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Transgender Day of Visibility: Trans Art Showcase and Stories of Truth, Power & Positivity

Last year during the last week of March, the city of Grand Rapids was suddenly bathed in more than 100 flags celebrating the International Transgender Day of Visibility (TDOV), which happens each March 31.

One bold moment that stood out to me of our community’s evolving acceptance via these flags that were flown from small businesses to corporations, was the first ever community celebration of our area’s trans community at the popular eatery, the SpeakEZ Lounge.

Over the course of the event, one by one members of our trans community would step up to the microphone to share a personal narrative with the packed standing room only crowd that gathered to laugh, cry, but, most of all, support one another through the time honored gesture of being real.

This year the celebration of TDOV: Trans Art Showcase and Stories of Truth, Power & Positivity event moves to the spacious University Club in downtown Grand Rapids. 

Not only will you have a chance to meet some of the artists of our city whose work will be on display this TDOV, you will also be treated to an afternoon of inspiring stories from our transgender community.  

The event also allows folks a chance to learn in this comfortable and visually rich setting about the positive work happening in the community. This year’s special guest speaker is Rachel Crandall-Crocker, Executive Director of Transgender Michigan and founder of TDOV! 

And while this is a family inclusive event, please note that due to the theme and emotions that may be in play at times during the story-telling portion of the event, use your discretion when inviting children.
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TDOV bonus event: 

On Friday, March 30, at 3 and 6 p.m., there will be free showings of the documentary "Real Boy: A Son's Transition. A Mom's Transformation” at Celebration Cinema North with a special reception with stars Bennett Wallace and his mentor Joe Stevens immediately after each showing at the Wave Room. 

The story follows 19-year-old Bennett Wallace as he navigates sobriety, adolescence, and the evolution of his gender identity. In addition, the doc illustrates how his mother also makes her own transformation from resistance to acceptance of her trans son. Along the way, both mother and son find support in their communities, reminding us that families are not only given, but chosen.

This is a free event from Spectrum Health, in collaboration with Healthy Pride, LGBTQ Employee Resource Group, and tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Leaning into the Wind: Andy Goldsworthy returns to the big screen

Opening Friday, Mar. 30 - April 11, see website for show times
It is hard to imagine that is has been 17 years since the visually-arresting art documentary film “Rivers and Tides - Andy Goldsworthy Working with Time” was released.

Since that time, Goldsworthy has grown in importance via his very ethereal and often temporal installation works. In fact, one of his arch works can be viewed locally at The Meijer Gardens

Teaming up again with “Rivers and Tides” director Thomas Riedelsheimer, Goldsworthy is once again the subject of  new documentary “Leaning into the Wind” that opens at UICA this weekend.

In this film, we see the artist out in the natural landscapes as well as gallery spaces that attempt to hold his vision, even if only for a moment. Goldsworthy as an artist is a fascinating subject for folks curious about the expansive definition of art.

And with success come many fresh opportunities to achieve a new and bolder vision of one’s life’s work. But true to Goldsworthy’s past projects, this documentary, which covers four years between 2013 and 2016, illustrates how even with all the successes in the world that the artist presently enjoys, these works are not any less risky or contingent on factors beyond our physical control. 

As with all his works, Goldsworthy raises questions about how we react to his work as well as struggle to reconcile our own desire for permanence as the artist juggles a set of variables in the pursuit of delivering a successful and often jaw-dropping, stunning work of art. 

And while you could always wait to watch this film in the comfort of your own home, this is a documentary made to be seen on the big screen and with an audience so bring a friend or two with you to Goldsworthy’s “Leaning into the Wind.”

The Big Gig: Next big discoveries live on stage

Saturday, Mar. 24, 5:45 p.m. (doors), 6:45 p.m. (concert)
Baxter  
Everyone loves a good “I remember when” story that they can pull out to showcase with friends as they reflect on a past event long gone from our present. 

