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2019 Articles | Page: | Show All

Free Comic Book Day: Vault of Midnight leaps ahead of the pack

When one thinks back on this era in time, there are many things that will stand out in the culture. And while there are many shinning examples in our world of advances within the arts, the comic book world has been on fire with exciting and innovative new ways of telling stories that serve much more than just the young teen boy market I experienced in my childhood.

In short, comics have come a long way and now center on so many others that they truly are serving everyone. This is something worth celebration and so each May, Free Comic Book Day is hosted around the world with area comic shops displaying a dizzying array of special offers and festive activities.

And while many here will celebrate this event, one local one shop, Vault of Midnight, rises to the occasion to create the ultimate Free Comic Book Day experience as fans of this illustrated literature line the Monroe Mall in downtown Grand Rapids in the hopes to score some amazing deals including specially issued, free comic books. (Yes, they have a healthy selection of free comics for those who show up…and while supplies last.) 

Once a year, Vault of Midnight joins the world in celebrating local comic shops by simply offering free comic books to the masses. It is way for authors to break down old stereotypical barriers as well as showcase the advances in art, storytelling, and even gender roles.

As always, there are lots of other freebies including a special swag bag for the first 50 guests. 

Vault also hosts a special cosplay contest and turns the mall into an impromptu celebration of community as area groups and makers showcase their works and offerings to nearly thousand who will pass through Vault’s doors this Saturday. 

I cannot recommend this event enough, so clear space in your day to experience this remarkable community-building event around an old art form experiencing a tremendous growth period in our society.

The Happy Prince & Other Wilde Tales: Children's stories transformed through dance...and for adults

A brand new creation based on Oscar Wilde’s fairy tales is coming to Grand Rapids and you cannot believe in what format. 

According to Grand Rapids Ballet’s (GRB) Choreographer Penny Saunders, in a break from the more traditional dance programming options one might come to expect, this new production, “The Happy Prince & Other Wilde Tales,” is based on a series of children’s stories from the famed author Oscar Wilde.

We have come to learn over time that children’s tales like these presented on stage are rarely created just written for the kids—they pack a lot of punch for the themes and subject matter presented in this premier ballet.

And if you have been following the Grand Rapids Ballet (GRB) as of late, then you know they are taking a lot of exciting risks including this new production, which is the last for Artistic Director Patricia Barker. (Later this summer, the GRB welcomes its new Artistic Director James Sofranko from San Francisco.)

So if you have been awaiting a new production that is certain to keep you talking long after the final curtain, then make your way to the GRB’s Peter Martin Wege Theatre over the next two weekends.

You can familiar yourself with the production at this easy to use guide provided by the GRB.

Cinco de Mayo: A quick guide to avoiding the cheap sombrero and fake mustache

By our last count, the Greater Grand Rapids area has more than 20 published Cinco De Mayo parties on deck for this weekend. It is beyond a shadow of doubt the most anticipated party this side of the summer of 2018.

And while it is easy to look at this annual event as a nice way to fill the void between the St. Patty’s Day and July Fourth parties, it is worth considering a few ground rules in order to avoid offending the true meaning of this Mexican holiday.

While the holiday is considered a minor holiday in Mexico, in the United States we tend to really leverage this holiday as a free pass to sip tequilas and down our cervezas.

But the real roots of Cinco de Mayo (the fifth of May) is a day when our neighbors south of the border celebrate the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla. 

And while the French experienced devastating losses on this day-long battle, the Mexican Army lost fewer than 100 soldiers. It was a huge morale boost for the people of Mexico winning against such odds.

The closest we in the U.S. can get to this level of victory probably reaches back to one of our own against-all-odds skirmishes with the British during our independence, except we just never got creative enough to a hosting a commemorative holiday quite like they do in Mexico.

In the U.S., we started to see celebrations of Cinco De Mayo emerge in our cities via Chicano activists in the 1960s. They used this holiday as a way to assert their heritage as well as to celebrate their cultural pride within their community. 

And the rest you could say spread like wildfire through our American culture, as eventually bars and restaurants began to host commemorative events…but often with harmful unintended consequences that still plague many events to this day.

