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Found Footage Festival: At the intersection of strange and LOL

As an avid fan of discarded media, I find a lot of pleasure and joy in its reinvention and exhibition like one can see at the Found Footage Festival, which rolls back into Grand Rapids at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts.

Hosted by creators Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett, whose credits include The Onion and The Colbert Report, UICA is once again the setting for the return of a brand new tour of fresh material, but also a few fan favorites.  

It works like this:  the curators of this festival scour the country in search of cast off videos or obscure programing that can be showcased in this one-of-a-kind motion picture event.

The festival is a chance for the curators to share a bit of background on the material via this live program, which also includes a where-are-they-now update on some of their funniest clips.  

For a sample peak into a few of the items they have shown in past events, please follow this link.

This event is not for the easily offended, so consider yourself warned. But for those with a slightly twisted filter willing to venture on the dark side of humor, this is one of those great events where the belly laughter starts at 8 and runs until the final clip is unspooled.

Pitch Night: Neighborhood voices rise up

The city is flush with many ways to showcase an idea and (hopefully) if it connects with an audience or gatekeeper, it will become a business reality.

But what about those whose ideas are not something that cannot be monetized because they are driven by a different criteria for success?

The City of Grand Rapids presents a pitch night on the Southeast side of the city where folks can showcase an idea aimed at reducing neighborhood violence. 

Now before you get all defensive and shoot down the idea, here me out.

While violence in our cities (as well as suburban and rural committees) is a matter of concern, when sourcing solutions we often do not hear from the communities impacted where, in my opinion, sometimes the kernel of good idea can struggle to be given a voice to lift it from a concept to a reality. 

Nonprofits and individuals are asked to pitch ideas aimed at implementation within youth ages 15 to 24. Submission of these ideas must be completed before December 2 and can be easily be added to the list for consideration by visiting this website. All pitches must be made live and be less than five minutes in length. A panel of up to five judges will review proposals and applications. 

City of Grand Rapids 3rd Ward Commissioner and SAFE Taskforce Chair Senita Lenear will oversee the event where nonprofits will compete for up to $5,000 to support their violence reduction efforts. In addition, individuals from the community are also eligible to participate as they jockey to win $500 to support their concept. 

All told over the course of this night, the Taskforce will fund up to three organizations and three individuals. The ability of a city to host space for citizens where we can collectively listen and share ideas is ultimately the biggest winner of the pitch night. 

Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer and Food Festival: Celebrating the goodness of the earth

With the holidays just around the corner—and because we know our city truly loves a festival where beer and wine (and cider and spirits) freely flow—comes the Tenth Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival to DeVos Place. 

This is a great opportunity to learn something new while also discovering new beers and wines alongside a long list of artisan products to add to your holiday gatherings. 

Here are a few of the key highlights to consider at this annual event:

Enhanced Elite Wine Collection: nearly 50 wines hand-selected by our consulting sommeliers and importing specialists as the “best of the best” top shelf vintages and all with at least a 90-point value. You can sample these delicious wines by purchasing at the event a 10-ticket ($5) tasting fee due to the value of the wines. If this isn’t your speed, then no worries, since their are more than 100 wineries represented at the event with a variety of price points. 
Special this year (and because of the timing of this annual event) is the chance to celebrate with the world of wine fans on this third Thursday of November when the international “Beaujolais Nouveau Day” is celebrated with the release the popular vin de primeur, fermented for just a few weeks before being uncorked. On the fest’s opening day, the Tasters Guild invites you to join them in the tasting of the fresh 2017 Beaujolais Nouveau at a special pouring in the Elite Collection, presented by Wine & Beverage Steward David Stanley of Meijer.
Cocktail enthusiasts will want to visit Hemingway Hall to sample award-winning spirits and artisan concoctions created by innovative mixologists. This event is tied to our annual Experience Grand Rapids’ Cocktail Week GR.

There is a Beer City Station as well as a Cider Row where you can enjoy meeting the folks behind some of our favorite brands created right here in our city and state. 

The festival also offers special pairing seatings and also climate dinner experiences that must be booked in advance so visit their site for details on these much-coveted reservations.     

Single-day passes as well as for the die hard fan three-day passes can be purchased in advance here or at the door.    

Joshua Davis: Grand Rapids stop for “The Way Back Home”

I really had thought that the days of seeing Michigan native and musician Joshua Davis in our community’s smaller venues might be a thing of the past after his rocket rise to the finals at The Voice (Season 8). 

