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The Big Gig: Next big discoveries live on stage

Saturday, Mar. 24, 5:45 p.m. (doors), 6:45 p.m. (concert)
Everyone loves a good “I remember when” story that they can pull out to showcase with friends as they reflect on a past event long gone from our present. 

Locally, our live music scene is one such arena where there are plenty of performance-based acts who may have started small, but went on to become a big deal over the course of their careers.

I am not trying to say that if you attend Triumph Music Academy’s The Big Gig, that one will see the birth of a new talent that years from now will be rocking concert halls and stadiums. But if you do, then you will understand the pure joy of exploring fresh, emerging talent in our region.

The Big Gig is Triumph Music Academy's annual celebratory all-ages stage show that is inspiring audiences each year. 

Arranged like a concert, The Big Gig features performers, bands, songwriters, and even electronic-based artists who will showcase what they have created. 

This is also a fundraiser for the area’s highest rated music school, specializing in private music lessons for all ages, live performance, artist development, and recording technology. The Big Gig helps them raise funds for new equipment, renovations, and new programs!

You can even be a part of the show’s excitement by participating in their contest to win a guitar by tagging #BigGigGR in your pictures and videos of the event. The winner will be chosen after the show.

By purchasing a Triumph Music Academy T-shirt, you are entered automatically for the raffle, which includes an acoustic/electric guitar, ukulele, a month of free music lessons, and other exciting prizes. 

Triumph is a collective of professional performing musicians who act also as instructors at this popular music school in our community. Come out and discover the next big act or musical star from your city. 

6th Annual Chilly, Blues, & Brews East

It is hard to recall if you just arrived here, but The Gilmore Collection of Michigan and Colorado humble beginnings started with the 1978 Thornapple Village Inn in Ada, MI. And since that time they have grown steadily in our community with a series of popular eateries including their downtown signature property, The B.O.B. (or Big Ol’ Building).

And while they have hosted more events than we can print, their annual Chilly, Blues, & Brews East is arriving this weekend for their sixth outing of this popular chili cook-off and hot pepper eating contest set in the heart of downtown. 

For this special event, more than 50 teams—made up of professionals and amateurs—will compete at The B.O.B. for the 2018 bragging rights of best chili at the Chilly, Blues, and Brews East, which is presented in collaboration with WLAV FM and MSU Gran Fondo. 

This is a free, family-friendly event that will include the afternoon chili cook-off and hot pepper eating contest, which includes a day of live blues and Michigan craft beer flowing into the early hours of Sunday. (The event wraps at 2 a.m.)

The runs are fairly simple: each chili entry must involve a Michigan craft beer as an ingredient. The $1000 prize and Golden Ladle Trophy will be awarded to the best professional and amateur chili aficionados who will compete for the grand prize. Last year, Team Voodoo won first place for Judge's Best Overall Chili using Bell's Best Brown.

Other teammates can also win in other food categories such as Best Vegetarian/Vegan Chili, Spiciest Chili, and Best Dressed Team.

A portion of the day’s proceeds will benefit skin cancer research via MSU Gran Fondo. 

Here is the schedule for the 2018 Chilly, Blues and Brews East:

1:00 p.m. Chili tasting (open to the public)

3:00 p.m. Hot chili pepper eating contest (Must be 18 years and older)

12:00 - 2:00 a.m. Live music at H.O.M.E., B.O.B.’s Brewery, Bobarino’s, and Eve

For more information on Chilly, Blues, and Brews East and other upcoming events at The B.O.B., visit their website

Composting 101: Sustainability series returns to Grand Rapids

As we finally say farewell to the winter of 2018 and welcome spring, we enter a period where we, if you are like me, find ourselves looking over the backyard imagining the greening plans of our upcoming growth season. 

And as anyone will tell you, having a strong fertilizer game plan will ensure your efforts blossom into something truly remarkable…and maybe even tasty. 

Green Michigan, a nonprofit in collaboration with the West Michigan Environmental Action Council, will host its first in a series of monthly workshops starting with Sunday’s Composting 101 at the award-winning Long Road Distillery.

Committed to hosting these events that promote sustainable practices in our community in a relaxing and fun environment, Green Michigan will share insights, tips, and clever hacks to get you up and running your own backyard composting operation. 

The event will cover both indoor and outdoor methods along with a variety of composting styles.

According to the Rodale Institute, composting increases overall biological activity in soils, which in turn improves nutrient cycling and boosts plant health. I cannot think of a better time to invest a couple hours in learning how to step up your composting game in your garden this year.

Green Michigan’s mission is simply to assist Michigan residents in their quest to establish and enact more sustainable efforts in their lives. Their informative and exhaustive website offers plenty of info on personal practices, area parks, places to recycle, and local farms complete with a list of CSA locations. If you cannot make the event, you can always hire them for a consult for your area business or organization at greenmichigan.org. 

Space is limited for the presentation that will begin at 2 p.m., so register in advance at the event’s website.

9th Annual Local History Roundtable: Kutsche Office shows how we are better together

It is hard to imagine that it has almost been a year since we lost Paul “Buzz” Kutsche in this world. If you never met the man, then you missed knowing one of Grand Rapids’ most colorful individuals and thoughtful anthropologists whose gift to our community continues to blossom through the work of the Grand Valley State University’s Kutsche Office of Local History.

The Kutsche Office invites locals to gather for their ninth annual Local History Roundtable held at the Allendale campus. This annual event is organized this year around the theme of ”Returning to our Roots: Explorations of Western Michigan’s Diverse Communities” and will include guest speakers, roundtable reflections with members attending, and a very special tribute to Paul Kutsche’s legacy and deep commitment to support local historians and cultural heritage organizations. 

The office seeks to illuminate  history through the sometimes unwritten or undocumented stories of our area as they pay special attention to the dynamic individuals who have called West Michigan home.

The schedule for this year’s event:

8:30 a.m.       Check in and registration

9:00 a.m.       Opening remarks/Welcome

10:00 a.m.     Morning keynote:  Ronald J. Stephens*, Purdue University
                      Entrepreneurial exchanges among African American leaders in WM

11:30 a.m.     Community Collaboration Grant Recipient: Kathryn Remlinger
                      How much Dutch? The linguistic landscape of Holland, Michigan

12:30 p.m.     Lunch

1:15 p.m.       Afternoon speaker: Andrea Riley-Mukavetz, Asst. Prof., Liberal Studies, GVSU
                     Stories for the next generation: an indigenous approach to oral history
2:30 p.m.       Tribute to Paul Kutsch

*Ronald J. Stephens is an authority on the African American resort community of Idlewild, Michigan. Stephens’ research focuses on African American rural and urban communities, as well as 20th century African American culture, identity, history, and political thought. He is author of “Idlewild: The Rise, Decline and Rebirth of a Unique African American Resort Town” (University of Michigan Press, 2013); “Idlewild: The Black Eden of Michigan” (Arcadia Publishing, 2001), as well as co-author of “African Americans of Denver” (Arcadia Publishing 2008). In addition to authoring books and articles, and serving as a media consultant on Idlewild and other topics in African American Studies, he is co-curator of Welcome to Idlewild, a Michigan State University Museum traveling photographic exhibition (2003-present).

No Man's Land Film Festival: All genders welcome

Fresh from its Tuesday, March 13 San Francisco debut comes the traveling No Man's Land Film Festival two days later on March 15 to Wealthy Theatre. 

No Man’s Land Film Festival is an unapologetically, all-female adventure film festival with roots in the Rocky Mountains and is committed to showcasing, as well as connecting, women in pursuit of all things radical.

No Man's Land Film Festival tweaks the lens of looking at our known history from a her-story perspective to the topics of adventure and progressive thinking in the hopes of motivating audiences around the county who will venture out to attend. 

On the big screen will be films that range from the rare to the never-before-seen shorts—all created by female filmmakers. You will not want to miss this film devoted to the women in our lives who are attempting to accomplish great things through their contributions.

Irish On Ionia 2018

What more can be written about Irish on Ionia (IOI) that has not already been said about the wildly popular and quite possibly the biggest St. Patty’s Day party in Michigan that invades downtown Grand Rapids each March by way of Barfly Events (Part of the family of downtown eateries of HopCat, Grand Rapid Brewing Company, and Stella’s). 

This popular event that is not for the weak of liver should you wish to imbibe in all the festivities that kick off at 7 a.m. and keep on cranking out hour after hour of programming until 10 p.m.

Thought the day there are beer tents and two stages filled with bands and DJs that range from the traditional Irish sound to a heavy dance beat that helps you burn off those beer calories, including  names like locals DJ Slim Tim and DJ Sean Boney and guest DJ’s like DJ Kalendr.

They even have the popular ShamROCK, Paper, Scissors Tournament on deck with hosts Mike and Drew. 

And while the Waldron House is also open and hosting programming for attendees of IOI throughout the day, the heat really gets cranked up when DJ Richard Oxygenn starts spinning for the late night crowd at 10 p.m.

So while you have a lot of places to consider attending and celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, if you seek that big booming festival atmosphere, then IOI is your ticket to secure this year. And don’t delay purchasing tickets—this one has been known to sell out. 

West Michigan Design Week - 2018’s Look Behind Design kick off

This week as Rapid Growth dedicates our entire issue to the power and importance of our design community, G-Sync Events wants to invite the design-curious to seek out West Michigan Design Week as they have produced more than 20 events ranging from world-class speakers like Jen Scully and Stefan Sagmeister to hands-on workshops to happy hour gatherings. 

To help stir the excitement further for the 2018 West Michigan Design Week, an opening reception for “Look Behind Design”— a specially curated exhibit where you can dive in and see the spirit of design—will commence at UICA on March 16 in downtown Grand Rapids.

For all the details, including the events featured this year, be sure to visit their website or read our article by Rapid Growth’s Editor Lauren Carlson who welcomes this important festival back to our city.

The Art of Pitching: A refreshing beer series celebrating its second year

It is not uncommon for folks in this city to attend an event devoted to pitching an idea, whether it is a 5x5 Night or #100Ideas. But this week until March 19, the Mitten Brewing Company welcomes back their second annual “Art of Pitching” series.

Unlike the startup variety, this local westside brewery with plenty of nods to baseball within its tasting room, will release six experimental brews culminating at a special event on March 19.

The Mitten Brewing Company, long a provider of unique brews to Grand Rapids’ Beer City brewscape, has built itself around showcasing the many and diverse worlds of craft beer with a nod to the popular national pastime of baseball.  

When talking about baseball, the act of pitching refers to throwing the ball towards home plate to begin a play. However in brewing beer, when you “pitch,” it refers to the time in which one throws yeast into wort to start the fermentation process. The annual “Art of Pitching” series offers Mitten brewers an opportunity to test out new ingredients and techniques.

The 2018 “Pitching” series really kicks in on Monday, Mar. 19, when all six beers will be tapped at the popular pub. Monday is also The Mitten Brewing Company’s “Flight Night,” which offers flights at 25 percent off from 4 p.m. to close. Visitors are invited to purchase a flight of all six beers.

To vote on your favorite at the Art of Pitching, check out the brewery’s Facebook poll that will be open on that Monday only.
The event also provides an opportunity for a charitable component to the Mar. 19 event: from 5-8 p.m., a portion of the sales will be donated to the brewery’s spring and summer charity project, the “Ted Rasberry Gift.” 

The money from this event will go to the Whitecaps Community Foundation to fund the Inner City Youth Baseball and Softball Program—a free program for inner-city youth ages 6 to14 that holds games at seven neighborhood parks, including Rasberry Field.

And who knows, maybe after all the dust settles on this series, a new popular brew will be born and a new reason to celebrate the craft of brewing and the creative spirit devoted to this process will be born (again). 

The styles on tap this year include an India Pale Lager, Blackberry Black Gose, Rye Stout with oak spirals, Imperial Roggenbier, Bohemian Pilsner, and the brewery’s first New England IPA — and all will have baseball-reflecting names. 

Vinyl Fetish Thursdays One Year Anniversary: Dark Disco

Fans of Division Avenue’s (defunct) Reptile House and their locally famous dance parties have discovered a rebirth of their sound and a reason to shake it in public from a local DJ who is too young to recall those Jager-infused nights. 

Vinyl Fetish's Joe Moon had just an idea when he started his Vinyl Fetish Thursdays at the Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill of a special night devoted to a niche form of music. He did so because, while Grand Rapids has plenty of places showcasing top of the charts dance tunes as well as plenty of niche retro-music nights, he felt there was a real shortage of places highlighting dance music’s darker side. 

As the night has grown to attract an audience over the past year, Moon has welcomed guest DJs as well as adding Dana West-Bystry as a partner last July at the popular Thursday event.

Recently, Moon reflected with Publisher Tommy Allen about the year long experience and the upcoming celebration. “I’ve met a lot of people from that time who have come out and enjoyed what I was doing, along with the younger generation of kids who relate to the style of music,” says Moon, “It’s been a beautiful clash of ages and personalities. The vibe of the night is always welcoming and accepting.”

The welcoming aspects of Vinyl Fetish’s crew is what has impressed Rapid Growth, which has  been tracking this subculture of our city as we establish a DJ culture here that is part curation part celebration. 

So get to the wild westside outpost on Thursday to celebrate with Moon and West-Bystry as they welcome some of their favorite DJ’s including Brandon Hill, Elyse Renee, Geoffrey Hudson, Kevin Czarnik, and Michael Mist.

As always, no cover. Those who come out can enjoy $3 long islands all night from 9 - 2 a.m. and the best dark disco-industrial music this side of the Reptile House.  

LaughFest 2018: What’s that sound in the air? Not spring, but laughter

On the dawn of its eighth year, Gilda’s LaughFest—the nation’s first-ever community-wide festival of laughter—has made the blues of late-winter a bit lighter as the citizenry (and visitors) arrive to check out the massive programming of this 10-day event. 

Uniquely created by the Grand Rapids Gilda’s Club in March 2011 as a way for the community to “celebrate laughter for the health of it,” the festival features some of the biggest names in stand-up as well as a host of up-and-comers to West Michigan. 

The festival looks at the many sides of laughter with performances touching on areas like improv, musical showcases, kids programming, LaughteRx panels, and of course, the art of stand-up.

Highlights of the bigger names appearing on this year’s playbill include Trevor Noah, Maria Bamford, Tiffany Haddish, Cameron Esposito, Bert Kreischer, and Anjelah Johnson. But no worries about cost at LaughFest, since many of the amazing programming at this event is free. So for those who want to venture, there is truly something for everyone. 

Most of all, the proceeds raised from LaughFest supports families and friends with their cancer or grief journey through Gilda’s House Grand Rapids. 

If everything holds true, we can expect folks in the area to be in a little better mood again this March…and I can clearly say, LaughFest is a big reason why.

Know Your Muslim Neighbor Open House

Last October, the Grand Rapids Islamic Masjid and Religious Institute on the city’s south side welcomed the public to their second open house. Having missed the first one, Rapid Growth’s Tommy Allen made sure to catch the fall event and boy, was he impressed by the level of openness as well as education built into this community-building event. 

On Saturday the institute re-opens their doors for another event they are call “Know Your Muslim Neighbor.”

As we the case last fall, the Islamic membership enthusiastically welcomes the community to bring family and friends members to their East Paris Ave. masjid (Arabic for mosque) for a chance to learn more about the world’s largest religion.

No, this is not a veiled attempt to convert anyone, but is a wonderful way for a religious group and community to reach out to help educate our city’s curious to better understand them.

As was the case last fall, on this tour you’ll visit the Prayer Hall, learn about the Quran, try on a Hijab, and even learn how to write your name in Arabic. 

While at the masjid, you can also get a henna tattoo or try one of the many foods and drinks from the Muslim nations represented at this event. (In fact, if you like something you tried, then we insist that you visit the East Paris Ave. Super Green Market just North of the masjid for some delicious gastronomic treats.)

Just a quick note from the hosts who ask that people wear modest clothing when you attending. All attendees are asked to wear long sleeves, modest long pants, and women attending the tour will be asked to cover their hair when on the main level of the prayer hall. Shoes are also removed on the main level but they have plenty of space to check your shoes.

According to the Islamic Mosque and Religious Institute website, they seek to draw its guidance from the Noble Qur'an and the Sunah. They are dedicated to the advancement of Muslims and society at large. They serve the ethnically diverse Muslim community within the West Michigan region.

So if you seeking a wonderfully structured learning experience from a member of our faith community, please consider RSVP’ing on their Facebook event page

2018 César E. Chávez Social Justice March and Community Gathering

More times than not, our childhood experiences will often inform who we become as adults. When looking back at the life of César E. Chávez, it is easy to see how his life on his family’s farm tending to the land as well as the animals would inform his steps as he grew into the man we celebrate today. 

Chávez’s path from childhood would take him to service in the Navy, but also to a role as a community organizer where he would go on to found the National Farm Worker Association. His work aimed to improve the working conditions of America’s farm workers which included African Americans, Filipinos, white Americans, Mexican Americans, and Mexicans. 

When the growers and farmers refused to provide access to fresh water to drink, bathrooms in the fields, and fair pay for a day’s work, Chávez led the farm workers through years of nonviolent actions, much like Martin Luther King, Jr. did before him, resulting in a victorious moment in history.

On Thursday our community will host an annual march to honor the life and legacy of civil rights hero César E. Chávez.

In an era of massive divisions in our nation, it is nice to know that there are still areas of our society like this community-centered celebration/march where others are advocating for greater understanding of another’s path in this world. 

The event begins at 11:00 a.m. at the Cook Library on Grandville Ave. SW and will progress to Chicago Ave’s The Potter's House Chapel for a community gathering. (There is also a 1 p.m. unity luncheon but you need to pre-register in advance for this paid function. You can see this offer at the GVSU website. ) gvsu.edu/inclusion/2018unityluncheon

If you are going to march, the organizers have a few points to help guide one in the task. If you want to make signs, please keep the messages related to social justice and the life and legacy of César E Chávez. They also ask that you consider using the organizational colors of the host: red and black. In addition, feel free to bring your home country flags, as well as school or organization banners. Absolutely no political candidate signs will be permitted according to organizers. 

Even if you do not march, these types of events really help educate our community in helping to tear down divisions as they open us up to the lives of others in our city. 

Terrible Lovelies: Electronic newbies in the neighborhood pub

Fans of bands like Phantogram, The Knife, and CHVRCHES are in luck this Friday night at Creston Brewery -  the city’s only black-owned brewery - welcomes the newly created act, the Terrible Lovelies.

Forming in late 2017 with members Shaneé Laurent, Marley Ferguson, and Joe Botwinski, the Terrible Lovelies offer a synth storm of electronic pop—a sound not really that big here since the Alexis (band) years.  

So here’s hoping that fans of this style of music will rise  again so that we can enjoy the beautiful theatricality that often follows such acts. 

In addition to the chance to catch a newish act in our community, this night welcomes Julio Gomez, a powerhouse of a performer who is a singer/songwriter and guitarist from Grand Rapids. 

Gomez is best known in our region as the frontman of  "I Believe in Julio" whose recent release "An Episodic Memory" ushered in the band’s signature folk/punk sound. For this special performance opening for the Terrible Lovelies, Julio Gomez will be joined on stage by long time collaborator Dan Fisher, as well as many special guests who will dive deep into his catalog of songs.

This will be a really good night for fans who are seeking an experience that is on the front edge of our city’s emerging music culture. 

Community Reception for Dr. Rasheda Weaver, GRNS Keynote Speaker

There are plenty of networking events in the city, but there is only one local happy hour that seeks to welcome a very special guest to our city, while at the same time will help instill excitement for the 4th annual Grand Rapids Neighborhood Summit

And while the Neighborhood Summit starts on Saturday at the downtown GVSU Pew Campus, Friday night is a kick off event at LINC Up to welcome the annual neighborhood event's keynote speaker Dr. Rasheda Weaver, Assistant Professor of Community Entrepreneurship, University of Vermont.

From Dr. Weaver’s bio: She received a PhD in Public Affairs-Community Development and a Master of Science in Public Affairs at Rutgers University. She graduated valedictorian from New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development with a Master of Arts in Applied Psychology and graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Herbert H. Lehman College.

Also at LINC Up on Friday, organizers will be welcoming other activities including live music BG's (the Back Grounders) and PJ DA DJ Sound & Entertainment, powerful spoken word, a cash bar, community vendors and other amenities that you have come to enjoy in conjunction with LINC Up’s First Friday Urban Networking Parties over the years in the Madison Square neighborhood.

A special thanks goes out to the hosts as well as the Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses, West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and the Latina Network of West Michigan for presenting this welcoming event for Dr. Weaver.
For those hoping to attend Saturday’s summit, you will want to register in advance (pending availability) at this web address. The theme of this year’s event is “Going Beyond A Seat At The Table” and will address the need for economic equity and opportunity in our city’s neighborhoods as well as how to leverage resident wisdom in decisions that impact them.

Grand Rapids residents, neighborhood associations, business owners and associations, and stakeholders are encouraged to attend this annual event that is always packed with some pretty amazing voices from our city.

Soul Clap & Dance Off with DJ Jonathan Toubin: Getting your sweat on downtown this Saturday

Fresh from performing in Bushwick, NY on Friday, comes DJ act Soul Club to Grand Rapids this Saturday night for what promises to be the biggest dance party to invade the city this year at The Pyramid Scheme. 

Billed as Soul Clap & Dance Off because of DJ Jonathan Toubin’s contribution of his massive collection of 45s that are made up of 50s/60s rock’n’roll, soul, r+b, and Motown, this night’s event promises to be a beautiful and fun deep dive into early dance music culture. 

The night will also feature special appearances from Hollywood Makeout and Grand Rapids Soul Club, as well as chance to compete in a dance off where the winner will be awarded $100. 

And while the Wall Street Journal may not motivate folks concerned about nightlife activities, this quote really sums up what to expect from this night: “The long-running Soul Clap remains one of the sweatiest dance parties to be experienced in New York City. Fueled by his rare and raucous 45s collection, DJ Jonathan Toubin draws on raw soul and the most feral strains of rock ‘n’ roll from the early 1960s to power the nights.” (Wall Street Journal, 2014)

Grand Rapids Police Policy and Procedure Review Task Force—Public Meeting

Over the last few years, many cities around the nation who value their citizenry and seek to modernize their community’s policing have been organizing around the guidelines that were released in 2015 by the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) 21st Century Policing Report.

Grand Rapids has long recognized the role of community-policing and now more than ever the populace here recognizes the importance of healthy neighborhood relations.

On Wednesday night, the public is invited to join other community members at the downtown Grand Rapids Public Library to learn what the City of Grand Rapids is putting in place via our Grand Rapids Police Policy and Procedure Review Task Force.

The goals of this citizen- and police-led committee, who are embarking on this journey, is to provide a platform for effective law enforcement policies that respect the rights and dignity of all residents and to discuss how best to fold in those nationwide best practices set forth in the 21st Century Policing Report. 

Attendees will have an opportunity to give input to the committee via the roundtable discussions that is made up of area residents, law enforcement officers, and nationally recognized consultants. These quarterly meetings will continue as a way for the task force to check in with our city’s residents on this important work as they review the GRPD’s policies and procedures to identify and eliminate those that may result in racial bias.

As a primer, these are the main target areas that the 21st Century Policing Implementation Guidebook outlines as effective strategies to help communities, law enforcement, and local government implement recommendations. 

From their summaries from the DOJ’s October 2015 release of this report, these are the areas of focus.

1. Engage with local law enforcement; participate in meetings, surveys, and other activities.
2. Participate in problem-solving efforts to reduce crime and improve quality of life.
3. Work with local law enforcement to ensure crime-reducing resources and tactics are being deployed that mitigate unintended consequences.
4. Call on state legislators to ensure that the legal framework does not impede accountability for law enforcement.
5. Review school policies and practices, and advocate for early intervention strategies that minimize involvement of youth in the criminal justice system.

Law enforcement
1. Review and update policies, training, and data collection on use of force, and engage community members and police labor unions in the process.
2. Increase transparency of data, policies, and procedures.
3. Call on the POST Commission to implement all levels of training.
4. Examine hiring practices and ways to involve the community in recruiting.
5. Ensure officers have access to the tools they need to keep them safe.

Local government
1. Create listening opportunities with the community.
2. Allocate government resources to implementation.
3. Conduct community surveys on attitudes toward policing, and publish the results.
4. Define the terms of civilian oversight to meet the community’s needs.
5. Recognize and address holistically the root causes of crime.

Winter Beer Festival: Now with a Friday option!

For many years, when the tickets would go on sale for the annual Winter Beer Festival held each February at the Fifth Third Ballpark (parking lot), they would be sold within minutes of their release.

You can imagine the heartbreak of beer fans from here and far away who wanted to make the trek to our beer-built city’s premier event devoted to the love and tastes of Michigan’s beer industry. 

Lucky for us that while the Saturday event still does sell out in record time, the event organizers have opened up Friday nights over the last few years for those who could not score a ticket to still come and enjoy the festivities at the ballpark under the cover of the night’s sky. 

The annual Winter Beer Festival features over 100 Michigan breweries who will roll in barrels of nearly 1,000 different craft beers to this frozen brewer’s paradise. Both days’ events include live local music, a plethora of ice sculptures, and plenty of food options, including the festival signature giant turkey legs for your inner caveman that you can enjoy around a fire pit to chase the chill away.

Seriously, if you love beer and have never experienced a Winter Beer Festival, then this is one of those signature events within our state that is a “must visit” event. And for those who can’t make Saturday work, then lucky you that it now includes a fun and just as festive Friday option. 

For complete news on this event including all the breweries showcased this year, please visit the festival’s website

Hidden Gems: Artists helping create a new generation of artists

This city loves a good fundraiser but few rarely rise to the level of excitement like one planned for this Saturday night at a tiny bar within the North Monroe’s budding warehouse district. 

Billed as “Hidden Gems,” this event seeks to raise awareness as well as your spirits (since it is the weekend after all) with a night of live bands, DJs, and art for the benefit of our local The Crescendo Foundation—a Grand Rapids nonprofit that provides affordable music lessons for kids ages eight to 16.

For the low cost of $10 (remember, it is a fundraiser) you will be able to enter this multi-level bar for an out of this world art experience with a diverse line up of music with local and guest artists.

For those looking to time their arrival with their favorite act’s appearance, here is the schedule available at this time:

8:30 p.m. - Sandra Effert with Patty PerShayla

9:30 p.m. - Jesse Ray and the Carolina Catfish 

11:30 p.m. - DJ NEGLIGENCE (of Exposure Therapy)

12:30 p.m. -  DJ dynja (Detroit)

In addition, guests will have a chance to purchase works from artists like Angelea Torralva, Esan Sommersell, or Clock in the Sky art by Kit Clock.