Locally, our live music scene is one such arena where there are plenty of performance-based acts who may have started small, but went on to become a big deal over the course of their careers.

I am not trying to say that if you attend Triumph Music Academy’s The Big Gig, that one will see the birth of a new talent that years from now will be rocking concert halls and stadiums. But if you do, then you will understand the pure joy of exploring fresh, emerging talent in our region.

The Big Gig is Triumph Music Academy's annual celebratory all-ages stage show that is inspiring audiences each year. 

Arranged like a concert, The Big Gig features performers, bands, songwriters, and even electronic-based artists who will showcase what they have created. 

This is also a fundraiser for the area’s highest rated music school, specializing in private music lessons for all ages, live performance, artist development, and recording technology. The Big Gig helps them raise funds for new equipment, renovations, and new programs!

You can even be a part of the show’s excitement by participating in their contest to win a guitar by tagging #BigGigGR in your pictures and videos of the event. The winner will be chosen after the show.

By purchasing a Triumph Music Academy T-shirt, you are entered automatically for the raffle, which includes an acoustic/electric guitar, ukulele, a month of free music lessons, and other exciting prizes. 

Triumph is a collective of professional performing musicians who act also as instructors at this popular music school in our community. Come out and discover the next big act or musical star from your city. 

6th Annual Chilly, Blues, & Brews East

It is hard to recall if you just arrived here, but The Gilmore Collection of Michigan and Colorado humble beginnings started with the 1978 Thornapple Village Inn in Ada, MI. And since that time they have grown steadily in our community with a series of popular eateries including their downtown signature property, The B.O.B. (or Big Ol’ Building).

And while they have hosted more events than we can print, their annual Chilly, Blues, & Brews East is arriving this weekend for their sixth outing of this popular chili cook-off and hot pepper eating contest set in the heart of downtown. 

For this special event, more than 50 teams—made up of professionals and amateurs—will compete at The B.O.B. for the 2018 bragging rights of best chili at the Chilly, Blues, and Brews East, which is presented in collaboration with WLAV FM and MSU Gran Fondo. 

This is a free, family-friendly event that will include the afternoon chili cook-off and hot pepper eating contest, which includes a day of live blues and Michigan craft beer flowing into the early hours of Sunday. (The event wraps at 2 a.m.)

The runs are fairly simple: each chili entry must involve a Michigan craft beer as an ingredient. The $1000 prize and Golden Ladle Trophy will be awarded to the best professional and amateur chili aficionados who will compete for the grand prize. Last year, Team Voodoo won first place for Judge's Best Overall Chili using Bell's Best Brown.

Other teammates can also win in other food categories such as Best Vegetarian/Vegan Chili, Spiciest Chili, and Best Dressed Team.

A portion of the day’s proceeds will benefit skin cancer research via MSU Gran Fondo. 

Here is the schedule for the 2018 Chilly, Blues and Brews East:

1:00 p.m. Chili tasting (open to the public)

3:00 p.m. Hot chili pepper eating contest (Must be 18 years and older)

12:00 - 2:00 a.m. Live music at H.O.M.E., B.O.B.’s Brewery, Bobarino’s, and Eve

For more information on Chilly, Blues, and Brews East and other upcoming events at The B.O.B., visit their website

Composting 101: Sustainability series returns to Grand Rapids

As we finally say farewell to the winter of 2018 and welcome spring, we enter a period where we, if you are like me, find ourselves looking over the backyard imagining the greening plans of our upcoming growth season. 

And as anyone will tell you, having a strong fertilizer game plan will ensure your efforts blossom into something truly remarkable…and maybe even tasty. 

Green Michigan, a nonprofit in collaboration with the West Michigan Environmental Action Council, will host its first in a series of monthly workshops starting with Sunday’s Composting 101 at the award-winning Long Road Distillery.

Committed to hosting these events that promote sustainable practices in our community in a relaxing and fun environment, Green Michigan will share insights, tips, and clever hacks to get you up and running your own backyard composting operation. 

