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Local First Street Party: All things local celebrated in the streets

Judy Wicks who is credited as one of the pioneers of the “shop local” movement wrote, “Not long after I opened the White Dog Cafe in Philadelphia in 1983, I hung a sign in my bedroom closet in my home above the business—right where I would see it each morning. ‘Good morning, beautiful business,’ it read, reminding me daily of just how beautiful business can be when we put our creativity, care, and energy into producing a product or service that our community needs.

I was just beginning my journey. I didn't know then what I do now: that when you connect head and heart in business, you can transform not just business as usual, but the economy in general. You can find a way to make economic exchange one of the most satisfying, meaningful, and loving of human interactions." 

There is no better way to write a description what so many local businesses are beginning to adopt and experience and it is because of Local First that this message continues to evolve and  expand this powerful message in our region of the state. 

On Saturday, June 3, the public are invited to celebrate the joys of supporting our local living economies of West Michigan via the 14th Annual Local First Street Party.

This wildly popular street festival is a chance for many of our West Michigan businesses, artists, and organizations to showcase the very best in our local music, local food, local beer, and local entertainment. (See a trend here? This is about celebrating the best of our locals.) 

And if you think that the Local First Street Party is resting on their laurels, then consider these fantastic upgrades that include a new bubble and craft table from the Grand Rapids Children's Museum, a photo booth by Smitten Booth, Happy Henna tattoos, and clearly marked access points for people with disabilities. Even Rapid Growth’s Publisher Tommy Allen will be debuting on stage this year at the festival as the event’s MC.

In addition, this year’s festival is bilingual-friendly with new signage for our Spanish-speaking attendees. Local First Street Party will once again showcase how a large festival can be a lot of fun but also create zero-waste for the environment via their partnership with the High Five—an emerging and growing small business committed to making special events greener and sustainable. (Honestly, I wish more festivals in our city took this as serious as Local First does each year.) 

Returning to the festival this year will be chalk for creating art on the sidewalks, recycled and up-cycled art from Avenue of the Arts’ Sanctuary Folk Art Gallery, interactive hula hooping with Audacious Hoops, and thrilling breakdancing performances from 61Syx Teknique Street Dance Academy. 

For a snapshot of the activities and food/beverage offerings, please see below:

Entertainment Schedule for 2017:
  • 3:00 p.m. - Yoga with AM Yoga
  • 3:30 p.m. - Molly Bouwsma-Schultz & Friends 
  • 5:00 p.m. - Wealthy & Diamond 
  • 6:00 p.m. - Hollywood Makeout 
  • 7:15 p.m. - JRob and Bedrock: The Foundation 
  • 8:30 p.m. - Cabildo 
  • 9:45 p.m. - ConvoTronics 
  • 11:00 p.m. - The Crane Wives

Food Vendors:
  • A Moveable Feast Truck
  • The Candied Yam
  • Love's Ice Cream
  • Daddy Pete's BBQ
  • The Maine Dish Food Truck
  • Patty Matters Food Truck
  • Malamiah Juice Bar
  • Mosbyspopcorn
  • What The Truck
  • Twisted Rooster Grand Rapids
  • GRPD (Grand Rapids Pizza and Delivery)

Beverage Vendors:
  • Founders Brewing Co.
  • Brewery Vivant
  • The Mitten Brewing Co.
  • Farmhaus Cider Company 
  • Free water from Gordon Water Systems

Brighton Beach Memoirs: Broadway’s wittiest goes semi-autobiographical in this classic revival

In 1983, Neil Simon, one of America’s most prolific and funniest playwrights/screenwriters debuted his semi-biographical play about his childhood in “Brighton Beach Memoirs.”

What made this production stand-out, beyond the obvious of art imitating life, was the various devices Simon used to break down the theatrical fourth wall with the character speaking at times to the audience as if to let them in on the various secret backstories and thoughts of Eugene Morris Jerome, the main character.