And while we know folks have a lot of options to consider when choosing a fundraiser, Hidden Gems is shaping up to be one of those “don’t miss it” art events of the season. Scencesters beware, this one is eclectic by design and fresh/chill, so leave attitudes at the door for the best experience.

Learn more about The Crescendo Foundation here.

Who tells the story: Unpacking conversations around art and race

Tuesday, Feb. 27, 5:30 p.m. reception, 6:30 p.m. lecture
During ArtPrize 9, one of its best on record in my opinion, the topic of culture appropriation as it relates to race took center stage at a variety of venues or within the various works presented therein. 

And while the topic does not always have clear lines to those artists creating the works, there are moments within the public where those lines are clearly crossed. 

On Tuesday, Feb. 27, cultured.GR, the Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives (GRAAMA), and Fountain Street Church invite artists and art fans to join them for a free, special double feature event with a panel discussion on “Who Tells the Story: Unpacking the conversations around art and race” and a closing reception for the Keeler Gallery’s exhibition, "African American Artists Tell the Story.”

The night’s panel will include 2017 ArtPrize artists Monroe O'Bryant, Ericka Thompson (Kyd Kane), and Sofía Ramirez-Hernandez, with Steffanie Rosalez moderating. 

As outlined by the event’s organizers, “this panel discussion is designed to address these questions and move towards action that is more intentional, respectful, and honoring of people of color.”  

I know it will be a fascinating night and one that I hope will spill over into the community and not be ensconced in the choir loft…er, the metaphorical choir loft. 

Butterflies are Blooming: Signs of Spring’s return float into Grand Rapids

Opening Thursday, Mar. 1, 9 a..m. (through April 30)
With the ending of winter soon on our horizon, the itch for warmer weather often sends folks flying to warmer climates.

But not every budget can handle a trip to warm, tropical-like places like Key West, so lucky for us there is the 13th annual Fred & Dorothy Fichter Butterflies Are Blooming exhibition at Meijer Gardens.

What started more than a decade ago as a chance to showcase the various exotic butterflies at The Gardens’ tropical conservatory has blossomed to become the nation’s largest temporary tropical butterfly exhibition.

Boosting more than 7000 beautifully colored butterflies that hail from 50 different species, this annual affair attracts guests from local school field trips to tourists who venture each springtime to experience this once-a-year affair.

The annual event is not just a chance to experience warm 85 degrees often on days that still dip below freezing in a conservatory at 70 percent humidity. It is just what the doctor ordered if you are getting tired of winter (which official does not end until March 21).

Butterflies Are Blooming also offers an array of programming options including special members-only events like those night walks for adults only. These special night events could be a great place to meet someone new, too. I mean, how cool would it be that you met maybe the love of your life at a tropical conservatory observing the wonder and beauty of nature instead of over yet again another pint of a local IPA? 

For all their programming options, visit the Butterflies Are Blooming page at the Meijer Gardens website.

White Rabbit Red Rabbit: Theatre of the unknown debuts here

Unlike anything else that you have experienced on our local theatrical stages comes Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour’s “White Rabbit Red Rabbit,” a fresh and rare production where every night is a new opportunity to experience something truly remarkable. 

First off, the production features a different guest star in the lead role each night and kicks off once the solo actor is handed a sealed script that they have not read or seen to perform cold for the audience. 

All this happens without the aid of all the usual trappings associated with theatre, with no director, no rehearsals, nor a designed set. Right at the start under this premise, you know we are not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy. 

“Rabbits is truly a unique living breathing avant-garde theatrical experience. Never before has an audience along with the performer stepped into a script together for the very first time,” says Actors’ Theatre of Grand Rapids’ Executive Director Kyle Los.  “It's a raw and intimate. No moment, reaction, or emotion can be pre-crafted or curated.”

The performers selected by Actors’ are highly trained in their craft but will call upon them to focus all that they've learned up to this point. The cast of local actors performing “White Rabbit Red Rabbit” includes Jon Clausen, Laure Walczak, Amy McFadden, Greg Rogers, Jolene Frankey, Joe Anderson, Todd Lewis, and Randy Wyatt. 

This is rare and nail-biting theatre and you only have eight chances to see the production that took off-Broadway by storm. Something inside of me thinks given the line up of talent that we may see a lot of repeat viewings given the nature of this production. 

Black Panther: A new superhero leaps to the big screen

There has not been a more exciting moment for the superhero cinema genre than right now as the nation prepares for a game-changing new film. For if the numbers hold, then “Black Panther” will opens nationwide on February 16 as a true blockbuster.

When folks started tracking the pre-sales of “Black Panther,” they were shocked that what was once forecasted as a $125 million opening has now logged in more than $150 million-plus in advance ticketing. 

But we could have seen this momentum coming after the teaser dropped a year ago and racked up an astonishing 89 million views in less than 24 hours. Rarely do we hear the roar of a game changer like “Black Panther.”

Part of its attraction is that “Black Panther” is not just the latest in a series of vintage Marvel superheroes to hit the big screen, but more importantly it is the fact that it showcases a nearly all black cast centered on a multi-layered story with a nearly all black cast centered on a story with roots in Africa.

Directed by Ryan Coogler, “Black Panther,” as a big-budget studio film, has no equal and there is one good reason why so many are anticipating its debut. 

The film stars notable actors like Chadwick Boseman as T'Challa/Black Panther, Lupita Nyong'o, Michael B. Jordan, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, and Andy Serkis.

“Black Panther” is the story of T’Challa who is the heir apparent to the throne of the fictional land of Wakanda, a tiny country hidden for centuries. Within this country hides the source of a powerful secret: as this nation is in the sole possession of vibranium, an alien element acquired from a fallen meteor. (It is also the same metal used in Captain America’s shield.) 

As the world expands around them, the isolation of Wakanda remains difficult once it is revealed they hold so much of vibranium. After T’Challa’s father is cruelly assassinated (not a spoiler), this new, young king will learn to wield a suit made of vibranium to become the Black Panther and a warrior for his people. 

We understand that the cinema is a year round industry, but when you look at all of the factors leading up to this fresh debut, it is hard not to be Christmas-like happy when a film like “Black Panther” arrives in the theaters. “Black Panther” is ushering in a new era of filmmaking that is thrilling, inspiring, but, most of all, about to set a new bar vibranium-tough for future films to emulate and follow.

Taste of Soul Sunday: Revamped and more relevant than ever

The city is full of options each year that seek to celebrate the legacy and meaning of Black History Month. And while we have many choices, one organization, our downtown Grand Rapids Public Library, has a plethora of educational programming that flows throughout the month, offering a diverse array of topics and experiences. 

By far the library’s (and possibly the city’s) biggest event during Black History Month is its Taste of Soul Sunday, where they invite locals to come downtown and experience African American history and culture.

What makes this year’s sensational programming really soar is that the GRPL held a community focus group over the summer of 2017 to garner insights and feedback from the community. The result of this listening session is a freshly revamped and lively event rooted even more in our local culture and Black experience, but also one that ventures into the headlines of the days we find ourselves living. 

Organized into easy-to-navigate categories of Listen, Learn, Create, Eat, and Preserve, the GRPL welcomes everyone to venture down this Sunday for a truly remarkable afternoon that moves beyond just the “Taste” experience that draws so many to this venue each year. 

Scheduled to appear at Sunday’s GRPL Taste of Soul Sunday event are:

– Karisa Wilson Music
– Zion Lion
– Noel Webley and Jazzy Friends Quintet
– Julius J. Hight featuring Bedrock

– A Team of Her Own: Minnie Forbes & Negro League Baseball
– The Spirit of South High School
– From Jackie Robinson to Kaepernick: A Brief History of Athlete Activism with Dr. Louis Moore

– What Does Your Name Mean to You? Poetry Workshop with Fable the Poet and The Diatribe.
– Crafts for Kids

– NoLos Soul
– IRIE Kitchen
– Big Ed's BBQ
– Mosbyspopcorn

The “Preserve” portion of the program is where the public contributes to deepen this event and future ones by sharing their story. 

GRPL and the Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives (GRAAMA) invite attendees to bring down to the downtown branch their personal family photographs, letters, and journals during Taste of Soul Sunday. These items will be digitized along with your spoken word narrative about how your personal history contributes to the story of our community. 

This event is free and open to the public and is made possible through the funding of the Grand Rapids Public Library Foundation. You can see the posted performance times at GRPL's website.

Drunken Retort: Black History spoken aloud

Over the last five years, a group of spoken word artists have been gathering downtown at Stella’s Lounge for a night of performances organized under the header “The Drunken Retort.” (2018 is their fifth anniversary.) 

And while the team made up of AutoPilot, Rachel Gleason, and Fable the Poet have often used their Monday night platform to elevate this art form, locally inviting other poets to join them on the stage as guest performers, for The Drunken Retort’s Black History night on February 19, the star is you and your voice. 

This group of artists invite folks to come down and share pieces reflecting Black excellence, freedom, greatness, hip-hop, and all things related to Black History.

This centering on the experience and lives of black people has the power to transform an audience, too, because when one shares their personal history, something begins to shift under the weight of this community perspective.

And while they enjoy hosting guest poets, these theme nights, according to Fable the Poet, are wonderful and unique because they focus on keeping it “strictly local.”

Folks who want to see how the event works with black nationally known poets—and 80 percent of those featured at The Drunken Retort are Black/Brown poets from all across the country— you can return on March 5th when they welcome Natasha T. Miller to Grand Rapids.

The Drunken Retort is part of a series of programming in the city that through their performances in our area help transform all of us who witness this powerful art form. Don’t miss this unique Black History Month event in the Heartside neighborhood of downtown.

LaFontsee Galleries: 30 years of incredible views

It is hard to imagine those days in 1987 when LaFontsee Galleries (then called The Underground Studio) opened in a tiny space on Grand Street in the middle of a neighborhood just east of Heritage Hill.

Back then if you were looking to purchase art, you had to visit Eastown, the Amway Grand Hotel, or the mall. And even then, the costs to secure a work of art was out of reach for most of us who were looking to take down our Spencer Gifts’ Erté prints or posters we inherited from our college days or Believe in Music.

Over time, proprietors Scott and Linda LaFontsee began to crack the local art code, first welcoming local artists (most often students or faculty from area colleges), and then later expanding upon their representation to include national artists. (Full disclosure: I was one of those local artists they carried in the 1990s and into the early aughts until I left for a lakeshore gallery.) 

The best memories of the decades since has been watching the community grow over time to welcome more original art into their homes and businesses. Another found memory is the receptions, which in the early days was how the local artists community connected, since there truly was so little to do back then related to fine art.

And while many of the galleries that used to dot our city map have shuttered their doors, LaFontsee kept on plugging away as the city grew. They even opened a gallery in Douglas over the years after beta testing that market with a series of what is best described as temporary or pop-up spaces until they built a brand new building at this lakeshore community. 

On Friday night, LaFontsee Galleries is celebrating turning 30 and will be hosting a special art reception with live music, refreshments, fresh art, and so much more. In fact, advance notices indicate that their entire crop of artists will have work up on this special night so you will not want to miss this one if you are in the market to discover a new artist or secure a work of art. 

In addition, the gallery will be donating during the month of February 5 percent of all retail sales to two local arts organizations: The Cook Arts Center and Artists Creating Together. So by supporting local artists you are also doing good, too, this month. 

Jammie Awards XIX: Grand Rapids Grammys

The timing of the annual Grammys Awards ceremony is always an exciting time because it means that we are just a few days away from our own local music awards show, The Jammies.

Recognizing West Michigan's best albums and songs of 2017, the Jammies XIX, presented by WYCE 88.1 FM, used to be held on a weeknight until 2013 when the event took a huge leap under then station director Kevin Murphy’s leadership and vision. And to say the least, there has been no going back since this move brought so much fresh energy to the two stages it is held on Friday night.

Now the awards show has become a cultural flashpoint for our area music fans who show up en masse to cheer on their favorite acts.

And if you think this will be just another Jammies, then look at the XIX lineup scheduled to perform this year at the Intersection. And don’t leave after the awards since WYCE invites you to stay for an after party featuring Desmond Jones.

WYCE Jammie Awards XIX Official Lineup, which includes many acts who have never performed before at our local awards show:

Showroom Stage
5:30 Wicker Basket
6:00 Award Presentation: Listener Choice Awards [Best Album & Best Album by a New Artist]
6:05 Dan Rickabus
6:23 Award Presentation: Special Jury Prize [Best Album & Best New Artist] (Critics Choice)
6:28 Cameron Blake
6:46 Award Presentation: The "Traditions!" Award & Best Roots/Revival Album
6:51 The Founding
7:09 Award Presentation: Electronic Album of the Year & Hip-Hop Album
7:14 Yolonda Lavender
7:32 Award Presentation: Best Jazz Album
7:37 Jake Kershaw
7:55 Award Presentation: Best Rock or Pop Album
8:00 Mark Lavengood
8:18 Award Presentation: Best Blues/Soul Album of the Year
8:23 Hollywood Makeout
8:41 Award Presentation: Best Americana Album
8:46 organissimo
9:04 Award Presentation: Best Alternative Album
9:09 May Erlewine
9:30 Award Presentation: Best Contemporary Folk
9:50 Lipstick Jodi
Award Presentation: Song of the Year
10:15 ConvoTronics
Award Presentation: Best New Artist
10:35 Afro Zuma
10:55 Award Presentation: Album of the Year

The Stache Stage
5:40 B-Side Growlers
6:10 Brian Koenigsknecht
6:40 Thunderbolt & Lightfoot
7:05 Hannah Laine
7:30 Justin Avdek & The Underground Circus
8:00 Bigfoot Buffalo
8:25 Blushing Monk
8:55 Major Murphy
9:20 Tom Hymn
9:50 Hannah Rose & The GravesTones
10:15 Lazy Genius

All Ages Welcome | Doors: 5:30PM
$5 Suggested donation to your community radio station WYCE

Black Girl Magic Showcase: Beer Month’s bright spot

As the city prepares to celebrate GR Beer Month, the Creston Brewery—the city’s only black owned brewery—continues to test their community-focused model in the heart of the Creston neighborhood with a special new event that places the focus on black women entrepreneurs.

This day long event that stretches into late night is being called Black Girl Magic and is the brainchild of Bri Ross and Kyd Kane.

These two powerful women have invited area Black women of our community to showcase their creations and services for all those who  venture.

In addition to checking out new vendors to add to your life, you can sip on a delicious beer that is probably named after so historical or significant event that has roots in our city.

At 7 p.m., the event welcomes to the stage Bri Ross and Kyd Kane, who will both be performing spoken word poetry. 

Immediately following at 8 p.m. the brewery will convert into a dance party keeping the energy flowing into the evening as DJ’s Sun*Rise and SuperDre take to the 1s and 2s. 

Creston Brewery is extremely proud to be a Black owned brewery in the great beer city that is Grand Rapids!

The event is free to attend and all ages are welcome here until 9 p.m. when it becomes a 21+ venue.

We know you have a lot of choices, but Black Girl Magic is definitely something worth investing some time and cash as the city advances to make more room for others. In a beautiful way, you get to be a part of making the magic happen here. And that is why we might be worth being called “cool” a bit longer. 

fierce pussy: Old school activists still relevant

It is hard to imagine a time without a home computer and a printer to produce the materials one needs to have your voice heard on a topic. But this is the realities of the era that would produce fierce pussy, a collective of queer women artists in New York City in 1991.

Their "giving a care" drive in the face of a nation’s complacent silence as the raging AIDS epidemic was killing so many people sparked a new era of activism that feels very DIY by the standards of today’s tools. 

Because of their contributions, they were able to mobilize folks around LGBT rights, but also ushered in via their group, fierce pussy, a lesbian identity and visibility we had not seen before.

Over the years, fierce pussy projects have included wheat pasting handmade posters on the street, renaming New York City streets after prominent lesbian heroines, re-designing the restroom at the LGBT community center, harnessing PDF’s for activism, and even venturing into video production by creating PSAs. The body of their work has been the subject of numerous installations and exhibitions in galleries and museums around the world.

On Thursday, Feb. 15, fierce pussy—who is known for using literally almost any creative means necessary like old typewriters, found photographs, their own baby pictures, and the printing supplies and equipment accessible in their day jobs — will be at Grand Valley State University's Allendale campus for a special lecture on their artwork in the area of political art. 

For those who are curious about the power of artists collectives or are just curious about the viewpoints of artists who during the AIDS crisis tried just about everything to turn the tide on this epidemic, then this is a historic opportunity for our community to experience. 

fierce pussy’s appearance here in West Michigan is also tied to events happening at GVSU starting Feb. 14. 

36-Hour Challenge: Screening of the new

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Winter Punk Fest: Raw. Unfiltered. Westside.

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

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

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

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

Appearing in this year’s Winter Punk Fest are: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“If/Then” cast includes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enmeshed: Bridging individual visions

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

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

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

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

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

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

History Detectives: Getting to know your city

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buzzed Bard: Delicious Shakespeare 101

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the four courses included with your paid admission: 

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

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

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

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

Clownvis Presley: Clowns have more fun

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

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

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

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

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

Winter Wheat Festival 2018: Wheatland Music Fest goes indoors

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tunde Olaniran: Flint Native is out of this world amazing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

May Erlewine: “Michigan’s Songbird” in Creston on Sunday

While the city has no shortage of brew pubs offering something unique from great tap rooms, to award-winning pizza, to gaming nights, one neighborhood venue has managed to create something truly rich in their expansive, glass-walled space: a pub where you can enjoy a beer while building a connection to a vibrant community.

This is the charm of the Creston Brewery, whose impressive first year has included some incredible nights of original programming in a space filled with local contemporary art. 

One area in which they excel  is their commitment to the arts though the offering of their space to many local musicians and DJs to entertain locals and those who take a walk on the funky side of this Creston Neighborhood gem. 

On Sunday afternoon as the sun begins to hover on the horizon, Creston will welcome singer/songwriter May Erlewine to their tiny stage for an intimate two-hour performance of her music. 

Referred to as “Michigan’s Songbird,”  Erlewine’s songs are intimate and accessible, vulnerable and inspiring, as she taps into musical genres of traditional folk roots, old time country swing, soul, and rock and roll. And her music is always delivered with the warmest of heart. 

Since Creston Brewery eschews distractions like big screen TVs within its brew pub, a different vibe takes over the space as folks freely engage in dialogue. 

Those who venture out this Sunday will be rewarded with a set that is certain to match the fitting beauty of a busy weekend winding down, set to a live performance that is certain to provide relaxation over some incredible beers. 

Joining Erlewine at this intimate, free concert will be Max Lockwood on bass and guitar.

To learn more about May Erlewine’s music and all the incredible musicians at the Michigan-based Earthwork Music Collective, please visit their website.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi roars into Grand Rapids

After two years of waiting, “The Last Jedi,” the newest and 8th installment of the popular George Lucas created “Star War” saga that began 40 years ago, arrives on the big screen.  

Since no advance screenings were available at press time, we can share that from the initial reviews starting to trickle out, this one is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.

Following in the footsteps of episode 7, “The Force Awakens,” in “The Last Jedi” you will experience another journey with familiar characters like Finn, Poe and Luke Skywalker, as they continue on their quest as a battle of good and evil plays out throughout the universe. And as has been the case with the last film, be prepared for heartbreak as well with this one.

Locally you will have plenty of options to as to how to experience this thrilling film from 2D, 3D, D-Box,  and even IMAX (and IMAX 3D.)

However you choose to view this newest film, keep in mind that this series is a huge reason why cinema in America experienced a comeback introducing to modern audiences the concept of the blockbuster - a format that we still enjoy so many decades later as we thrilling escape from our reality.  And a force that continues to inspire even our local filmmakers to attempt bold moves in the quest to tell their stories on the big screen. 

Grand Rapids Grassroots: A Panel Discussion

When we think of the advances to the culture of West Michigan, we often begin with those who have stepped forward to place their names on our buildings and street signs.

But that is only a part of the advances made here over the years and, lucky for us, a new book that Rapid Growth covered in “Voices of the people: New book to showcase Grand Rapids' activist community” last spring is finally completed and is ready for release (and just in time for the holidays.)

This anthology from various points of Grand Rapids' grassroots moments features area activists whose contributions have helped us see who we are but through their actions have enriched our knowledge of others often left out of our vision.

These members of our city featured in “Grand Rapids Grassroots: An Anthology” include activists, community leaders, and neighborhood organizers who have lent their talents to create a more socially just place that so many call home. 

On Thursday, at the Grand Rapids Public Library main downtown location, will be a chance to hear from a few members of the community who contributed to this scholarly work at a special panel discussion.

In addition to learning about the process of creating this new anthology, the event will provide space for us to center on the works and perspectives of Grand Rapids activists Breannah Alexander, Shannon Garrett, Michelle Jokisch Polo, and Jes Kramer, as well as co-editor Dani Vilella.
So regardless of where you are in your journey to know your city, the “Grand Rapids Grassroots: An Anthology” is a great way to begin to understand those voices whose contributions have made us truly Grand by advocating for others. 

Stranger Tidings: A Holiday Sketch Revue

When one is thinking of the holidays, these thoughts often accompany a sense of dread. And with good reason.

Amidst the family drama, the political talk (we all try to avoid), and the unexpected dietary matters that pop up at the dinner table more and more and without warning, is the recipe for disaster that we gladly show up for year after year.

But what if we could let a little air out of this season with humor?

Lucky for us seeking a little levity this year, Late Night Grand Rapids (LNGR), a local performance group in our city, is hosting “Stranger Tidings: A Holiday Sketch Revue” at Dog Story Theater on Saturday night.

LNGR presents a fresh sketch show with never-before-seen material. But the night is so much more than just a night of sketch comedy as the performance will feature live music via an onstage band and with a series of fresh videos.

The best part is that the host for this one-show-only event is Grand Rapids’ funniest female comic, Sarah Jean Anderson, who will be the featured host for the night’s festivities. 

It is advised since Dog Story Theater is a small venue to secure your tickets in advance here.

In addition, be prepared to chase your buzz with drinks which act as a great lubricant for your candy cane flavored funny bone (so pack some extra cash).

Late Night Grand Rapids is attempting to bring their comedy to our region via these pop-up performances devoted to the art of sketch, music, film, stand up, and so much more.

West Michigan Gay Men's Chorus: A free holiday concert with community benefits

There is no greater joy in the city than to see artistic community-focussed groups advance. And one group this for nearly 10 years is our West Michigan Gay Men's Chorus, who now joins a long list of area choirs that celebrate the art of song via the performances they deliver to our region. It is nice to have so many options!

On Sunday afternoon, take a stroll downtown to Fountain Street Church for the return of the festive and fun holiday musical showcase from our West Michigan Gay Men's Chorus.

Prepare yourself for classics like “Jingle Bells” and “Silent Night,” but also for those comic gems like a new number for the chorus, “The 12 Days After Christmas.”

The songs play off the wintery themes of our season too, with classical tunes lining up nicely alongside contemporary gems like The Beach Boys “Little Saint Nick.”

In addition the “boys” will be welcoming Lady Oak, a local choir that is an offshoot of our Grand Rapids Women’s Chorus, who will be performing a set during this special, free holiday show. 

And while the event is admission-free, the West Michigan Gay Men's Chorus asks that, during their intermission, to please consider a donation to the Grand Rapids Community Foundation's Our LGBT Fund.

We have plenty of ways to celebrate the holidays, and we at Rapid Growth are pleased to witness the ever-widening acceptance of people who were once marginalized but now are such a beautiful addition to the fabric of our city. 

‘70s Punk Night: Power to the raging voice of rock and roll

Rock and roll is a powerful force for change with roots that stretch over time but also to those pockets where the human voice often struggles to be heard.

One movement of rock and roll—punk—is a reaction to the status quo as it sought, through this music form, to have its point of view heard via the bands who perform it. And on Wednesday night, punk will be—for the first time in my memory—performed at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.

This powerful form of music, showcased on Wednesday evening at ‘70s Punk Night, has always emanated from the subculture, challenging the dominant status quo to consider the other in our society.

For this concert event tied to the Ford’s “Louder Than Words: Rock, Power and Politics” traveling exhibition from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame now on display, area musicians from Mustard Plug, Lokella, Shoebox, and Triumph Music Academy will form two musical supergroups, The Young and The Savage for a night of punk rock.  

The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum and Foundation’s partnership with the traveling Rock & Roll Hall of Fame exhibition explores how rock and roll has helped shape our views as well as change our attitudes about topics of patriotism, peace, equality, and freedom.

This energetic and informative exhibition explores how rock and roll artists exercise their First Amendment rights as they challenge societal assumptions and cultural beliefs as they usher  fresh voices that often lead to real change. 

It is nearly impossible to not think of music when we think of the momentous civil rights movements of the last decades from marches on Washington to protests moments like the Vietnam War and so this exhibition is sure to delight as well as challenge the viewer.

“Louder Than Words” highlights how artists have used their craft as a platform to express their views and shape public opinion,” said Greg Harris, president and CEO of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

This special concert event is free with refreshments and of course, ear plugs should you need them. (And you will need them if the bands are true to their roots.)

“Louder Than Words: Rock, Power and Politics” will be open to the public during this special  Ford After Five evening event and runs from November 7 to February 11, 2018.

Register to attend '70s Punk Night here

Christmas for the Animals: A community celebration for our furry and scaly friends

There are no shortages of fun holiday themed events in our city that range from holiday artists markets to special dining opportunities with million dollar views. But what if I told you that there is an event in the city where the celebration involves characters who are known for wearing furry coats year round or for diving into chilly waters in search of a meal? 

Well, that is just part of the fun in store for folks who will venture to the Westside to visit the John Ball Zoo for their annual Christmas for the Animals.

True to the name, this holiday event focuses on providing space for the community to to return to the zoo and celebrate with a gift for the animals before the worst of West Michigan’s winter weather hits our city.

At this one-day only event, you will have a chance to see Santa and pet his reindeer, observe a thrilling ice carving, learn what animals like which enrichments in their treats, but also experience a thrilling exhibition of Santa’s aquatic diving elves!

Timed events include:
11 a.m. Tigers with a paper mache moose in the upper habitat
12 p.m. Otters “preparing” a meal of fish
1 p.m.  Bears unwrapping paper to get to their treats
2 p.m. Spider monkeys wrapping gifts

It is also a great time to make Christmas for the Animals really special via a host of ways.

