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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. 

MLK in the city: Four ways to celebrate Dr. King’s Legacy

For the 2018 MLK day celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, we present these four events for your consideration.

18th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Breakfast
Steelcase Ballroom at DeVos Place, 303 Monroe NW, Jan. 15, 7:00 a.m.

On Monday morning, you can join area business leaders at the The Urban League of West Michigan’s 18th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Breakfast at DeVos Place. 

The theme of this year’s breakfast, presented by Premiere Title Sponsor Steelcase, is The Time Is Always Right To Do What’s Right. Expect to be seated with more than 1000 attendees who will join our local Urban League in honoring Dr. David Pilgrim and the Jim Crow Museum with the Drum Major for Justice Award, an honor bestowed upon an individual or group whose life’s work embodies the spirit of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

The event also includes a fireside chat with Jacob Maas of West Michigan Works (Employment/Training), Patrick Lonergan of Fifth Third Bank (Housing/Community Development), Dr. Justin Jennings of the Muskegon Public Schools (Education), Tasha Blackmon of Cherry Health (Health) and Dr. David Pilgrim of Ferris State University (Racial Equity/Diversity/Inclusion – REDI). 

Tickets for this fundraiser can be purchased in advance from this website.

Beverly Daniel Tatum in Celebration of MLK Day
Calvin College Covenant Fine Arts Center, 1795 Knollcrest Cir SE, Jan. 15, 12:30 p.m.

On the eve of the 20th anniversary re-release of the book “Why Are All the Black Kids Still Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” comes author Beverly Daniel Tatum who will be a guest speaker at the Calvin College January Series. 

Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum is a psychologist, administrator, and educator who has conducted research and written books on the topic of race, focusing specifically on race in education, racial identity development in teenagers, and assimilation of black families and youth in white neighborhoods. 

From 2002 to 2015 she served as the ninth president of Spelman College, the oldest historically black women’s college in the United States. Tatum’s important book “Why Do All the Black Kids Sit Together in the Cafeteria” and other thoughts on race will be the topic of this special day’s lecture commemorating MLK Day. 

MLK Day Celebration 
Fountain Street Church, 24 Fountain St NE, Jan. 15, 6 p.m.

The 32nd Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration is one not to be missed if you are seeking a blending of the spoken word with music as Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids Community College, Davenport University, and Opera Grand Rapids all come together for this special community celebration of Dr. King’s life and long legacy. 

This event is really a double feature-like program with the celebration kicking off at 6 p.m. with keynote speaker and #OscarsSoWhite creator April Reign addressing the attendees at this downtown church. 

April Reign is one of the Top 15 accounts on #BlackTwitter according to The National Journal and is cited as one of social media's most influential voices on race, politics, and pop culture, with more than 70,000 Twitter followers. Learn more at http://www.reignofapril.com/

Immediately after at 7:30 p.m. the audience is then treated to a special performance of "I DREAM" from Opera Grand Rapids.

“I Dream” shares the inspiring story of the famous preacher and iconic civil rights leader from Atlanta in an opera infused with the blue, jazz, and, of course, gospel-tinged rhythms. The opera captures the intimate moments shared with wife, Coretta Scott King, as well as with his close friend Ralph Abernathy. To learn more about this opera, please visit http://www.operagr.org/i-dream/.

And while this is a time of celebration as we honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this year is also the 50th Anniversary of his tragic assassination.

The MLK Day Celebration is a free community event. Seating is on a first-come basis at the door. Doors open at 5:30 PM. Parking is available at the GRCC Bostwick Ramp.

MLK Day 2018: Where Do We Go From Here?
Millbrook Christian Reformed Church, 3661 Poinsettia Ave SE, Jan. 15, 6:30 p.m.

For those seeking a more contemporary approach to the message and legacy of Dr. King, please consider Hillbrook Christian Reformed Church’s MLK Day lecture with special guest Rev. Jim Wallis of Red Letter Christians and Sojourners.  

Organizers of the event share that Wallis will be addressing the topic: In a time of strife, racism, and poverty, what will we choose? Will we choose a way that makes for prosperity and peace for all? Will we loose the chains of injustice?

In addition to the lecture by Rev. Wallis, there will be a special musical reflection by local artists Maurice Townsend, Satrina Reid, Emmanuel Phillips, Kenneth Henderson, and Nate Glasper.

It's A Wonderful Life: The flop that became a Christmas classic

It is hard to imagine that when director Frank Capra’s popular holiday film, “It's A Wonderful Life” made its debut in 1946 that it was actually a cinematic bomb. And this is despite all it had going for it including starring one of America’s biggest stars of this era, James Stewart.

But over time as the film became part of the public domain in 1974 (thus freeing up its copyright and having to pay royalties), “It's A Wonderful Life” would become beloved through its free viewings on numerous TV stations over the years.

This would last for many years until finally the copyright was restored along with the film’s rights thus limiting its broadcast to just NBC. 

So while some of the other most popular holiday films can be viewed across a wide array of streaming platforms, “It's A Wonderful Life” has a far limited offering via NBC.

Lucky for us, the film distribution rights are far more liberal, and so locally you will have a weekend’s worth of opportunities to see this beloved film at our local Celebration Cinema Woodland.  

“It's A Wonderful Life” is actually a pretty dark film as holiday features go. The story is set in post-war America and features a self-doubting savings-and-loan manager whose battle against a greedy banker tries to change his life despite the challenges he finds life throws his way.  

The story moves into the fanatical once an odd, trainee-angel named Clarence arrives in town. 

Folks have often drawn comparisons to the works of Dickens, who also used dark imagery to help propel the narrative forward to its eventual happy ending. 

But just like life, getting to what one calls happiness often takes twists and turns and this is the enduring charm of this holiday classic.