Circle Theatre's second production of their 2017 season is set in the the early 1930s depression and features Eugene, a budding young male dreaming of baseball and girls. But this comedy about coming of age in an age of uncertainty is also a story about a family trying to navigate the hardships of their time with a steady mother, a much-overworked father, and Eugene’s very worldly older brother Stanley. 

Add to the mix a widowed Aunt Blanche, her two young (but rapidly aging) daughters, and you have all the ingredients for a wild ride of a comic play with a big heart. (Bring your tissues.)

Simon as a playwright in the 1970s and beyond always had a knack for banter and with “Brighton Beach Memoirs” he is at the top of his craft. “Brighton Beach Memoirs” would go on to win numerous awards as well as spawn a trilogy that includes “Biloxi Blues” about Eugene’s time spent in the World War II and “Broadway Bound,” where the family begins to fall apart right as his career is poised to take off.

Good theatre like “Brighton Beach Memoirs” reminds all of us of the powerful life lessons that can be seamlessly delivered via the witty dialogue and fine acting that is sure to be a part of your experience and every show at Circle Theatre’s summer season. 

Antwone Fisher: Every child is a star to be cherished

Film fans are in luck this month once again as yet  another exciting connection to the industry will be appearing in West Michigan.

This time is the chance to see Antwone Fisher speak at the Every Child is a Star to be Cherished/Michigan CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) event at the Grand Rapids Downtown Market on Tuesday, May 23 at 5:30 p.m.

Antwone Fisher is the subject of the 2002 film directed by and starring Denzel Washington. But the film is rooted in Fisher’s bestselling autobiography, “Finding Fish,” that the author would adapt for the big screen. 

Born in an Ohio prison to a teenage mother, Fisher was placed in foster care with the hopes that one day he would be reunited with his mother.

As Fisher waited within the foster care system, he would be subjected to unspeakable abuse from his host family that spanned from the physical to theverbal, and sexual. 

Fisher’s book and film is about a man coming to terms with his abusive past and how, through the help of a United States Navy therapist,  he unlocked a better future.

Michigan CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) fitting choice to bring Fisher here is not just because of his heartbreaking yet inspiring story, but for the advocacy work he has performed over the years that includes book writing, public speaking, playwriting, and even testifying before the Senate Finance Committee on behalf of Child Welfare. 

This is a special one night only event benefiting our Michigan CASA organization whose mission is to reach every child who needs a court appointed special advocate. Please contact Rachel@MichiganCASA.org for details on attending.

Roll'n Out Food Truck Fest: Strolling Ionia for the best restaurant on four wheels

It has been a long road to get to our city’s food truck ordinance, but now that we have cleared the way, it is time to celebrate the joys of having more options to dine in the city (even if your favorite restaurant is housed on four wheels and is on the go).

To mark this occasion, Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. (DGRI) in partnership with our Grand Rapids Food Truck Association (and many other community partners) want to invite you to attend the Roll'n Out Food Truck Fest to taste the best of your city in one location this Sunday.

Roll'n Out Food Truck Fest showcases the diverse offerings of our community’s food trucks and chefs along Ionia Street south of Cherry Street.

Scheduled to appear this year are What The Truck, Patty Matters, The Everyday Chef and Wife, Silver Star Cafe, RIX STIX Pronto Pup, PorkFat Slim's, Pizzaiolo Wood Fired Pizza, Pig Out on the Fly, NoLo's Soul, Moochies Dream Cream, The Maine Dish, K Gourmet Bake Shoppe, Ice Box Brand Ice Cream Bars, Gettin' Fresh, Daddy Pete's BBQ, Coffee Rescue, Cheese & Company, Brown Butter Creperie & Cafe, Blue Spoon, Big Baby's Bar-B-Que, Ananda Ice, and A Moveable Feast Truck.

Scheduled to screen this Sunday are these culinary themed films: “Ratatouille” (noon), “The Princess and the Frog” (3 p.m.), and “Chef” (5 p.m.)

You can also grab a meal and stroll down Ionia Ave. to the Downtown Market where a special Artisan Village market will be held from 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. on this day. 