One way is to support the zoo directly through a donation made at the event or consider sponsoring an animal at the Zoo. Both options are available at this link to their site.

However you choose to celebrate the animals of our zoo this holiday, just don’t forget to place them on your list to visit this weekend. It is also one of the last times to visit Amur tigers Yuri and Kuza who are slated to ship to another zoo in their quest to help propagate this endangered species. (We will be getting a couple “teenager” tigers in 2018 to replace our Yuri and Kuza.) 
John Ball Zoo is the fourth most attended cultural institution in the state, serving over 530,000 guests in 2017. 

1997 Tribute Show: Twenty years to this moment

If you live long enough you will soon  watch your childhood tunes become the stuff nostalgia shows re-discover and (often) repackage for a new generation.

One area of this revival trend that has roots in other cities as well as ours, is the tribute show. 

For the 1997 Tribute Show at the Pyramid Scheme our area’s performers from a variety of music acts have organized into popular acts. All told nearly 30 local music acts have contributed their talent to this night’s line up. 

Featured on Friday at this one night only performance will be the albums released in 1997 and will include “Spiceworld” by The Spice Girls, “Third Eye Blind” by Third Eye Blind, “Homogenic" by Bjork, “OK Computer” by Radiohead, and “Dude Ranch” by Blink 182. 

And while it is true that some will attempt faithful recreations of these popular albums, these tribute events often produce unexpected joys as modern advances in our sonic revolution opens new ways of sharing these classic albums from 1997. 

In between acts will be 1997-themed DJ sets spun by Scintillate, which is sure to include Hanson, so you will never have to leave the dreamy period of this year until the last act has finished around 1 a.m.

As someone who has attended numerous tribute shows from Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumors” to Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew” to the memorable 2016 tribute to David Bowie, don’t miss this opportunity to see so much good music in one place this Friday night. 

Friday's 1997 Tribute Show benefits the United Way of West Michigan.

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. 

Bottom40 Halloween: It may not be the top dance party, but it rules in other ways

What’s not to love about a party that began as a pop-up dance party event long before “pop-ups” existed. And Bottom40 was not born in a club but an Eastown home’s basement in 2006.

And while they have not been as active as they once were in our city, the chance to revisit those glory days as Bottom40 takes the dance party reigns for a special Halloween is the stuff that legends are made of. 

Bottom40 returns to “The Rez” for a festive costumed affair where I dare you to stand on the sidelines as this underground event with a knack for ironic music drops amazing and festive beats as folks flock to the dance floor.

As always, keep a twenty in your front jeans pocket for cab fare or your phone charged up to hail a ride from Lyft. You might need it!

Grand Raggidy Roller Derby: Double header brings the hurt

It is hard to recall any locally organized, all volunteer sporting team that has achieved a coveted  Top 40 ranking in a world while also carving out time to contribute to the various charities of our region, but that is the power of the our very own Grand Raggidy Roller Derby! 

Speaking of carving out time, this Halloween our local team will skate a double header match against the all-mighty Team Michigan and the Lansing Derby Vixens. 

First up at 5:30 p.m. is our Grand Raggidy Attack! team who will take on Lansing Derby Vixen’s Capital Corruption. 

Both of these teams are pretty evenly matched with a those crunching the stats predicting a near 59 percent chance for the Vixens to crush our Grand Rapids Attack!  But maybe with the right energy coming from the fans, we can turn these numbers around.

Immediately after, the Grand Raggidy’s All Stars will take on Team Michigan—a team that our local girls have not yet been able to beat. But this won’t deter our team’s energy who have been training hard to turn this around. This weekend could be the joyous moment we have been working towards, so why sit at home on Saturday when history is about to be made. 

Both games will be a nail biter for the fans, making victory something truly sweet this Halloween.

Attendees in costume can enter to win a special contest where the winner will receive two free tickets to the derby’s next home game. 

The venue is once again selling beer and wine, with proceeds benefiting the Grand Raggidy Roller Derby’s boosters. Hungry? Soon to be downtown TOM+CHEE will be doling out their famous grilled cheese to the delight of appetites attending the match. All told, the game will have more than 20 vendors at this event, so bring cash or your credit card to purchase some amazing items. 

Tickets to the game are $12 in advance or $15 at the door. Special discounts for kids, students, and seniors are also available. Advanced tickets can be purchased at this link

Día de los Muertos: Extending our journey from here to eternity

There are a lot of reasons to revisit our libraries these days as they have evolved with time to become so much more than a place to borrow a book.

Proof of this evolution to a more community-building space is the Grand Rapids Public Library’s annual Día de los Muertos celebration at the downtown branch.

This very moving exhibition created by community members celebrates the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos (or Day of the Dead), a thoughtful altar creation meant to honor the family and friends who have crossed over in this life. 

Each year communities members from both the Latinx and non-Latinx populations of our city create heartfelt tributes in the form of an altars as they seek to celebrate the life and memory of the dead. 

And while the altars are up from Saturday, October 28 – Wednesday, November 1, on Sunday, October 29 is a chance to bring the whole family for this special celebration that includes live music by Gabriel Estrada III.

On Sunday for the library's family day, kid's attending will be invited to decorate sugar skulls, participate in face painting, and enjoy a variety of other activities provided by the museum and community members. There will even be light refreshments should a sugar cookie not hit the spot. 

This event is sponsored by the Grand Rapids Public Library Foundation and further sets the bar for other organizations looking to integrate more culture-boosting activities into their lives. Don’t miss this beautiful and culturally sensitive event that is more celebration that one might think. It is a truly wonderful experience not to be missed. 

The Meanwhile at 10: Praise for neighborhood bars and their power

Author Ernest Hemingway wrote, “Don't bother with churches, government buildings or city squares, if you want to know about a culture, spend a night in its bars” and on Friday night in the city’s East Hills neighborhood is a chance to celebrate The Meanwhile’s tenth anniversary and see first hand why it feels like the living embodiment of this famous quote. 

For starters, The Meanwhile represents the power of sweat equity as brother and sister owners, Jeff and Tami VanderBerg, both toiled away with friends and contractors to deliver a modern iconic bar in our city. 

And sure it has changed drastically since the banning of smoking in bars in Michigan, it never lost any of its charm in the wake of smoke clearing enabling more to freely enter their doors. 

Over the years, The Meanwhile (as referred to by the locals) has become a very welcoming space not just to the residents of this neighborhood but to the overall community as they have hosted  art openings, assisted startups, produced original T-shirts, and created one of the most relaxing patio settings in the city where conversation between locals spark easily in this casual setting out back. 

They have provided a model for businesses on the street as they’ve collaborated with others on the street like their long-term Meanwhile Film Series in partnership with the Wealthy Theatre brokered by the soon to depart (and sorely missed) Community Media Center’s Theatre Director Erin Wilson. (We will miss you, Erin.) 

They even minted their own currency as captured in this National Public Radio story from Kaomi Goetz.

Rapid Growth has been there since the beginning to observe and celebrate. We even created this movie about the opening of the bar back in 2007.

We know you have a lot of choices of where to land this Friday, but why not stop in for a quick drink and conversation in a bar that has always been a tiny micro-system of our ever-evolving city. The Meanwhile is even a great place to create a kick ass selfie with a giant hammerhead shark that hangs behind the bar.

Congrats on ten fantastic years, The Meanwhile! We can’t imagine our city without you. 

Festival Amigo: Unidos por México y Puerto Rico!

One of the most disappointing aspects of modern society is how fast news events fall off our radar as front page headlines turn into “below the fold” stories before eventually being buried completely inside our newspapers. 

Two such events that have connections to our West Michigan Latinx community are earthquake in Mexico City and Hurricane Irma, which brought waves as huge as 30 feet to the island of Puerto Rico ushering in devastation to these American’s lives, infrastructure,businesses, and homes.

Our local Hispanic media outlets, El Vocero Hispano, La Mejor GR radio, Farandula magazine, and Vive Michigan magazine, have joined forces to ensure that we do not forget as they host an event this Sunday to the raise much needed funds for those in need after such devastation. 

On Sunday, people who want to help support this special one-day event are invited to visit S. Division’s Supermercado Mexico for Festival Amigo: Unidos por México y Puerto Rico. 

At Festival Amigo will be live music from acts including the FM band, DJ AngelGEE, Unico Flow Latino, Latino Klan, and the Mexican costume-rich dance act, Ballet Folclórico de San Francisco Javier.   

There will be a variety of raffles offering up a chance to win televisions, Mexican blankets, and gift cards from community businesses while raising critically important funds for the benefit of the people impacted in Mexico City and Puerto Rico..

This special fundraising and awareness producing event is brought to our community via radio host "La Guera de Durango" (Maria Sanchez), Chuy Morales from La Mejor GR and Farandula’s Adrian Sotelo.

Grand Rapids Comic-Con: Now with Lando Calrissian from Star Wars!

While some folks get really pumped about the big fall events like ArtPrize and Thanksgiving. For me, it is that chance to attend and see what the Grand Rapids Comic-Con has in store.

With every passing year, this annual event just getting bigger and better with each year as our local comic showcase takes over DeVos Place (and most of downtown surrounding the convention center) as kids of all ages en masse flock often in costume to attend this fabulous three-day convention in the heart of the city.
Among the highlights this weekend filled with authors, actors, and artists include animation voice performers like Mike McFarland of “Dragon Ball Z”, a plethora of bestselling young adult authors, Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Gates McFadden, a car show, Kevin “Hercules” Sorbo, and Star Wars’ Mr. Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams)! Even the guy who played Toho Godzilla and “My Little Pony’s” Thom Zahler is here this year. 

If you decide to attend, you are certain to see plenty of cosplay members roaming the halls and streets of the city that you might just think you woke up in Gotham and not Grand Rapids. 

This is one of the best events in the city and with good reason since it attracts so many diverse individuals who all gather to help celebrate the art of storytelling. 

For a complete and exhaustive look at what is on deck this year, please visit Grand Rapids Comic-Con to see the full 2017 schedule.

Know Your Muslim Neighbor Open House (UPDATED)

This Saturday is a chance to be a part of a unique experience as the Grand Rapids Islamic Masjid and Religious Institute opens their doors for an event they are calling “Know Your Muslim Neighbor.”

For this special day, folks in the community are encouraged to bring the family and friends to the masjid (Arabic for mosque) for a chance to learn more about the world’s largest religion.

No, this is not a veiled attempt to convert anyone but a true community outreach to help our city’s curious to better understand this member of our society. 

While on this tour you’ll visit the Prayer Hall, learn about the Quran, try on a Hijab, and event learn how to write your name in Arabic. 

One area of interest that really stands out is the opportunity to speak with not just a Muslim teen and a Muslim woman but to ask questions of a Muslim refugee. 

Judging by the popularity of the most recent sold out ArtPrize film about immigrants, “Human Flow” by Ai Weiwei, this element of the program should be most fascinating. 

While at the masjid you can get a henna tattoo or try one of the many foods and drinks from the Muslim nations represented at this event. (In fact, if you like something you tried, then there is a good chance it can be procured at the wonderful Super Green Market just North of the masjid.)

According to the Islamic Mosque and Religious Institute website, they seek to draw its guidance from the Noble Qur'an and the Sunah. They are dedicated to the advancement of Muslims and society at large. They serve the ethnically diverse Muslim community within the West Michigan region.

So if you seeking a wonderfully structured learning experience from a member of our faith community, please consider a stop this Saturday at the Islamic Mosque and Religious Institute.


The response has been so overwhelmingly positive that the center has issued these few items to enhance your experience as you prepare to visit on Saturday. And no worries if you cannot make it today, the Grand Rapids Islamic Masjid and Religious Institute will be looking to host another welcoming event in January 2018. Be sure to like their Facebook page to be alerted of this next event. 

1. Parking may be limited. You can park in our parking lot, the parking lot directly across the street, or the mosque next door to ours. Please carpool if you can! We will have security there to assist you.

2. Adult and teen women are asked to dress modestly and wear scarves on the main level. If you have a scarf that covers all of your hair, please bring one with you. We will have a limited supply but it may delay your tour if we run out.

3. You will be asked to remove your shoes when taking the tour of the main level so slip-ons would be advised. You might like to bring a bag to carry them in or we have shelves in our coat room. We have shoe covers for disabled and elderly people who cannot remove their shoes. Again, we only have a limited supply, which could delay your visit.

4. This is an open house so no "program" is planned. Feel free to take the tour, ask questions, and enjoy the activities in our lower level. Plan on an hour for your visit.

Police officers and Hispanic community team up: Soccer as neighborhood building

While the Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) has hosted many community events over the years, I’m hard pressed to find one as inspiring as this one.

On Saturday, a special sporting event will be held at MacKay Jaycees Park on the southside of the city. As reported in Rapid Growth recently, “The beautiful game that's bringing Grand Rapids neighborhoods together,” soccer is proving to be a great unifier of communities. 

For this special match, two teams made up of the GRPD and Latinx community members will take to the field for a special scrimmage match.

This soccer match is the brainchild of La Mejor GR radio personality Chuy Morales who, along with GRPD Chief David Rahinsky, created this festive, first-time event. 

This free match is sure to attract not just soccer enthusiasts but also our Hispanic community members, GRPD supporters, and all Grand Rapidians who are up for a real game changer. Free food and beverages will be provided to spectators as well as participants. Spectators should plan on bringing chairs or blankets to watch the game.

For more details on this special match, please visit their Facebook event page.

Grand Rapids Film Festival Spotlight: What is possible from the mitten state

Friday, Oct. 13, 6 - 10 p.m. (rain date Saturday, October 14)
Michigan has a lot of creative talent and one area where we are really beginning to flex our muscle is within the filmmaking community.

Showcasing the works of our state’s filmmakers and those fans of this art form is the Grand Rapids Film Festival who, since 2009, has aimed according to its website is “to increase regional access to and overall production of quality films that provide meaningful, constructive and encouraging entertainment while harnessing the transformative power of film.”

Making good on the festival’s pledge to provide more space for such celebrations of Michigan film comes their Spotlight event, which is a socially-driven community event happening on Friday, Oct. 13. 

Presented by the Michigan Film and Digital Media Office, Spotlight’s free outdoor cinema will feature two Michigan filmmakers—the winners of the April Festival’s Best Michigan Feature and Short.

Opening the night’s film program will be Jason Honeycut’s 14 minute short, “Supermom.” The film tells the story of a daughter who believes her mother to be a real-life super hero, something that the film convincingly leads us to believe might just be right. It stars Justine Herron ("Kevin Hart - Let Me Explain") and John Hensley (lead of "Nip/Tuck," "Teeth," "Hostile III”).

The main feature at Spotlight is “Something Fun” a film from University of Michigan graduate Chad Rhiness. In the film, Veronica Atburn returns to her hometown after a year of traveling the United States, reunites with her high school friends, and forces everybody to stop rehashing the past and start doing something fun.

Spotlight is free to the public, but if you want to enjoy a beer from Brewery Vivant or something to nosh on from Blue Spoon’s food truck, then bring your wallet. And while the film program begins at dusk, arrive early to enjoy a live DJ, interactive games, a photo booth, or just chill around the fire. Be sure to pack chairs or blankets for this special outdoor screening event.

Filmmaker Adam Khalil: Redefining the narrative

While there is no shortage of visual media these days as streaming services penetrate our phones, tablets, laptops, and even our TV screens, finding content that challenges the very structure of narrative or documentary filmmaking is often a rarer breed. 

Lucky for local fans of documentary filmmaking comes a film from a man with roots in our state who is on the road this fall screening his latest work, "INAATE/SE/ [it shines a certain way. to a certain place./it flies. falls./]”, to Wealthy Theatre.

The story of "INAATE/SE/ [it shines a certain way. to a certain place./it flies. falls./]" re-imagines the Seven Fires Prophecy, an ancient Ojibway story that is being discussed more and more within contemporary circles. Within this film the structures of time are not subjected to European culture’s presentation, instead the film is a kaleidoscopic experience for the viewer as Khalil blends documentary, narrative, and experimental filmmaking as the linear is disrupted, creating what is best described as a story that crosses from filmmaking to art. 

From the film's Vimeo page, "INAATE/SE/” employs "acute geographic specificity, and grand historical scope, the film fixes its lens between the sacred and the profane to pry open the construction of contemporary indigenous identity."

“'INAATE/SE' is a truly unique film that affirmed and disrupted my knowledge of Native Americans,” says Grand Valley State University Professor of Visual Studies and Foundations’ Paul Wittenbraker,  “It resonated with me as a settler person who lives in a richly indigenous place.”

This special program, the first for the newly formed Department of Visual and Media Arts at GVSU, will include the screening of "INAATE/SE/” followed by a discussion with local artists Shane McSauby, Kay Mayer, and Krzysztof Lower, who are all part of the curatorial team who have brought this film to our city.

In addition, if you enjoyed the film or just couldn't make Sunday’s screening, Khalil will be at GVSU’s Allendale campus as a part of the university’s Visiting Artist Lecture Series. Check their Facebook event page for all the details including directions to the lecture.

Wicked: Three weeks under a spell from Oz

Opening Thursday, Oct. 19, 7:30 p.m. (through Nov. 5.)
After years of dreaming this day would arrive, finally the smash Broadway production of “Wicked” arrives in Grand Rapids for a fun-filled three weeks, making this one of the biggest and longest running touring shows to arrive in our city. 

For those who have been living under a rock the last few years, “Wicked” is a musical that tells the story of “The Wizard of Oz’s" Glinda the Good and Elphaba, who in this production is a young, green girl who will go on to become the Wicked Witch of the West. 

This family-friendly and visually stunning musical pre-dates the popular film “The Wizard of Oz,” so don’t look for Dorothy or her little dog, too.

What you will get is a true Broadway spectacular, which has won many awards but even more hearts. There are many show-stopping moments but the chance to see the thrilling “Defying Gravity" in our town is sure to take your breath away at DeVos Hall.

But don’t delay purchasing tickets, since “Wicked” has nearly sold out its entire three week run in our city.

If you would like a peek into the world of Oz as seen in "Wicked", please visit this link for a special preview of the show. 

Detroit 67: Reimagining the riots of 1967 with a familiar beat

Opening Friday, Oct. 6, 7:30 p.m. (through Sunday, Oct. 14, 3 p.m.)
It is hard not to reflect on progress or the lack of as we approach the local debut of “Detroit 67” the Ebony Road Players, whose latest production will be held at the nomadic by design SiTE:LAB’s latest home/venue on Franklin Street. 

It has been fifty years since the 1967 riots in Detroit and over the last few months, the Motor City has commemorated this time period in our state’s history with gallery shows and tributes.

Now locally comes a special two weekend performance of the play “Detroit 67” by Dominique Morisseau and helmed by first time Director Amisha Groce.

The play is the story of a party that stalls when a stranger appears inside a basement underground joint where Chelle and her brother Lank are running like a classic Detroit side hustle. 

With the rioting happening above ground, "Detroit 67" builds like a sitcom of the era as the story unfolds. Another device used in the play to propel it forward is the music of Motown used here in a manner that creatively adds a fresh perspective to these songs. 

“Detroit 67” is the winner of the Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History and is presented locally by the Ebony Road Players whose mission according to their website is "to inspire, educate and engage cultures of our community with high-quality theater productions focused on the Black experience."

Please check the ticket site for availability. 

From Russia With Love: Ballet’s legacy behind the iron curtain on stage in Grand Rapids

Opening Friday, Oct. 6, 7:30 p.m. (through Friday, Oct. 13)
While Russia dominates the news these days with talks of hacking and the tampering of the 2016 election, many folks may not know the huge debt the arts owes the Russian people who have given us some of the world's greatest works of art from fine art to theater to dance. 

Playing to that deep Russian legacy comes a special night of dance from the Grand Rapids Ballet featuring four one act ballets including “Flames of Paris Pas de Deux,” “Raymonda Pas de Dix,”  “Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux,” and “Giselle Act II.”

This special program is also a chance to see one last time dancer Dawnell Dryja Black on stage. Black has performed 15 seasons with our local Grand Rapids Ballet and will be retiring after her final performance on October 13, so do not delay in getting ticket for what will be a thrilling night of Russian Ballet.

For tickets please visit the Grand Rapids Ballet's website

Animal Blessing 2017 in the Garden of St. Francis of Assisi: Furry or not, all welcome

While kitten videos often can change your mood for a few minutes, imagine for a moment what  a live experience for you and your own pets at the annual Animal Blessing at the Dominican Center at Marywood’s Garden of St. Francis of Assisi can do for your weekend.

Known for producing events that are welcoming at the core, this annual Dominican Center service invites animals of all shapes and sizes to attend this blessing. That means expect to see dogs, cats, goldfish, bunnies, salamanders, chickens, hamsters, guinea pigs, and even pot belly pigs who have all graced the event in the past.  

This year, since it is a big game day for Michigan and Michigan State, attendees who are fans of these teams can feel free to dress their pet up in their favorite school coolers. 

Officiating is Pastor Ginny Makita who will be offering a blessing to all pets and attendees…regardless if you brought a pet with you or not. Even if you have recently lost a pet, please feel free to bring a photo of your forever friend to have it blessed, ushering in a layer of comfort for your soul. 

Pulaski Days: We are all Polish this weekend

While the Westside of Grand Rapids is often considered the destination neighborhood for  Pulaski Days due to their inventory of neighborhood halls, you can actually find plenty of stops on the eastside of the city to play this weekend as you partake in all things Polish. 

And when determining where  you will spend your Pulaski Days, you have so many options because this weekend festival spreads all over the city and includes a parade, plenty of Polish cuisine, and of course, polka dancing. 

There are so many options for you to consider that we suggest, before visiting Pulaski Days this year, that you view this easy to navigate guide to help your plan your stops. (Yes, "Stops" plural because there is so many places you will want to visit.) 

The best part, in my opinion, is the chance to tour so many neighborhood halls that are open to the public all weekend, giving this group a chance to showcase the delicious handmade food and raucous music of the Polish people, often led by an accordion.  Let’s Polka!

Salsa Dancing 101: The Armentality way

We all face moments of uncertainty in our lives and the times we most often feel this paralysis is right before we make the leap into something new. So I’m hear to say, “Make a leap because it is good for the soul.”

And that is exactly what I am encouraging you to consider this week, right as we start our weekend.  

On Thursday night, you have an opportunity to add a few new moves to your dance floor repertoire as the Armentality Movement Arts Center invites folks to attend its Salsa Dancing 101 class. 

Salsa, with a history stretching way back to the 19th Century, is a mix of different cultural moves rooted in the Caribbean region. From this humble start it gave birth to the dance forms of Son, Son Montuno, cha cha cha, Mambo, and Puerto Rican bomba and plena.

Your teacher for this introductory Salsa 101 class is Laura Amenta, a dance instructor who is sure to get even the stodgiest of non-dancers up on the floor. 

Amenta reminds us that previous dance experience is not necessary. She encourages you to bring a friend or just arrive solo for the class. Either way is fine, since I know from personal experience with Amenta that she has one of the most loving and encouraging souls I have encountered in this city. 

Cost is just $35 but the ability to learn some sweet new moves that you can bust out on the dance floor is truly priceless. 

Sunset Cruise w/ The Bootstrap Boys

While the city is packed with tourists looking at art in every nook and cranny of downtown Grand Rapids, you have a chance to escape it all…and this Saturday your ticket out is a riverboat docked in nearby Jenison. 

On Saturday at 5:30 p.m., The Grand Lady Riverboat will begin boarding passengers for a special 6 - 8 p.m. sunset dinner cruise with special guest musicians, The Bootstrap Boys. 

The Bootstrap Boys are a popular four-piece country band rooted here in Grand Rapids.  As described on their website, “They’ve been laying down country-fried originals and well curated covers that run the gamut from classic outlaw hits to old cowboy songs, gospel to pop, all in their own Up-North-Down-South style since 2015.”

Admission to the concert on the The Grand Lady is just $15, but if you want to enjoy the dinner being offered on board, it is an additional $13. 

The dinner menu includes grilled beef or veggie burgers, bratwurst, BBQ pulled pork, and hot dogs. They even have a kids menu offering. 

Also on board is both nonalcoholic and alcoholic service for your enjoyment on the river. 

We strongly recommend reservations since this special concert event looks to sell out. Follow this link to book your passage for an inspiring night of music from The Bootstrap Boys. 

Blue Bridge Music Festival: Bringing back the beautiful noise

ArtPrize has plenty of things that you can enjoy at a strolling pace, but sometimes you want to really cut loose. And for those moments there is the return of the Blue Bridge Music Festival held on Friday and Saturday on the historic Blue Bridge.

Like last year, the festival will feature artists from all over the country (as well as many locals) who are competing in ArtPrize Nine via this free festival. 

Sure, most times when you think of ArtPrize, it is natural to pigeonhole it as a festival for what one might call traditional fine art, but as this festival reminds us again in a bold way, music is an art form, too.

Each of the acts are eligible for the ArtPrize Nine public vote competition in the time-based category with the public also invited to cast a vote to award an additional prize: ArtPrize Song of the Year and a $1,000 cash prize courtesy of HopCat.

Here’s the lineup for the Blue Bridge this year: 

4 p.m.  Live broadcast on WYCE w/ Quinn Matthews
5 p.m.  yolonda Yogi lavender
7 p.m.  The Bootstrap Boys
9 p.m.  Michigander

12 p.m. Live broadcast on WYCE w/ Quinn Matthews
2 p.m.   Brad Fritcher's Moods
4 p.m.   Asamu Johnson and The Associates of The Blues
5:30 p.m. Jesse Ray and the Carolina Catfish
7 p.m.   Watching for Foxes
8:45 p.m.  The Great Ones: JROB & Lady Ace Boogie

For more details, visit artprize.org/music.

Oktoberfest West Michigan 2017: Chugging towards Munich

Grand Rapids may be Beer City, USA but if my Instagram feed of my friends living now in Munich is an indicator, then Munich is Earth's Oktoberfest City.

But since a trip to Munich may not be in the cards this fall season, you can enjoy the next best thing at the city’s only Oktoberfest held at the westside’s John Ball Park. 

This German-styled "Volksfest," brought to Grand Rapids by our local Edelweiss Club, will feature specialty imported beer on draft, as well as many other German beers and wines. 

Dance to a variety of live acts, from traditional German musicians to modern German pop, featuring special guest artists Ein Prosit German Band, the Oktoben German Band, and many more.  

And if dancing is not your scene, then enter your name in the hat for the various contests of  feats of strength with a stein holding contest (for men and women) or the beer keg toss. Both of these events should be a blast to witness live at the park. 