The event will cover both indoor and outdoor methods along with a variety of composting styles.

According to the Rodale Institute, composting increases overall biological activity in soils, which in turn improves nutrient cycling and boosts plant health. I cannot think of a better time to invest a couple hours in learning how to step up your composting game in your garden this year.

Green Michigan’s mission is simply to assist Michigan residents in their quest to establish and enact more sustainable efforts in their lives. Their informative and exhaustive website offers plenty of info on personal practices, area parks, places to recycle, and local farms complete with a list of CSA locations. If you cannot make the event, you can always hire them for a consult for your area business or organization at greenmichigan.org. 

Space is limited for the presentation that will begin at 2 p.m., so register in advance at the event’s website.

9th Annual Local History Roundtable: Kutsche Office shows how we are better together

It is hard to imagine that it has almost been a year since we lost Paul “Buzz” Kutsche in this world. If you never met the man, then you missed knowing one of Grand Rapids’ most colorful individuals and thoughtful anthropologists whose gift to our community continues to blossom through the work of the Grand Valley State University’s Kutsche Office of Local History.

The Kutsche Office invites locals to gather for their ninth annual Local History Roundtable held at the Allendale campus. This annual event is organized this year around the theme of ”Returning to our Roots: Explorations of Western Michigan’s Diverse Communities” and will include guest speakers, roundtable reflections with members attending, and a very special tribute to Paul Kutsche’s legacy and deep commitment to support local historians and cultural heritage organizations. 

The office seeks to illuminate  history through the sometimes unwritten or undocumented stories of our area as they pay special attention to the dynamic individuals who have called West Michigan home.

The schedule for this year’s event:

8:30 a.m.       Check in and registration

9:00 a.m.       Opening remarks/Welcome

10:00 a.m.     Morning keynote:  Ronald J. Stephens*, Purdue University
                      Entrepreneurial exchanges among African American leaders in WM

11:30 a.m.     Community Collaboration Grant Recipient: Kathryn Remlinger
                      How much Dutch? The linguistic landscape of Holland, Michigan

12:30 p.m.     Lunch

1:15 p.m.       Afternoon speaker: Andrea Riley-Mukavetz, Asst. Prof., Liberal Studies, GVSU
                     Stories for the next generation: an indigenous approach to oral history
 
2:30 p.m.       Tribute to Paul Kutsch

*Ronald J. Stephens is an authority on the African American resort community of Idlewild, Michigan. Stephens’ research focuses on African American rural and urban communities, as well as 20th century African American culture, identity, history, and political thought. He is author of “Idlewild: The Rise, Decline and Rebirth of a Unique African American Resort Town” (University of Michigan Press, 2013); “Idlewild: The Black Eden of Michigan” (Arcadia Publishing, 2001), as well as co-author of “African Americans of Denver” (Arcadia Publishing 2008). In addition to authoring books and articles, and serving as a media consultant on Idlewild and other topics in African American Studies, he is co-curator of Welcome to Idlewild, a Michigan State University Museum traveling photographic exhibition (2003-present).

No Man's Land Film Festival: All genders welcome

Fresh from its Tuesday, March 13 San Francisco debut comes the traveling No Man's Land Film Festival two days later on March 15 to Wealthy Theatre. 

No Man’s Land Film Festival is an unapologetically, all-female adventure film festival with roots in the Rocky Mountains and is committed to showcasing, as well as connecting, women in pursuit of all things radical.

No Man's Land Film Festival tweaks the lens of looking at our known history from a her-story perspective to the topics of adventure and progressive thinking in the hopes of motivating audiences around the county who will venture out to attend. 

On the big screen will be films that range from the rare to the never-before-seen shorts—all created by female filmmakers. You will not want to miss this film devoted to the women in our lives who are attempting to accomplish great things through their contributions.