Scheduled to appear at the Artisan Village: 

Aron Lowe, Sarah Jean Anderson, Barbara Danger, Charis Moblo, Creative Art by Mali, Debra Van Deusen, Distinctive Designs by Judi, Henry Brown Collages, Imagination Creations, Jerry Berta, Joel Howell, Kate Lewis Ceramics, Lions & Rabbits, Nora Faber Gallery, Parliament the Boutique, Randy Finch, Ryan Wyrick, Sanctuary Folk Art Gallery, Square Peg Events, Sugar Vibe, Tributary Art Gallery, and Woosah.

You will even have a chance to vote for the best food truck. The winner will be announced at 5 p.m. 

Insiders are already buzzing about the most recent win at the inaugural Friday Night Food Fight where our local food truck, The Everyday Chef and Wife, took home the Golden Food Truck Trophy this week. 

Come on down this Sunday for a taste of something refreshingly brand new and always fresh. 

Fluorescent Black: UV dance party lights up the GRAM

Who hasn’t as a kid wandered into Spencer’s and marveled at the simple joys of staring at a black light poster as the colors vibrated with life on this two dimensional surface?

If you have not experienced this feeling or you are aching for the tug of nostalgia for this hold-over gimmick from the 1960s, then you must attend Fluorescent Black—the first big part of the summer of 2017 at the Grand Rapids Art Museum.

The black light is actually a very dark purple, drawing its light from the ultraviolet (UV) spectrum, and is invisible to the human eye. However, when you place anything white (t-shirts, teeth, etc.) or brightly fluorescent colored, it suddenly becomes alive with a glow-in-the-dark quality. Cool, huh?

This event’s dance experience will be hosted by WOODTV 8’s Rachael Ruiz and is powered by the beats of DJ’s A/B, Super Dre, Todd Ernst, DJ Composition, and DJ Snax with special guest appearances from DITA ( Dance In The Annex ), Rebel Kusco, and a fashion show from Iconoclasp & A/B. 

Special pricing is available for those who purchase tickets in advance at this site or pay full price at the door (if tickets are still available.)

Issues & Ale–President Trump: Michigan Radio’s community-engaging platform lands in West Michigan

If you have lived long enough then you know that right after a long election season comes a period of reflection which eventually it leads to greater dialogue within our communities about how to move forward.

And while Donald Trump’s presidency is unique in so many ways, one unique aspect of this presidential cycle is the amount of news consumption and related dialogue that this new President has stirred in our society. 

On Monday night at Celebration! Cinema North Michigan Radio’s senior political analyst Jack Lessenberry, along with a panel of political experts, invite the public to join them for a special community conversation as they look at the Trump administration’s plans and actions thus far, and how they are or could impact Michigan.

Planned panelists include:
  • TJ Bucholz, Democratic strategist and President & CEO of Vanguard Public Affairs 
  • Scott Hagerstrom, Michigan state director for Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign 
  • Cheyna Roth, Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network 
  • Gleaves Whitney, presidential historian and director of the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies at Grand Valley State University 

Issues and Ale is community-engagement series from Michigan Radio that has been created to engage citizens in constructive dialogue about the important issues facing our state. The in formalness of this event is also a big part of its popularity. 

So instead of dreading the first of the week, get fired up that on this Monday at this free event as you enjoy an adult beverage while engaging in a constructive community discussion courtesy of Michigan Radio.

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

There is no shortages of filmmakers in this community who are participating in what can only be called a golden age for local film. 

Just attend any one of the many events in our city, from awards shows to film society special screenings to even film festivals, and you will quickly see what I mean. This city is beautifully reflected in the flickering glow of so many films being created here.

Joining the ranks of films being created locally is a new documentary “Rhythm and Race: A History of African American Music in Grand Rapids.”

Produced with the guidance of the West Michigan Center for Technology and Arts (WMCAT) Advanced Video Production Studio’s Teaching Artist and Film Director Mike Saunders, along with Founder of the Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives (GRAAMA) and Archives George Bayard, this student-created film is nearly ready for its final cut.

But lucky for you, on Thursday night you are invited to attend a special screening of this made-in-Grand Rapids documentary at the Wealthy Theatre.