And should you get hungry, grab some schnitzel and wursts as you enjoy this two-day festival.

The event is free to attend, including access to the festival grounds, music tent, and food vendor area; however, there is a $5 cover for an "over 21" wristband which will be required to drink alcohol at Oktoberfest West Michigan. Proceeds raised this year will be shared with Kids’ Food Basket. 

ArtPrize Nine: Ready or Not….

Wednesday - Sunday, Sept. 20 - Oct. 8
Love it? Hate It? or just ambivalent? Either way, it doesn’t matter because ArtPrize Nine arrives in Grand Rapids from September 20 through October 8 and this year it is bigger than ever.

ArtPrize, an open and independently organized international art competition taking  place each fall in Grand Rapids, awards more than $500,000 in prizes each year.

But ArtPrize is so much more than just the prize money as the city rolls out the red carpet to artists, venues, curators, and educators to welcome their contributions to this annual art competition. 

In addition, ArtPrize offers music events, performance art, a movie series, and a Critical Discourse speaker series, which brings art experts to Grand Rapids to share insights and enable discussions all about art. 

There is even an series of education days where nearly 19,000 PreK-12th grade students from 203 schools in 59 school districts across Michigan attend ArtPrize for field trips and additional learning experiences.

All told since 2009, more than 2.9 million visitors have cast 3.2 million votes as artists from near and far around the world have received $4.1 million in prize money.

So however you choose (or not) to experience ArtPrize this year, just remember there are no shortages of events to sample the many diverse offerings of ArtPrize Nine. 

SiTE:LAB: Opening preview party at their new space

While everyone is dashing around downtown this Friday night, art insiders know that on Friday night is a special kick-off party from one of ArtPrize’s most popular destinations, SiTE:LAB.

But unlike in years past, for 2017 this popular space-bending traveling art event will be sitting out this year’s ArtPrize 9 as they prepare their latest space for their big return in 2018. 

To introduce the public to their new space—a former school and later government facility—  SiTE:LAB is welcoming the public to see the raw space before they embark upon the major work to overhaul this old gem of a building.  

This kickoff party will have plenty of Brewery Vivant beer that you can enjoy as your socialize and dance to the soundscapes crafted by DJ’s SuperDre and the Grand Rapids Soul Club.

For those seeking to drive to the location versus using Uber or Lyft, free parking is located in the NW corner of Madison Ave and Franklin St.

Last month, Rapid Growth celebrated SiTE:LAB’s release of a new book examining the two years they inhabited their Rumsey Street Project, an endeavor made possible through their connection with Habitat for Humanity of Kent County. You can read the essay, “Encounters at Rumsey Street,” by Art Critic Gregory Volk, here.

Landslide: The Music of Fleetwood Mac

Friday - Sunday, Sep. 22 - 24, 7:30 p.m. (doors), 8 p.m. (showtime)
A few years ago, area musicians performed a tribute concert based on the popular album “Rumors” by Fleetwood Mac. Having attended it (and as someone who has seen Fleetwood Mac perform numerous times,) I can with confidence say it was one of my favorite musical experiences in the last decade. 

For starters, this band (and subsequent solo music projects) has not only produced more than 50 Billboard 100 charting songs, but 45 of those songs charted within the Top 40.

And while Fleetwood Mac may have formed in 1967, they are still capturing the imagination of audiences around the world with their music.

On Saturday night comes another opportunity for fans of Fleetwood Mac’s distinct musical style to experience a special concert with tribute band Landside as they take to the DeVos Performance Hall stage with our Grand Rapid Symphony. 

So if you are fans of classics like "Over My Head," "Say You Love Me," “Rhiannon," “Landslide,” and “Tusk,” then get tp this special Pops Concert Series happening Friday through Sunday.

Fiction440: It's F***ing Fall

Looking to brush up on your writing skills but not willing to take on the annual National Novel Writing Month challenge that happens each November, then maybe Fiction 440 is just what you need.

Started in Lansing in 2010 by Ivy Hughes, Jeff Grabill, Suban Noor Cooley, and Aaron Matthews, Fiction 440 has enjoyed a long and festive run in Lansing and has expanded earlier this year to include a new Grand Rapids chapter meeting at Creston’s Reservoir Lounge. 

The rules are quite simple: bring with you a completed work of fiction created around their supplied theme that is less than 440 words and be prepared to read it for the audience. 

And while the word count rules are simple to remember because it is embedded in the name of the event, organizers of Fiction 440 are quick to point out their most important rules about your submission: “No excerpts, No poetry, No exceptions.”

This month's writing prompt theme picks up on the emotion many of us are experiencing as Summer 2017 is passing: “Its F***ing Fall!”

Fiction 440 is open to everyone 18 and older. Organizers ask that we mention that this is not a contest—so there will be no judging.

Most of all, this is a great way to meet up with other writers in your community who are looking to spark some creative flow in a space where the community has been welcome for more than a decade in the heart of the Creston neighborhood.

city/hacks: #HackIsTheNewHustle

The city is growing. It is expanding. And hopefully, if we can continue to expand access to opportunities, then we can find a way to hack our way to a more equitable future. 

This weekend is a chance for those with an idea or just curious about starting something to attend the debut of city/hacks—a free tech-focussed and inspiring event starting on Thursday and running through Sunday with special panels, guest speakers, networking socials, and, of course, a winner's ceremony. 

Here is a sample of the many options this weekend offered at city/hacks from Midwest Tech Project and & Ken Miguel-Cipriano of Theta Ventures:  

Thursday, Sept.14, 6 - 8 p.m.
GRMI Still The Furniture City? Or America's Next Tech Hub Forum
Location: Start Garden 40 Pearl St., Suite #200

Panel participants: Mike Morin (President & CEO Of Start Garden), Aaron Schopp (Founder & CEO Of The Factory, Elevator Up, & CoLearning West Michigan), Meredith Bronk (President & CEO Of Open Systems Technologies), Luis Perez ( Founder Of Loop Coding Center), Mary O’Neill (COO & Managing Partner Atomic Object).

Friday, Sept. 15, 6 - 8 p.m.
GR's Tech Night Out Technology Fair & Keynotes Ellell & Co from Detroit
Location: Grand Rapids City High School, 1720 Plainfield Ave NE

Saturday, Sept. 16, 1 - 3 p.m. 
Fabian Elliot Keynote Address
Location: The Factory, 38 Fulton St W, Suite #400

Sunday, Sept. 17, 2 p.m. 
City Hacks GR Winners Awarded
Location: Grand Rapids City High School 1720 Plainfield Ave NE

Event organizers want to remind those curious about city/hacks that this is a family-friendly weekend designed for all ages to connect with the various communities and companies in West Michigan who are helping solve the diverse and complex tech gap in our city. #HackIsTheNewHustle

For all the events happening this weekend, please visit Midwest Tech Project of Grand Rapids, an organization whose goal is to goal is to expose students to the various content areas such as coding, cyber security, web design, etcetera to ensure skill development and access into the tech industry to create a livable, lifelong career.

GRAM After Dark: Silent Dance Party

As the temperatures drop in the evening and fall’s chilling air makes you think it is time to just head for your couch with a blanket, there are other ways to keep warm this Friday.

Billed as a way to start your ArtPrizing entertainment early this year comes the Grand Rapids Art Museum’s (GRAM) After Dark series with a silent dance party. 

Unlike other DJ events where the music is pushed to ear-splitting heights through the aid of tweeters to bassbins, a silent dance party is a headphone-driven experience perfect for those seeking to tailor the volume of their music while enjoying the joys of dancing with the community.

The night’s beats are curated by some of the area’s most exciting DJs, including Everything AB (AB), DJ Monica Parker and COMPLETE VII.

It is also a chance to score a special preview of the GRAM’s ArtPrize 9 exhibition. 

Admission to this 21 or older event is free if you are a GRAM member, or just $12 in advance and $15 at the door. The only way to guarantee a set of headphones is to pre-register, so do not delay. If you arrive at the door without pre-registering, headphones left are on a first come, first served basis. 

This event is powered by Quiet Events. Reserve your ticket online today at this site

Talking Dreads: This “is” the place

Saturday, Sep. 16, 7:30 p.m. (doors), 8 p.m. (showtime)
As I was scanning AppleTV to find some new music videos (because MTV doesn’t show them anymore), I landed on YouTube where I would stumble upon the entire concert film from Director Jonathan Demme: The Talking Heads’ “Stop Making Sense.” 

Over the course of the next 90 minutes I was just as enthralled from the couch with this infectious live concert performance as when I first saw it debut at the Goodrich Quad Cinema on 29th Street in 1984. 

So you can imagine the excitement when I discovered that a former singer, Mystic Bowie of the Tom Tom Club, which is composed of The Talking Heads’s members Chris Franz and Tina Weymouth, would be in Western Michigan this weekend.

Mystic Bowie is the Jamaican-born ringleader of the band Talking Dreads who will be at the Park Theatre this Saturday for a special concert of Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club hits reimagined in all their glory via the bands heavy reggae/Caribbean rhythmic style.

So if you want to sing along as you dance to the infectious popular songs like “Psycho Killer,” “Burning Down the House,” “This Must Be The Place,” and so many more re-imagined in a joyous and sunny performance on stage, then make the drive to Holland this weekend.

3rd Annual VegFest Grand Rapids: Building a better life one bite at a time

A lot of folks are beginning to take control of their diets, and lucky for folks in Grand Rapids, there is no shortage of options for those with special dietary needs to keep them on the path.

Grand Rapids boasts more than 40 identified vegan-friendly restaurants as well as home to numerous food blogs that address the joys and health benefits of eating a plant-based diet.

This weekend is the return of the annual VegFest—a vegetarian food festival held in various cities around the world to promote veganism and vegetarianism.

This one-day event explores these healthy lifestyles, but also asks us to consider the lives of those animals we often consume or how some modern food practices place an undue strain on our environment.

The event features hands-on demonstrations, a marketplace for unique products and a chance to attend any one of the many panels devoted to cooking, animal compassion and personal health with locals like WOTV4’s Wellness Expert Michele Fife and touring guest speakers.

Regardless of where you are on your health journey, you have a lifetime of choices ahead of you to make. VegFest helps you make wise choices moving forward.

Whitecaps $5 Night*: Take them all out to the ballpark

This holiday weekend, why not consider a trip just a few miles north of the city to attend a West Michigan Whitecaps Baseball game as they wrap up their regular season.

And there isn’t a better time than now (Thursday, Aug. 31) to purchase a ticket to attend one of America’s favorite summer activities because admission to the 1 p.m. Labor Day game is a perfectly priced ticket at just $5. 

But here’s the important fine print: in order to take advantage of this special Labor Day pricing, you will have to purchase these specially priced admission by end of the day on Thursday, August 31. Typically, reserved seats to see our local minor league will run you $12.50, so this is a really great offer from the Whitecaps to entice the fans to come out for this final game before the playoffs.

In addition to a battle with the Fort Wayne TinCaps, the stadium will also feature $1 brats, courtesy of Johnsonville.
You can purchase these specially priced tickets at the Fifth Third Ballpark ticket office, by calling the Whitecaps front office at 616-784-4131, or at www.whitecapsbaseball.com. Note: There is a limit of eight tickets per person.
If you have Labor Day plans, then consider purchasing full-priced tickets to attend one of the final two fireworks shows of the season on Saturday, September 2 and Sunday, September 3.  If you select Sunday, then this is also the last Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital Day with the first 1,000 kids 12 and under eating free, along with a host of other family fun activities.
Our local Whitecaps team has secured a Midwest League playoff berth by winning the first half East Division so this is not the end of your chances. It is just the last time you will see ticket admission prices this low in 2017.

Isaac Norris Project: Sax with friends

There are two groups of folks this weekend: those who will race out of the city to places like the mighty Lake Michigan, or those who will choose instead to explore the quiet of an emptied city. 

I, for one, will be part of that latter group and as I surveyed the weekend for places to land, I was happy to see a best bet for a chill brew enjoyed with an equally cool event at The Creston Brewery, who will welcome The Isaac Norris Project to this northeast neighborhood brew pub. 

Known for his jazz compositions released under the name of Isaac Norris, this Sunday’s popup performance in the Creston neighborhood is a chance for Norris, under The Isaac Norris Project, to welcome those musicians who worked with him on the recording of “Something to Say” to the stage for this special concert. 

Joining Norris are Grand Rapids-area musicians, who will be recreating the featured artist’s smooth soul and up-tempo compositions, as they bring to the stage their many influences and styles from the artists’ backgrounds in jazz, gospel, blues, and R&B. Norris’ playful and inventive turn on the saxophone, along with the help of area musicians, is why The Isaac Norris Project is a best bet this Sunday in the city. 

For more information on the artist including where to purchase his latest release, please visit isaacnorrismusic.com.

44th annual Eastown StreetFair: Getting better with age

It is no secret that one of the very first neighborhoods I explored when I moved to Grand Rapids was Eastown, and I instantly fell in love with the welcoming energy of this part of our city.

It is a neighborhood business district that, with all the changes, has found a way to still welcome and balance the new with the old creating a refreshing mix. So many neighborhoods could learn from their embrace of the indigenous culture of this community.

And once again we have an abundance of reasons worthy to celebrate on Wealthy Street and its tiny side pockets on Saturday, September 9 as we welcome the 44th Eastown StreetFair.

This annual street fair is a place where families of all sizes, colors, and definitions return each year to celebrate the arts and businesses of our community.

This year’s fair boast more than 150 vendors, plenty of ethnic and American food from area restaurants and inventive food trucks, and a series of performances from regional musicians.

Eastown StreetFair will take place on Saturday, September 9 from 9 a.m. 9 p.m. 

For a complete list of the musical acts performing on the main stage (with additional acts at Billy's Lounge and Mulligan's Pub) be sure to visit their event page for their start times and locations.

14th Annual Mayors’ Grand River Cleanup: Collaborative event for cities on the mighty Grand

There are no shortages of news stories about the topic of water these days, whether it be stormwater management to water rights as it relates to the First Nations’ people concerns. Even locally in a place named after the mighty Grand River that snakes 252 miles across Michigan, Grand Rapids is continuing its push to reactivate the water for a future restoration of our famed rapids (presently missing).

Part of our community’s evolution around water issues and its importance is the many events locally that we host here that present an opportunity for us to learn and grow as we interact with it.

One such event is the brainchild of former Mayor Heartwell and the West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC) whose annual Mayors’ Grand River Cleanup celebrates its 14th year. 

Join fellow citizens, as well as area businesses, organizations, and church groups who descend upon the Sixth Street Bridge Park at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, September 9 as they prepare to embark on a 40-mile path (broken up into manageable segments) along the Grand River. 

The event runs until 1 p.m. where all volunteers of this event will be treated to a light lunch, Founders beer (21 and over), and the music of Dunegrass. 

This ever-growing crowd of volunteers will bring Grand Rapids, Grandville, Walker, Wyoming and Plainfield township together as these river cities set an example to others about the power of communities coming together to achieve great things.

In addition, because trash sometimes makes its way via stormwater drains to the Grand River, this year WMEAC will be working within a SE neighborhood of Grand Rapids to pick up trash that is at risk for entering the river. 

You might think the best of our hot weather is behind us but with events like this it is easy to keep warm when you see the throngs who show up to ensure our river is getting healthier with each act to preserve it is enacted here.

Green Gala: Be here for our city parks’ future

There is something really cool about a growing gala in our city that encourages you to ride your bike, take a bus, or even walk to attend. And that is one of the joys of the Friends of Grand Rapids Parks annual Green Gala which moves this year across the river from its previous location to the Sixth Street Bridge Park on Monroe.

Each year since it started, this event helps the organization made up of community volunteers to further its mission to protect, enhance, and expand our city’s parks, public spaces, and urban forest.

This year, they change the format and move to different location, adding new elements of entertainment to the mix in a fresh reboot.

With each ticket purchased, you will enjoy locally sourced food, along with a cash bar to enjoy the delicious elixirs produced in our city from Brewery Vivant, Farmhaus, and Long Road Distillery.

So be impulsive and head to the riverbank of the Sixth Street Bridge Park for a wonderful night at our favorite gala of the year.

DJ Shazam Bangles: Grand Rapids Soul Club's evolution of cool continues

There is no shortage of folks asking me these days where the best place to dance in the city. And while the list is getting longer each year, there is one group in town that has the best track record for packed and hot, sweaty dance floor fun: Grand Rapids Soul Club.

Keeping with their mission to invite DJ’s from out of town to take over the decks, Grand Rapids Soul Club welcomes this Friday special guest DJ Shazam Bangles (Boogie Munsters and Cutz on Cutz).

DJ Shazam Bangles’ roots come from an era of Chicago’s underground DJ culture where a future style of mixing would take root before capturing the imagination of the world. Having grown up in a such a sound system culture, he’s able to seamlessly capture Chicago’s own homegrown style of mixing and has improved upon it over his last 20 years in the business.

And while the city of full of young DJ’s doing great things, taking time to hear from someone with such incredible experience on the 1s and 2s means that this Friday you can expect not only a packed dance floor, but an experience that is most certainly going to build on our local Grand Rapids Soul Club brand.

For even more info on this visiting DJ, we hope you will take the time to read about DJ Shazam Bangles on Grand Rapids Soul CLub’s Facebook page.

Beer City Bike Fest: Building bridges, having fun

The Spoke Folks is a gift to this community because they are all about building up our local bike culture as they serve and travel across so many diverse lines of our city.

On Saturday this gem of our bike culture once again hosts a summer festival with their latest edition, Beer City Bike Fest, organizing around two things that often go hand in hand here: beer and bikes.

And lest you think this is like any other festival in the city, then have I got news for you: these events are electric and teeming with life as people ride or drive in from all over to participate in the many activities they will be showcasing on this special day.

First up, it is a free and family-friendly event that takes place on the street and lands just in front of their Logan Street facility. To help families expand bike education with their kids, The Spoke Folks’ Beer City Bike Fest will offer a station for kids to make their own flags or license plates for their bikes. There is even a kids bike parade featuring Bangarang Circus at 3:45 p.m. There are races as well that start at 1 p.m. and continue until 3 p.m.

At 5 p.m., the event kicks it up a notch with the live music portion of the day, featuring also a diverse array of acts including Hannah Laine, Jesse Ray and the Carolina Catfish, The Hoplites, Bike Tuff, Les Créatif, Lady Ace Boogie, and Cabildo.

Summer might be winding down but that doesn’t mean we can’t still rage for fun in the streets. Get to Beer City Bike Fest for another installment of great fun and education from The Spoke Folks.

Running of the Bulls: Run, chug (repeat)

Each year the Running of the Bulls happens in Spain and each time if you are adventurous like me, you say to yourself, “I would love to do this sometime.”

Lucky for you, there is a way to begin to train for such an international adventure and it happens on the streets of downtown Grand Rapids each year with the Grand Raggidy Roller Derby’s annual Running of the Bulls.

Unlike the famous El Encierro (The Running of the Bulls) in Pamplona, Spain, the only risks here are skinned knees and possibly a hangover the next day as our local roller derby girls take to the streets on roller skates to chase participants at this upgraded beer crawl.

Unlike El Encierro, our Grand Raggidy Roller Derby skaters will be acting as the bulls and those who attend will be the brave souls who venture from bar to bar at this day-drinking festival.

The registration for the event starts at Peppino's Downtown Sports Lounge (130 Ionia Ave. SW) at 11 a.m. and includes stops at Stella's Lounge, Grand Rapids Brewing Company, Gardella's, and the Pyramid Scheme.

After the last stop, you return to Peppino’s for a dance party. And lest you think “bulls” can’t dance, have I got news for you: our local team really knows how to have a good time on the dance floor.

Key Details: registration is at Peppino’s from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. with the Bulls being unleashed at 12 p.m. A small payment of $10 will get you a Running of the Bulls bandana and a wristband that gives exclusive access to discounts, games, and prizes throughout the day’s run.

You have a lot of choices this weekend for sure but come on, none of them can even compare to the chance to run with the bulls (and without the risk of a goring from our girls…unless you are mean. Then in that case, keep your med card handy.)

Yassou! - a Greek Festival to fill up your weekend’s dance card

Each August, the folks at Yassou! begin to tempt the salivary glands of our hungry citizens when their blue and white signs start to pop up all over the city promoting their annual northeast neighborhood-based Greek Festival.

Not only is this a chance to experience delicious and flavorful Greek cuisine, but each year offers an opportunity to join others in dance or just the chance to witness Greek dancing live under the summer sun.

But honestly, a lot come just for the food, which includes freshly made Moussaka, Galaktobourikou, Spanakopita, and a host of other traditional dishes. The festival boasts that 85 percent of the food prepared for your enjoyment is created via the parishioners of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church. 

One year, I took my parents who were visiting from out of town to Yassou! and they talked about that experience for years after. My folks and I really loved all the families who participated, taking time to answer questions about the traditional attire and dance. 

Yassou!’s friendly atmosphere is why I am a huge fan of this annual festival. It is educational, as well as a tasty and visual treat whether or not you are Greek. 

So let’s eat, drink, and dance together at Yassou! as a community that celebrates the diversity of our city.

Sixth annual GRandJazzFest presented by DTE Energy Foundation: Free jazz in the city

For those seeking a most chill time in the center of downtown, we can’t think of a more fitting festival in the city than the sixth annual GRandJazzFest presented by DTE Energy Foundation.

This annual event seamlessly blends groups of all ages, races, and even musical ability in the audience to line the line Rosa Parks Circle’s bowl with blankets, chairs, and even long boards for a two-day festival devoted to live jazz music.

This year, they welcome 11 acts over the weekend, ranging from the local to international as a diverse lineup of musicians perform at this free event.

The headliner this year is Scottish-born saxophonist Richard Elliot who will perform the closing 8 p.m. slot on Saturday night. Since Elliot’s 1986 debut of “Initial Approach,” he has released more than 15 recordings and is beloved over the decades since for his infectious melodies and smooth grooves. 

This is the perfect summer weekend to get to know your local jazz scene as well as enjoy some deliciously cool live music in our downtown. 

We are quite certain live jazz is just what we need to take the edge off of a very long work week. 

Best of Creston: A new festival where you can dance in the street, too

It is not uncommon to hear of a new event popping up in the center of the city, but festivals in neighborhoods are a bit rarer. So you can imagine my excitement when I learned of the Creston neighborhood’s brand spanking new “Best of Creston” event.

This new Best of Creston is a hybrid street fair and music festival inviting neighbors and the Creston-curious to tour these area businesses and eateries that have been popping up here at a very organic, healthy pace. 

I have personally enjoyed how they handle growth up here on the north side because it does not overwhelm the community as many of these businesses are great neighbors, too, many offering programming year round in our community. 

The event runs along Plainfield Avenue at Leonard all the way north to Lafayette. If you are hoping for a good starting point, Rapid Growth recommends that you begin at  Graydon's Crossing which will have not just an obligatory beer tent, but will also host a special Moscow Mule tent, too. They will have walking Indian nachos, The Jake and Jimmy Band, a bounce house, and an inflatable maze for kids (and kids at heart.) They will even have Catherine’s Care Center representatives to share their history in the neighborhood and how they are meeting the needs of our city’s citizens in need of medical assistance. 

As you walk along Plainfield, be sure to visit any number of the businesses from Central District Cyclery to Stonesthrow to a photo booth at the Bradley Salon. Children are encouraged to stop by Glamour and Grit to make their own fresh flower crown. 

Rounding out your time in Creston means that you must stop by and help Creston Brewery celebrate their one-year anniversary in the neighborhood. This popular north side brewery known for its beers named after historical events and figures of the city will feature the music of Cabildo, Lady Ace Boogie, Rick Chyme, and Peace to Mateo.

There is even a paint-by-number community mural project underway at gallery Lions & Rabbits where you can work alongside members of our city’s art community on this project while enjoying music mixed by CRAFTY.

So while you have a lot of options this weekend to consider, if you have ever been curious about what is happening in Creston, then the Best of Creston debut event is just the ticket this Saturday.

Grand Rapids Drag Race: Season three live on stage

If 50 years ago was the Summer of Love, then this year in Grand Rapids it is the Season of Drag as everything from festivals, arts centers, and even the recent RuPaul’s Drag Race stage tour has been a colorful and creative addition to the city’s entertainment landscape.

On Tuesday night, eleven girls will battle it out over the next few weeks in pursuit of the crowning title at this year’s Grand Rapids Drag Race (GRDR).

Celebrating their third season at Rumors Nightclub on South Division Avenue, each Tuesday the contestants perform a special theme or task as they compete in the hopes of avoiding elimination each week.

The sharp-tongued and fabulously festive Batty Davis will return as host of season three with main judges Dymond Denae and DJ Monica Parker. 

An added bonus of GRDR is that each week a different special guest judge from the community to join the other Dymond and Parker in selecting the winner each week. Past guests have included Well House's Tami Vandenberg and Rapid Growth's Tommy Allen.

Each night, there are two rounds of challenges with a winner and then a grueling but lively bottom two, who will have to perform a lip sync battle for their lives. 

Cover is $3 for this 18+ event. (Photo courtesy of GRDR and Tim Motley) 

Ends of the Earth: New work by Todd Freeman

Opening Friday, Aug 11, 5 - 7 p.m. (through Sept. 10, 2017)
Looking to explore the depths of our city’s illustration community? Then head to Madcap this Friday as they welcome artist and illustrator Todd Freeman to this popular downtown coffee shop.

Freeman is known for his inquisitive just off of center design approach to common imagery that under his hand becomes alive with intrigue.

With his latest art exhibition of watercolor drawings, “Ends of the Earth,” Freeman guides  us through a sort of time travel via a series of new images that evoke the joys of exploration.

Freeman remains one of the most interesting artists of our city and of my favorites, too. His growing resume of shows from Grand Rapids Ortega y Gasset Projects in Brooklyn, NY (2016) illuminates the growing audience about such a thoughtful artist from our city. 

If you have even enjoyed the pleasures of exploration whether it is wandering the lakeshore for fossils or the joys a few branches of green from a hike can produce, then this is the art exhibit that will connect with your explorer soul. 

The show runs until September 10, 2017. To learn more of his work, please follow him on his Etsy site or via Instagram

Diane Patterson: “a young Pete Seeger”

People may vote and sway opinion about who is best in "_____" but most critics like me can agree that one of the most interesting people in our city is Hugo Claudin, who has continued to evolve our city’s counterculture street cred one invite at a time.

And given that he has a couple decades of practice now, the acts just keep coming with such ease.