As a musician of the Michigan-based Earthworks Collective, Davis has popped up on stages from local venues like Wealthy Theatre to the tiny stage at Short’s Brewing in Bellaire, Michigan. And with each appearance, he has delighted audiences both locally and now internationally via The Voice. 

Davis stops in Grand Rapids as a part of his Michigan tour (and in advance of his west coast tour next month) to showcase the music from his first release since appearing on The Voice with “The Way Back Home.”

This new album was produced by Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin and features Davis reflecting on the time-tested classic themes of family, community, lessons learned, and, of course, love. 

If you would love to read more about the artist, Grand Rapids’ Local Spins recently sat down with Davis to garner insights on the release. You can read their article here.

Saturday night is a great opportunity to see Davis up close in an intimate venue all the while supporting a fellow Michigander who is creating some remarkable music.

For tickets, please visit the Pyramid Scheme's site

Transgender Day of Remembrance: Honoring those lives lost

Unlike the highly visible Transgender Day of Visibility (TDoV) where in 2017 Grand Rapidians en force displayed a stunning 100+ transgender flags all over the city at area businesses, nonprofits, and places of worship, the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) is a more somber occasion as it commemorates the lives of those lost within a  community that has for so many centuries suffered in silence.

On Monday, Nov. 20, the Grand Rapids Pride Center, Grand Rapids Trans Foundation, and the TDoR Committee will once again return to the Goei Center for the 2017 Trans Day of Remembrance ceremony. 

At this event, you can expect what you might at any other vigil as community members mourn, remember, and honor the lives of those members of our community who are no longer with us in this life. 

Hate crimes against transgender people have always been an issue, but over the last two years these attacks have been escalating with Michigan being named as number four in crimes against people because of their race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation or gender identity. In fact as reported, in Kent County alone, for all our advances in the region that are worth celebrating, we had 10 hate crimes in 2016,  making us the worst county in the state. (We can and should do better.)

The TDoR event is a time of sorrow and reflection, but also presents an opportunity for our community of transgender and nonbinary folks to gather with other supportive members of our city. Gatherings like this enable these diverse populations to leverage this event to build community and truly inspire others to join them in the  creation of a better, safer region, state, world. 

This year’s guest speakers include:

Jeynce Mizrahi - victim advocate for Equality Michigan, founding board member of the Trans Sistas of Color Project (Detroit), and a member of the National LGBTQ Task Force.

Kyn E. - Grand Rapids Pride Center’s group facilitator.

Maxwell T. Isaac - lead organizer of Black Lives Matter Kalamazoo, and a community organizer who centers racial equity, LGBTQIAP advocacy, stigma reduction, and anti-bias praxis in his work.

For more info on the event, please visit their event page

23rd Annual Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World Exhibition

Tis the season of good will and spreading cheer, and what better way than to invite friends and family to tour our city’s amazing Meijer Gardens as they kick off our holiday season with the return of the 23rd Annual Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World Exhibition.

This visually-rich program held from Nov. 21 to Jan. 7 will feature 42 Christmas and holiday trees with displays representing various countries and cultures from around the world.

And for the kid in everyone is the return of the popular Railway Garden complete with a special wonderland with stops at 30 Grand Rapids landmarks as the trains wind their way through three gardens, including the recently renovated Grace Jarecki Seasonal Display Greenhouse. 

There is even a tribute to Grand Rapids’ sister cities from around the world represented within the Railway Garden display.

All told, the Garden’s trees will sparkle chasing away any blues from this season of chills with the warmth of more than 300,000 white lights.

Here are a few highlights and dates for exhibition activities:

Extended Holiday Hours: Open until 9 pm on December 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 26, 27, 28, 29 and 30 (Meijer Gardens is CLOSED on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day).

The Original Dickens Carolers: Tuesdays: November 21 and 28, December 5, 12, 19, 6-8 pm

Santa Visits: Tuesdays: November 21 and 28, December 5, 12, 19, 5-8 pm

Rooftop Reindeer: Saturdays: November 25, December 2, 9, 16, 23, 1-4 pm

Christmas Cabaret Gala: Thursday, December 7, 6 pm (RSVP required)

There are chilly winter walks as well as classes aimed at kids and adults to consider, too, at the Gardens this holiday season. For a complete list and further details about all the offerings at the 23rd Annual Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World Exhibition, please visit the Meijer Gardens website.