So while you have plenty of Christmas films to select to stream, this one is best viewed in the theatre—unless of course you like your “It's A Wonderful Life” with commercial breaks that are sure to destroy the mood and charm of this Capra movie classic. 

Founders Christmas Eve Pickin' Party: Mark Lavengood & Friends light up downtown

While others are dashing to get those last minute gifts, those who have been good at pacing themselves are in for a real treat this Christmas Eve.  Founders, one of downtown's most popular destinations, welcomes Michigan’s Earthwork Music label artist Mark Lavengood for a special music showcase with friends joining him on stage. 

Lavengood is a Grand Rapids native with international touring cred and a body of work to back it up. 

Described best as an multi-instrumentalist, singer, and songwriter, Lavengood is an emeritus member of Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys and known for his stage energy that is hard to ignore when he is playing. 

On Friday local community radio station WYCE welcomes Mark Lavengood, as well as musician Kaitlin Rose, to the Local Spins In Studio program. The live broadcast begins at 11 a.m. on 88.1 FM. 

To learn more about his music and his latest Earthworks Music 2017 release, “We’ve Come Along,” please visit his website

Christmas Eve Ugly Sweater Contest: Last call for your garish apparel

Time is running out for you to showcase your ugly sweater this Christmas and so on Sunday Christmas Eve night, you could wear it one more time while you attend any one of the numerous  candlelight services this Christmas Eve.

Or you could roll the dice and take a chance that your beloved mess of acrylic (a.k.a. your ugly holiday sweater) is actually a true hidden winner. 

To find out, drag your gay apparel down to The Apartment Lounge, who will be offering a special night of Happy Hour drink pricing until midnight as they hosting a Christmas Eve Ugly Sweater contest

The evening's festivities and contest are hosted by the lovely and talented Miss Jasinya Sanchez, who will be there to ensure your night is full of laughter and light. 

So while you have a lot of options to wear that sweater this Christmas season, your best chance of winning the top prize as the ugliest happens only at The Apartment Lounge this December 24. 

Encaustic Painting for Beginners: Learning something new this holiday

While folks try to work the week after Christmas, at night you can be certain that they will still be blazing out in the city as they seek any one of the many watering holes that are sure to welcome your friends and family who might be visiting. 

But for those who are seeking something different to engage with others during the holiday week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, why not give your life the night off to flex your creativity by taking a class at Light Gallery + Studio on S. Division’s Avenue for the Arts. 

Many folks may already be familiar with the gallery’s commitment to showcase local artisan creations and fine art within their charming space, fewer know of their small education events like the one they are hosting on Thursday, Dec. 28: Encaustic Painting for Beginners.

Encaustic painting is a technique that blends melted beeswax with paint pigment to create a luxurious media that you apply in layers to create your art piece. 

Light Gallery + Studio’s workshop will cover a brief history of this ancient medium that is the favorite of contemporary artists like Ernst Ludwig and Jasper Johns.

The class sets up the student with info they will need to set up your workspace, how to mixing colors, as well best practices when working with other media like paper and thread.

For the cost of just $35 per student, you will receive all mentioned above as well as a 5”x5” panel and all material needed to create a work of art during your class. 

No worries if you miss this class, because Light Gallery + Studio offers classes all year round. Like their Facebook page to keep informed of future class offerings.

TUBACHRISTMAS: Hot brass in the city

It is not just because it is fun to say out loud, but for the last 11 years, TUBACHRISTMAS audiences members can attest that this annual festive and unique holiday music-filled event arrives back in Grand Rapids for a stellar 12th time!

Unlike other festivals that appear each year, TUBACHRISTMAS seems to attract an eclectic set of musicians and fans from all over the state who descend on the stage at Downtown Grand Rapids’ Fountain Street Church. 

One never knows who will be performing according to one local organizer and tuba player extraordinaire Karen Dunham, who has seen everything from junior high students to seasoned classically trained players pimp their hot brass on stage. 

This free program packs in a lot of holiday music favorites, as well as finds ways to debut fresh, new material. 

In addition to the return of the popular TUBACHRISTMAS’ rendition of "Jingle Bells,” which includes an opportunity for the audience to join in the performance, is the debut of "Santa Wants a Tuba for Christmas," with Rebecca Findley Barnhard joining the band on the vocals.

So while locally there are plenty of traditional holiday events to scratch your nostalgia itch, TUBACHRISTMAS, even at year 12, still has the power to feel fresh and new with each and every year it arrives in our city. 

10th Annual Santa Crawl: St. Nick takes a night off to party on the town

It is hard to believe that we are celebrating 10 years of the annual Santa Crawl. 

Each December, the Grand Rapids Bar Crawl (GRBC) hosts a special St. Nicholas edition of their popular pub-hop touring event, where attendees are encouraged to dress up like jolly ol’ St. Nicholas.

What can only be described as part pub crawl/part pure live theatre, this annual GRBC event sets the stage for a night of memory-making as you and your friends tour bars and clubs throughout the city in a festive and fun themed event. 

Over the years, the GRBC has built solid relationships with area venues and watering holes thus creating a no-waiting-in-line experience as you are whisked inside like the VIP Santa truly is. 

And while Rapid Growth has sworn not to reveal what they're planning, since it is a surprise for attendees, one thing is certain: GRBC always find interesting places to land.

In the past, the Santa Crawl guests have ended up on a mechanical bull, roller skating, and even bowling. 

Since you don’t have to drive (because you’re a bus that departs and then later returns to The Rezervoir), your holiday spirit is not limited to just your stops; in between you and your fellow Santas participate in some really festive group games.

If you want to attend, please don’t delay as seating is limited with reservations being secured in advance at this link.
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