This Friday, Claudin welcomes musician Diane Patterson to his Avenue for the Arts Mexicains Sans Frontieres.  Patterson is on the last leg of her third nationwide tour with a stop in Grand Rapids to play at this intimate performance space on Division Avenue.

Billed as a "folkgoddess," Patterson of Williams, Oregon, is out performing in support of her latest release, “Teach, Inspire, Be Real”—a collection of songs composed to awaken the mind. 

In fact, her style of blending insightful (and singable) lyrics with her equally strong voice, guitar, and ukulele is why percussionist and composer Geoffrey Gordon claims she is a young Pete Seeger. And as you listen to her vocals it is easy to draw comparisons to other folk goddesses Joni Mitchell or Beth Orton. 

Patterson is a seasoned performer whose career has spanned nearly three decades. To become familiar with the music in advance of her stop in Grand Rapids, here is a link to her Soundcloud page.

Joining Patterson at this show is Maggie May who also sports an ukulele and presents a live show peppered with lovely lyrics bordering on the humorous to the heartfelt. 

You can always expect a memorable night of entertainment at Mexicains Sans Frontieres. Cost for attending this special concert is suggested donation of $10. (As always, G-Sync recommends with suggested donations that one considers giving more if you are able to afford the investment in our community.)

SuperPartyWonderDay: Beyond books is an adventure debuting here

If you have not been to a library in the last decade, then you have missed how libraries all over the world are shifting our views of what a library can be in a very digital world. 

And who would have guessed back then that the place known for “shhhh” noises is becoming so much more lively. (It is a good thing.)  

The Kent District Library invites locals to join them on a journey beyond books and the walls of their institution to very special SuperPartyWonderDay.

This special event features so much of what we love about our region as good beer, tasty BBQ, local bands, and bikes are featured prominently in this great outdoors summer activity for the whole family. 

This event also enables KDL to help Kent County show off its newest outdoor music venue, the Meadows at Millennium Park (across Maynard from the Beach area).

The day’s activities include bands Jesse Ray and the Carolina Catfish, Conrad Shock + the Noise, and Brother Adams with a menu of delicious goodies from food trucks A Moveable Feast, Patty Matters, and Moochies Dream Cream. 

The event also features a diverse array of unique beer, wine, and cider selections from Railtown Brewing Company, Cedar Springs Brewing Company, Gravel Bottom Craft Brewery & Supply, Kayla Rae Cellars, and Cascade Cellars Winery.  Having these options for beverages would be awesome after wrapping up a bike ride in the park hosted by Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition and BikeKDL.

In addition, you can help influence the judges attending the rib cook-off by voting for the People’s Choice Award sponsored by The Grilling Company.

If you want to really enjoy the acts and are not comfortable sitting bare-legged on the ground during the concert, please bring your own lawn chairs and blankets.

Everyone is welcome….even your friendly, furry “kids.”

Curse Words Wizard Van arrives back in hometown

In keeping with Rapid Growth’s theme this week of focusing on those locals who are creating an impact on our illustration/art culture of West Michigan and beyond, we are happy to see former Grand Rapidian Charles Soule of Team Curse Words ending their Wizard Van Tour in Grand Rapids.

Soule is traveling with fellow Team Curse Words artist Ryan Browne and will arrive with their special van at downtown Grand Rapids’ Vault of Midnight for a chance for fans to hang with the artists and have them autograph your favorite memorabilia from this popular literary series. 

This summer of 2017 tour ends their 14-city run of 14 unique stores that carry their popular comic series, "Curse Words."

As an added bonus, the tour offers at each stop a limited number of collectable tour merchandise and a chance to encounter rare items at this signing.

After the signing event, ease on down the road to The Pyramid Scheme where Charles and Ryan will hosting an after party in a local bar that has formed a series of partnership events for the illustrative novel, gaming, and comic crowds of our city.

Who knows, you might even see some unique curses performed as well as a touch of real magic, too. 

Celebrate with a local who figured it out but still knows when it is time to return home and celebrate with his fans.

Night of the Living Dead: Movie in a furniture store setting

This is something really intriguing about the Grand Rapids Public Library’s after hours screening of the 1968 classic film “Night of the Living Dead” at Stonesthrow in the Creston Neighborhood.

Personally, I cannot recall another time in our history when a local furniture showroom in the city has hosted a film like this, which makes this event very intriguing. 

But most importantly, it is the selection of Director George Romero’s classic horror film that should have folks lining up out the back door at Stonesthrow to see this original zombie picture.

The story is quite simple according to IMDB which writes, “There is panic throughout the nation as the dead suddenly come back to life. The film follows a group of characters who barricade themselves in an old farmhouse in an attempt to remain safe from these flesh eating monsters.”

The film is an independent film success story, too. “Night of the Living Dead” was made for $114,000 but has grossed since its release $12 million domestically and $18 million internationally. Not a bad return on that investment. 

And because it is a film screening, you can be certain they will have plenty of movie snacks, cold beverages, and the chance spotting of a zombie or two. You might even want to propose a toast to Romero, who died last month at the age of 77. 

This is a free event for those 18 and older and is a part of the Grand Rapids Public Library 2017 Summer Reads program. It is suggested that attendees enter in the back entrance of this Plainfield Avenue store. Free parking, too, in the rear lot.

Food Truck Fridays at Riverside: Dinner with a river view for next to nothing

No plans this Friday night but are itching to get outside? 

Then head north of downtown to Riverside Park on Friday night for their ongoing summer series, Food Truck Fridays at Riverside.

This midsummer series that runs until September 1 brings the best of the area food truck culture to this wooded park set on the mighty Grand River. 

Each week, you can expect a slightly different lineup with August 4 including Blue Spoon, Pizza Parliament, Do Your Wurst, Dalty Raes Great Lakes Ohana, Grand Food Truck, Nordic Grille, Ananda Ice, Mooches Dream Cream, Underground Cookie Club, and LuLaRoe Kaylee Lockwood.

After dinner, take the family on an adventure through Riverside Park, where kids of all ages are free to ride bikes, skateboard, hang in hammocks, or just wander about the grounds marveling at the diverse ecosystem, including lots of native birds and a spring-fed lagoon.

With events like Food Truck Fridays at Riverside, our community is redefining and improving on what it means to “summer in the city.”

Tour of Hidden Downtown Gardens: Get in on the secret!

While many visiting the city will want to visit places like the Grand Rapids Art Museum for a concert or an art exhibition, or maybe sit along the banks of the Grand River for a movie in the park, but for others, they seek a different path that is to many, hidden.

Rapid Growth recognizes that there are hidden gems all over the city and on Friday, downtown’s Dwelling Place invites you to tour four hidden gardens of downtown at this special one night only event.

This free event (that you must RSVP to attend) starts at the Avenue for the Arts office at 120 South Division and features a walking tour to four distinct hidden gardens in the neighborhood. There will be two groups with one departing at 5:30 p.m. and the other at 7 p.m.

At these mysterious venues, you will meet the residents who tend to these gardens and might even be invited to try your hand at gardening as well. 

After you are done with this insightful tour, you’re invited to join others for a neighborhood happy hour complete with music and libations.

The best part is this is a wonderful opportunity to connect with your city in a truly unique manner while also gaining valuable insights about how sweet life can be in the city for those with an urban green thumb.

5th Annual Midtown on Tap 2017: Nosh with the locals on the Midtown Green

There seems to be no shortage of events that happen in our more developed areas of the city like East Hills or the new westside district. However, don’t discount many of our tiny neighborhoods who are hosting an array of small-ish events with big impact on their communities.

One such event is the annual Midtown on Tap held each year since 2013 on the expansive Midtown Green park, which often has the feel of a sheep’s pasture given its natural rolling landscape. 

At this years 5th annual event, you are invite to try the hand crafted goodness of many of our state’s craft brewers including Brewery Vivant, The Peoples Cider Co., Farmhaus Cider Co., Arcadia Brewing Company, Shorts Brewing Company, and Pux Cider.

Looking to get an edge on your friends who might be in search of the next great brewer? Then attendees will enjoy the chance to meet and sample the entries from our local home brewers, who will be competing on that afternoon.

There will be plenty of good eats from food trucks as as well as a festive afternoon and evening of live music will make this a perfect day in the Midtown neighborhood. 

German Beer Night: Doppelbock, lager, and weiss, oh my!

German beers are an art. And the folks at Midtown’s 7 Monks Taproom on Michigan Street have a special night devoted to this delicious craft of brewing these unique beers.

For starters, it is summer, which makes many of the six different styles on tap at German Beer Night that much more inviting, since many of these beers taste (in my opinion) best on a hot summer night. 

Jumping on tap at 7 Monks Taproom this Thursday will be German lagers, Weiss bier, and Kolsch served alongside a special night of German menu items.

The published tap list includes: Schneider Aventinus, Sunner Kolsch, Ayinger Brau Weiss, Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock, Weihenstephan Original Lager, and Kulmbacher Pils.

If you are confused about all these names, then use this handy German beer guide from Kegworks to help you navigate this tap takeover event like a pro.

7 Monks is also offering on this night a German pretzel knot with mashed potatoes, hops mustard, and mettwurst—a raw pork cured and smoked sausage. 

If you feel like noshing with friends over a Deutschland beer, then order the special sausage board, which Thursday includes a variety of authentic German sausages from Kerns with pickled vegetables and nutrient-rich sauerkraut.

You have a lot of extra sun during the summer, so why not squeeze in a stop at 7 Monks Taproom to enjoy this special night of beers. It is a hellavah lot easier than grabbing a flight to Germany or a drive Frankenmuth to replicate this taste experience. 

For a complete look at all the taproom events that 7 Monks of Grand Rapids has on deck these next few months, please check out their website for an impressive list of festive beer-focussed activities.

GRABB Sankofa Mix & Pop-up Marketplace

It is inspiring to see so many movements at work in our society, and one locally that is garnering attention is the Grand Rapids Area Black Business (GRABB) organization’s annual Sankofa Mix & Pop-up Marketplace at East Hills’ Richard App Gallery. 

Sankofa is from the Twi language of Ghana and has been described as a method through which we must venture back to our roots in order to move forward. 

And like so many other ancient cultures, this Akan belief provides a rooted vision of the  steps necessary for us to advance as we harness our past to help us plan the future. To the Akan, this is the beginning of wisdom.

For the Sankofa Mixer & Pop-up Marketplace, GRABB seeks to elevate as well as celebrate the emerging black entrepreneurs of West Michigan at this one night only event. 

Local vendors will have on display fresh product lines that include everything from artisan candles to handmade soaps to delicious baked goods and other handmade wares.

As with every GRABB event, you will have a chance to hear first-hand from this entrepreneurial-focused organization who will showcase their vision in a “Past (what we have done), Present (what we are currently doing) and Future (what we have in the works)” presentation. 

War On The Catwalk: The Queens are back in town

It says a lot about the nature of our evolving culture when a show devoted to drag queens competing are in the running for seven Emmy’s this year! 

But if you are one of the millions who have been enjoying RuPaul and the queens on any one of the past 11 seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race, then you are in luck. he touring show, War on the Catwalk, will soon strut onto Grand Rapids’ DeVos Performance Hall’s stage.

War On The Catwalk features the contestants from Season 9 of VH-1’s RuPaul’s reality show performing live on stage and rocking the catwalk with glitz, glamour, and a whole lot of award-winning attitude.

The Queens arriving in Grand Rapids are Season 9’s winner Sasha Velour, with Shea Couleé Farrah Moan, Alexis Michelle, #teamkimora, all hosted by Trinity Taylor.

So dress to impress and sashay your way downtown to this special touring event on Saturday night.

Retro Futura: New Wave legends on stage

Emerging out of the Punk movement of the 1970s came the radio-friendly music of artists performing under the genre of New Wave.

Unlike the music that it owes its legacy, New Wave became a catch-all for everything that was not Post-Punk making this a genre that was often filled with fun pop hooks, cutting edge synthesizers, and often a lyrical style that was left of center and refreshing to the era it was born into. 

On Tuesday night, those who are fans are in for a treat as six of the best 80's New Wave stars will perform at a special concert, 105.3 HotFM presents Retro Futura: HOT 80's Rewind, at the Van Andel Arena.

The night’s festivities are led by synth pioneer Howard Jones (who I last saw in the 1980s at DeVos Performance Hall) and include performance sets by the English Beat, Men Without Hats, Modern English, Paul Young. and Katrina (ex-singer of Katrina and The Waves).

Tickets for this concert have been on sale for a while but don’t let that stop you from joining the party. You may not be able to be go back in time to this era of New Wave Music, but considering the number of tribute bands who have covered ’80s music, isn’t it time to get your tunes from the source? 

Nite Jewel: New jack swing with a touch of Janet Jackson

Nite Jewel, an alias of Los Angeles musician and multimedia artist Ramona Gonzalez, will be in Grand Rapids to support her latest release, “Real High.” 

Known for her lush mix of lo-fi, synth-based compositions with a nod to freestyle and electronic disco, Nite Jewel’s latest earned from Pitchfork an impressive 7.5 rating citing this work (her fifth) as her “most focused work yet with many nods to new jack swing and Janet Jackson.”

Nite Jewel’s charm is her DIY approach to music that she has embraced in more and more of her releases as she moves to a more eclectic and rich soundscape. With such sweet production values on this new “Real High,” it is becoming harder and harder to distinguish indie from pop since the two commingle more and more on the Billboard charts these days.

And lucky for us locals, this impressive vocalist and purveyor of some of the most sensualist beats has added GR to her impressive nearly 30-city tour.

Opening for Nite Jewel is Geneva Jacuzzi and Harriet Brown.

Tickets can be purchased here.

4th Annual Grand Rapids Balloon Festival: Up, up and away

Friday, July 21, 5 - 9 p.m. and Saturday, July 22, 1 - 9 p.m.
Summer is the best time to roam because the days are long, offering lots of opportunities to stay outside and enjoy the weather.

As an added bonus to the blue skies and fluffy clouds comes the return of the 4th Annual Grand Rapids Balloon Festival held on the Hudsonville Fairgrounds.

On both days, Friday and Saturday evening (and depending on the weather) the balloon launch of 20 hot air balloons will take place at approximately 8 p.m. 

If your goal is to see the balloons filled with air but also have an opportunity to see them up close, then organizers recommend arriving by 6 p.m. to ensure you don't miss this experience. 

To keep the event lively and fun, the Grand Rapids Balloon Festival presents live music from May Erlewine and George Moss on Friday night, then on Saturday the music of Boy From School, The Lasting Hope, and more.

Hungry? Then the Balloon Festival has you covered with pizza from Flo's Pizzeria (Plainfield Ave.), D & C Express Pit Stop, Maui Wowi Grand Rapids, and Wagner's Ice Cream. 

Other activities include helicopter rides from Intrepid Helicopters, the Critter Barn, Inflatables from Inflatable Frenzy, Balloons by Jake, The Balloon Guy/Jim Perry,  MiPhotoBooth, Maciek The Magician, Wine and Canvas Grand Rapids (modified to Cookies & Canvas for this family-friendly event), kids games, and even a chance to walk inside a RE/MAX hot air balloon for $1. 

Proceeds from the RE/MAX hot air balloon walk benefit the festival charities of the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, Helen DeVos Children's Hospital, and D.A. Blodgett St. John’s Home. 

Swagger: One night only with a Q&A with the director

Nearly everyone who has grown up in the last four decades has experienced the evolution of the music video. But what is more impressive is having a chance to see a former music video director make the leap to full length feature or documentary films.

On Saturday night the documentary film “Swagger” will be screened in town for one showing only and will include a UICA-led Q&A with director Olivier Babinet.

Director Babinet’s film follows 11 kids from the Parisian neighborhood of Aulnay-sous-Bois and takes place in the streets, projects, and schools where these students wander.

The result with any other director could have been a depressing look at the realities facing these kids as this neighborhood was the scene of riots in 2005. But under Babinet’s skilled hand, this documentary, which he researched for two years before committing to even making it, lifts up the audience as we are treated to a delightfully hopeful series of stories during a time of great unrest.

For anyone who has ever wondered how hope can flourish in a place with so much negative happening on a daily basis, “Swagger” is just the ticket to shed insights into the minds of these students who are seeking to overcome the odds and create a better tomorrow.

The film is 84 minutes long and is a part of the Young French Cinema program brought to UICA via support from UniFrance and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the U.S. Check out the trailer to the film here

UICA members are $4 / public $8.

5x5 Night: Hits the road (again)

Summer is the best time to wander about the city. 

And since many of you are probably looking to venture not too far on a Tuesday night (saving your big adventures for the weekend) head to the westside’s newest brew pub, New Holland's Knickerbocker Beer Garden, for the 5x5 Night Hits The Road Tour.

If you have never attended a pitch night event for 5x5 Night then you are in for a treat as five creators (previously selected before this event) share with an audience their ideas in the hopes of winning $5,000…with no strings attached.

While 5x5 has no limit on the scope of an idea one can submit, they do remind those looking to submit an idea for the pitch night to think about how the winning prize money of $5,000 will be applied to move your idea forward. 

And lest you think 5x5 is just a place for people looking to pitch an idea, then you are truly missing out on one of the best elements of the night: the chance to network and connect with others.

At many of these events you will hear ideas that are being formed but might need that added or elusive connection that could be firmed up with the people who attend this lively and fun night.

And while presenting is a big part of the draw, the event also provides a chance to see how a future 5x5 Night could be just the platform you need to launch your your idea off the drawing board and into reality. 

If you have an idea for a pitch, please submit your ideas to www.5x5Night.com.

As a reminder, 5x5 night is a free event and open to the public. Everyone is welcome.

The Highlands: Open for (walking) business

Are you running out of things to do with the kids this summer? How about a walk on the wild side as The Highlands,a new parkland space in Grand Rapids. It is open for the first time on Thursday and they are inviting the public to come walk the property.

Earlier this year the 121-acre Highlands Golf Club was acquired by our local Blandford Nature Center, in partnership with the Land Conservancy of West Michigan, with a loan from The Conservation Fund, enabling this unique collaboration to add to their already spacious property devoted to all things nature.

The Land Conservancy of West Michigan’s roots reach as far back at 1976 and have been  helping our area protect land for future generations’ enjoyment and edification. The Land Conservancy of West Michigan has protected 137 natural areas of more than 10,000 acres in Kent, Ottawa, Allegan, Ottawa, Newaygo, Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, and Lake counties.

For those seeking an more in-depth experience or insider info on the plans for this park space, the staff of Blandford and the Land Conservancy will be on site Thursday at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to conduct free tours of this new park.  

The park is seeking input as well, so the tours will help community members better understand the purchase and vision of the partners and include ways for the public to contribute to the evolving vision of this space. 

If tours are not your thing, then by all means, feel free to just hike this expansive piece of land on your own. The new hours for The Highlands are sunrise to sunset starting Thursday, July 13th.

Shimmy Shack Burlesque and Dangerville at Tip Top: A rockabilly trifecta

As the sun sets over West Michigan, the dancers and band members of this month’s Shimmy Shack Burlesque Troupe have something truly remarkable in store for those who will venture out into the city’s westside.

Like a full solar eclipse, it is really very rare that we have an alignment of burlesque and live genre music in an alt-music venue of our city devoted to all things rockabilly. What makes this style of music so intriguing and fun is because rockabilly is one of the earlier musical genre styles of rock and roll music.

Our local Shimmy Shack Burlesque Troupe, who has been, as they describe on their website, presenting “Raucous Ribaldry in an intimate setting since 2009,” will welcome Dangerville to create a live accompaniment for the performers. 

Joining guest burlesque performers Ms. B LaRose (Chicago), Felina Distemper (Ann Arbor), Vivacious Miss Audacious (Grand Rapids), and Jax Nippleson (Grand Rapids), the rockabilly foursome of Dangerville (established as a three piece act in 1995 that became a four piece in 1998) will raise your core body temperature with classic original tunes like “Lament of a Serial Killer,” “Torpedo Bra,” and “Find me a Woman.”

Be sure to pack a handful of singles to hand off to the dancers as well as the band who will present a program hot like July. You will not want to miss this special night of live dance and rockabilly music in one of my favorite venues in the city. 

Get tickets in advance to this special edition of Shimmy Shack Burlesque Troupe here.

As with nearly every Shimmy Shack event, earlier in the day is the international Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School event.  Dr. Sketchy's is a very unorthodox live model drawing class that is one part arts education/instruction with the rest a full on comic improv  performance fueled by drink specials as hosts Vivacious Miss Audacious and Sarah Jean Anderson welcome the art monkeys to this hilarious drawing school event. Even if you are not an artist, this is an experience welcoming all. 

Terrence Parker and Merachka: International DJ’s arrive in GR for one night only

I come from an era of Grand Rapids where bootstrapping wasn’t just an idea tossed around in business classes but a way of getting things done in the arts during a pre-digital age.

So it is exciting to see the legacy of making “stuff” happen here has been mirrored within Grand Rapids’ DJ culture, where area producers are attempting to replicate but also innovate new models to serve this growing audience of dance music lovers. 

And unlike the “let’s party” mode of the last big era of dance that emerged out of GR’s MySpace years, this new era of local DJs are taking the education piece of this moment very seriously while also having a lot of fun in the process.

One shining example as of late is FourFour SoundSystem—a music event production company—that is part of a movement of local groups that are welcoming outside acts to the area. 

This Saturday, FourFour SoundSystem nods nicely to the past as they head to a neighborhood hall much like we witnessed in the 1980s when pop-up music events like The New Beat Club.

For this night, FourFour SoundSystem has invited two DJ’s, Terrence Parker and Merachka, to join locals Joshua Tree and DJ Visitor for a night of dance music. 

Terrence Parker and Merachka both call Detroit home and have integrated the sounds of this city’s roots in techno and house into their music sets. 

Parker over the years has worked to  promote that classic sound of Detroit house and techno music. He is referred often as a pioneer of the music genre known as inspirational house music.

Merachka performs with a face covering to obscure their image, allowing us to let the mystery be as we enjoy the music that emerge from this DJ’s set list.

Both of these visiting DJs present our area’s local music fans with an opportunity to see two acts with a worldwide touring track record and a solid international following right in our own backyard. 

Sometimes showing up to support the local arts talent who seek to do bold things is an act of community-building that goes beyond the norm…and for that we are grander as a result, with each new and innovative event produced here.

To read more on this event, visit FourFour's Facebook event page

GRAM on the Green: The Crane Wives rock Rosa Parks Circle

You only have six opportunities this summer to take in the ninth annual GRAM on the Green summer concert series at downtown Grand Rapids’ Rosa Parks Circle amphitheater. 

Kicking off this popular live music series that includes everything from indie rock kids to hip hop to jazz is our local folk rock band, The Crane Wives.

Held outside at this rain or shine event, you will be enticed to sing along and dance with one of the area’s top performing acts amidst a sea of tasty food trucks and a cash bar for adult beverages served in this beautiful setting.  

As reported recently in Local Spins, The Crane Wives recently took first place in the national “JBL Professional ‘Best American Band’ contest earning the group $5,000 and a trip to Las Vegas for a performance at the end of the month at JBL Fest.”  (Read more about this grand honor for our local act at Local Spins.)  

As an added bonus, admission to the Grand Rapids Art Museum is free as a part of the  Meijer Free Thursday Nights program.

Support for GRAM on the Green is generously provided by DTE Energy, Bank of America, and WYCE.

Grand Rapids Soul Club: DJ Makossa delivers the world

How about kicking off your Fourth of July Weekend this year with a little soulful dancing? 

If you have not been able to make any of the Grand Rapids Soul Club Parties over the past years, then this night of music will have something for everyone as they welcome DJ Makossa and a repertoire of funk, soul, reggae, hip-hop and world music.

With more than 16 years experience, DJ Makossa brings a style of urban music of the same name, makossa, which was made popular in Cameroon. In fact, within its native language, makossa translates as "dance."

The artist was influenced at an early age by the iconic “Entroducing…” by DJ Shadow, DJ Makossa’s shows are renown for his ability to rapidly deploy a variety of music to create a live mix that is sure to keep you on your feet all night long.

As with all of our Grand Rapids Soul Club parties, you will see the guys of our local club trading off in a sort of round robin style ,bouncing from 45s to 45s on the 1’s and 2’s all night long before the guest artist takes to the stage.

So if you are seeking a dance experience in a chill environment where everyone is welcome, then get to Grand Rapids Soul Club’s special night of music with DJ Makossa. 

Amway Family Fireworks' Fourth of July Celebration: On Saturday, July 1

Saturday, July 1, 5:00 p.m. program, 10:30 p.m. fireworks
If you are into crowds of folks packed onto the rolling green hills of Ah-Nab-Awen Park, then head early to this river bank park on Saturday, July 1 for the best seating options at the annual Amway Family Fireworks.

This annual event kicks off at 5:00 p.m. at this city park located in front of the  Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in downtown Grand Rapids and will feature a program from Townsquare Media who welcome their on-air personalities for a night of live bands before the 10:30 p.m. fireworks display.

In addition to this live entertainment show, there will be food trucks as well as a special Meijer Family Zone from 5-8 p.m. that will feature arts and crafts, fake tattoos and interactive yard games.

Attendees are asked to support their charity partner, Kids Food Basket (KFB), by bringing down snack-size sandwich bags to the Meijer Family Zone between 5-8 p.m.

KFB is local nonprofit committed to attacking childhood hunger by ensuring that lunch is not the last meal of the day for nearly 7,500 kids at 42 schools in Grand Rapids, Muskegon and Holland. Sack Suppers, as KFB calls them, are well-rounded evening meals that provide nutrition critical to the development of the brain and body.

If crowds are not your thing, then attend any one of the many parties that pop up along the river, or observe the festivities from any one of the many points around the city where observing is possible.

Hollyhock Lane Parade: Neighborhood event still making history

For more than eighty years, Grand Rapids has been home to the state’s oldest Fourth of July parade: the Hollyhock Lane Parade located on the edge of Grand Rapids’ Ottawa Hills neighborhood.

What started as an unsanctioned bike parade for kids in 1934 that was actually shut down their first year for not pulling a permit has become one of the most beloved neighborhood events in the city.  

Created as a little-to-no cost event birthed during the Great Depression, this annual parade attracts not only politicians seeking office. It is also most importantly an event where neighborhood kids will adorn their bikes with flags and wear patriotic attire to create what can best be described as a living Norman Rockwell painting brought to life.

After the parade ends, neighbors gather on Hollyhock Lane (an alley behind Giddings) for a lively and festive program of stump speeches, patriotic readings and a prize ceremony for the best costumes and kids floats. 