Yes, we know that area bars and restaurants will seek to capitalize on this holiday with drink and dining specials (and why not, spring is ushering in warmer weather that is making all of us giddy for fun).  But it is worth noting that while it is ok to celebrate Cinco De Mayo, just don’t go overboard and run the risk of offending our Mexican-American citizens by launching harmful stereotypes that all too often plague this festival.

The easiest rule of thumb is that if you see colorful sombreros or even large fake mustaches, it is best to leave these cultural items to those of the culture from which they originate.

Sure, we may have donned hats in good harmless fun in the past.  But if we have learned anything in our present as we seek to build bridges in our society to the many groups who make up America, in being a good and respectful community member, it is best that we conduct ourselves in a non-stereotyping manner when celebrating Cinco De Mayo. It should not be an opportunity to play dress up, but a chance to collectively have fun by honoring this annual holiday. 

I'd hate for folks in other nations start to spin our Fourth of July parties complete with processed meat in a bun and a lot of loud t-shirts. So Rapid Growth says have fun this Cinco De Mayo…just pass on the sombreros, offending accents, and fake mustaches —unless of course you are Mexican.

Mayor's Greening Initiative: Celebrate Arbor Week by planting a tree with Bliss

If you have been waiting for a do good-type of event that will place you in the warm sun with others in your community, then on Saturday the Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, the City of Grand Rapids Forestry Department, and Mayor Bliss invite you to a Arbor Day tree planting unlike any other.

This event is a part of Mayor’s Greening Initiative that seeks to engage our entire community to think of ways to reach our city’s goal of a 40 percent tree canopy. 

To help make this goal, each year since 2016, more than 1,000 volunteers have stepped up to work alongside others to plant more than 800 trees in the city. In addition, the city  has given away more than 400 saplings with another 100 to be given away on Friday night. (Visit this link for details on date/time.)

And don’t worry if you have never planted a tree before;  Friends will have folks there to assist with a training session before you begin to work alongside others to make our city’s greening goals. They even provide the tools so all you have to do is just show up in clothes to get potentially soiled. 

The tree planting begins on Saturday at 9:00 a.m. and will run until noon when, after planting all the trees, you and other volunteers will be invited to a community celebration lunch with the Mayor taking place at Sullivan Field. Please register in advance at Friends' website

Best F(r)iends: The Room's team is back for one night only in Grand Rapids

If you followed the long line of celebrated films of 2017, then you no doubt have heard of the amazing film “The Disaster Artist”: a story about the making of one of the worst films of all time, “The Room” by Tommy Wiseau. "The Room" is also a modern cult-classic that explains a lot of its success and staying power with a new generation of film audiences. 

For one night only, UICA’s film program is clearing its night for fans of “The Room” to come see “Best F(r)iends”: a brand new movie inspired by a road trip made by “The Room’s” Greg Sestero and featuring Wiseau. It is the first time in 15 years that the two have appeared together since “The Room.”

The story centers on Jon, a drifter who is encountered by an eccentric mortician named Harvey Lewis and is taken in by him. After a short while, the two become friends and hatch an underground enterprise off the back of  Harvey's old habits. 

But with every good intention often creeps moments of greed, hatred, and jealousy, and here their efforts begin to unravel with Jon reverting to old habits. The road trip zips across the Southwest, introducing us to a host of wild and crazy characters through a series of twisted and dark foibles as both men learn valuable lessons about friendship and loyalty.

The reason we only have one chance to see this emerging cult classic is because by the time UICA was able to book “Best F(r)iends,” they had already secured a full roster of outstanding  films to screen throughout April.

When they learned of the film’s availability, they had to find space for it. Lucky for you, it’s free this Saturday since you will get to experience something truly a cultural phenomenon in the making as it tours the U.S.

Film Threat’s Matthew Passantino recently rated the film with a "D" going on to add that this new work is "Tone deaf at almost every turn... ‘Best F(r)iends’ won’t have the same legs as ‘The Room’ but could offer a night of fun with some of your closest f(r)iends. It’s terrible. Try and see it.”

With an endorsement like that, how could you NOT attend?  

Vivant Artisan Fair: Share some love with our local makers of Grand Rapids

On Sunday afternoon, East Hills’ Brewery Vivant will open their Walloon room at the Pub to welcome several local artisans whose handcrafted items ranging from jewelry to pottery to soaps will be up for grabs at their debut of Vivant Artisan Fair.