This new documentary seeks to present to a modern audience how the many different local musicians and music genres of our city influenced our vision of social justice, advanced equity for African Americans, and how the art form of music provided a fitting platform for shining a light on the injustices and racism many were experiencing here in post-World War II up to the 1970s.

Because of the student’s unprecedented access to the GRAAMA permanent archive collection, “Rhythm and Race” will allow us to look back at this time via vintage photos and even rarer recordings, from area musicians and historians.

This is a great opportunity to deepen one’s understanding of our city and the long road many have travelled to get to the city we are experiencing now today. Don’t miss your chance to see a work of art that is sure to resonate within you long after the credits have finished rolling. 

Last Call Cinema: Potrykus month kicks off in Michigan

Starting Friday - Saturday, May 12 & 13, (see website for showtimes)
It is no secret that Rapid Growth’s Tommy Allen loves local filmmakers. And it’s not just because of the diverse amount of talent we have here in our state who are showing more and more their visual storytelling proficiency, but because we have had so many rise up from our ranks over the years to produce some stellar film projects. Our state’s impressive list of filmmakers with roots in Michigan include Sam Rami, Paul Shrader, Michael Moore, and so many more.

Starting this Friday night and running throughout the month of May, local screenwriter/director Joel Potrykus will be featured in a brand new series at Celebration! Cinema Last Call Cinema and only at select locations. 

Potrykus is well-known here for his films including “Ape,” for which he won a Best New Director prize at the 2012 Locarno Film Festival (Locarno, Switzerland), and for his follow-up “Buzzard,” which also was lauded with a FIPRESCI Prize at the 2014 Ljubljana Film Festival (Ljubljana, Slovenia).  

“A large part of our work is to bring to our audiences premier screenings and other theatrical runs with Michigan-made films,” says Eric Kuiper, Director of Alternative Programming for Celebration! Cinema. “We’re thrilled to bring Potrykus’ work to the Last Call Cinema series.”

Here is schedule of the films that are a part of the Last Call Cinema series:

Friday & Saturday, May 12 - 13  “Buzzard” - Potrykus will be attending this screening with lead actor Joshua Burge (“The Revenant”) at the Celebration! Cinema North only. (Approximately 11:00 p.m.)

Friday & Saturday, May 19 - 20  “The Alchemist Cookbook” 

Friday & Saturday, May 26 - 27  “The Exterminating Angel”  (1967) Continuing the focus on Potrykus, this classic film, directed by Luis Bunuel, is also the inspiration for the filmmaker’s newest film that is shooting in Michigan this summer.  

As an added bonus, at each screening Potrykus will be presenting a short film that will unspool before each of the films in this special filmmaker-focused series. 

Before each short, Potrykus shares insights to the movies screening at this series, adding a perfect insider’s edge that will deepen the filmgoer’s experience through these observations.  

In addition to these special shorts is a chance to view before each movie a “side-by-side” of all of the shots in Potrykus films that were inspired by shots from other great films. When we interviewed Potrykus early last year, we really enjoyed hearing how much other films inspired much of his work. 

Last Call Cinema will be featured at these select locations:
Celebration! Cinema Crossroads – Portage
Celebration! Cinema North – Grand Rapids
Celebration! Cinema Mt Pleasant
Studio C! – Meridian Township (East Lansing)

Please visit celebrationcinema.com to get the exact showtimes for all the features in Last Call Cinema.

Michael Ford: Remixing design and hip-hop to form a new architecture

When one thinks of hip-hop they often think of music, clothing, lifestyle….but architecture? If you are scratching your head on that last one, then G-Sync has a mind-blowing event for you to attend this week.

Architect Michael Ford, author of “Hip Hop Architecture 101,” will be at Kendall College of Art and Design as a part of the 2017 Hip Hop Appreciation Week.

Through his years of research, publications, and lectures, Michael Ford has been shaking up the landscape that he inhabits by blending professional practice and academia between the architectural and hip hop communities. 