Arrive early to get prime seating along the parade route. Some of the best views are on Calvin near Franklin where you can watch the massive parade as it climbs up the wooded streets of this neighborhood. 

Mike Dillon Band: Age has its benefits

Fans of lyrics that appear to have been inspired by Miguel de Cervantes, William Burroughs, Kurt Vonnegut and Robert Anton Wilson and delivered via a voice that has been called Tom Waits-meets-Frank Zappa black comedy are in for a real treat when The Mike Dillon Band  arrives at Founder’s Taproom for a night of music that evokes New Orleans’ debauchery with a heft mix of age-old themes of travel, love, self-destruction and greed.

But if you want to pigeonhole this unique artist’s work, then good luck since, after listening to “Band of Outsiders,” you will be amazed at the musicality and originality of this seasoned music professional. 

“People are always trying to figure out how to describe our music. Maybe we should call it New Orleans punk jazz Brazilian math rock? It’s a gumbo of tribal percussion, The Meters, old school hardcore, Brazil, hard bop and anything else that might move us,” says Dillon. “But you know, I really don’t care what you call it. We kick out the jams harder than anyone, and we also know when to heed the lessons of The Minutemen’s Double Nickels On The Dime and keep things straight to the point. There’s a reason we called the record what we did. We’re the living, breathing definition of a band of outsiders, but together we deliver simple majestic beauty, let’s leave it at that.”

Dillon has been performing for more than 25 years and has the stage presence to back it up with an act that has been described as a “punk rock provocateur,” “jazz vibraphone visionary” and “percussion virtuoso” …and often in the same sentence! 

In a world of pop sensations, it is good to know that salty dogs like Dillon can find a place in such hallowed halls devoted to drinking. In fact, I cannot imagine it in any other setting to be honest. Get there early to garner a seat at what is certain to be an eclectic night of music.

For a sneak preview of Dillon's unique style, please visit this link

Chasing Winds: A Breezy History of Storm Chasing Culture

Storm chasing is a big deal. And not just in the traditional sense of hopping in a car with a skilled guide in the hopes that that ominous bank of storm clouds one is chasing will become a potential tornado that you can video or possibly take a selfie beside from a safe distance. 

I’m talking big as in TV shows, special editions of magazines, and movies like “Twister.” There is even a minor league baseball team called the The Omaha Storm Chasers in Nebraska. People just love the act. People just love storm chasing and it is a growing passion for many.

But have you ever stopped for a moment to consider the activity, the history, and all its perks and perils?

Lucky for us locally our Grand Rapids Public Library will host a special GR Reads summer lecture event at the downtown location titled, “Chasing Winds: A Breezy History of Storm Chasing Culture.”

The free lecture begins with David Hoadley, a North Dakota resident who is credited with beginning the craze we enjoy still to this day. Hoadley began chasing storms in 1956 and later went on to found the Storm Track magazine.

Hosted by Journalist and Filmmaker Blake Naftel, this special presentation will include plenty of visuals to excite the imagination as well many images rooted from places as close as West Michigan and Kent County. Thursday event will present a historical context as Naftel examines tornadoes and severe weather events that are familiar to many locals.

But as a reminder to the curious of heart, tornados are very unpredictable and dangerous. There is no such thing as safe storm chasing, so even with a trained guide, never forget that Mother Nature always bats last. 

Tour of Women-Owned Businesses: Girl-powered corridor takes root in GR

There have always been many challenges to doing business on South Division’s Avenue for the Arts, but if the current crop of new and established businesses have their way, this will soon be a thing of the past, as you will see via a special tour hosted by Dwelling Place on the successful women-owned businesses of this corridor. 

This annual tour features ten of the numerous women-owned businesses that make up this important street in the city’s Heartside neighborhood.

This tour, which only has a few space openings left, will enable those attending a chance to hear first-person narratives and anecdotes about their individual successes.

Each attendee will be presented at this event with a special swag bag that feature some of the other women-owned businesses not included on this ten-stop walking tour on Division Avenue.

“This tour is a great opportunity for people to network with others who are interested in women-owned businesses, but also our local entrepreneurs and those interested in doing business on South Division Avenue,” says Jenn Schaub of Dwelling Place, “Most of all, this tour showcases what success looks like in our downtown neighborhood.”

The event is free to attend but you must register here in advance. Organizers are expecting nearly three times the turn out as from last year’s event, so space is very limited.

Grand River Water Festival: Musical education with an environmental twist

If you live in the state of Michigan then it is pretty clear that at some point along your journey you will encounter a body of water. In fact, it is has been widely shared within groups who serve to protect this life-giving source, that in Michigan you are never more than six miles from a source of fresh water. 

Michigan is not just home to the Great Lakes but is filled with more than 65,000 inland lakes, making our state truly a water wonderland. 

But with this comes great responsibility to honor this gift, and so it is time to gather on the banks of Grand Rapids’ mighty and majestic Grand River at Riverside Park for the Grand River Water Festival. 

Returning for the eighth year to the river bank of this urban park, the Grand River Water Festival is a celebration of our water through live music, speakers, community activities (for adults and children), and hands-on environmental education.

Throughout the day, ten Michigan-based bands like Fauxgrass, Hawks and Owls, Magdalen Fossum, and Drew Nelson and Highway 2 will present a program spanning a host of musical styles from traditional folk, country, bluegrass, Cajun, blues, and world beat music. 

As with every year, in between the bands’ performances, the Grand River Water Festival will present local politicians, environmental experts, and educators who will briefly speak on the topic of water quality, as well as introduce attendees to the many environmental organizations of our region who are working to ensure this gift is protected and handed down for generations to come.

There is even a story tent where you can add your personal narrative about your experience with Michigan’s waterways. It is something that began in 2008 and I am glad to see the organizers are keeping a part of this year’s event.

And while you may have a lot to do this weekend, the easy format of this event is perfect for those with a busy schedule. Even if you cannot enjoy a full day in Riverside Park, then stop in for a spell and take a break with some of the best musicians West Michigan has to offer. A complete overview of the acts and speakers can be found here

Red Hot Chili Peppers: Homecoming Concert

If you have waited until today to get tickets to the Red Hot Chili Peppers (RHCP), who are stopping in Grand Rapids for a concert performance at the Van Andel Arena on Sunday, June 25, then your options are pretty slim, since at press time there were only a handful of tickets available for this soon to be sold-out show. 

What makes this concert special is that Anthony Kiedis, lead singer of the RHCP, was born here in Grand Rapids. In fact, nearly every time in modern history that the band and Kiedis arrive back here to perform songs from their collection of 11 studio records, it is as if the whole Grand Rapids audience is part of the coolest homecoming event one could hope to be lucky enough to attend.

If you don’t get moving on a decision to attend, you will soon miss your chance, since most ticket resellers are offering seats ranging from $76 to $212 to see the band locally. And with Gaia now closed, you can’t bank on that accidental bumping into our hometown son as you enjoy that classic Veggie Hash with a side of homemade Mean Green Burrito Sauce. (Kiedis used to frequent this place often when visiting Grand Rapids in the past.)

So get out this Sunday and enjoy the music of a band who was recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but most of all has important roots with many of us who call Grand Rapids our home. 

For details on the concert, visit the band's concert page

Henry V: Fighting words hits the stage en force.

Opening Thursday, June 15, 7:30 p.m. (through June 25)
If you are frustrated with the lack of imagination as it relates to language under our current President, then maybe it is time to take a trip back to a time when kings roamed the land in battle and in the pursuit of love. If so, then “Henry V” by William Shakespeare is just the ticket.

Produced by our region’s Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company (PCSC), “Henry V” is part of Shakespeare’s canon of plays devoted to the English Monarchs and is one of my favorites. 

What I have always enjoyed about this particular play is the heroic warrior-king language that peppers so many of the scenes of this action-filled story leading a group of misfit soldiers to battle the well-trained and heavily outnumbered French Army. 

It is hard not to get misty eyed nor sit still in your seat when the famous speech from Henry V is delivered right before the battle of Agincourt. This is why the power of a well written speech can often lead others to achieve the unthinkable in battle and is the stuff big Hollywood blockbuster’s writers wished they could emulate for the big screen. Even the wooing of the woman he seeks to make his own is a thrill to behold and provides a nice bookend to this story of battle. 

For PCSC’s production of “Henry V” they have cast Actors' Equity Association’s actor Paul Riopelle will return once again to our local stage to play King Henry and is directed by Angela and Francis Boyle.

The cast also features actors Alyssa Banister, Mike Dodge, Ryan Farrell, Josh Fremer, Amanda Grah, Michael Hays, Kat Hermes, Bridget McCarthy, Ashley Normand, Steven Schwall, and Scott Wright.

Performances are June 16, 17, 23, and 24 at 8:00 p.m. and June 18 and 25 at 3:00 p.m.. Tickets are $14 for adults, and $8 for students and seniors.

29th Grand Rapids Pride: A rainbow celebration in the shadow of Calder

Nearly thirty years ago when I attend our first Gay Pride, it was a lonely affair in many ways since it was typically the only event that took place to commemorate our community’s LGBTQ. 

Now the entire month is packed full of events happening all over the city including this weekend’s Third Annual White Party kick off event at Rumors on Friday, June 16 to a festive Pride Block Party / Family Gathering hosted by the Apartment Lounge and the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum with special musical guest Betty on Sunday, June 18. Even at Actors' Theatre of Grand Rapids a play devoted to the Stonewall uprising, "Hit the Wall," will open this weekend and run until June 25. 

But the real star of our festive Pride weekend is the annual Grand Rapids Pride taking place at Calder Plaza. 

This annual homecoming style event features area merchants an organizations serving the LGBTQ of our city as well as a lively stage show with the best of our local talent performing alongside national acts including Billy Gillman, Bonnie McKee, DJ Citizen Jane, Lipstick Jodi, DJ Keller Shaw.

Grand Rapids Pride’s main headliner, Billy Gillman, a country singer, is a former contestant of The Voice who was the runner-up in season 11.  In 2014 and hours after another country singer Ty Herndon had come out, Gillman posted a video on YouTube indicating he, too, was gay.

Gillman’s “One Voice” was nominated for Grammy in 2001 for Best Male Country Vocal Performance and won the American Music Award’s Favorite Country Artist (2001).

And while coming out stories are more and more common these days, within certain parts of the entertainment and sporting industry, Gillman’s and Herndon’s act made sure that their voices would be heard not just within the genre they serve via their music, but so that others who might be gay also have a north star to help them navigate the choppy waters of our society as they come out.

As they often chanted in the 90s at Pride celebrations all over the world, “We’re here. We’re queer. Get used to it.” Coming out has real power still today and Grand Rapids Pride is the best place to land and celebrate our diversity. 

Pride costs $8.00 to attend and supports the work of our local Grand Rapids Pride Center

Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and Pan’s Labyrinth: A thrilling double feature

Friday, June 16, 6 p.m. gates, 7 p.m. film one, 9:30 p.m. film two
This Friday is a great time to pack the picnic blanket and head to the banks of the Grand River for a double feature as a part of Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc.’s Movies in the Park.

And unlike in years’ past where you had to wait until sunset to begin the first film, thanks to new brighter screen technology provided by LiveSpace of Grand Rapids, this season’s double features can begin earlier so that you are not wandering home in the wee hours of the early Saturday morning.

What makes this lineup so delicious is not just supremely wonderful film choices. Rather, it is their fantastical tales that make this a standout in programming unlike any other.

For starters, at 7 p.m. the classic 1971 musical confectionary based thriller-comedy “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory,” based on the beloved Roald Dahl novel, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” tells the story of a child overcoming all odds to become a recipient of a much-desired golden ticket that will win him a private tour of the famed chocolate factory. 

The brilliant choice to program the Spanish speaking language film “Pan’s Labyrinth” alongside Wonka will erase any sugar high you might have from the syrupy opener as this dark modern fantasy directed by Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro will have you cuddling in fear at times as the fantastical overlaps with reality in this Academy Award-nominated film. 

Before the film presentation you will be entertained by host Gabriella de la Vega of the El Mundo Musical with special guest DJ Adrian Butler.

Food Trucks will be on site should you wish to nosh during the program and, as always with Movies in the Park, those 21 and older are free to bring in adult beverages. 

This evening is brought to you by Franklin Partners with Star Partners including Linc Up and the Latino Community Coalition.

Movies in the Park is produced by Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. in partnership with The Rapid: Transit Authority for the Grand Rapids metro area, The City of Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids Community Media Center, Tobacco Free Parks, and LiveSpace.

Juneteenth 2017 and Book Signing: History observed and read

Juneteenth celebrations have been happening across America since 1865 and are held each year in various cities to commemorate the ending of slavery in the United States and this weekend you have an opportunity to attend a special commemoration open house event at the Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives (GRAAMA).

Starting at noon at their home on Monroe Center in the heart of downtown, GRAAMA will present a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation as well as read this historical document for the public.

Also on the occasion of this historic event, Author Jackie James be in attendance to sign books from her Friends of Martin Luther King, Jr. series. 

James, a former teacher, noticed over her career that often when it came to telling the stories of African Americans, that most accounts were not even written by a person of color (if they were being told at all). 

This disturbed James as an educator and so rather than complain about it, she stepped up to become the voice of the many who had been silenced over time, giving a new generation of students of all races an opportunity to better understand the many leaders who came before them.

The Friends series has grown to an impressive 28 titles, including stories on famed Black leaders like A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, Dorothy Height, and many more. And while these books are aimed at a middle school reading level, it is worth noting that, given the absence of many of these voices from generations of education, these books are great for folks of all ages seeking to know more about those who fought to ensure that the rights won under the Emancipation Proclamation are not lost or eroded.

James’ contribution to African American literature is significant because, through her books, a new generation of children are finally having an opportunity to know their history more fully. 

During the three-hour window on Saturday, James will be signing books at GRAAMA.  

Rock The Block: Southtown’s neighborhood-centered celebration turns 7!

If last weekend was about celebrating downtown Grand Rapids with events like Festival for the Arts and the Local First Street Party, then this one presents an opportunity to shift your path to one of our neighborhoods as Rock The Block returns to the Southtown community.

This is the 7th year of Rock The Block—an annual celebration where neighbors and visitors intersect with good food, plenty of local talent, and a variety of community-focused vendors looking to connect you and your entire family to the goodness of our region. 

New this year is a chance to pitch your business idea in the hopes of winning a $599 prize courtesy of Start Garden. But get in line early since this opportunity to present your idea in 99 seconds or less takes place between noon - 2 p.m. Additional details including the reason for the $599 dollar payout can be found here.

This lively event is produced by Linc Up, a Grand Rapids-based community revitalization nonprofit whose mission is transforming our region—including this Madison Square neighborhood where civic pride and history is reason enough for this celebration.

And you never know who you’ll run into at this popular Southtown event. Two years ago, I bumped into Grand Rapids’ Floyd Mayweather Jr. while strolling the festival. 

For a sneak preview of what to expect, please visit this Vimeo page for a video snapshot of the event. 

As We Go On: Personal narratives from (and for) Our LGBT (fund)

The power to change our world has many roads one can consider taking, but the most powerful tend to be the sharing of our personal stories from the journey.

On Saturday night a new theatrical work “As We Go On,” which originated from Ann Arbor’s LGBTQ community, will be on stage at Wealthy Theatre.

This evening of live storytelling delivered via performers on stage and those projected onto the screen is a presentation of the real life passages one goes through as a LGBTQ individual. 

The performers on stage—from young to old—tell the stories of coming and being out. These staged tales are funny, witty, sad, infuriating, uplifting, and touching, reflecting the diversity of experiences that not just our LGBTQ can relate to but, in all honesty, something others will as well.

And while “As We Go On,” like all good theater, promises to deliver greater understanding and appreciation of others lives, a portion of each ticket purchased goes to supporting the Grand Rapids Community Foundation’s Our LGBT Fund.

To read more about “As We Go On” please visit Cultured.GR’s article on the production. Advance tickets can be purchased here

38th Annual Homecoming of the Three Fires Pow Wow: “Our Future” celebrated on the Grand River

After last year’s historic Native American protest at Standing Rock (and numerous supportive events and marches locally) against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), this year is the perfect time to visit the annual Three Fires Pow Wow held at Grand Rapids’ Riverside Park.

Situated on the banks of the mighty Grand River, the 38th Annual Homecoming of the Three Fires Traditional Pow Wow provides an opportunity to experience and learn about the heritage of our first people's lives at this social gathering that attracts hundreds of visitors each year.

In addition to providing booth space for folks to grab a bite to eat or to buy things from a vendor list of approved Native American crafts and designs, the year’s Pow Wow will expand upon their theme of “Our Future” via the three Grand Entries. The Grand Entry, which involves prayer, song, and dance, will occur twice on Saturday ( 1 p.m. & 6 p.m.) and once on Sunday (noon).

If you have missed this riverside Pow Wow in the past and had hoped to attend, please set aside time this weekend to learn just a bit more of the history of this place from the people who have been telling our region’s story long before most arrived here.  

Pow Wow organizers remind Rapid Growth that this is a strict drug- and alcohol-free event, so arrive sober please. They also ask that you do not bring your dog(s) to the event and under no circumstances should you leave them in the car due to the projected high 80s temperatures expected this weekend. Service dogs are always welcome at the annual Homecoming of the Three Fires Traditional Pow Wow.

Loving Day Family Block Party & Film Festival: Expanding on love

What began as a one-day event, the Loving Day Celebration, an open and affirming event for multicultural, multiracial families, and their supporters, will expand to three days of unique programming this weekend.

The expanded programming arrives right as the nation is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case of Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967), which invalidated laws prohibiting interracial marriage.

Starting at the Ladies Literary Club on Friday, June 9 at 7:30 p.m., a staged program from the Ebony Road Players (ERP), "Giving Voice to Love,” will feature local musicians, dancers, film, spoken word, and theatrical works sharing stories of identity, race, love and personal expression.

On Saturday, June 10 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., ERP will partner with downtown Grand Rapids’ Park Church (10 E. Park Place) for a block party/festival that will showcase musical performances, vendors, workshops, and plenty of children's activities. 

Organizers ask that if you wish to hang out to enjoy the musical programing that you please bring a chair. 

Once inside the church at this rain or shine event, there will be special film screenings from The Mosaic Film Experience, as well as a chance to record your voice as a part of a StoryCorps-like narrative project courtesy of Wrinkle Creative.

Finally on Sunday, June 11, at 11:45 a.m., you are invited to return to Park Church for the closing event—a broadcast of the award-winning HBO documentary, “The Loving Story.” This special screening is co-sponsored by Conversations at Park Church. A luncheon as well as a community discussion of the documentary will be a part of this final Loving Day weekend event.

All of the events are free to attend except Friday’s live "Giving Voice to Love” kick-off staged presentation, which ranges from $10 - 20. 

High Growth Happy Hour w/ Elliott Rader: Raise a glass to those who dare to dream…and do.

For those who have ever wondered if their idea was big enough to launch, High Growth Happy Hour is just the shot of inspiration you might need to get started.

Rapid Growth’s first High Growth Happy Hour welcomes Elliott Rader, one half of the team of brothers who created the snack sensation the Gluten Free Bar.  

Thursday night you will have a chance to hear firsthand from a local entrepreneur who recognized a need in society and through a steady vision and testing of their idea became something tasty and new. 

The Gluten Free Bar is not just enjoyed in 230 Meijer stores, but according to Rapid Growth’s Lauren Carlson’s article last week, “Transforming a Celiac diagnosis into a top-selling snack,” this exciting locally-produced snack “can be found in Spartan Stores, all Whole Foods groceries in the midwest, Stop 'n Shop on the east coast, Harvest Health, Kingma's, and a few Canadian and European groceries as well.”

So come mingle and have an adult beverage on us courtesy of Comcast Business at The Mitten Brewing Co. as we hear from Elliott about how an idea became a tasty product so many have come to count on to satisfy their cravings. This event is free to attend and welcoming to all.

Yolo Ride: Exploring the White Pine Trail and Creston together

For those staying in the city this Memorial Day weekend, you don’t have to feel like there is nothing going on. Despite your friends’ updates showcase some heading to the lakeshore or jetting off to some far-off destination, adventure indeed awaits here on Saturday with the return of She Rides Her Own Way’s YOLO (You Only Live Once) ride in Riverside Park.

Unlike last year’s event, this year’s YOLO ride is focussed on the Creston so you’ll get to experience the White Pine Trail but also get a tour of the neighborhood via your trail hosts.  

This year’s YOLO Ride will begin in Riverside Park with an informal meet up and registration. At 1 p.m., riders will participate in a pre-ride yoga session before hitting the White Pine Trail for a leisurely ride north before ending up at the Creston Brewery for a late lunch and some of the best new beer in the city. 

What makes Creston Brewery such a fine choice is their attention to detail with many of their brews, taking on the names of historical and region-specific activities associated with the Creston neighborhood. 

After (and depending on how you arrived at the park) you can just ride on home or pedal the short distance from the brewery back to Riverside Park. 

She Rides Her Own Way is organized by Johanna Jelks whose events are created in the hopes that these rides will help others build their confidence as many of us begin to contemplate our transportation options this summer. YOLO Ride 2017 creates yet again an opportunity for new riders and new citizens of the city to venture out and make some friends.

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. 

Pyramid Scheme Turns 6: Birthday weekend celebration

It is hard to imagine downtown Grand Rapids without the Pyramid Scheme. But here we are on the eve of its sixth birthday, and boy is our future weekend looking enticing at this wildly independent venue.

For starters, on Friday night the talented folks at Pyramid Scheme have programmed a birthday showcase of talent with Tunde Olaniran, Paucity, I Believe In Julio, and JADE TV all jamming this intimate stage for an outstanding night of fresh and exciting music. 

And while Friday is a nod to the diverse talent of our region, on Saturday night is another chance to celebrate the anniversary with the indie band that opened The Pyramid Scheme six years ago: Guided By Voices (or GBV to insiders like local super fan and WGVU radio’s on air host Scott Vander Werf). 

Part of  The Scheme’s success is credited to the visionary venue owners, the brother and sister team of Jeff and Tami Vandenberg, who, along with area restaurateur Mark Sellers (Hopcat, Stella’s Lounge), labored to give birth a new kind of downtown indie-focused music venue that also could function as a neighborhood watering hole for residents. The space is unique because of the venue’s eclectic jukebox that is programmed to a seriously lovely array of beer taps devoted to Short’s Brewing Company’s artfully crafted brews. 

But another part of the birthday celebration and success go to the venue’s team of hardworking members, including the music booker Nicole LaRae, who has invited many national and international acts for our enjoyment. LaRae was profiled in Mostly Midwest Magazine in 2016, and we could not be prouder of her contribution to our indie music scene in her role. Check out what the magazine had to say here about LaRae’s work here.

We have a lot of music venues in our city and all are worth celebrating for their unique contributions, but as an arts writer, I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that one of the beautiful  aspects of The Pyramid Scheme is its unwavering commitment to our region’s indie-can-do spirit, from the diverse musical acts welcomed to our city to the numerous community-building events that it has been producing for years in our region. 

So, happy birthday, The Pyramid Scheme. You have forever changed the landscape of our nightlife in downtown, and we are enjoying so much more now because of your diverse programming. 

Mayor's Greening Initiative Arbor Day Planting: Be there for the future city

Actress Penelope Keith once said, “I plant a lot of trees. I am a great believer in planting things for future generations. I loathe the now culture where you just live for today.”

And this has never been more true in our region, as Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss will join Friends of Grand Rapids Parks and the Grand Rapids Urban Forest Project to invite the public to press pause on their Friday morning schedule and join their fellow citizens and area businesses for the 2017 Mayor's Greening Initiative Arbor Day Planting.

This concept of gifting a future city something as simple as an urban canopy is already something that we enjoy locally; many of our community’s neighborhoods are filled with a diverse array of trees that were the focus of another generation’s gifting to a generation they would never meet. 

Friday gives all of us an opportunity to be a part of this city gift-giving activity, with the mayor’s Greening Initiative Arbor Day seeking to plant 350 trees at the spacious Martin Luther King Park. 

Be sure to register in advance or arrive early to fill out necessary paperwork and receive instructions. The weather is shaping up to be the perfect temperatures for this activity, but do consider wearing layers just in case you need to peel off a few as you engage in this wonderful city beautification project that has distinct health benefits built in at every level. 

Register for the 2017 Mayor's Greening Initiative Arbor Day Planting here.

Dia del Niño/Children’s Day: See our future city at this community-focused celebration

Earlier this week, Lindo Mexico, a Wyoming, Michigan restaurant with a keen focus on community development, as well as presenting some of the tastiest sit-down Mexican food in our region, kicked off its annual Dia del Niño/Children’s Day celebration -- and the crowds were record-breaking.

While there were some who were not able to attend Dia del Niño/Children’s Day, there will be another chance for celebration this Saturday. More than 40 area organizations and businesses are banding together at Cesar E. Chavez Elementary (1205 Grandville Ave. SW) to create an event that is predicted to welcome more than a thousand parents and kids to celebrate this life-affirming holiday: Dia del Niño (Children’s Day).

This event, brought to us through a partnership with LINC UP -- a community development agency of our city -- and the Grand Rapids Public Schools seeks to celebrate all the children of our city at this day-long celebration. 

Organizers are planning on having a bounce house, food, raffles, prizes, live entertainment, face painting, a photo booth, and a host of community resources with tables at the event to connect citizens to local services. 

If you have never attended a Dia del Niño/Children’s Day, then this is your weekend to change that as all are welcome at this wonderful, community-organized event. 

Record Store Day 2017: Celebrating the indie spirit 10 years 'spinning'

The joy of attending Record Store Day (RSD) is its ability to be many things to so many people. 

This means that you can join the throngs who will be camping out in front of area record stores from Grand Rapids’ Vertigo Music to Grandville’s Corner Record Store in the hopes they will secure that special limited edition release that somehow you must have at all costs. 

And while this first-in-line style is great for the person who enjoys the chaos of a Black Friday shopping event, the other side of this day is the experience of being in an independent record store, where a music recommendation via a real conversation is more powerful than an Amazon reviewer’s perspective. 

Either way you choose to celebrate Record Store Day, don’t miss it because there is nothing else quite like this exciting event that has switched on a new generation, as well invited an established one, to think about the beauty of the local record store.

Highlights from three local venues celebrating RSD:

Vertigo Music - Local bands and DJs will provide entertainment throughout the day, along with refreshments from local businesses. Specials this year are listed on Vertigo’s Facebook event page.