According to staff of Vivant, this artisan event harkens back to their very foundation as a B-Corp conducting business with an intentional look at sustainability and good value. This is something in the life blood of one of the area’s most interesting breweries. 

“That human connection is embedded in everything we do here from brewers selecting hops and steeping (‘dry hopping’) them into beers to our chefs dicing mirepoix for a scratch-made risotto stock,” says the Abbess of Beer and Director of Sales & Marketing, Kate Avery.

The brewery’s commitment to people as makers has over the years, according to Avery, attracted quite a few makers through their doors. This event was suggested by the popular beer hall’s servers and bartenders at Vivant.

Focusing on artisans who embrace sustainability, and natural ingredients and processes, Vivant Artisan Fair welcomes Bare Bones Bohemia, Public Thread, Hides & Stitches, Parliament the Boutique, Fox Naturals, LAM Jewelry, Studio Heff, and Todd Freeman. 

And while there are plenty of activities to consider, with Mother’s Day just around the corner, this is a stop to secure a handmade item that would be perfect for dear ol' mom. 

Get Involved Unwind: GRYP flexes volunteer muscle for good

While I may have aged out to become a member of the Grand Rapids Young Professionals (GRYP), I never grow old nor tired of the work they continue to do in our city to help community members of a certain age connect to this region in meaningful ways. This is the beauty of our GRYP! 

And while throughout the year GRYP hosts many different themed events, it is their Get Involved Unwind that is most impressive and gets to the core of why this young professional networking community is so wonderful. 

For this special night, you are invited to join other locals aged 21 to 40 at Paddock Place (formerly Mangiamo!)  as they showcase nearly 20 different non profit organizations that all need your assistance. Think of this as speed dating for folks looking to connect with organizations that share their values. 

So whether you’re interested in a board, committee, or just a short-term volunteer commitment, then this is the night just for you. Dress code is very come as you are but dressing to impress goes a long way…just keep the tux and gown in the closet.

GRYP believes in offering spaces free of intimidation, so if you are curious but maybe shy about venturing to this event on your own, please consider reaching out to the GRYP Membership Committee at membership@gryp.org. They will provide you a contact to help make introductions and ease your fears of the unknown.

Don’t Box Me In: Lady Ace Boogie’s album release party with friends

Lady Ace Boogie (LAB) has been a quite force for some time in our community as her musical style has always embraced a level of honesty that is part revelation, part pure joy. 

Her concerts while bumping with bass and powerful rap lyrics can feel more like intimate gatherings even though at times her audiences can number in the hundreds depending on the stage she inhabits so seamlessly.

On the occasion of her release party, her first since 2013’s “Feel Good Music,” LAB freely opens the stage to a host of friends who will round of her performance/release party for “Don’t Box Me In.”

According to Grand Rapids’ music magazine Local Spins, “Don’t Box Me In” is “a decided departure from earlier efforts, [as] Lady Ace Boogie introduces us to a more vulnerable and less blindingly optimistic side of herself, showcasing a surprising level of growth and maturation as an artist.” 

Joining LAB on stage to perform for the audience will be friends Molly Bouwsma Schultz (formerly of Vox Vidorra), Mama Sol, and Superdre. 

Bruce Barcott: Guggenheim Fellow, author, and Leafly editor celebrates 420 in Grand Rapids

To the best of our knowledge, while Grand Rapids has lots to celebrate regarding the decriminalization of marijuana in our city, we have very few celebratory events organized around the topic of 420. 

Well, that changes when on Friday, 4/20, 4:00 p.m. Canna Communications—a multifaceted, women-owned communication agency serving cannabis businesses in Michigan—welcomes to downtown’s Gallery Divani Bruce Barcott of Leafly—a cannabis news and research site. 

Bruce Barcott is a Guggenheim Fellow in nonfiction and the author of “Weed the People: The Future of Legal Marijuana in America.” Since late 2015, he has served as Deputy Editor of Leafly and oversees the site’s news and cultural coverage, as well as chronicles the global evolution of cannabis legalization.