Ford has, according to BrandNu’s design company, dedicated himself “to stimulating cross-disciplinary discourse between practitioners and residents on the sociological and cultural implications of architecture and urban planning on its inhabitants. More specifically, Ford has unveiled the subconscious roles of historical architectural figures such as LeCorbusier in envisioning the built environments which necessitated the birth of hip hop culture.”

His practice and theory have roots extending all the way back to early 20th Century architectural thinking. This is something that should be of serious interest to the West Michigan community whose own history also has touched on some of these movements as well.  

What is powerful about Ford’s vision is that hip hop as a music form has often been about showcasing the underrepresented voices of our society. Ford in this lecture will draw unique lines as he raises a lot to consider about community building and narrative creation. 

"When I give lectures, [people] come prepared to hear a gimmick. I don't believe it's a gimmick. To me, hip hop is a voice for the voiceless,” says Ford recently at The American Institute of Architects Conference according to author Steve Cimino. “I definitely don't describe hip-hop architecture as a style [since] -isms got communities of color in trouble before, so hip-hop architecture won't be classified as 'modernism.' It's more of a new mindset: getting communities engaged who don't have a voice in the process."

With all that we are experiencing as a society, I believe that this lecture will potentially lure a lot of folks to attend because of the title, but will leave with a greater understanding of the power of hip hop. Not just as a vehicle to give voice, but as a way to also lift up a fresh vision of community via design. That is the real power of hip hop. 

Ford’s appearance in Grand Rapids is made possible through the support of these local organizations: Isaac Norris and Associates, Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University, Start Garden, AIA Grand Rapids, CONDUIT, Gorilla, and the Grand Rapids HipHop Coalition.

To ensure a seat at this event, please register here.  Please visit this website to see all the events happening at this year's Hip Hop Appreciation Week. 

Local Trades Alley Cat: Weekday race that is mapped out for everyone

With roots in the bike messenger community, the advent of the alley cat race phenomenon is something that on the surface appears to be just about having fun when in fact, local organizers believe it can have far deeper meaning for our community.

The skinny on the event format is quite simple: bicyclists start at a single location before racing across the city to a series of secret locations getting their card punched at as many stops as possible before returning to the starting point. 

Once back at the starting point, racers will trade in their punched cards in the hopes of winning by a random drawing any one of the more than $300 in prizes being offered this evening, including a Velocity wheel set.

And unlike most alley cat events you might have witnessed in the past, this one is quite unique in that it is shorter and is welcoming to participants of all abilities. 

For starters, the organizers of the Local Trades Alley Cat event will allow the participants to choose which stops they want to visit with some ranging from as short as a mile away to as high as 25 miles depending on how many stops you want to add to your night’s goal (you get a raffle entry for every stop you make). 

Organizers believe that this weekday, short-form version of an alley cat, which can be four or more hours, is a great introduction to bicycling in Grand Rapids as this teaches folks how to navigate the city on a bike.

“We keep the event in the valley to keep people from climbing too many hills,” says Brian Swem, an organizer from the Local Trades Alley Cat. “The course will lead people down streets with dedicated bicycle infrastructure, multi-use paths, neighborhood streets, and along areas where the cycling infrastructure doesn't yet make good connections or doesn't yet exist.”

Seem believes that this alley cat is ideal because “participants will all be able to walk away with a better understanding of the importance and function of our cycling infrastructure and the importance of continuing to make the connections that do not yet exist.”

If you have been waiting for a biking event that is fun but also educational, then the Local Trades Alley Cat is the perfect event to help you meet your goals. Happy racing, alley cats!

Local Trades Alley Cat is sponsored by Lott3Metz Architecture and Central District Cyclery.

Relax at Rosa: Fresh new season, fresher music

Relax at Rosa, an outdoor noontime concert series, returns to downtown Grand Rapids’ Rosa Parks Circle on May 4 and will run each Thursday until September 14.

And if anyone doubted after two years that maybe the energy could be waning, then look again at the dynamic lineup of Michigan musicians that Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. (DGRI) has on deck for our season of sun. 

