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Rhythm and Race: A History of African American Music in Grand Rapids

Last May, the public had the first of two opportunities to preview a work-in-progress from the filmmaking students at the West Michigan Center for Technologies and Arts. This instructor-led, student-produced documentary titled, “Rhythm and Race: A History of African American Music in Grand Rapids,” would go on at each screening to gather feedback from the community to strengthen the piece. 

Fast forward a year later and after many additions and edits, on May 10 at 6:30 p.m. at Celebration Cinema North the finished product will be unspooled with a free public viewing. 

Highlights of this design-feedback process include the most recent discovery of Al Green’s time spent in Grand Rapids, which the student filmmakers have now captured and folded into this presentation. 

The most recent addition is an exclusive interview with Curtis Rodgers, who co-founded the Grand Land Recording Company in Grand Rapids and is credited as the first record label to sign Al Green.

In short, we have an amazing historical work about to be revealed to our community and you will not want to miss it. 

Following the Celebration Cinema screening will be a public reception in the Wave Room featuring a short panel discussion with the student production team members. Please take a moment to RSVP here.

In addition, this exciting, new project through a partnership with Comcast’s Local On Demand channel will be made available for all Michigan Comcast subscribers to screen at home and on streaming devices. 

“Rhythm and Race” explores how music genres have influenced social justice, advanced equity for African Americans, and served as a platform for bringing awareness to injustice and racism. 

So get to the theatre on Thursday night to see it live, or if you can’t make it, be sure to tune in starting on Friday, May 11 to view at home. 

Percival: 2018 Official Movement Pre-Party in West Michigan

Each May since 2006, Detroit brand Paxahau has opened its arms to the world as they welcome music lovers to experience their electronic music festival Movement at Hart Plaza. 

This annual event seeks to showcase and celebrate the second major Detroit sound (behind Motown) to enter our world’s soundscape: techno. 

With each passing year, Movement has sought new and innovative ways to engage with an emerging and growing audience of electronic music fans through official pre-parties to help build buzz but also showcase this distinct Detroit sound.

This year, our local MODUL8 music team has been selected to host this Official Movement Pre-Party as they welcome to the Intersection Lounge special guest, Percival, who will showcase a live set of deep techno, Detroit vinyl room, and KSHR beats. 

Percival has evolved to push his hardware to create a faithful experience of  tripped out, deeper minimal soundscapes rooted in ambient textures that that dive into a soulful version of techno. His style seeks to replicate the in-studio experience but within a stage setting, something that is often hard for most sonic music artists to replicate. 

So check out the hottest Official Movement Pre-Party this side of the state with other electronic music fans as they prepare for Movement 2018 this Memorial Day Weekend. 

Supporting Percival on stage this year will be Matthew Scott (Modul8 Events, DV8 Events), Nešto (Modul8 Events, Three Deep, [something clever]), and Neddly (Modul8 Events).

Succulent Terrarium Building Workshop: Tiny gardening for the space-challenged

Who could have predicted that in our lifetime we would watch the houseplant industry in all its glory come roaring back in vogue? But that is what has happened with millennials as they embrace the houseplant industry from wicker macrame to hard-to-kill succulents. 

Locally, Matthew Provoast of Light Gallery + Studio will welcome the curious to join him for a special class on succulent terrariums complete with plants and a modern globe glass vessel. 

The gallery welcomes people of all experience levels to join him around their giant community-sized table as you learn helpful tips on plant selection, proper building techniques, container selection, and a few of Provoast’s favorite tricks for planting, maintenance, and displaying  your terrarium within any home or office environment.  

And the best part is that those who attend will leave with a handmade  creation complete with the knowledge of how to care and recreate this project later should you wish to add more to your life. 

Division Avenue’s Light Gallery + Studio is unique in this city as they proudly showcase local artists and handmade objects from our state. Their mission also includes educational classes that are gaining more and more traction with each offering of their community-building curriculum. 

For complete info, please follow this link to register and learn other details of this special night of terrarium creation. 

Invite a friend to double down on the fun of making a fresh memory while creating a lasting, living work of art…that is, provided you water your new creation. 

Bronze Wolf: Unspooling fresh sounds on an old format at Sparrows (with cake)

Grand Rapids has lots of pockets of activity that often go unnoticed. One such area is our electronic music scene, which is slowly evolving as many of our local acts that once had to seek an empty warehouse or friendly gallery owner to let them host their creative adventures move into more sanctioned spaces.

One such act, Bronze Wolf, who began performing in the area under another name a few years back at places like the second floor of Long Road Distillers and Grand Rapids Pride, will finally be debuting his newest music at a special audio cassette release party/concert at East Hills' The Sparrows Coffee, Tea & Newsstand.

Now before you poo-poo the thought of owning cassettes (again), they have been back in vogue for a few years now with one of their biggest years to date happening just last year.  

Bronze Wolf (the creation of musical artist Eric Andrew Tempelaere), is using the occasion of his 25th birthday to release his cassette “Red Shift.”

Tempelaere’s music is said to be inspired by Roman mythology and dives into the atmospheric territory often inhabited by other musicians like James Blake. His sound is comforting at times through his warm, soulful vocals but once processed through the sonic landscape become otherworldly, foreign, but also familiar. This is perfect music for a night of chill and reflection. 

Joining Bronze Wolf to perform on the occasion of this new release will be Hoom, a group made up of Tempelaere’s former fellow co-workers at The Sparrows. 

Entry is a suggested donation of $5. but with admission comes birthday cake! 

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. 
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