Barcott will be addressing the audience on the topic of “Everyday Wisdom from an Extraordinary Industry: Ten Hard-Learned Business Lessons from the First Year of Legal Marijuana.”  

As Michigan prepares its voters to make a potential decision in November 2018 about the legalization of weed in our state, we cannot think of a better person than Barcott to help dispel the myths and fears about to be pedaled in our state around this emerging legal industry in America. 

Tickets can be purchased in advance here. Drinks and appetizers are included in the ticket price. 

Record Store Day: Saving local music stores since 2007

In 2007, the landscape for music stores around the nation was looking bleak as CD sales were flatlining just as digital shopping aggressively took over the space one traditionally assigned to local record stores by consumers. 

But lucky for us, in this moment of decline folks around the world banded together to save this local icon with an annual event called Record Store Day where unique offerings released by the industry on CDs, cassettes, and vinyl cause folks to flood back into these hallowed, analog spaces of music. 

On Saturday, be sure to make plans to visit any one of the many local stores from Grand Rapids’ Vertigo Music to Grandville’s Corner Record Shop who have a day’s worth of special programming that includes great deals on new and used releases, as well as a chance to hear any one of the many musical acts performing on this special day.

The best bet for  scoring some special release is to just show up early and get in line. Or if you are like me, just wait until a few hours after the doors open and enjoy the pure pleasure of leisurely shopping for a great music find among some of the coolest folks on the planet. Record Store Day is not to be missed because it is a community rarely in one place at one time these days. It is worth it no matter what time of the day you decide to celebrate Record Store Day.

For complete of the releases being sold this Saturday, please visit Record Store Day's website.

If all the crowds is not your bag and desire a rebel event organized around this holiday, then visit Dodd's Records on the Westside for a celebration with bands and a parade. 

Alynn Guerra: 10th Annual Birthday Print Sale and Giveaway

We have plenty of options to find a new work of art, but on Saturday there is an event celebrating ten years that should be at the top of your to do list: artist Alynn Guerra—a Mexican artist in the Westside’s Tanglefoot building—opens her studio for her 10th annual Birthday Print Sale and Giveaway

As she writes, “Every year for 10 years I celebrate the journey around the sun with a print party! It is a good practice for me to express gratitude for the things learned, granted, acquired, and lost, but most importantly I really would like to show my gratitude to all the people who have given me their support year after year.”

Because artists in our community often labor in the shadows of our other creative economies’ robust brightness, shows like this can often get lost in our local event offerings. 

If you have never ventured to visit Alynn’s beautiful Red Hydrant Press studio space at Tanglefoot, then this is the year to do so. Those who do will most certainly be able to secure a print from one of our most prolific and engaging artists. Celebrate local artists…all year long. 

Moving with Parkinson's: Our local GR Ballet has a brand new groove

When one thinks of ballet, folks often envision well-toned bodies or that moment when you realize as a child that men can wear tights, too, but with padded protection. But often today, this narrow definition is being cracked wide open as people with disabilities take to the stage more and more in this movement-rooted arts genre. 

On Tuesday, April 17, our Grand Rapids Ballet—Michigan’s only professional ballet company—welcomes community members with Parkinson’s as well as doctors, physical therapists, and other professionals  working in this field to join Grand Rapids Ballet School’s Director Attila Mosolygo for a thrilling 45-minute “Moving with Parkinson’s” dance class.

Over the years, we have learned that dance can be an effective therapeutic tool, helping those afflicted with Parkinson's disease to stay fit. This live piano accompanied class seeks to engage attendees with dance steps that will increase one’s confidence to keep moving but also provide a social space for othering to blossom at this innovative event. 

This free open house will provide an excellent opportunity to network with professionals in the industry as well as other patients and community supporters.

For more information, call 616-454-4771.

Drinks with the Director: Color of the Year exhibition debuts at UICA

I’ll be the first to admit that I was not a fan of 2016’s duo picks for color of the year. The very light blues and fleshy pink more readily conjured memories of baby showers than a fashionable color most could easily welcome into their lives.

But two years later, Pantone has a solid hit with its 2018 Ultra Violet selection and locally, our Urban Institute for Contemporary Art (UICA) is ready to celebrate this new color in a big manner complete with a fresh new show devoted to the color, as well as a host of special events honoring it. 