Music styles from jazz to rock to soul (and so many more) are all scheduled to appear this summer, thus ensuring there is something for everyone and yet, providing a chance to wander off one’s well-worn Spotify path to enjoy something truly different and live. 

Kicking off this wildly diverse event will be the heart-stopping, genre defying music of Avalon Cutts-Jones—a former choir girl with a knack for jazz harmonies applied to classical works wrapped up in neo-soul. 

In addition to the many acts who will take to the stage—including Cutts-Jones— DGRI and their partners will once again bust out those oversized favorite games to play (chess, shuffle board, connect four, Jenga, etc.) as you and your friends enjoy the music. 

Through a policy shift, The City of Grand Rapids welcomes the Grand Rapids Food Truck Association (GRFTA) with participating Food Trucks including Patty Matters, Gettin' Fresh, Blue Spoon Catering & Event Planning, What The Truck, The Maine Dish Food Truck, A Moveable Feast, Two Scotts Barbecue, and Daddy Pete's BBQ

In the weeks to follow, DGRI and partners welcome to the stage these acts: Jesse Ray and the Carolina Catfish, The Moxie Strings, Kathy Lamar, The Crane Wives, Chris DuPont Trio, Phillip-Michael Scales, Black Bear Combo, Cousin Avery, Karisa Sprite (Wilson), Conrad Shock + The Noise, All American Funk Parade, Melophobix, Watching for Foxes, Blue Soul Express, May Erlewine ft. Max Lockwood and Michael Shimmin, Big Dudee Roo, Juan Daniel Castro Quintet, Ttypes, and Cabildo.

Visit DGRI’s website for additional music acts’ showtimes.

Cinco de Mayo: Street Party on Wealthy

While there is no shortage of bars and venues who will attempt to lure you in to their Cinco de Mayo festivities, one local eatery has taken a huge step in providing something truly unique for the community.

Donkey Taqueria’s Cinco de Mayo event (held on May 6) will be, to the best of my knowledge, the first time a community-building event has shut down a portion of Wealthy Street south of Fuller since the 1990s days of the East Hills’ Wealthy Street Alive event.

On Saturday, Donkey will close this popular thruway street between James to Henry from 4 p.m.-10 p.m. on Saturday, May 6 as they present Grand Rapids biggest Cinco de Mayo party. 

Cinco De Mayo is a day much like our labor day but this special occasion honors the Battle of Puebla when Mexico outnumbered by the French Army won liberty from the French.  

It has since been exported over the years north to the USA with some of the earliest celebrations occurring in the 1860s. During that time, gold mine workers in California learned of Mexico’s triumph over the French and threw down their shovels, set off their guns, sang songs, and made patriotic speeches.  It was a joyous celebration where work was set aside and national pride took over long into the night.

Admission is free to all at this event with our local Latin band Cabildo headlining with special guest act Chicago’s ¡ESSO Afrojam Funkbeat.

For those curious about this act from the Windy City, the Chicago Tribune writes, “...Esso Afrojam Funkbeat works because the group speaks to something burgeoning in contemporary society. They understand the ways in which we consume music: voraciously, eagerly and indiscriminately. More important, they understand why we do so... Esso is more than just the music. Rooted in the lyrical and instrumental content of the ensemble's music is a unifying goal of camaraderie and openness.” 


Free Comic Book Day: Downtown Grand Rapids gets into cosplay

There is something special about a city with a downtown comic store.  On the occasion of the wildly popular Free Comic Book Day, the Grand Rapids Vault of Midnight has big plans this year for fans of all ages.

If you have never attended a Free Comic Book Day event, this is the year not to miss. 

Vault of Midnight, along with numerous local comic shops throughout the world, will offer free comic books to those who dare to venture out to experience the joys of this special day. 

And if you think these are your grandparents’ comics, think again, as the scene has really blossomed over the years to include something for every reader.

In addition to the annual event, once again Vault presents a sidewalk festival from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. with booths from Court of Nerds, Madcap Coffee, the Grand Rapids Children's Museum, Girls Rock Grand Rapids, and The Bandit Zine.

