nearly all of the 22 organizations across the region invited to the meeting at Crystal Mountain. The 40 people at the event talked about why northwest Michigan and its hundreds of renowned artists don’t equal an arts tourism destination. And they took the first steps toward working together in an unprecedented way to attract art lovers to the area, LaPorte said.

“Why go to Santa Fe to see good art, ... or any other well-known arts destination?” he said. “We have a world class art scene up here. Why aren’t we on the top 10 art destinations in the country?”

The groups hope that the collaboration will lead art patrons to the area who will string together gallery tours and studio visits across the region much like the wine connoisseurs who flock to the area.

There’s been a few other smaller mobilizations in the region in the past, but nothing on such a regional scale, LaPorte said.

Liz Ahrens, director of the Crooked Tree Arts Center in Petoskey, explained that there have been smaller, more localized collaborations in the region in the past, but nothing on the scale of the effort discussed at the meeting.

”We need to connect as a trail so to speak for the visitor,” she said. “They want to go to galleries, they want to see exhibits. We believe at this time that there is a great opportunity as we sit on these pretty cool cultural assets.”

Ahrens, who sat on statewide boards governing the arts, knows similar efforts have been made by organizations in other parts of the state. But northwest Michigan has much more to offer in a much different atmosphere than in Detroit or Grand Rapids, she said.

The group went as far as discussing the development of an app that would help visitors find arts organizations, studios and theaters across the region. It would work as an interactive guide for arts patrons.

”There’s no reason that somebody visiting shouldn’t know that there’s an artist’s studio just a few miles down the road from Interlochen,” Ahrens said. “It’s way beyond just joint marketing efforts.”

Ahrens predicts that efforts begun at the recent meeting will lead to a more accessible arts community across the region.