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36-Hour Challenge: Screening of the new

Modern cities are full of examples of weekend warriors who start out on a Friday with a task and then by Sunday present their solutions. Locally, this act often takes the form of young entrepreneurs assisting one another to deliver a viable startup business plan or a group of designers solving a problem for a local nonprofit. But for some time, groups within the arts scene of Grand Rapids have been doing this far longer.

One such group, the Grand Rapids Film Festival (GRFF), champions collaborative filmmaking and exhibition but also—through its 36-hour Challenge— provide a working exercise that further expands the education opportunities in Grand Rapids’ filmmaking scene.

And while the creation portion of the 36-hour Challenge has already attracted 150 participants of various degrees of experience, this project has resulted in 26 new films of which 20 will screen at Celebration Cinema North.

There will be an awards ceremony and networking opportunity at the theatre’s Wave Room at the end of the screenings.

“We want filmmakers to expand their networks and work with new people,” says Jen Shaneberger, GRFF President and CEO. “We want universities to work together. No more silos!”

Shaneberger also mentions that area education centers including GVSU, Calvin, Compass College of Cinematic Arts, KCAD, and Ferris, all sent teams to this year’s competition.  A first this year was the infusion of  professional teams from Lansing and Chicago as well joining the 2018 36-Hour Challenge. 

For more details, visit GRFF’s Facebook event page.

Winter Punk Fest: Raw. Unfiltered. Westside.

Last November on the banks of the Grand River’s westside, the Grand Rapids’ Ford Presidential Museum welcomed the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame traveling exhibition, “Louder Than Words: Rock, Power, Politics,” with a lavish opening night complete with a tribute to the sounds of punk rock.

Now Winter Punk Fest, a punk rock music event, is returning this weekend to the westside venue Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill. But don’t let this no frills venue with a old school moniker of a name fool you. This is a great venue to experience music, and for three days, punk acts will be packing the space with fans of this music genre.

Slated to appear this year are 15 acts that range from local to acts as far away as Indiana and Detroit. Thanks to Todd Krabs (former Cheeztones bandmate) for organizing this event. 

The best part of this festival (besides to see Grand Rapids’ The Cheeztones live again) is that we have 15 punk acts on Grand Rapids’ Westside committed to the raw and majesty of this music art’s history and evolving form. 

Appearing in this year’s Winter Punk Fest are: 

Friday: $5
Dance Contraption
The Distractions (Indiana)
No Bails
Sleep Cheaters

Saturday: $5
Bad Assets
Bare Knuckle Hooligans (South Bend)
Paper Thin

Sunday: $7
Against the Grain (Detroit)
The Holy Warheads
Desiring Dead Flesh (Saginaw)
The Bitters

George Clinton & The P-Funk Allstars: Rock and Roll Hall of Famer drops the funk

Saturday, Feb. 3, 7 p.m. (doors), 8 p.m. (concert)
Since the 1960s and the decades after, artist and band leader George Clinton has piloted his mother ship of acts from The Parliaments to Funkadelic to Parliament Funkadelic to the most recent P-Funk All Stars, who will roll in to Grand Rapids’ 20 Monroe Live.

As a fan, I can say, at 76 years old, George Clinton doesn’t act his age on stage. He's a serious performer whose concerts’ length and energy would put other younger acts to shame for his mammoth sets filled with classic tunes from a canon of music that only a master could assemble over fifty years. 

In fact, when Clinton and The P-Funk Allstars perform, the audience is never certain what to expect, since Clinton approaches his concerts with an artful chillness that rewards concert-goers beautifully. (Many times his shows can stretch to three hours if the spirit moves the man.)

Not only has this act created some of the best funk and rap of the last 50 years with hits like “Flashlight,” “Atomic Dog,” “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker),”  but also indie classics like “One Nation Under a Groove,” and “(Not Just) Knee Deep.” 

Either way, this is an American classic with Michigan roots and a member of the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame. 

In fact, the timing of his arrival in Grand Rapids could not be any better since the band was just a guest on the office concert series NPR’s Tiny Desk.  

So you can stay home and chill with your Netflix or you can secure tickets and haul ass downtown to 20 Monroe Live to party with a real American icon.

If/Then: The life we create and the other lives lived within our choices

In a musical that vacillates between the worlds of could’ve, would’ve, and should’ve, “If/Then” is the latest production from Actors’ Theatre to hit  Grand Rapids Community College’s Spectrum Theatre.