The Sidewalk Festival also will feature local artists’ self-published works from Cody Flowers & Sean Cope, The Neighborhood Watch, Dylan: Ewok Raiders Studios, Scott Wygmans, Kim Nguyen, AdamXVass, and students from the GR Creative Youth Center.

One last benefit is a chance to engage in or simply observe the wildly, creative cosplay contest as folks attending don their favorite outfits in tribute to their favorite comic stars. It is really thrilling to see so much creativity on display as kids of all ages (even young adults and kids at heart) flood the Monroe Center Mall. 

For all the details on the day and cosplay contests as well as any breaking news, be sure to follow their Facebook event page.

11th Annual Art Battle for Community: Upgrades for local artists and those who support them

Since 2007, Rapid Growth’s publisher and Creston Grand Rapids neighborhood resident Tommy Allen has been hosting Art Battle for Community, an engaging art event with lots of laughter held in the heart of this old but growing neighborhood. 

This year’s Art Battle for Community, sponsored by 616 Lofts, will have many fresh new changes at Grand Rapid’s biggest neighborhood fundraising event to date.

This event built around local artists, many from the Creston neighborhood, encourages artists to “battle” via the paintings they will create around a central theme over a compressed amount of time. 

This year, participants will be playing for cash prizes. For the first time, one artist will also have a chance  by way of the public voting to win a spot representing themselves and our city at a larger contest through a partnership with the international Art Battle brand.

At press time, this year’s artists include names like Kelly Allen, Erik Picardo, Terry Johnston, Jacob Zars, and many more, who all will be painting live for the public between 6 - 8 p.m. After that time, their artworks will go up on the auction block where the public will battle via an auction conducted by Allen to win the creation of their choice. 

Advance tickets are only $12 and include a complimentary drink for any tier 1 or 2 beverage from the host venue, the Creston Brewery.

Unlike most art events, the relaxed setting of Art Battle for Community attracts a lot of the area’s politicians and community leaders who pop in to rub elbows with the most connected and involved hoi polloi of the city.

So if you have never witnessed an art battle or if you have not attended in a few years, this new location with all of the fresh upgrades (including a new silent auction of fine artist designed beer growlers,) this Art Battle for Community is sure to have something for everyone. 

Art Battle for Community is a Hello, Neighbor project of the Creston Neighborhood Association

Reverence for Life Sunday & 9th Annual Animal Expo: Blessing of the beasts, real and stuffed

Fountain Street Church in the heart of the city of Grand Rapids may hold many memories for the people of our city, whether it be the topical sermons to the special music programming like U2 to Kronos Quartet. Or, perhaps residents remember an international roster of guest speakers that has included world leaders like Winston Churchill to innovators like Susan B. Anthony to boundary-breaking individuals like Helen Keller, Malcolm X, Joseph Campbell, and Amelia Earhart.

And while all these events are part of the wonderful tradition that still continues to this day at Fountain Street Church, it is its annual Reverence for Life Sunday and Animal Expo that continues to turn the heads of the unexpectant downtown visitor this weekend as the streets are alive with people walking to church with their pets (or favorite stuffed animal) in tow. 

I have so many memories of taking my former dog to church on this special day and being surrounded by animals of all shapes and sizes, from pet snakes to a donkey. In fact, one year when the Tibetan monks were performing on this special day, immediately after they had completed their song, not only did the audience break out in applause but to the entire congregation’s astonishment the animals attending began to howl and make noises of approval. It was, to say the least, something you never forget.

And while pets are welcome at the 9:30 a.m. presentation, the blessing of the animals will not occur at the early service but at the 11 a.m. one.

In addition to this special service, the church is hosting its 9th annual Animal Expo, where there will be more than a dozen animal organizations represented -- including the John Ball’s Traveling Zoo, Carol's Ferals, and Creston’s Wildlife Rehab Center.

If  you have never experienced this event, then what are you waiting for? Pack up the family and your little (or big) furry one and take them to church this Sunday. You will not regret this experience that is unlike any other here. 
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