Irish On Ionia 2018

What more can be written about Irish on Ionia (IOI) that has not already been said about the wildly popular and quite possibly the biggest St. Patty’s Day party in Michigan that invades downtown Grand Rapids each March by way of Barfly Events (Part of the family of downtown eateries of HopCat, Grand Rapid Brewing Company, and Stella’s). 

This popular event that is not for the weak of liver should you wish to imbibe in all the festivities that kick off at 7 a.m. and keep on cranking out hour after hour of programming until 10 p.m.

Thought the day there are beer tents and two stages filled with bands and DJs that range from the traditional Irish sound to a heavy dance beat that helps you burn off those beer calories, including  names like locals DJ Slim Tim and DJ Sean Boney and guest DJ’s like DJ Kalendr.

They even have the popular ShamROCK, Paper, Scissors Tournament on deck with hosts Mike and Drew. 

And while the Waldron House is also open and hosting programming for attendees of IOI throughout the day, the heat really gets cranked up when DJ Richard Oxygenn starts spinning for the late night crowd at 10 p.m.

So while you have a lot of places to consider attending and celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, if you seek that big booming festival atmosphere, then IOI is your ticket to secure this year. And don’t delay purchasing tickets—this one has been known to sell out. 

West Michigan Design Week - 2018’s Look Behind Design kick off

This week as Rapid Growth dedicates our entire issue to the power and importance of our design community, G-Sync Events wants to invite the design-curious to seek out West Michigan Design Week as they have produced more than 20 events ranging from world-class speakers like Jen Scully and Stefan Sagmeister to hands-on workshops to happy hour gatherings. 

To help stir the excitement further for the 2018 West Michigan Design Week, an opening reception for “Look Behind Design”— a specially curated exhibit where you can dive in and see the spirit of design—will commence at UICA on March 16 in downtown Grand Rapids.

For all the details, including the events featured this year, be sure to visit their website or read our article by Rapid Growth’s Editor Lauren Carlson who welcomes this important festival back to our city.

The Art of Pitching: A refreshing beer series celebrating its second year

It is not uncommon for folks in this city to attend an event devoted to pitching an idea, whether it is a 5x5 Night or #100Ideas. But this week until March 19, the Mitten Brewing Company welcomes back their second annual “Art of Pitching” series.

Unlike the startup variety, this local westside brewery with plenty of nods to baseball within its tasting room, will release six experimental brews culminating at a special event on March 19.

The Mitten Brewing Company, long a provider of unique brews to Grand Rapids’ Beer City brewscape, has built itself around showcasing the many and diverse worlds of craft beer with a nod to the popular national pastime of baseball.  

When talking about baseball, the act of pitching refers to throwing the ball towards home plate to begin a play. However in brewing beer, when you “pitch,” it refers to the time in which one throws yeast into wort to start the fermentation process. The annual “Art of Pitching” series offers Mitten brewers an opportunity to test out new ingredients and techniques.

The 2018 “Pitching” series really kicks in on Monday, Mar. 19, when all six beers will be tapped at the popular pub. Monday is also The Mitten Brewing Company’s “Flight Night,” which offers flights at 25 percent off from 4 p.m. to close. Visitors are invited to purchase a flight of all six beers.

To vote on your favorite at the Art of Pitching, check out the brewery’s Facebook poll that will be open on that Monday only.
 
The event also provides an opportunity for a charitable component to the Mar. 19 event: from 5-8 p.m., a portion of the sales will be donated to the brewery’s spring and summer charity project, the “Ted Rasberry Gift.” 

The money from this event will go to the Whitecaps Community Foundation to fund the Inner City Youth Baseball and Softball Program—a free program for inner-city youth ages 6 to14 that holds games at seven neighborhood parks, including Rasberry Field.

And who knows, maybe after all the dust settles on this series, a new popular brew will be born and a new reason to celebrate the craft of brewing and the creative spirit devoted to this process will be born (again). 

The styles on tap this year include an India Pale Lager, Blackberry Black Gose, Rye Stout with oak spirals, Imperial Roggenbier, Bohemian Pilsner, and the brewery’s first New England IPA — and all will have baseball-reflecting names. 