The musical is actually made up of many stories following the character of Elizabeth as alternative versions of her life and possibilities play alongside each other, often flowing back and forth with tiny clues  delivered via the lighting or through the use of eye glasses. (I guess Elizabeth develops poor sight in one version of herself or else the playwright who directs such props doesn’t think the audience sophisticated enough. Oh well.) 

The musical is story of chance and the choices we make in our lives. It is sure to delight fans of this reality-punching genre. And who wouldn’t want to see a musical that once starred the darling of Broadway, Idina Menzel (“Rent” “Glee”) when it opened in 2014 in NY.

“If/Then” is directed and choreographed by Jolene Frankey with music direction from Scott Bell and according to Actors’, and is about living in the business of today and all of the possibilities of tomorrow.

“If/Then” is the  brainchild of the same creative team who won the Pulitzer Prize (2010) and numerous Tony Awards in 2009 for “Next to Normal.” (It was performed at Actors Theatre in 2012.)

So while you have a lot of entertainment options this season to consider, why not make the choice to see “If/Then” for the thrill of experiencing an imaginative musical that is sure to stick with you long after the curtain closes on this production on February 10.

“If/Then” cast includes:

Elizabeth: Molly Jones
Kate: Jess Luiz
Lucas: David Houseman
Josh: Patrick Finn
Anne: Emily Diener
David: Nate Reynolds
Stephen: David Hatter
Elena: Maddie Jones
Ensemble: Lucas Story, Michael Stewart, D'Marco Hughes, Amy Cain, Mary Kate Murnen, Catilin Cusack

The Refined Line works of Roger Bruinekool: Grand Rapids artist ushers in a colorful new show

If you have driven by East Hills’ Richard App Gallery over the last week, then you know that while the cold, white stuff has been retreating, a new brilliance of color has entered your vision as the gallery prepares to welcome the work of Roger Bruinekool.

Titled “The Refined Line,” Bruinekool’s latest exhibition is a visual delight for the eye with rich colors freely weaving across the surface in a playful and powerfully bold manner. 

Bruinekool, a graduate of the Kendall School of Design in 1957, has a wonderful history in our region over the decades, from being a member of the creative team that launched in 1982 On The Ground Magazine, to a two-time competing artist at ArtPrize. 

Known for his abstract artworks, Bruibnekool after graduating from KCAD, spent about a quarter of a century painting and working as graphic designer and art director in Miami, Fresno, New York, Los Angeles, and Kingston, Jamaica before returning to Grand Rapids in 1974. He has also had two solo exhibitions of his works at the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM).

From his 2007 GRAM exhibition, Kate Nagengast captured this quote from Bruinekool: "My goal is to attend to compositional elements in a way that evokes an adventure for the eye," he said. "Real objects are combined to form a composition in which they lend themselves to abstraction and the apparent abstraction helps the viewer to see his or her reality in a new way.” (MLive’s “Roger Bruinekool exhibit is an adventure in 'pop art’”).

The public is invited to gather this Friday at the Richard App Gallery where the artist will be in attendance for an opening night reception. 

Party with De La Soul’s Maseo: Grand Rapids Soul Club’s sixth anniversary is lit!

The history of Grand Rapids’ vinyl revival would not be complete without taking a moment to acknowledge the contributions of our local DJ scene. Grand Rapids Soul Club (GRSC) is one such group that has not just made a dent in our history through their contribution to our nightlife scene, but actually actively promotes the joys of soul music on vinyl.

Over the last few years GRSC’s booking has solidified an ushering in of a new era of coolness here as they showcase internationally renown guest DJs with solid resumes.

On Friday, our local GRSC crew made up of DJs Andrew Christopoulos, Mike Saunders and Josh Breuer, welcome to the Pyramid Scheme’s stage for their 6th anniversary show De La Soul’s Maseo, who will be spinning a soul and groove-infused set made up of 45s. (See your grandfather or grandmother for definition of this distinct audio format.)

“I am thankful that for 6 years I've been able to play records with my friends and that we have been able to invite others to share that experience,” says GRSC’s Mike Saunders, “I’m thankful that we have been able to bring guests (to Grand Rapids) like Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Prince Paul, DJ Maseo, DJ Numark, Peanut Butter Wolf, J.Rocc, Natasha Diggs, Breakbeat Lou, Supreme La Rock and Skeme Richards and get love and respect is just unbelievable.”

So if you love the thought of soul music blasting through a club full with folks getting their groove on this Friday, then make a stop downtown to celebrate GRSC’s sixth anniversary party. 