Dodd’s Record Shop - Besides the usual RSD antics cooked up from the Rev. Charles Preston Smith and a host of indie music acts performances, Dodd’s is home to what is probably the first and only Record Store Day Parade. (It’s the Rev’s westside now, so keep bail money handy.)

Corner Record Store - Published list of acts performing this year will be The Other Brothers, Dangerville, Jake Stevens Band, Tired Blood, Oliver Draper, Nate, Devin and The Dead Frets, and Howard on Sax in between sets. Specials on used records all day long. 

Liminal Dissonance: GVSU artists redefine existence in new exhibition

On Grand Rapids’ westside warehouse district are many emerging creative studios and artists’ collectives/businesses. One group committed to the exploration of this region of our city is Grand Valley State University’s  (GVSU) Civic Studio, whose students have been working in the community on a very unique art presentation worth checking out while you have two last opportunities.

Friday night is the second public opening of Civic Studio’s "Liminal Dissonance" exhibition.

From their website: “Daily life exists in tension. The horrific and unjust becomes disguised as normal, the points of reference scrambled. Liminal Dissonance occupies the space between the struggle which is life under the current systems, and our unknown futures. This studio encourages viewers to redefine terms of existence.”

Civc Studio has also welcomed over the last year artists Jen Delos Reyes, Nicolas Lamper, and 2017 Whitney Biennial artist Beatriz Santiago Muñoz to take part in GVSU’s 2016-17 Visiting Artists series, Art and the Radical -- a thought-provoking program of lectures from some of the world’s best artists working on projects that aim to increase dialogue as they transform our understanding of art and our world.

Liminal Dissonance’s exhibition will be open Friday, April 21, 4:00 - 8:00 p.m. with a closing discussion on Wednesday, April 26, 4 p.m.

Jake’s Music Festival: 13th year is a game-changer for popular music event

In a break from the past, Jake’s Music Festival shakes things up for its 13th festival by moving to The Orbit Room. The shift is enabling more opportunities for this annual event to continue to evolve in its mission to provide the best of the area’s music talent, who perform to raise funds for our local chapter of Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF).

The lineup is a mixture of styles of music from some of our area’s veterans performers but also newer acts. Joining Jake’s Music Festival this year are The PotatoeBabies, The Autumnatic, The Jet Beats, Papa Vegas, and Lipstick Jodi.

The event will have a bar right in the room as the bands are performing, so you won’t miss a beat of the music as you grab a refreshment. 

Also, besides a host of silent auction items will be the chance to meet and watch artist (and comic) Sarah Jean Anderson create an original work of art live. 

If you are hungry, there is even food this year with Grand Rapids Pizza & Delivery on site and a pretty good chance that Connie's Cakes will be providing free samples of their delicious locally made treats.

As with almost every year, you can expect plenty of other surprises throughout the night but you can only experience them by showing up on Saturday night. One hundred percent of the face price of your ticket is a donation to Juvenile Diabetes Research -- so purchase a handful!

Ticket Donation $10. advance | $15 at the door | VIP $25 
Ages 12 and under FREE

Día del Niño: Celebrate Children's Day at Lindo Mexico

Each year our local Mexican Restaurant, Lindo Mexico, invites the community to participate in their Día del Niño/Children’s Day celebration. 

This event is based on the popular Mexican holiday of Día del Niño/Children’s Day and is celebrated every April 30 in Mexico.

On this special day, communities place their focus on the children -- our next generation -- by making them feel special through creative play and delicious food.  Lindo Mexico’s Owner Gricelda Mata believes that children help to show us how joyful and simple life can be. If you have not witnessed Mata’s event, then this is the year to be there because she really loves this holiday. 

Lindo Mexico’s annual Children’s Day celebration features different games, prizes, snacks, and, of course, free kids meals. 

Lindo Mexico believes that the foundation of our community is built on mutual respect as they invite us to join them again at this positive culture event. 

Be sure to bring the whole family out to this very unique community celebration of our next generation!

#shift: Reformatting a popular dance program with a work of poetry

Saturday, April 15, 7:30 p.m. (doors), 8 p.m. (performance)
Producing an event is really hard work and is something that is often overlooked by most. On April 15, Dance in the Annex (DITA) -- an award-winning contemporary dance troupe from our region -- and ArtPeers will produce their latest theatrical work at Wealthy Theatre, “#shift.”.

While seeking to follow their successful works of the past, “#shift” makes a few big changes that will only increase the benefit of this production and  those attending this one-night-only event.

This work will follow in the footsteps of their past wildly popular theatrical performances of “Trip The Light” and “Salmagundi,” where local and visiting choreographers and dancers perform to a live musical score supplied by area musical acts. 

But for “#shift,” a conceptual show that was originally slated for the fall of last year, the move to this spring has enabled choreographer Amy Wilson extra time to fine-tune what is certain to be one of their greatest performances for a host of reasons.

One key reason is Wilson’s and DITA’s ability to not just create compelling choreography that is visually rich and engaging, but, through this company’s networking within the dance community, they are able to curate a night’s worth of thrilling performances with locals and visiting dancers sharing the stage.

Unlike the past events, when audience members were treated to a constant turnover in the music pit at the front of the stage, by working just with one band, Paucity, and guests James Cornish and Alex Koi, they are able to create a seamless production that flows from music to dance to even the short films from ArtPeers that make up this program.

One standout this year is how the event came to be. When planning this production, Wilson shares that she had a poem that her husband, Erin Wilson, created that provided the thread from which all of these works drew inspiration. 

While visiting a rehearsal last week, Wilson shared that the selection of this poem would go on to become the line that all the choreographers, from herself to Hannah Sullivan, Darrell Haggard, Molly Ross, Amy Cova, and Lisa LaMarre and Dancers, would seek their inspiration.

Over the last few days I have allowed myself time to read Erin Wilson’s poem, “Block Of Now,” in preparation for Saturday’s performance and encourage all who are looking to attend to do the same, as it will help provide the mindset that these dancers, musicians, and filmmakers are all referencing for this night of contemporary dance. 

“I am still standing on concrete. 
Even with my eyes closed, I know I am surrounded on all sides
by steel and marble and glass.
I can feel myself encircled in
the constancy of movement,
all around me, in every direction. Enveloped by sound:
the collective tongue
of anonymous voices,
the harsh screams
of mechanical noise.”
— A Block of Now

Tickets for “#shift” can be secured from the Community Media Center’s website.

Disgraced: A Pulitzer Prize-winning look at a post-9/11 America

It is not often that Grand Rapids gets to welcome a Pulitzer Prize-winning theatrical work to the city. 

But, luckily for us, over the next couple weeks you will have a chance to experience the power of this artform to transform our minds through the Actors’ Theatre Grand Rapids’ production of the Ayad Akhtar’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “Disgraced.” 

This play has been a popular work of art with regional theaters that has garnered both praise and criticism -- all the stuff of good theatre, as it deals with contemporary issues ripped from the headlines and Facebook newsfeeds of our world. 

What makes this play so timely is because it is the first theatrical work to hit the mainstream with a frank treatment of Islamophobia in our post-9/11 America.

The production tells the story of two couples, all friends, who while attending a dinner party begin to dive into conversations that center around the nature of faith, race relationships, and those seen as “others” following Sept. 11, 2001. 

“At its heart, it is the story of distinctly human characters, each of whom, in today's culture, might be seen as the ‘other.’ To be viewed as different, or confusing, or strange.  Or even something to be feared,” says “Disgraced” Director and Founder of Actors Theatre Fred Sebulske, “And yet, each finds his/herself at moments in the play ‘victimizing’ the ‘other,’ as Akhtar reminds us that the emotional terrain that they live in is not as clear as we might wish it. Nevertheless, each is our neighbor, attempting to make sense of a world that makes judgments about others without knowing who they really are.”

Actors’ Theatre has partnered with the Kaufman Interfaith Institute at Grand Valley State University, along with a diverse set of leaders from the West Michigan community, to participate in Actors’ popular community-building talkback sessions immediately following all performances, except the opening night (April 13). Their hope is that through the experience of “Disgraced,” a community dialogue will open up as audience members talk about Islamophobia and the stereotyping of “others” in our own community

Tickets can be purchased online or through the box office. Talkbacks will occur after every performance other than Thursday, April 13. Student rush tickets, available one-hour prior to each performance, are only $10. 

Jesus Christ Superstar: An ancient story of upheaval for our modern times

In 1971, when the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar” by Andrew Lloyd Weber debuted on Broadway, the nation was gripped by a time of societal upheaval after so many leaders from the era before had met a similar untimely and violent end as Christ had in his time. 

What made “Jesus Christ Superstar” so popular at this time of history, and how this ancient story has since been s updated and delivered via a rock opera format, is, by all definitions, still the stuff that good musical theatre adores, from “Rent” to “Hamilton.”

“Jesus Christ Superstar” explores the last week of the life of Jesus Christ, starting with a triumphant entry into Jerusalem and ending with the Crucifixion. What makes this production stand out is the focus of those popular major characters, in particular, Jesus, Judas and Mary Magdalene, and how under the pen of Lloyd Weber these relationships might have played out. 

Returning for its second year at St. Cecilia’s Music Center, this year’s production benefits Girls Rock! Grand Rapids, and the show reminds us all of the power of one person to make an impact on this world for the betterment of all humanity. 

A program of Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities, Girls Rock! Grand Rapids is a volunteer-led week-long summer camp that exists to empower girls and women through music. Each year, girls at the camp are able to participate in instrument lessons, workshops, band forming, songwriting, and logo and album art creation. One other critically important element of this camp is that young women get to enjoy special performances from area female musicians.

Be sure to purchase tickets in advance for “Jesus Christ Superstar,” as this event will more than likely sell out due just to the sheer amount of talent on St. Cecilia’s stage.

Safari: A transformative expedition of song and dance

One thing that has been missing from local nightlife culture has been the lack of transformation within the spaces where various pop-up events appear. 

But that is about to change on Saturday night, when Adrian Butler of AB and Kelley Hughes of Hunt & Gather take over our local award-winning Long Road Distillers’ upstairs space to create a Safari party

This intimate space has proven its short history to be a favorite but flexible setting for everything from rock concerts, like Chance Jones’ reunion show, to too-many-to-count special community gatherings. But, to the best of my knowledge, it has never hosted an event like Safari. 

AB and Kelley, who are both celebrating their birthdays on this evening, promise attendees that they can expect to hear lots of newer sexy dance, ranging from R&B to hip hop and drawing from the eras of the mid-2000s to today’s current tracks…and, of course, Beyonce.  

Tickets are $7 in advance. If they do not sell out in advance, entry at the door is $10.

Goth Night: Grand Rapids DJ culture dips into the dark & obscure

There are no shortages of places where you can have a beer or a cocktail, but finding a place where you dance to an eclectic night of finely curated music that isn’t Top 40 or a throwback themed party event can be hard.  

Lucky for us, over the last few years a fine group of young deejays have been so successful at mining our past and merging it with our future with a series of analog driven events that it is hard to imagine a time when they were not as happening. 

And while we have had plenty of ongoing events devoted to the advancement of our DJ culture for more than a decade, the excitement around our current crop of DJs emerging in this region is what is fueling a lot of the energy.

On Thursday, one such label, Vinyl Fetish -- a group devoted to all things vinyl (versus digital) -- will launch another edition of their Goth Night in Grand Rapids’ westside neighborhood bar, Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill.

Hosted by Vinyl’s Joe Moon, Goth Night is a chance for Moon to spin some classics from an era of sounds that used to permeate many of Grand Rapids’ bars and clubs back in the day.

Joining Moon on the 1s and 2s is special guest DJ Brandon Hill of the deprived relations label. 

I’ve seen this duo together in the past, and you can expect a night of delicious vinyl tracks of heavy industrial and a healthy dose of obscure dark dance music. The chance to encounter such tracks in a setting as this is exciting and, honestly, a lot of fun.

The cost to attend is free, so the risk is even less if it is not your scene. 

Grand Rapids Home History Research: A Saturday “honey do” project that won’t make you sweat

If you have lived in Grand Rapids city limits, then it is quite possible that you have resided in a place that has a rich history of individual lives who have passed through your doorways. 

But what about the home? What is the history that eludes your wandering eyes as you scan the room asking what is the history of this particular space you call home?

Lucky for you, on Saturday there is a chance to don your metaphorical Sherlock Holmes cape, hat and pipe as you join others on a search for your home’s hidden history at a special workshop designed to answer many of your questions. 

In partnership with the Grand Rapids Main Library, our local Heritage Hill Association invites the public to join them on April 8th to learn how to conduct historical research on your home and its history. 

Formatted for the beginner, the event kicks off with an informative one hour presentation followed by a Q & A session. Immediately after you are invited to begin your research with assistance provided by the library. 

If you have any questions, please contact Heritage Hill Association’s Tansy Harris at 616-459-8950 or at Heritage@heritagehillweb.org with any advance questions.

Grand Rapids Film Festival: Easy as 1, 2, 3

Known for its year-round film arts programming, the Grand Rapids Film Festival (GRFF) once a year invites film fans to gather for a film festival that is unlike any other cinematic offering in our community.

For starters, while it is a festival devoted to all things film, the organizers invite the public to intersect with this unique art form via three distinct programming entry points.

On Thursday, they invite the public to join them at Notos Old World Italian Dining (6600 28th St SE, Cascade) for a special film edition of PechaKucha -- a lively and fast-paced presentation where area personalities have to tell a story with 20 slides that each are on the screen for just 20 seconds. 

Scheduled to appear at this special festival kick-off night of PechaKucha are Virginia Anzengruber, Lisa Enos, Shane Hagedorn, Sloan Inns, Michael McCallum, Lucas Miles, Bret Miller, Julian Newman, Tom Norton, John Otterbacher, John Harper Philbin, and Ella Swift. Each of these speakers will address the theme of how film has transformed their lives. 

On Friday is a chance to see how the art of fashion and film intersect during a special night titled “Fashion & Music for Film Showcase” (F&M). 

Featured at F&M is designer Sonja Millie from Belgrade, Serbia who will guide six students from Kendall College of Art and Design through a fascinating insider’s perspective on the process where the artful beauty and innovative design of fashion is merged with the music video industry. 

This event has that late night festival party feeling complete with screenings of music videos and short films, a live fashion show, and DJ dance party.

Finally, on Saturday comes a day-long film viewing event where films culled from the more than 100 submissions entered this year will be screened at Wealthy Theatre (1130 Wealthy St. SE). 

In keeping with the organizers’ mission to provide a diverse festival experience, attendees have two distinct paths they can follow.For 2017, GRFF films fall into two categories: quality entertainment and transformative.

From these two headings are a combined total of 28 films with filmmakers from 14 of these films making an appearance at GRFF on Saturday.

For a complete list of films screening this year, along with which films will have guest appearances, please visit the festival’s website here.

For tickets to all the events listed here, please visit the site for details.

Art.Downtown: Local arts festival devoted to showcasing what is possible to create in GR

It is hard to imagine, but Art.Downtown is older than ArtPrize -- and, yet, each year both of these free public events continue to create a compelling and rich bookend six months apart from each other that serve not just the city, but our local arts scene through their contributions.

Art.Downtown reflects the energy many of us feel as we exit from a cold season, inviting attendees to wander about the city on foot to explore the many spaces that are showcasing art created locally, as well as works from visiting artists. 

All told, Art.Downtown is 36 venues and is the culmination of hundreds of artists, curators, volunteers, gallery owners, and shopkeepers who will, for one day, open their doors to showcase art. It is also a day to enjoy hands-on activities, listen to live music, and discover many artfully crafted goods. 

Maps will be available from volunteers in both English and Spanish, and should your feet tire from all the walking, there will be free trolley transportation. 

If you only come down for ArtPrize, this might be a great time to add another free art event to your schedule. Now’s your time to support our local art scene -- plus, think of the steps you will be able to log as you enjoy a lovely day to walk in the city. 

Art.Downtown is a free event and is sponsored by Kendall College of Art and Design and Downtown Grand Rapids Incorporated. 

Transgender Day of Visibility: Stories of Stealth, Activism, and Positivity

Thursday, Mar. 30, 6:30 p.m. (doors), 7:30 p.m. (event)
If you have been driving around the city these last few days, then you most certainly have encountered a white, pink, and blue striped flag. These flags located in area businesses, arts centers, and community spaces are in celebration of Transgender Day of Visibility (TDOV).

And while we officially celebrate TDOV on March 31 each year, this year Grand Rapids has a host of events, including a special night of stories in a venue known for producing innovative, community-focussed programming. 

On Thursday, March 30 at 7:30 p.m., North Monroe neighborhood’s SpeakEZ Lounge presents a night of original and heartfelt stories at its Transgender Day of Visibility: Stories of Stealth, Activism, and Positivity event

For this special night of programming, the following topics will be showcased: 

Stories of Stealth: We live and thrive all around you. We are a part of your office, your bar, your organization, your community. Most of the time, you don’t even notice. We walk amongst you. Hear from our siblings who are living in stealth. Find out how they got there, and what has inspired them to come out and share their story.

Stories of Activism: In spite of adversity, members and allies of the community are doing amazing work to promote progress. Find out what’s happening in our neck of the woods and how you can get involved. 

Stories of Positivity: The world is full of hatred, and the trans community is no stranger to this fact. However, living as your true authentic self is one of the most empowering feats, and is worth celebrating. Hear personal experiences on how coming out as trans has been a positive experience worthy of celebration.

Each year the world celebrates TDOV as a day communities can show their support for the trans community. It is their aim to showcase to the world the numerous accomplishments of trans people, but also expose the very real battles of cissexism and transphobia still being waged against this population.  

And unlike Transgender Day of Remembrance, this day is not for mourning but a day of celebration and empowerment. 

SpeakEZ is an open and safe space for LGBTQ and allies.

Live Coverage: Year 15 shakes things up

"Live Coverage" at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA) has been many things over the years, and that is, in part, rooted in the design of this popular event that celebrates 15 this year.

What sets UICA’s annual fundraising event apart from all the others is the activities that happen within it each year, as area artists gather to showcase via their tiny pop-up studios the works they have created over the course of the night. 

But this year, on the occasion of the arts center’s 40th anniversary, it is shaking things up by making a few tweaks to an event you think you know by now.

For starters, this event will take place not at its new space on the corner of Division and Fulton, but at the ArtPrize Hub, the site of UICA’s former home at 41 Sheldon Blvd. 

As in years past, this year’s artists will still be invited to create live works of art for auction in front of attendees. But, this time around, gathering artists will be be turning their spaces into mini galleries where you can buy a work of art. 

A portion of the art sale proceeds go to support UICA and its diverse programming. 

In addition to great food and generous drinks, guests are encouraged to don 70s fashion and enjoy the rock music of Jesse Ray and the Carolina Catfish. 

Tickets:  $25 for the public and $10 for UICA members. Go here to purchase tickets.

Disclosure: Tommy Allen of Rapid Growth will be one of the 40 artists participating at Live Coverage.

Ghost-Note: Grammy winners on local tasting room’s stage

It is rare to hear of a Grammy Award winner hitting the stage of a local brewery taproom, but it’s even more rare when you consider that this duo both won their Grammys for work on separate projects. 

This is the beauty of Ghost-Note — a fresh, percussion-rich duo made up of Robert "Sput" Searight and Nate Werth, whose names are well known in the music industry for their talent.  

With a blend of beats rooted in West African, Afro-Cuban, and Brazilian samba, Ghost-Note  drum and percussion influences bring to the ear musical elements that harken James Brown, J Dilla, and the Beastie Boys.

Grand Rapids’ Founders Taproom is just the third stop on Ghost-Note’s first leg of the band’s spring 2017 tour. 

In advance of Ghost-Note’s Grand Rapids appearance, be sure to check out the duo’s Bandcamp page, where you can preview their energetic debut release, “Fortified.”

Admission is just $5.

Grand Rapids Latin American Film Festival: Vamos a ver el mundo juntos

There are plenty of reasons to love the seventh annual Grand Rapids Latin American Film Festival, but none is more fitting than the chance to enjoy all of these films for free.

This diverse array of films is brought to our community through the collaborative power of our area’s education institutions of Aquinas College, Calvin College, Davenport University, Ferris State University, and Grand Valley State University, and this event’s contributions to our cinematic culture has been going strong since its debut in 2010. 

Scheduled to appear this weekend are nine award-winning films from Brazil, Mexico, Guatemala, Argentina, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, and Uruguay.

What makes this festival so delightful is the level of scholarship and community engagement,  with guest speakers and refreshments paired with many of these films to deepen the experience for attendees. 

For complete list of all the films screening including showtimes and special guest speakers, please visit the festival’s website.

Art in Bloom: Limited edition biennial exhibition returns to the GRAM

It may be true that the flowers are finally starting to peek out this spring, but nothing will be able to properly prepare you for the sea of stunning florals that are a part of the Grand Rapids Art Museum’s bi-annual Art in Bloom weekend event.

Unlike other exhibitions at a museum, this one truly is a limited edition in that these special floral arrangements will only be up for three days. But what a wonderful 72 hours of excitement do they have planned for us.

Art in Bloom prominently features imaginative floral sculptures from the area’s leading floral designers in a museum setting, thus elevating these temporal works of art for patrons. 

These designers arrangements are inspired by art works found within the GRAM’s collection, fostering a new level of dialogue between the two pieces to develop. 

In addition to a juried awards ceremony on Friday night, patrons are invited to vote for the People’s Choice Award Winner by casting a single vote for their favorite floral sculpture over the three days. This final award will be presented right before the GRAM’s Sunday Classical Concert at 2 p.m.

If you depart the GRAM after it closes on Saturday and see a lot of folks frozen, it is not to say that Medusa was in town to turn them into stone. No, it is just the debut of Downtown Live -- a live mannequin event hosted throughout various downtown venues. Visit this link to find out more details on how to extend your fun this weekend in the city.

Art in Bloom’s 2017 schedule:

Friday, March 24, 2017
6:00 - 9:00 p.m. - Art in Bloom floral design on view and People’s Choice Award voting opens
6:00 p.m. - Opening Reception (Free for members, others admitted with paid regular admission.)
7:00 p.m. - Juried Winner Announcement
7:30 p.m. - Creativity Uncorked: Floral Painting

Saturday, March 25, 2017
10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. - Galleries open and People’s Choice Award Voting Continues
11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. - Art in Bloom Tour with Ron Platt and Alice Waterous
12:00 -1:00 p.m. - Little Member Morning (A special toddler-focused tour) 
1:00 p.m. - Drop-in Studio Tour

Sunday, March 26, 2017
12:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. - Galleries open and People’s Choice Award Voting Continues
1:30 p.m. - People's Choice Award voting closes
2:00 p.m. - People’s Choice Award Announced before Sunday Classical Concert
2:00 p.m.- Sunday Classical Concert Series: Music in Bloom

For more information about the GRAM’s Art in Bloom including the museum’s admission options, please visit their site here.

Andrés Chávez: Grandson of civil rights activist César E. Chávez in West Michigan

While many may be able point out the name César Chávez that adorn our nation’s many parks, schools, and even street signs, do folks really know who this man was and what his contribution is to our society?

To our Hispanic members of society, he is on par with other groups’ civil rights leaders, as Chávez led, over three decades, numerous hunger strikes, organized marches, boycotts, and other direct actions to support the farmworkers’ rights movement. 

And while Chávez passed away in 1993, his legacy lives on in so many -- but none had the perspective of his grandson, Andrés Chávez, who will be at Grand Valley State University to speak at its annual César Chávez Celebration at the Kirkof Center in Allendale. 

Having grown up with such access to a truly luminous leader, Andrés Chávez will share first-hand accounts of the solidarity, boycotts, and picket lines that led to the significant changes in how the farming industry treated its workers. 

Andrés Chávez has stated in the past that while he understands that many of the battles his grandfather fought and won are now a part of a civil rights past, he does believe Latinx millennials still have the power to initiate changes to have their voices heard in their communities on the issues facing them in contemporary America. 

Andrés Chávez, 24, is currently is majoring in public policy and administration at California State University, Bakersfield. Immediately after the lecture will be an informal meet and greet for attendees. 

This is a rare and wonderful opportunity for anyone who would like to hear a first-person perspective and learn more about one of America’s leading civil rights leaders. 

For more information on all the César Chávez Celebration activities that the college is hosting in conjunction with this year, please visit www.gvsu.edu/oma.

West Michigan Design Week: A city celebrates the power of design

A huge part of our city’s success is a direct result of its heritage, but none of this would be possible if it weren’t for great design woven into the fabric of who we are today. 

Starting this weekend, we will once again as a community celebrate the impact of design with world renowned speakers, interactive workshops, and special tours at the Fourth annual West Michigan Design Week that runs from Saturday, March 25 through Saturday,  April 1 at various locations in the city.

Highlights this year include keynote speakers Jason Mayden, a sneaker designer at Nike, columnist for Hypebeast Magazine, and CEO of Super Heroic; and John Maeda, head of design at Automattic (WordPress), author, and the 16th president of Rhode Island School of Design.

Mayden may have worked to create performative designs for athletes like Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Derek Jeter, and Michael Jordan, but at his Super Heroic the designer gets to focus his energy on providing quality play-performance footwear, apparel, and technology for elementary school-aged children.

With a background as an MIT-trained engineer, Maeda has produced award-winning creations, as well as assisted leaders, inventors, and designers to ideate beyond perceived boundaries, thus opening up new possibilities by design.

A few highlights of West Michigan Design Week’s more than 15 events include:“We expect over 2,500 attendees to join us at over 15 events planned throughout the week,” says Sara Klele, AIGA West Michigan Programming Director. “Design Week has become a mainstay for the design community in West Michigan. And as the design community here in West Michigan continues to grow in size and impact, it’s increasingly important for our organization to connect that group with the public.”

Klele wants to reminds us that Design Week is open to everyone,  “not just traditional designers.”

The event is produced by AIGA West Michigan (the professional association for design) in collaboration with American Institute of Architects - Grand Rapids (AIA) and Interaction Design Association - Grand Rapids (IxDA).

A full list of events and sponsors can be found at the Design Week website, www.wmdesignweek.com

Ride The Runway: Pick a lane and an outfit for the journey forward

What better way to kick to the curb your winter blues than a fashion show devoted to one of West Michigan’s favorite activities: bicycle riding.

And who better to host an event than our local She Rides Her Own Way (SRHOW), which has partnered with the Gilmore Collection’s Eve at The BOB for its very first bike and fashion show titled, Ride The Runway.

One of the joys of a SRHOW project that Rapid Growth has covered over the last few years has been founder Johannah Jelks’ ability to bring to the table so many diverse people and businesses to create something truly unique.