According to PANTONE®, the “Color of the Year is a symbolic color selection; a color snapshot of what we see taking place in our global culture that serves as an expression of a mood and an attitude.”

There is already a fascinating and familiar history attached to the name for this refreshing version of purple. 

“This purple shade that has also been the name of a Warhol superstar who died in 2014; a 2006 dystopian action film starring Milla Jovovich as a rebel infected with a vampiric virus; an online activist community founded in 2012 to combat sexism and violence toward women; and a kind of light that can cause skin cancer (ahem).” (from the New York TImes' “The Future Is ... Purple” by Vanessa Friedman.)

On Thursday, April 12 at 5:30 p.m., members of our downtown contemporary arts center are invited to plop down $5 to attend a special guided tour of this new exhibition hosted by UICA’s Executive Director Miranda Krajniak. (With each paid admission you will receive one free drink.)

In addition to original works of art on display at UICA, the Color of the Year exhibition will feature examples of design work by local, national, and international artists and artisans, with a focus on Michigan-based design and manufacturing.    

Advance tickets can be purchased at UICA’s Facebook Event page.

Spring Revival: Get trail schooled at this women-centered mountain bike clinic

For the longest time in Grand Rapids, when a bike event was hosted, it seemed to be a male-dominated field. Lucky for us, with the advent of many groups in our community like She Rides Her Own Way and other female-focussed biking clubs and groups, we are seeing a major cultural shift as women take to pedal power. 

On Sunday, April 15 starting at 1 p.m., the Spring Revival event debuts at Cannonsburg with a mountain bike skills clinic that is sure to help those looking to get motivated in a female-centered education event. Spring Revival is a basic mountain bike skills clinic and no drop ride held just a short drive north of the city of Grand Rapids.

This experiential, hands-on education event is presented in collaboration with Liv Cycling, Moxie Wild, and Village Bike & Fitness, and is free to attend. (You must register in advance as space is limited for this event.) 

The mountain bike clinic will focus on the cycling needs of the beginner as well as those seeking to brush up on their trail skills after our very long Michigan winter season. 

The "no drop" portion of this clinic means that no rider is left behind on the trail and has an experienced rider who stays with the group. These kinds of rides remove the fear of being alone and being stranded by oneself. Besides riding is much more fun together with a group of friends. 

And while some guys might howl that it is exclusionary, this is women/trans/femme only clinic is a wonderful addition to the many mixed gender cycling events happening all the time here in our region. 

Organizers remind folks attending that they will want to bring a working mountain bike, helmet, appropriate footwear, hydration, and a smile (if you like). You can register in advance at this link.

Treasures of Your Library: A white glove event for history buffs and Grand Rapidians

History nerds of Grand Rapids, you have waited a long time, but finally an event tailored to your desires for all things in the past is arriving in your present with the Grand Rapids Library Foundation’s Treasures of Your Library: A White Glove Event. 

Staring on Wednesday, April 18 at 5 p.m., our downtown library will open up vast pockets of their diverse collection at this very unique fundraiser for the foundation. 

This year’s theme celebrates women’s contributions to Grand Rapids past, present, and future.  Coming off of Women’s History Month, I know many are still seeking spaces and events that celebrate and center on women. 

Some of the areas highlighted are: 

- The Grand Rapids women doctors who discovered the whooping cough vaccine.
- A sneak peek at the landmark project surrounding World War I Women's Defense cards, which provide fascinating insights into personal lives of women from the early 1900’s.
- Browse Grand Rapids Chicks baseball team memorabilia from the time during World War II when GR had a national women’s baseball team. 

And like every good charity event, there are plenty of craft beers, ciders, wine, and appetizers, as well as really cool auction items like a private dance party by DJ AB, a Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island getaway package, a curated dinner with artfully selected wine pairings from Noco Provisions, and a historical framed print of Grand Rapids titled "Turn of the Century" by Nancy Clouse. 

Libraries have evolved plenty over the years, but honestly I believe the best of times is now. Please consider being a part of the White Glove Event and celebrate our women’s role in history by investing in a ticket to attend this special event to benefit our area’s Grand Rapids Library Foundation. (Image from the Grand Rapids Public Library.) 
2019 Articles | Page: | Show All
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