Shimmy Shack Burlesque with I Believe in Julio!: Westside fun with a side of great music

When the temps get cool, folks start to return inside to the comfort of a warm and inviting neighborhood pub. One of our favorite neighborhood watering holes is Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill, a unique westside venue with a distinct patina that only a longtime neighborhood bar can build up over years of use. 

Part of the appeal of the Tip Top is the variety of creative acts from local musicians to special DJ nights to even indie music touring acts (and often with a rockabilly edge.) 

On Saturday another favorite (and traveling) act from Grand Rapids sets up shop for a night of steamy entertainment as Shimmy Shack Burlesque, the creation of female entrepreneur extraordinaire Vivacious Miss Audacious, takes to the tiny stage with a fresh new show. 

Adding a new layer to Shimmy’s already solid line up of performers comes the addition of a live band to deepen your Burlesque experience with I Believe in Julio! accompanying the performers.

I Believe in Julio! will be supplying plenty of favorite cover songs from Ginuwine's "Pony" and Thrill Kill Cult's "Sex on Wheels," as well as classic tunes "Addicted to Love” and "No Diggity."

Shimmy welcomes two members of Indianapolis’ Rocket Doll Revue, Desiree DeCarlo and Mz. Vagina Woolf, who will join your mistress of the night, our very own Vivacious Miss Audacious. 

Shimmy has retooled into a live musical accompanist show and because of the amount of work that goes into each production is now an every other month, instead of monthly, affair.

While Shimmy Shack Burlesque may not be for everyone, those who do venture are encouraged to bring plenty of cash to tip the performers. You can even fan yourself with your cash if the temps get too warm at the Tip Top. 

Speak Up GR: Gentrification and our city

It is nearly impossible these days to visit any growing city in the U.S. and not be faced with the topic of gentrification. It is a topic that can be polarizing almost as soon as the word is used, but locally more and more folks are seeing this subject as a chance to engage more fully on its meaning and impact to our region and the overall health of our communities. 

For this special series, SpeakUp GR, our downtown Grand Rapids Public Library (GRPL) once again welcomes the public for this special panel discussion on the topic. 

The panel, which includes Start Garden’s Darel Ross II, Western University’s Dr. Benjamin Ofori-Amoah, and Grand Rapids City Commissioner David Allen, offers a platform for constructive dialog on society’s challenging topics in a neutral place known for bringing together diverse points of view for community discussions and intellectual advancement of our people.

And this is not easy material by any shot since the defining of just the word and resulting impact depending on that definition are tied to so many aspects and parts of society.

“I was actually met with a lot of resistance of people willing to speak on this topic. The people on the panel—heavy hitters in the community—were the ones willing to talk about (it),” says GRPL Business Librarian Steve Assarian.

But the best way to understand such complex topics is through community dialogue. SpeakUp GR has shown in the past via their other panel events they can provide a thoughtful space for discussion on such topics like immigration, fake news, and race relations. The GRPL is so much more than just a place to borrow books. It is a community space where intellectual curiosity is still satisfied in numerous ways. 

Creston Rhythms: Everyone bang a drum

With the addition of the Creston Brewery to the Plainfield Corridor, a lot of good artistic energy has really begun to spring up from their programming that involves local music showcases, Geeks drinking and doing trivia, and even the occasional stand-up comic night. It is refreshing to see another brewery in GR that understands that the creativity one places in their beer making also attracts those artistic souls and their friends/fans to this Creston watering hole. 

On Wednesday night (and possibly inspired by Cabildo’s ready-to-bang drum lined up in front of the band at Creston’s first anniversary party last summer) comes Creston Rhythms—a night of drumming education with hands-on audience participation.

Creston Rhythms will be led by Leah Ivory, assistant director of the Grand Rapids Youth Chorus,  who will introduce attendees of various drumming techniques rooted in the traditional music of West Africa. 

After the lesson, you will have a chance to join the drum circle held in the middle of the brewery’s taproom for a rhythmic jam session.

Leah, who has led many diverse groups in the past including choirs from the North American Choral Company and St. Cecilia Music Society, was introduced to the djembe while in West Africa in 2006. 

Since that time she has been attending master training classes with Mamady Keita and Bolokada Conde, who are both master drummers of this West African musical practice.

Come have a beer and a bang at Creston Brewery where they remind us always to “Keep Creston Funky!”

Christian McBride: Five-time Grammy winner stops in Grand Rapids

On Thursday, November 16, St. Cecilia’s Music Center kicks off their 2017/18 Encore Jazz Series with bassist, composer, and educator but also DJ, and artistic director for the Newport Jazz Festival, the talented Christian McBride.