Vinyl Fetish Thursdays One Year Anniversary: Dark Disco

Fans of Division Avenue’s (defunct) Reptile House and their locally famous dance parties have discovered a rebirth of their sound and a reason to shake it in public from a local DJ who is too young to recall those Jager-infused nights. 

Vinyl Fetish's Joe Moon had just an idea when he started his Vinyl Fetish Thursdays at the Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill of a special night devoted to a niche form of music. He did so because, while Grand Rapids has plenty of places showcasing top of the charts dance tunes as well as plenty of niche retro-music nights, he felt there was a real shortage of places highlighting dance music’s darker side. 

As the night has grown to attract an audience over the past year, Moon has welcomed guest DJs as well as adding Dana West-Bystry as a partner last July at the popular Thursday event.

Recently, Moon reflected with Publisher Tommy Allen about the year long experience and the upcoming celebration. “I’ve met a lot of people from that time who have come out and enjoyed what I was doing, along with the younger generation of kids who relate to the style of music,” says Moon, “It’s been a beautiful clash of ages and personalities. The vibe of the night is always welcoming and accepting.”

The welcoming aspects of Vinyl Fetish’s crew is what has impressed Rapid Growth, which has  been tracking this subculture of our city as we establish a DJ culture here that is part curation part celebration. 

So get to the wild westside outpost on Thursday to celebrate with Moon and West-Bystry as they welcome some of their favorite DJ’s including Brandon Hill, Elyse Renee, Geoffrey Hudson, Kevin Czarnik, and Michael Mist.

As always, no cover. Those who come out can enjoy $3 long islands all night from 9 - 2 a.m. and the best dark disco-industrial music this side of the Reptile House.  

LaughFest 2018: What’s that sound in the air? Not spring, but laughter

On the dawn of its eighth year, Gilda’s LaughFest—the nation’s first-ever community-wide festival of laughter—has made the blues of late-winter a bit lighter as the citizenry (and visitors) arrive to check out the massive programming of this 10-day event. 

Uniquely created by the Grand Rapids Gilda’s Club in March 2011 as a way for the community to “celebrate laughter for the health of it,” the festival features some of the biggest names in stand-up as well as a host of up-and-comers to West Michigan. 

The festival looks at the many sides of laughter with performances touching on areas like improv, musical showcases, kids programming, LaughteRx panels, and of course, the art of stand-up.

Highlights of the bigger names appearing on this year’s playbill include Trevor Noah, Maria Bamford, Tiffany Haddish, Cameron Esposito, Bert Kreischer, and Anjelah Johnson. But no worries about cost at LaughFest, since many of the amazing programming at this event is free. So for those who want to venture, there is truly something for everyone. 

Most of all, the proceeds raised from LaughFest supports families and friends with their cancer or grief journey through Gilda’s House Grand Rapids. 

If everything holds true, we can expect folks in the area to be in a little better mood again this March…and I can clearly say, LaughFest is a big reason why.

Know Your Muslim Neighbor Open House

Last October, the Grand Rapids Islamic Masjid and Religious Institute on the city’s south side welcomed the public to their second open house. Having missed the first one, Rapid Growth’s Tommy Allen made sure to catch the fall event and boy, was he impressed by the level of openness as well as education built into this community-building event. 

On Saturday the institute re-opens their doors for another event they are call “Know Your Muslim Neighbor.”

As we the case last fall, the Islamic membership enthusiastically welcomes the community to bring family and friends members to their East Paris Ave. masjid (Arabic for mosque) for a chance to learn more about the world’s largest religion.

No, this is not a veiled attempt to convert anyone, but is a wonderful way for a religious group and community to reach out to help educate our city’s curious to better understand them.

As was the case last fall, on this tour you’ll visit the Prayer Hall, learn about the Quran, try on a Hijab, and even learn how to write your name in Arabic. 

