Traverse City Record-Eagle

January 29, 2014

Forum: We need to expand presence for the arts

BY PAUL LaPORTE

---- — In the past week, there have been several references to the financial and operational difficulties at the History Center. This sad news comes at a time when arts and cultural organizations around Michigan face the realities of current funding models. It also comes at a time when Artcenter Traverse City has been quietly discussing an alliance with the History Center to provide a home for Artcenter and an expanded presence for arts in our community.

Artcenter was formed in 1951, along with Northwestern Michigan College and the Traverse Symphony. We have served the community with art shows, classes, and arts advocacy since then. Three years ago, we left the facility we occupied on Elmwood in All Faiths Chapel. We have since provided classes, shows, and events in different locations as we search for a suitable new home.

In the past few years, Artcenter has strengthened its board and instituted new governance initiatives with increased emphasis on strategic planning, budgeting, fundraising, and community engagement to make the organization more sustainable. This ensures our future and protects investments by donors and members.

The Carnegie Building on Sixth Street is a community treasure that deserves the attention of the community. It is a cultural asset that should be shared by residents and visitors in a way that was envisioned by Perry Hannah in 1904, when he donated the property for a public library.

We believe an alliance between Artcenter and the History Center would create a spectacular cultural asset for Traverse City, honoring the legacy and spirit of Mr. Hannah’s contribution. There are very few open exhibit spaces like this in Traverse City and they should be preserved and used for that purpose. Additionally, the adjacent Hannah Park provides a wonderful setting for outdoor public art.

Artcenter would bring renewed activity and cultural significance to the facility. With exhibits, shows, and competitions we could highlight local artists of all media, from K-12 students to professional working artists. Classes, workshops, and demonstrations in all media could help expand the skills of student artists. With lectures, presentations, panel discussions, and other art-related events, we could bring art to the community in new and interesting ways. The facility would also serve as a sales gallery for member artists.

This cultural treasure would literally sing with renewed activity and a new arts presence near downtown. This is happening in other communities and it should happen in Traverse City.

The Rotunda Room, where so many Traverse City residents spent time when it was the public library, is one of the most beautiful rooms in the city. Imagine it being used as a small, elegant venue for lectures, performances, poetry readings, student activities, and other art-related events. It could be the “Carnegie Center of Traverse City.”

With Artcenter in the Carnegie Building, we see the possibility of an expanded, successful arts presence in Traverse City and a community treasure that would serve the artists, residents, and visitors of our spectacular and culturally rich region.

For more information on Artcenter Traverse City, visit ArtcenterTraverseCity.org.

About the author: Paul LaPorte is president of Artcenter Traverse City and past president of The Rotary Club of Traverse City. He retired after more than 40 years in the computer software industry. He recently published “The Heart of a Priest,” a biography of Father Fred.

About the forum: The forum is a periodic column of opinion written by Record-Eagle readers in their areas of expertise. Submissions of 500 words or less may be made by emailing letters@record-eagle.com. Please include biographical information and a photo.