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G-Sync: What's in the air?

Stop scrolling and look up. What do you see around you at this moment? Depending on where you are in the city, your viewpoint will be unique. Publisher and Lifestyle Editor Tommy Allen would love to hear about it. (The GRAM will want a photo too.) Read on...
If you have lived in Grand Rapids and ventured about as much as I have, then you know there are many wonderful vantage points from which to experience the city during summer. I remember the first time I dined at Cygnus in the Amway Grand Hotel at night and saw the lights shooting out in all directions. Once, while on a ride up to Lookout Park in the Belknap Hill neighborhood, I was able to experience a stunning sunset as I listened to Rachmaninoff: Symphony No 2 on my Sony cassette Walkman.
But other favorite views are not driven so much by their height but by the perspectives they enable on our journey. I think of the bending of a roadway, like many of the highways that usher tourists, commuters, and new residents to the city. I think of  biking south on Grandville Avenue where, just before the curve to the west (and to a wonderful baker just steps beyond), there's a wonderful view of old storefronts.

I even like that some unique views of our city have been carefully created, from our art centers in the city from UICA to the Public Museum to even my own studio in the historic Tanglefoot Building.
And if you live long enough, you are able to watch these views of our city shift in many ways – some for the better and others with a head-scratching curiosity, like the chimpanzees I recently observed at the John Ball Zoo. 
I experienced another view this spring. While observing the 360-degree projection art piece In The Air by T. J.  Wilcox (on loan from the Whitney Museum of American Art until August 30, 2015) at the Grand Rapids Art Museum, I became nostalgic for the wanderlust that only a city in summer can provide.
In The Air rises up like a cloud as you approach it. This time-lapse view, recorded from atop the artist's studio space in New York City, offers a rare view of the city over the course of a 24-hour day. Within the unique video presentation are a few of the artist's favorite views of New York, from the vision of the trans-Atlantic Zeppelin docking high atop the Empire State Building to Andy Warhol's silver balloon sculptures.
To enter In The Air, a giant 35 feet in diameter and 7-foot-high world suspended in the middle of the gallery, nearly everyone will have to slightly bend over to reach the center. (It is also interesting to note that children can freely move back and forth barrier-free.)
Everyone I observed on my afternoon at the museum had a silent but definite nonverbal different perspective to share about the work. Some lingered for the entire cycle standing in silence as the views gently shifted like the hypnotic spell cast by a summer breeze in a tree, others raced in, snapped a photo with their phones, and then raced off to the next selfie photo op.
Like New York, our city is what it is.
The attraction of Grand Rapids is that we are still a place where people feel they can create an impact or produce a new design upon a grid that was built long before any of us were even here on this planet. What stood out to me is that In The Air offers us a moment to think about our own city and our role in it. So why am I, a person who is very vocal about the trap of nostalgia, taking us down such a nostalgic path?
The answer is simple and complicated at the same time. Apparently Woody Harrelson once said his philosophy of living was based upon the knowledge that once we begin to look at our lives in terms of how many summers we have left on this planet, we can begin to truly appreciate living.
Coming from a man whom many equate with Los Angeles – a place of endless summer – it is easy to write this off as just glib press chatter. But he is correct: only once we understand that time is fleeting are we able to take our vantage points in time seriously.
Summer in our state is mythical season. It is short-lived, often unpredictable. And a season that we almost all believe has the power to grant extra time, as we pack our schedules full of activities that winter would only be so lucky to enable.
Summer also encourages us to be lazy and to not take things too seriously. Boy, do I wish I shared this view, but I do not think for a second that time takes a season off as well. In fact, what I really enjoy about the summer is the chance for folks to come together in unique ways to experience the diverse views of our city from the various structures we have built.
As we look ahead at the summer of 2015, I want to assure all of our readers that we will continue to present a distinct view of our city and remind them that this view is fluid and ever-changing with possibilities.
The diversity of our publication over these last few years has illustrated more clearly that we understand the changing face of a city. I am not saying Grand Rapids is perfect but the ability to perfect it is still possible here. Our future is not cast in stone but our ability to hack it is still our greatest opportunity and threat at the same time. It is a beautiful moment to be here.
As a companion to the In The Air piece is the GRAM's On The Ground community engagement exhibition, where you provide the perspective of our city based on your vantage point. All you need to do to be considered for this ever-evolving and growing collection of images on display in the gallery space next door to Wilcox's work is to submit a photo illustrating individuals, structures, history, memory, or experiences in Grand Rapids along with a less-than-300-word description of why it is important to you. If your work is accepted to the GRAM's exhibition, they will notify you by email. 
Summer is a time devoted to wanderlust. It is my hope that over the next few months we all will venture out as well as consider what our collective voices can contribute to our city.
Norman Rockwell once thought he would find himself in another place, so he ventured off to France to find his muse. It turned out that his muse was among us in the place he called home. Rockwell referred to this place as "commonplace," but it was far from ordinary. Maybe his vision was rooted in a time we do not recognize fully today, but it was a perspective that we still re-visit today.
Your contribution to a new verse of our city is exactly what we have been waiting for over all these decades. You just have to venture out into the summer sun while the moment is here.
The Future Needs All of Us.
Tommy Allen
Publisher and Lifestyle Editor
Rapid Growth Media
Be sure to check out G-Sync Events: Let's Do This! These events are so much more than simply place-making; they make the place!

Images provided by the Grand Rapids Art Museum and from the photo archive of Tommy Allen Creative including a series of photographs from the John Ball Zoo, which will be celebrating RendeZoo on June 12.
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