While at the masjid, you can also get a henna tattoo or try one of the many foods and drinks from the Muslim nations represented at this event. (In fact, if you like something you tried, then we insist that you visit the East Paris Ave. Super Green Market just North of the masjid for some delicious gastronomic treats.)

Just a quick note from the hosts who ask that people wear modest clothing when you attending. All attendees are asked to wear long sleeves, modest long pants, and women attending the tour will be asked to cover their hair when on the main level of the prayer hall. Shoes are also removed on the main level but they have plenty of space to check your shoes.

According to the Islamic Mosque and Religious Institute website, they seek to draw its guidance from the Noble Qur'an and the Sunah. They are dedicated to the advancement of Muslims and society at large. They serve the ethnically diverse Muslim community within the West Michigan region.

So if you seeking a wonderfully structured learning experience from a member of our faith community, please consider RSVP’ing on their Facebook event page

2018 César E. Chávez Social Justice March and Community Gathering

More times than not, our childhood experiences will often inform who we become as adults. When looking back at the life of César E. Chávez, it is easy to see how his life on his family’s farm tending to the land as well as the animals would inform his steps as he grew into the man we celebrate today. 

Chávez’s path from childhood would take him to service in the Navy, but also to a role as a community organizer where he would go on to found the National Farm Worker Association. His work aimed to improve the working conditions of America’s farm workers which included African Americans, Filipinos, white Americans, Mexican Americans, and Mexicans. 

When the growers and farmers refused to provide access to fresh water to drink, bathrooms in the fields, and fair pay for a day’s work, Chávez led the farm workers through years of nonviolent actions, much like Martin Luther King, Jr. did before him, resulting in a victorious moment in history.

On Thursday our community will host an annual march to honor the life and legacy of civil rights hero César E. Chávez.

In an era of massive divisions in our nation, it is nice to know that there are still areas of our society like this community-centered celebration/march where others are advocating for greater understanding of another’s path in this world. 

The event begins at 11:00 a.m. at the Cook Library on Grandville Ave. SW and will progress to Chicago Ave’s The Potter's House Chapel for a community gathering. (There is also a 1 p.m. unity luncheon but you need to pre-register in advance for this paid function. You can see this offer at the GVSU website. ) gvsu.edu/inclusion/2018unityluncheon

If you are going to march, the organizers have a few points to help guide one in the task. If you want to make signs, please keep the messages related to social justice and the life and legacy of César E Chávez. They also ask that you consider using the organizational colors of the host: red and black. In addition, feel free to bring your home country flags, as well as school or organization banners. Absolutely no political candidate signs will be permitted according to organizers. 

Even if you do not march, these types of events really help educate our community in helping to tear down divisions as they open us up to the lives of others in our city. 

Terrible Lovelies: Electronic newbies in the neighborhood pub

Fans of bands like Phantogram, The Knife, and CHVRCHES are in luck this Friday night at Creston Brewery -  the city’s only black-owned brewery - welcomes the newly created act, the Terrible Lovelies.

Forming in late 2017 with members Shaneé Laurent, Marley Ferguson, and Joe Botwinski, the Terrible Lovelies offer a synth storm of electronic pop—a sound not really that big here since the Alexis (band) years.  

So here’s hoping that fans of this style of music will rise  again so that we can enjoy the beautiful theatricality that often follows such acts. 

In addition to the chance to catch a newish act in our community, this night welcomes Julio Gomez, a powerhouse of a performer who is a singer/songwriter and guitarist from Grand Rapids. 

Gomez is best known in our region as the frontman of  "I Believe in Julio" whose recent release "An Episodic Memory" ushered in the band’s signature folk/punk sound. For this special performance opening for the Terrible Lovelies, Julio Gomez will be joined on stage by long time collaborator Dan Fisher, as well as many special guests who will dive deep into his catalog of songs.

This will be a really good night for fans who are seeking an experience that is on the front edge of our city’s emerging music culture. 
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