From the many activities listed on McBride’s impressive resume, it is clear that this teen prodigy jazz musician, born in 1972, never slows down, besting each triumph with his ever soaring heights of accomplishments. 

He has worked with jazz greats like Sonny Rollins, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, and Pat Metheny but also accompanied many pop giants, too, like James Brown, Sting, and The Roots. 

He is heralded as one of the most recorded musicians of his generation, having appeared solo as well as a guest artists on more than 300 recordings. For his drive and excellence in all he has done musically, he has been awarded five Grammy awards.

He even has ties to Michigan. Since 2009, this Philly native has been with Detroit’s prestigious jazz label Mack Avenue.

The Encore Jazz Series at St. Cecilia’s, which includes upcoming visiting artists Brad Mehldau on November 30, Gregory Porter on February 22, 2018, and Kurt Elling ending the 2017-18 series on March 22, 2018, is off to a triumphant start with McBride stop here to support his latest release “Bringin’ It.”

This new release is McBride’s second time leading a big band orchestra through a collection of his own works as well as classics like “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” and “Mr. Bojangles.”

While you have a lot of entertainment options to consider, McBride’s stop in Grand Rapids at such a small, intimate, and acoustically perfect venue makes this jazz concert from McBride, a true jazz legend in the making, our top choice for those seeking a truly inspirational music concert experience. 

Tickets are available at the center's website

Lamp Light Music Festival: Beauty in the home

There is something really wonderful about attending a house party, but when a music festival hosted in a series of neighborhood homes continues to evolve year after year while still maintaining its sense of space, well, that my friends is heavenly.

And this is the beauty of the Lamp Light Music Festival—a three-day music event taking place in homes within the Eastown neighborhood of Grand Rapids.

This year’s festival includes 29 local and visiting acts who will be performing in a variety of spaces from living rooms to basements. This year’s eclectic lineup is just as powerful as it always has been. 

The festival’s charm is really its ability to bring in close proximity musicians to music fans in a setting the enables all sorts of moments rare and wonderful to emerge. This includes everything from the chance to see impromptu collaborations, unexpected covers of popular songs, post-concert conversation in the backyard over a cigarette, or just a chance to hear very personal insights to the music being showcased. 

In short, this is an experience unlike anything else in the city. Word to the wise: this is a festival for folks who like music, so if you are seeking a place to converse while the band plays this may not be the event for you. For music fans, this is as close as you will get to heaven all year. 

There are weekend and day passes available here, but sales of all tickets are extremely limited, so please consider purchasing in advance or run the risk of not being able to attend. 100 percent of the ticket sales goes back into the pockets of the artists performing at Lamp Light. 

If you would like to attend but money is an issue, one way to gain access is as a volunteer. Please sign up here


The Recycle Art Market: Creating good through repurposing, up-cycling or recycling

Each year, you are faced with the challenges of what to give someone for Christmas, and if you are like me, one thing you worry about is giving something mass-produced and available by the crateful. . 

An easy solution to this gift-giving phobia is The Recycled Art Market that pops up each November kicking off our region’s holiday markets. 

Unlike the mall, The Recycled Art Market welcomes more than 60 artisans to bring their works that must follow a strict entry guide with an emphasis on the repurposing, up-cycling, or recycling of the materials used in their production. This year, there are also a group of 15+ artisans whose work falls exclusively in the realm of handmade. 

This is a truly inspiring event where I always walk away with a few gifts that are sure to be appreciated due to the craft and care in their production. 

Cost is $2 to attend, which includes helpers who’ll assist you in carrying those gifts to your vehicle. 

George Wietor: Rizo art star in our backyard

This city is full of so many people that it is often hard in all the hustle and bustle to recognize a true rising star in our community.

Rising would imply that one is ascending, and so I must say that, having known local artist, curator, publisher, and organizer for more than a decade now,there is no other way to describe the person of George Wietor.

Not only has Wietor been a part of our city’s evolving art scene and on so many platforms from co-founding the Division Avenue Arts Collective (DAAC), a DIY music and visual art facility/platform, to assisting artists realize their vision via his company Issue Press

On Monday night, Wietor will kick off a series of events in our city starting with a public lecture from Grand Valley State University’s Department of Visual & Media Arts. 