To preview Maseo’s style of mixing, please view his 2017 London set captured here by Boiler Room.

Cabildo’s CD Release Party: Includes a live performance at Founders’ Taproom

Reflecting on my many local live music experiences in the city of Grand Rapids, one such act, Cabildo, has secured more than one slot on my list of great performances. 

Counting on one hand, I can name many distinct live music experiences from Cabildo over the years that range from an early debut show at UICA on Sheldon Blvd., to a 2012 warehouse courtyard fundraiser/party under a canopy of stars, to their opening performances at LoveWins at the Rainbow Bridge. This local music act with a talented group of musicians from various backgrounds has won me and so many fans’ hearts over the years. 

Cabildo loosely translates to “town hall” and employs percussion, guitars, and brass to usher in themes of community and life as they dig deep within their Latinx culture for experiences that reflect the many nations represented in the band.

On Thursday, January 25, at Grand Rapids’ Founders Taproom, Cabildo will be performing a concert complete with brand spanking new material ( Their new album will also be for sale at the show on Thursday night). 

The concert is also part of Founders’ Taproom Benefit Series with a suggested donation of $5 at the door. At the end of the night, donations will be tallied and Founders Brewing Co. will match up to $1000 of the total raised. All door entry fees for Thursday’s concert will be donated to Kids' Food Basket.

Also performing on Thursday is Melophobix, a seven-piece reggae/rock/funk/fusion band based out of Grand Rapids, MI.

AIGAWM Drink + Draw: Grand Rapids Brewing Company’s Studio Night gets an upgraded

Over the years, a lot of area eateries have attempted to create distinct experiences aimed at attracting guests to their establishment. 

One area bar that has been committed to building an event within their space to attract the classically trained artist or the creatively inquisitive is Grand Rapids Brewing Company, whose Studio Night has been inviting audiences from downtown dwellers to the suburbanites to pop on down for a unique night of socializing at the city’s only organic brewery. 

For this next outing of Studio Night, GRBC is welcoming our local professional design chapter of AIGA to the party and they have some big plans for those who are creatively gifted or just curious (and want to have some fun in a casual setting). 

One can approach this event in a host of ways, from just popping in with project you are working on, or simply choosing to freestyle. And lest you think this event is limited to just drawing, AIGA West Michigan (AIGAWM) encourages any kind of creative outlet to come on downtown from knitting to photo editing to coloring books.

Even if you do not have a craft in mind to complete, AIGAWM will have blank brown paper bags for guests to decorate for Kids' Food Basket who will be using your creations to pack sack suppers for kids suffering from food insecurity in our community. AIGAWM will even provide the materials to create these bags so no need to pack your own drawing supplies.

And if the thought of creating mini-masterpieces for local kids’ enjoyment isn’t enough to get you heading downtown for this free event, GRBC Studio Night will be offering attendees 25 percent off their tab during this festive and fun gathering.

Enmeshed: Bridging individual visions

Artist reception Friday, Jan. 19, 5:30 p.m. (members) 6 p.m. (public)
Opening Friday until March 18, the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA) will transform its first and lower floor to accommodate their newest exhibition, Enmeshed.

Culled from the work of five artists, Enmeshed builds a solid group show that seeks to bridge the personal, the political, and the spiritual. 

Unifying these artists, whose professional resumes are as  equally diverse as their bodies of work, is their shared unique connection to Michigan. 

Enmeshed artists, which include Tyanna J. Buie, Curt Ikens, Jillian Dickson Ludwig, Andromeda Schmidt, and Dana Freeman, will present a exhibition of realistically rendered illustrations, three dimensional, and Trompe-l'œil inspired works. It will also include site-specific installations via this multi-level gallery experience. 

UICA is now entering their fourth decade in our community and if 2018 is anything like their 2017 season, then this downtown popular arts destination is sure to only continue to impress those who venture to their programming. 

On Friday, Jan. 19 will be an artist reception that starts at 5:30 p.m for members of UICA, with the public invited to join the festivities at 6 p.m.

History Detectives: Getting to know your city

Returning to the downtown branch of the Grand Rapids Public Library is the wildly successful History Detectives, who will use their time at this day-long event to explore various pockets of our city’s past. 

Entering its eleventh year, History Detectives features six distinct program topics shared over the course of a day.

All of the talks are lecture style with visuals and an opportunity at the end of each presentation for a community Q&A session around the topic. 