Wietor is a graduate of Grand Valley's Film and Video Production program, and over the last 15 years has helped shape a new cultural landscape within and outside of Grand Rapids via his local run, but internationally known Issue Press, which employs the use of Risograph printers to produce art books and zines. 

As a leader in the advancement of this type of printing, Wietor has created real buzz within design circles, museums, and art schools around the world with our local renaissance man being invited as the keynote speaker at the first RISO biennale at the Jan van Eyck Academie in the Netherlands (later returning to participate in a week-long version of the biennale in 2016).

This last March, Wietor conducted a three-day workshop at Duplica 2017 in São Paulo, Brazil. 

Issue Press may not be a household name here, but many of his publications have been included in major art book fairs from New York to Norway. 

The lecture is on Monday, but other events will be  held throughout the week including a workshop and an open house of his studio in the Tanglefoot building. Please visit this link for the complete list of events.

Bo Burlingham: “Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big”

If you ask me what I love about living in Grand Rapids, I will give you a list as long as the weekends here during the warm summer months. But when you ask who inspires me, then that list shortens to a select few who truly act to move our community in a forward direction.

One such person is Mayor Bliss, who in her first month in office, invited the community to join her in the reading of the book “A City Within a City: The Black Freedom Struggles in Grand Rapids, Michigan” by Todd E. Robinson.

For her second year in office, she has challenged the community to read the book “Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big” by Bo Burlingham.  “Small Giants” is the 2017 Mayor’s Book of the Year.

On Monday, Burlingham will be in Grand Rapids and you have two opportunities to hear him speak live. 

The first is at the Monday 12 - 1:30 p.m. luncheon at the Economic Club of Grand Rapids held at the JW Marriott. This lunch event is open to members of the club as well as the public. To reserve a seat at the event, please follow this link

Later in the afternoon at 3 p.m. is The Art of Celebrated Service presented by Celebration! Cinema North where Burlingham will share stories from his book that explores 14 privately held companies, each in varying sectors of industry, who’ve made a conscious decision to be “great instead of big.” The examples these companies provide our locals showcases how we as a community have begun to take serious the wholistic approach a city needs if it is to evolve in an ever-changing economic landscape.

“Bringing Bo Burlingham to Grand Rapids is a wonderful opportunity for business owners and community members to hear his message about why it’s important to use business to strengthen communities,” said Elissa Hillary, Local First president. “West Michigan is home to so many amazing companies that are small giants and Bo’s book has sparked a community dialogue over the last year about using business as a force for good. We’re excited to hear his story and learn ways we can continue to support the small giants in our community.”
Burlingham, a regular contributor to Forbes and the former executive editor of Inc. Magazine,  has also written: “The Great Game of Business,” “A Stake in the Outcome, Finish Big: How Great Entrepreneurs Exit Their Companies On Top,” and “The Knack: How Street-Smart Entrepreneurs Learn to Handle Whatever Comes Up.”

His appearance in West Michigan is provided courtesy of Local First, the Economic Club of Grand Rapids, Celebration! Cinema, and Mercantile Bank.

Smoke and Mirrors: Scratchboard storytelling from young scholars on Grandville Avenue

One need only stop by the Cook Library Center on Grandville to be immersed in pure joy of community conversation with any one of the many neighbors who visit this vital part of the Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities.

The library center is also home of the Cook Library Scholars. This life enhancing program created in 2013 provides year round programming engaging with Grandville Avenue neighborhood families as they prepare their youth to achieve academic success and to train them to be future leaders.

On Friday, the Cook Library Center presents a special artist reception of the work of their scholars created alongside their art teacher, Tony Kroes. 

The scholars utilize the scratchboard technique to showcase a dramatic new series entitled “Smoke and Mirrors,” a series of images addressing the issues of addiction and exploitation through tobacco.

Created over this past summer, Kroes worked with the students to teach them how to maximize image creation within this media to unearth images using scraping or scratching at a black surface to reveal a white underpainting. 

This negative image helps frame the discussions of the dangers of tobacco - a  highly addictive substance. It also enables the students to showcase other themes related to tobacco's history and use while shining a light on the economics and politics tied to this industry. 

Cook Library Scholars is made possible through the community support and partnerships of  organizations and schools in Grand Rapids, including Grand Rapids Public Schools, Calvin College, Grand Valley State University, Kids’ Food Basket, Hispanic Center of Western Michigan, Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University, and many more.

While you have a lot of options this weekend, this is a great place to see firsthand the work of these scholars and the conversation they are inviting us to participate in via their artistic contribution. 
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