The 2018 series includes these area of “sleuthing” for attendees: 

9:30 a.m. Welcome to the Madison Square
10:30 a.m. Elective Detectives & Crowdsourcing Grand Rapids Women’s History
11:30 a.m. Marking History: State Historical Markers in Grand Rapids
1:00 p.m. African Americans in Early Grand Rapids
2:00 p.m. Dress Discoveries: Fashion and the Voigt Family
3:00 p.m. The North End Gets a Name

This event is sponsored by Grand Rapids City Archives, Grand Rapids Historical Commission, Grand Rapids Historical Society, Grand Rapids Public Library, Grand Rapids Public Library Foundation, Grand Rapids Public Museum, GVSU Kutsche Office of Local History, Greater Grand Rapids Women's History Council, and Western Michigan Genealogical Society.

For a complete description of the lecture topics and guest speakers, visit the GRPL’s History Detectives site.

All The Way: A President, an activist, and the struggle for civil rights

Jan. 12 - 28, Wednesday through Saturday, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday Matinees, 2 p.m.
This past week as we celebrated MLK day in West Michigan, I was able to steal away some free time to attend Grand Rapids Civic Theatre’s latest production of “All The Way.” 

Set in November 1963 and a short time after President Kennedy’s assassination, “All The Way” is an incredibly complex, sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat look at the year that followed as the main character Lyndon B. Johnson is thrust into the presidency.

In addition to the sudden shift of power and style of leadership, Johnson must attempt to navigate the choppy waters of D.C.’s power political and government elites but also the press as the South takes the spotlight in the quest of the passage of the nation’s historic Civil Rights Act.

Not only will these acts consume his attention, but the President also must focus as he mounts a re-election campaign. 

“All The Way” is an exhaustive look at the many layers of this political story and speaks to how adept Director Bruce Tinker is at handling this material.

Tinker deserves praise for his ability to take a rather dense topic and through the staging and casting of this material take the audience through a complex, fast moving series of events that consumed much of President Johnson’s first year in office. 

The cast, many performing dual roles, are all outstanding and believable. But I would be remiss if I did not single out the talented Jon March, who, while no stranger to the local stage, really soars as President Johnson. His realistic command of this role filled with an incredible amount of salty but very realistic dialogue is almost reason enough to see this production. At times I forgot I was watching an actor as March really embodies and sells the role. 

But do not delay. “All The Way” is only on stage until January 28. 

Buzzed Bard: Delicious Shakespeare 101

As anyone who has attended college as a freshman can testify, there are plenty of 101 level classes to consider. But a new “class” experience has arrived in downtown Muskegon and it is truly a 101 level experience unlike any other you have probably had in your life.

For starters, “Buzzed Bard: Shakespeare 101” is different because it takes place at the stunningly beautiful 18th Amendment Spirits Co. in downtown Muskegon and is performed by the Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company— Michigan’s only year-round, touring, professional Shakespeare company.

This brand new event and very fresh take on the dinner theatrical concept invites the audience to experience a delicious four-course meal (see menu below) while being entertained with vignettes of unsightly scenes from Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice,” “The Comedy of Errors,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “The Taming of the Shrew,” and “A Midsummer Night's Dream.” 

And with any good 101 experience is the chance for the “instructors” to add some festive  Shakespeare-themed improv works as well as live music with a Shakespearean drinking game.

What makes this night stand out from all the other dinner and a theater options in our city is the chance to stay in your seat while enjoying a thrilling interactive dinner-theatre show.

Cost to attend “Buzzed Bard: Shakespeare 101” is $50./person or $90./couple. Those interested are encouraged to call 18th Amendment Spirits Co.’s General Manager, Jo, to reserve a spot. Payment is due at time of reservation and, as you can imagine, space is limited for this first time event. 

Here are the four courses included with your paid admission: 

First course:
Appetizer Buffet: Dark breads, butter, fruit, spreads, cheeses, olives
Passed Cocktail: Nick Bottom’s Curse - Bourbon, Honey, Lemon, Soda

Second course: 
Endive, radicchio and carrot salad with pulled chicken and white balsamic dressing
Cocktail: Virago -Vodka, lemon syrup, orange juice,sparkling wine

Third course:
Wood fire roasted fish fillet with fresh garlic, pearl onions, and parsley with lemon sauce served with pink peppercorn risotto and broccolini
(Vegetarian Option: Ratatouille, pink peppercorn risotto and broccolini) 
Cocktail: O! be some other name - Gin, rose water, basil syrup, lime juice

Fourth course: 
Apple dumplings and vanilla bean ice cream
Cocktail: Shylock’s change - Mulled Rum Wine

Clownvis Presley: Clowns have more fun

Typically one’s career does not take off as a result of being booted off the stage during an audition. But that is exactly what happened when Clownvis Presley attempted to woo the judges at the TV audition for America's Got Talent’s Season Five. 

From that moment on, Clownvis Presley, who is referred by the L.A. Weekly as "Better than the real Elvis,” became a stable on the alt comedy scene of Los Angeles. 

Known for his rowdy trifecta of talent that covers genres of comedy, song, and magic, Clownvis Presley arrives in Grand Rapids on Thursday, January 11 at Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill—the best alt venue on the Westside.

Not only has this hilarious act performed on stage, opening for musical acts like Little Richard, Neil Hamburger, Dresden Dolls, and Jewel, Clownvis Presley has also worked with comics Sarah Silverman, Margaret Cho, Drew Carry, David Spade, and Bob Odenkirk.

To see this show at this intimate westside venue, please visit this link to purchase tickets in advance. Folks seeking a preview of his voice and distinct style should visit his YouTube page. Local musician Delilah DeWylde will be the opening act for Clownvis Presley. 

Winter Wheat Festival 2018: Wheatland Music Fest goes indoors

For those not willing to make the journey to the Wheatland Music Festival each September comes the Winter Wheat Festival—the perfect, bite sized portion-of-a-festival—in January to Grand Rapids’ Intersection Lounge. 

Continuing to build on Wheatland Music Festival’s 44 years of operation, the Winter Wheat Festival’s dynamite line up of acts are committed to the preservation and presentation of traditional music and arts.

Folks who will venture out to the Intersection will be treated to a day-long festival with two stages packed with the best of our regions Cajun, Americana, Bluegrass, Latin, and Traditional music. There will also be a wide array of dances both on stage and on the dance floor.

Scheduled to perform at the 2018 Winter Wheat Festival are: The Joshua Davis Trio, Gasoline Gypsies, Peat in the Creel, K. Jones and the Benzie Playboys, Jimmy Stagger, The Journeymen, Luke Warm and the Not So Hots, Drive South, Michigan Mafia String Band, The Palooka Brothers, Jake Kershaw, Josh Rose and the Founding Fathers, Songs From the Heart: Drew, Josh, Luke, Mary Sue & Roger, Bruce Gartner, as well as an open jam. 

One highlight to single out (besides the return of Joshua Davis back to GR after his recent stop at the Pyramid Scheme in 2017) is the Traditional Irish/Celtic music and dance of Peat in the Creel on the Centennial Stage at 6:00 p.m.

If you have friends coming in from out of town and don’t have room in your home, there is a block of hotel rooms reserved for Winter Wheat attendees at the Grand River Inn for $99.99 per night. Please call the Grand River Inn at 616-363-9001 and ask for the Winter Wheat block.

Tunde Olaniran: Flint Native is out of this world amazing

There are few musicians that I follow on Twitter and Tunde Olaniran is one of them. Besides the fact that we hail from the same hometown of Flint, he’s just a fascinating artist with a plethora of interesting takes on life and music. 

Tunde Olaniran, who was described by Rolling Stone Magazine in 2015 as one of the 10 new artists you need to know, truly is an artists’ artist because of the care that goes into each of his concerts. 

With an electronic beat and lyrics richly alive with a social consciousness, Olaniran was described by Rolling Stone as “a self-sustaining multi-disciplinary force that can sing empowerment anthems with passion, spin party raps with confidence and humor, and produce his own dance tracks. He also choreographs his performances, which often involve costumed dancers moving in unison to the beat.”

The seamless blending of on-stage theatrics with the fine musicianship of his compositions feels fitting and never forced. His concerts are also more like a work out elevating the audience’s core temps on the dance floor as Tunde and his team of dancers on stage turn out an energetic set that is sure to complete everyone’s steps for the week in one show. 

And if you think it is all about having fun, then you have not listened to his thoughtful lyrics that embrace an awakened social conscious as well as the power of individuality—something that Tunde shares within everything he sets out to accomplish at his shows. (At one of his past shows he invited Mark “ultramark” Tafel of Stepdad to the stage to sing a duet of Drake’s Cellphone.)

Tunde has also toured with some of the biggest names on the indie scene including Robyn, Sleigh Bells, Big Freedia, Diplo, and fellow Michigan residents JR JR (formerly known as Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.)

Joining Tunde Olaniran at this special concert event are opening acts Bevlove and Alexander Lynch. 
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