For this first time event, Ride The Runway will honor all four seasons of riding in the city with four different local cycling companies showcasing the best gear to extend your year round pleasure. 

Businesses participating on the runway include Alger Bikes (Winter/Spring), The Spoke Folks (Spring/Summer), Freewheeler (Summer), and Central District Cyclery (Summer/Fall).

Immediately after the runway show the music continues as guest DJ Superdre entertains attendees. 

In addition to presenting a fresh take on the popular runway show, this event will feature local vendors to ensure you get connected to what you need to be your best no matter the season. 

Proceeds from the night’s event will benefit our local JDRF Michigan Great Lakes West Chapter. 

She Rides Her Own Way is a locally organized program that seeks, according to their mission, “to build self-esteem and bring health awareness through biking to women by getting active outdoors.” Men are welcome as well to participate, too.

Purchase your $10 tickets in advance here

Mishigami: Concert under the (indoor) stars

Beginning his musical journey at the age of three, when he was fascinated by the rhythmic patterns of a drum, Miles Coleman would grow to become known as the artist known as Mishigami.

Along the way, he would study classical piano and be later introduced into the world of jazz, which would influence his distinct electronic style of music.

Mishigami is a part of the thrilling new music series at the Grand Rapids Public Museum, Concerts Under the Stars in the Chaffee Planetarium, where while reclining in comfortable seating, attendees can experience the wonder of the cosmos projected above as they take in the music of our region’s electronic, folk, funk and jazz inspired local music acts.

A Grand Rapids native, Mishigami has been performing since early 2014 and has developed a nice following of music fans because of his brand of taking multiple layers of keyboards and synthesizers and marrying them to an infectious percussion-driven beat to create an almost stream of conscious flow to the compositions. His style creates a soundscape of rhythmic, textural beats influenced by jazz melodies with intricate chord structures.

And no planetarium show would be complete without a visually-rich presentation on the museum’s great dome.

For the Thursday night concert, Mishigami’s compositions will be accompanied by Nate Eizenga, whose ability as a video DJ involves live mixing in real time videos to create a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

Locally, folks may recall seeing his visuals first in 2015 with Darkly on stage, but since that time Eizenga has worked with Rocksteady Disco, FourFour SoundSystem, and Vinyl Fetish. 

This is the third concert in the series and is sure to expand the minds and consciousness of those who will venture to edge of the universe by way of the Grand Rapids Public Museum.

Admission: $10 for GRPM members, $15 for non-members on the day of the concert. For further information about the series, please go here, and to purchase tickets, click here

Irish on Ionia: Michigan’s largest St. Patty’s Day street festival turns 7!

Each year on St Patrick’s Day the party faithful seek to find the perfect celebratory spot space for your annual marathon for your liver. 

Luckily for you this year, you have two great opportunities spread over two days (three if you want to count last weekend’s flurry of St. Practice Day events). 

First, you can select from any one of the numerous bars in our city that will be serving up the best in Irish entertainment on Friday.  But come Saturday, it is time to take your revelry out of the bars and into the streets. In this case I am speaking directly of Irish on Ionia

Irish on Ionia, hosted by BarFly Events, is celebrating its seventh year and is now Michigan’s largest St. Patrick’s Day street festival. It is on Saturday, March 18 from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. in downtown Grand Rapids. 

Spread over two event stages will be Irish acts, bagpipers, and even DJs to keep you moving as you enjoy a festive selection of beers, as well as food booths and trucks. 

There are two levels of tickets to consider, from the general admission ($20) to a special VIP (Very Irish Person) option, which includes the ability to skip to the front of the line, as well as in and out privileges.  

For a complete list of acts, as well as other festival details, please visit the event’s website.

47th Annual Sugarbush Festival: Tapping into a sweet history

One of the beautiful aspects of the Blandford Nature Center is not just the 143 acres on which it is situated with miles of hiking trails, but because once a year they invite the public to be a part of the Sugarbush Festival

This very analog event seeks to educate the public while at the same time give folks a chance to enjoy firsthand the ancient process of taking fresh tapped maple trees and turning the delicious sugary water into the dark and complex maple syrup.

This year’s event, which celebrates its 47th year, enables guests of the nature center to learn about the process with sugarbush demonstrations happening all day long on Saturday.

As a guest of the center, you will learn how to identify the best characteristics of what makes for the most ideal maple tree for tapping, explore the different historical processes -- from the Native American to the pioneer sugaring techniques -- and end your hands-on education with a taste test at Blandford’s Sugarhouse. 

It is an all day event complete with draft horses, maple sugar cotton candy, interactive games, real wildlife encounters, and so much more. 

Admission: $5 for members, $8 for non-members.

Bowles Family Benefit: Showing up for a community advocate

If you have lived in Grand Rapids for as long as I have, then you know that there are those in our community who are real champions of the arts. 

Most times these folks are easy to spot in our community from their names on the top of our arts buildings to the dedication plates often adorning many of the seats within our local theatrical venues. 

But there are also those less obvious champions who through their lived experience and devotion to community organizing within the arts have made a lasting impression just as valuable as any name on a building or brick. 

One such person is our singer/songwriter Ralston Bowles, who not only has made a professional name for himself, but along the way has shepherded so many acts over the years to the center stage spotlight.

Ralston has done this quietly via numerous activities, from his early days of showcasing local musicians on one of our local commercial radio stations to the wildly popular Tuesday Night Music Club he hosted at Meijer Gardens. 

And while this community of artists has highlighted our capacity over the years to care for our artists in need, I want to break from the standards of this entertainment section to feature an important fundraiser worth considering attending this Sunday. 

Recently, Ralston Bowles’ wife, Cindy, was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer, and because of the added financial strain this has placed on our first family of our local music scene, area musicians are banding together on March 19 at The Intersection Lounge to raise money to help them during their hour of need.

Ralston has been a true champion for so many in the performing arts over the years, and it is time for us as a community to consider how we can shower this family at this time with the gratitude and funds they so humbly deserve.

John Sinkevics of Local Spins will be the emcee for the event with the following acts scheduled to perform:

Josh Rose                            3:30 p.m.

Fauxgrass                            4:00 p.m.

Joe Shields                            4:40 p.m.

Channing & Quinn                    5:05 p.m. 

Drew Nelson                            5:45 p.m. 

Troll for Trout & Larry McCray    6:15 p.m.

Mick Lane                            6:55 p.m.

Eric Engblade Trio                    7:25 p.m.

Hannah Rose Graves             8:05 p.m.

The Soul Syndicate             8:35 p.m.

MOVEMEDIA: World premieres all night long

Friday - Sunday, Mar. 10 - 12, 6:30 p.m. (doors), 7:30 p.m. (performances)

It is hard to imagine that Michigan’s only professional ballet company is celebrating is 46th season, and part of this success is their ability to reinvent and refresh our opinions of this very physical art form. 

This weekend, fans of dance will flock from all over the state to join others at the Peter Martin Wege Theatre for the Grand Rapids Ballet’s seventh edition of MOVEMEDIA. This innovative dance series is stunning for its expansive definition of what makes dance so vital and contemporary, and it is brought to this region through the leadership of Grand Rapids Ballet Artistic Director Patricia Barkerand Executive Director Glenn Del Vecchio.

MOVEMEDIA is a chance for our local ballet troop to invite other artists to the stage for a night of dance that continuously challenges those long held stereotypes about the artform.. 

Acting as a dance incubator, MOVEMEDIA showcases fresh and visually arresting new works by some of the world’s most significant and celebrated contemporary choreographers.

Aptly titled “MOVEMEDIA: World Premieres,” this weekend’s debuts will feature never-before-seen works from three world-renowned choreographers. Joining our local troop on stage this weekend will be special guests Robyn Mineko Williams (Hubbard Street), Robert Dekkers (Post:ballet), and Penny Saunders (Hubbard Street). 

What makes MOVEMEDIA stand out is this dance showcase’s ability to seamlessly blend all the visual elements of a performance, from set pieces to props to lighting, in a modern space that is illuminated creatively through the use of technology and digital media to enhance the body in motion. 

Needless to say, this is not your grandparent’s ballet, as MOVEMEDIA employs the talents and tools of our modern age to create something truly breathtaking in the heart of our city.

For tickets, please purchase them here or at the box office. 

Photo by Eric Bouwens

Laughfest 2017: Annual tickle your funny bone event turns 7!

Starting with a community kick-off celebration held at Rosa Parks Circle on Thursday, Mar. 9, 5:30 p.m, LaughFest 2017 is inviting those looking to have their funny bone tickled with their West Michigan Live Mannequin Challenge. 

From there, the fun doesn’t end until Sunday, March 19.

Highlights of this year’s festival include many showcase series that are quite popular with locals, as well as a long list of new faces and headliners offering truly something for everyone.

A few standouts that could get overlooked as headliners create big buzz are those special events that are connected to various organizations and issues of interest to members of our region.

For starters, Samuel J. Comroe will be at The B.O.B. (Thursday, March 16, 7:30 p.m.) as a part of partnership with DisArt -- a biennial festival devoted to the arts and their intersection with disability. 

Comroe has been featured on Conan O’Brien and BET's “Real Husbands of Hollywood” with Kevin Hart (alum of LaughFest) and has received top honors during San Francisco Comedy Competition and the Ricky Gervais Just Saying Stand-up Competition.

Even LaughRX is back with Disability Advocates of Kent County's The Real & Funny Side of Living Life with a Disability with comics hailing from our local scene. It is sure to be a wild night of fresh talent on the stage at the Grand Rapids Art Museum. 

Another highlight is the chance to laugh through the pain of comic Jeanette Rizzi, daughter of a monk and nun raised in Florida, whose “Blindsided" show at Dog Story Theater (Saturday, March 18, 5 p.m.)  explores the comic depths she experienced after the suicide of her best friend. Rizzo’s show is about finding hope during seemingly hopeless times.

Lastly, Rapid Growth’s Publisher Tommy Allen will join hosts Dan and Michele Terpstra, DJ Snax, Emcee Fred Stella, #WeRFunnyGirls, Pop Scholars, Stu McCallister, Nancy Gallardo, Teresa Thome, and seven other presenters on stage at Wealthy Theatre for the fast-paced and personal PechaKucha

Japanese for “chit chat,” PechaKucha is sure to tickle the funny bone as presenters will have just 20 slides that are on screen for a total of 20 seconds each to visually illustrate their story with the audience. This quick format means that mayhem is sure to happen, and that is sure to bring laughter in unexpected places throughout the evening. 

So, while LaughFest is turning seven this year, it appears to be just as fresh and committed to showcasing the best in emerging, diverse and established talent right here in West Michigan.  Besides, being a part of this annual festival is the best way to chase the blues of this year away. 

No Motherland Without You: Images of North Korea

There are many places in this world where, if you have the funds, you will not have difficulty accessing the earth’s vast cultures.

But there are those that are (even) more difficult to reach in our ever-splintering globe following the U.S. November elections. One such place that is enshrouded in mystery is North Korea.

For the small price of a few gallons of petro, you can get to the De Pree Art Center and Gallery at Hope College and peak into this mysterious nation via the visually arresting photographic works of artist Tom Wagner, who made several trips to North Korea from 1995 to 2004.

“No Motherland Without You” is Wagner’s homage to the popular North Korean song that is also considered an Ode to Kim Jong-il, (the father of the current Kim, North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un). 

“An interesting element of revisiting this work in the present, for me, is seeing how little North Korea, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, has changed, and how the stories, the news, the headlines now are the same as they were during each of my trips,” says Wagner.

The images exhibit the politics of fear, surveillance and a divine, unquestioned leader who determines facts and truth to fit a preferred nationalist narrative, looking at the architecture and people of the place. 

And this is unlike any other photo-based show we’ve seen locally in a while, as these images are large prints with four-by-eight-feet rear-illuminated duratrans printed locally at 40 Visuals of Spring Lake.

This exhibition also includes a massive 55-inch touchscreen display for easy navigation to other works, as well as a projector show.

Be sure to go quickly: the opportunity to look inside the headlines about North Korea will only be available until Thursday, Mar. 16

Rent: 4,320 minutes to see the 20th anniversary of this Pulitzer Prize-winning rock opera

The Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway musical “Rent" has suffered a lot of ridicule over the years, from comics to pop culture lampooning something that became a bit of a cultural phenomenon.

But if you were like me and other artists in 1996, when “Rent” would debut on stage, it was a beautiful, white hot spotlight revealing the lives of folks who for far too long had been overlooked by society. In short, this Broadway stage was filled (again) with people who felt like people I knew in the city and whose real crime was that they were trying to break through to something new. 

The musical is loosely based on the Puccini's opera “La Bohème” and is a modern rock opera packed with powerful vocal performances about the lives of young artists hoping to survive in a city rebounding from the brink of economic disaster. 

Set in New York City's East Village during the dark days after Reagan — who botched the AIDS crisis in America —  this face-paced musical is built around the rage, confusion and heart of a forgotten generation all trying to find themselves while navigating their emerging adult life and its meaning in a time of disease with no real cure in sight. (Note: The drug AZT is featured in “Rent,” but during the time this musical is set, it was a problematic prescriptive because of its high toxicity.) 

“Rent” is traveling across the nation as part of a special 20th anniversary tour of the show and will only be on stage locally for three days, so be sure to get your tickets soon.

Jonathan Larson, creator of “Rent,” would never live to see his most popular work go on to dominate the Tony Awards in 1996, much less see it open on Broadway, because the artist would die the night before previews were to begin.

But his life would be measured by theatre-goers via the love he sparked as thousands of outcasts, artists and boot strappers adopted this musical as a rally cry of a generation. And much like the opera it is based upon, “La Bohème,” this contemporary musical, which deals with real world problems in the wake of a plague, would go on to win a generation of new theatre-goers’ hearts, thus ushering in a new era of modern musicals. 

I know this story’s powerfully honest message all too well because just a little over a month after returning from NY to see it live with the original cast in1996, my then partner would pass away from AIDS.  Art does mimic life in remarkably painful ways. 

“Measure your life in love.” - J. Larson. 


"Rent" is part of Broadway Grand Rapids 2016 - 2017 season. To see what they have lined up for 2017 - 2018, including "Wicked," "Les Miserables," and the return of Deborah Cox to GR in "The Bodyguard," please visit their site. 

Simmer Down at Slows: Bar BQ and chill

The history of Slows, a barbecue restaurant chain launched in Detroit’s historic Corktown neighborhood, is a tasty one, but also a story with a huge community engagement piece built in right at the start.

It was while on a 2011 Rapid Growth bus trip to Detroit to observe and connect with area entrepreneurs  and change-agents that we learned from Phil Cooley, co-owner of Slows Bar BQ (and founder of Ponyride, a Detroit-based nonprofit that supports artists and entrepreneurs), that we would learn that the making a successful restaurant takes a lot more than just a good sandwich. 

What stood out from our visit to Detroit was how when Cooley was sweating away in this once boarded-up, old storefront while remodeling the interior of this restaurant, neighborhood residents would press their faces to the glass to observe. 

On a street with little to no economic activity happening on the strip,  many thought he was crazy to open this venue up in a place on the edge of everything. In fact, as folks inquired, he would ask them if they wanted to help. 

And this is where I believe the secret to Slows success was something more than what was in the sauce: locals showed up to assist this young dreamer to help make Slows happen in their neighborhood. 

And the rest is a delicious history. 

At the Grand Rapids location of our Slows located in the Grand Rapids Downtown Market, an evolution of the state’s best BBQ is emerging in this space that is located (once again) on the fringe of a neighborhood. 

Not only has Slows recently added sit-down service alongside its marketplace style of eating (for those in a hurry), they will on this Thursday night welcome one of the area’s favorite deejays, Jeff Finan, to spin a nice two hour set of some of the most dope reggae tracks as guests enjoy a special night devoted to rum drinks and hickory spiced Jamaican jerk chicken wings.

Finan is a member of Grand Rapids’ Vinyl Fetish and is known for his ability to take an obscure tune and give it new life under his touch. Don’t believe me? Then just ask anyone who caught his set last weekend at Billy’s, where, among the many tunes he spun, he dropped a rare Grace Jones remix of Grace Jones’ “Pull Up to the Bumper” that he recently discovered in the record bins at Vertigo on Division Avenue.

This is sure to be a festive and fun night with plenty of impromptu moments of dance from our local (and growing) dance music community.

For the most up to date information, be sure to follow their Facebook event page.

Grand Raggidy Roller Derby: Double header on wheels

Grand Rapids has had its share of women’s sports teams over the years, but the Grand Raggidy Roller Derby is one of the only contemporary sports teams to last more than 10 years.

On Saturday, our roller derby teams, the Grand Raggidy Attack and the Grand Raggidy All Stars, will welcome the Barbed Wire Betties from Dekalb County, Illinois and Tri-City Roller Derby from the Waterloo region of Ontario. 

This is the first time that the Barbed Wire Betties have ever faced the Grand Raggidy Attack, but both teams have a well-deserved reputation for being real scrappers -- so you know this match opening a double header is going to be an intense one. And while our Grand Raggidy Attack have a predicted 70 percent chance of beating the visiting team, the Betties are currently on an unstoppable winning streak, making our home rink advantage dependent on our fans to show up en masse. 

After this match, the Grand Raggidy All Stars will roll like hell against one of the fastest teams in the league, Tri-City Roller Derby. This will be a nail-biter, as both teams arrive in town with a set of skills that will surely lead to an exciting game with so much action that you might just drink the bar dry. 

In their last match, the All Stars lost to Tri-City by only 30 points, but our team is up for the challenge and, as always, we’re willing to bet against all odds for a hometown win. 

As with any Grand Raggidy Roller Derby event, the fun doesn’t land just on the rink because tonight’s theme is all things western, so giddy up to the match in your most festive cowgirl or cowboy outfit. Heck, you can even come dressed as a cow, but if someone tries to rope you…well…you have been warned. 

Tickets to the event are $12 in advance or $15 at the door. Discounts for kids, students and seniors are also available. Pre-sale tickets can be purchased from skaters prior to the event. Advanced tickets can also be purchased at Brown Paper Ticket’s site

Sausage making workshop: Tasty meats made delicious by you

One of the many new shops to pop up in East Hills is the Louise Earl Butcher, but what makes this neighborhood business stand out is its workshop-themed classes that it offers from time to time.

For its upcoming Sunday workshop on sausage making, attendees will have a chance to learn how to make sausage from scratch. And if you are like me, then finally you’ll be able to justify purchasing the meat grinding and sausage making attachments for your KitchenAid mixer. 

But it is not necessary to have such tools since this hands-on experience in a spacious butcher’s kitchen will showcase how to grind your meat, season your pork mixture, and sort casings for stuffing. 

The class will learn how to make an Oaxacan chorizo and a craft beer sausage. 

If you are unfamiliar with Oaxacan chorizo, it is a Mexican sausage very deep in color with a delicious complex and tangy flavor infused with lots of chili. 

Don’t be afraid of the spice because what you are creating is a wonderfully smoky richness that makes chorizo a perfect sausage to serve with your eggs and toast in the morning.  Personally, I enjoy tossing in sautéed onions to the final steps of cooking chorizo. 

Whereas the Oaxacan Chorizo will be prepared as the loose variety (think ground), the craft beer sausage is going to be a stuffed variety made with beer from one of the local breweries. (The butcher has not decided yet but if one is concerned about gluten, it is best to alert the butcher in advance of this workshop.) 

The best part is that after you have learned how to make sausage you will be departing the shop with approximately 2 pounds of the sausage that you made at this community-building event that is organized around the concept that slowing down to make sausage shouldn’t be intimidating. 

As of press time, this popular event has now sold out, but the next chance to learn how to make sausage will be May 7. If you are someone who cannot wait, please contact the butcher to be added to a list just in case any openings should appear for Sunday’s event. 

Cost is $50 per person, call the shop at (616) 930-3602 to make reservations. 

Urban Forests: A natural history of trees and people in the American cityscape

Over the years, we have had plenty of dialogue in our region as to how we can be a greener society, from the way we encourage recycling to the advocacy of riding bikes as a way to offset carbon emissions.

And while these are often very public relations-driven efforts, behind the scenes we are a community concerned about our built environment (the resources and infrastructure designed to support human activity, such as parks, buildings and more). Through the addition of advances in green infrastructure, we can begin to reduce the threats of stormwater, delivering smarter policies that improve our environment and society, as well as increase economic benefits. 

One of our best defenses is the use of a long lived creation on our planet, the tree. 

On Wednesday at the downtown Grand Rapids Public Library, author Jill Jonnes, founder of the Baltimore Tree Trust, will share insights from her work in a lecture titled, “Trees as Green Infrastructure.”

Jonnes, an author of numerous books, has most recently released “Urban Forests: A Natural History  of Trees and People in The American Cityscape,” a rich celebration of the beauty and important duty trees play within our urban landscapes.  

This timing is perfect: as we begin our spring season, this lecture provides us with a reminder of the role that these living landmarks have on our city. From helping define our communities to cooling the air, trees also connect us to history, as they often outlive ourselves.

After the lecture, I’d suggest visiting the Friends of Grand Rapids Parks’ Urban Forest Project to learn how to become more involved in their critical work within this area. Earlier on this day, Friends’ will host a Q&A and book signing event with Jonnes at East Hills’ Books and Mortar

Both events are free and open to the public.

Blow Up: Inflatable Contemporary Art

Opening Reception: Thursday, Feb. 23, 5:30 p.m. (through April 23)
Too often art that is nontraditional can get a bad rap for a host of reasons, from being too cheery, kitsch, or nostalgia-driven to being viewed as not highbrow enough for the serious art collector.

But once in a while comes a show that hits on these often divergent stressors illustrated above to showcase not only what is possible with an installation but how such works can lift the imagination of the viewer.

That is the beauty of “Blow Up: Inflatable Contemporary Art,” a traveling exhibit that originally debuted at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek, California before (literally at times) filling up the gallery spaces at the Muskegon Museum of Art.

“Blow Up: Inflatable Contemporary Art” was created by the center’s Curator of Exhibitions Carrie Lederer at the Bedford Gallery and seeks to celebrate the history and joy of an art movement with roots stretching back to the late 60s and early 70s. 

And while the use of inflatables would fall out of fashion, the thing about time is that everything old has a chance to be revived, and “Blow Up” celebrates its most recent resurgence.

The show is a collection of representational and nonrepresentational objects that all vie for your attention while seeking to present a distinct point of view that can only be experienced by visiting this fantastic exhibition first hand, as photos cannot even begin to do justice to the scale of many of these objects.

Examples of the playful nature of this artwork can be discovered within San Francisco artist Guy Overfelt’s tribute to the film “Smokey and the Bandit,” as he has created a life-size replica of the Trans Am made famous by this popular movie from the 70s. 

One of my personal favorites is the “Somehow I Don't Feel Comfortable” inflatable of two enormous pink bunny rabbits that seek to reflect Japanese culture’s obsession with cute and anime, but with a disturbing nod to the realities of this country’s availability of space in its urban housing markets. Anyone who has seen images of the cage-like housing or pod hotel movement emerging in Asia can quickly understand the contrast of cute and cramped. 

“Blow Up” includes major works by Claire Ashley (Chicago), Lewis deSoto (Napa), Patrick Flibotte (New York), Billie Grace Lynn (Miami), Guy Overfelt (San Francisco), Momoyo Torimitsu (Tokyo), and Christo and Jeanne-Claude (New York).

At this free opening reception on Thursday, the museum will offer refreshments as well as a chance to secure your very own balloon animals by inflatable artist Jim Perry.

Food for Change: Making a case for alternative economies

The beauty of the era we find ourselves living right now is that the technology we use on a daily basis allows us immediate access to information as we seek to understand and solve complex problems in society. 

One area that Rapid Growth has been tracking for some time has been our local cooperative movement in all of its forms, from housing and fiber to a brewery and grocery store.

On Friday, Feb. 24 at the West Michigan Food Co-op a new documentary, “Food for Change,”  will be screened for locals who are curious about this alternative form of community wealth building.

Hosted by the Grand Rapids Food Co-op Initiative, the 82-minute documentary showcases the history of the food co-op movement in three distinct and easy-to-digest parts. 

Part one explores the conditions that led to the Great Depression -- a time that mirrors much of our present age, when fraudulent credit schemes, corporate control dominated systems, and an alarming increase of wealth disparity emerged in America. Co-ops began to play an increasingly important role during this period, offering a brief glimmer of hope and access for so many citizens who had been left out of the economic recovery of this time period. This movement would be short-lived as the post-World War II era brought new economic advances and challenges. 

Part two looks at co-ops as they begin to gain a new popularity during the 1960s, just as a new go natural movement began to take hold during a time when folks began to eye contemporary society and ask more questions from those in the food business. 

Part three brings us to the present, when local farmers, co-ops, and discerning consumers seek to wrestle back control of their local food economies. This documentary is sure to spur a lot of local dialogue on a topic growing more and more present in our society. 

Right before the screening will be a short presentation from local co-ops. Since this is an indoor picnic style event, please bring your own blanket or a folding chair. The event organizers will provide popcorn and other snacks for a small expense.

Please be respectful of the New Beginnings restaurant’s parking and use the co-op’s lot. 

Admission: Organizers are asking for a suggested donation of $5 per person or $10 per family to cover the cost of screening this documentary. 

Butterflies Are Blooming: Tropical-themed therapy for winter-weary Grand Rapidians

Are you sick of the winter chills? Can’t bear the thought of leaving your blue Snuggie? Do you yearn for that inner, satisfying feeling you had many months ago in Michigan when your bones were actually warm? 

Well, lucky for you, a much-needed and healing tropical 85 degrees and 70 percent humidity warmth has always been just a few miles away from your home in Grand Rapids at the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park.

And in case you needed more than the promise of warmth and the chance to see Ai Weiwei’s historic “Natural State” exhibition, then the lively and light annual Fred & Dorothy Fichter “Butterflies Are Blooming” exhibition might be just the lure you need to get you there.

This popular annual event invites you to the Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory, where more than 7,000 tropical butterflies from Africa, Asia, South America, and Central America will take flight after being birthed in the nation’s largest temporary tropical butterfly exhibition. 

Scheduled to appear this year is the blue Common Morpho, Clearwings, Lacewings, and Zebra Mosaics. Fans of the Longwings will enjoy their patterns-rich details found in the Small Blue Grecian, Doris, Postman and Tiger butterflies. Gliders will also be appearing like the Emperor, Ruby-spotted, and Tropical Swallowtails.

So, get off your couch, leave the drafty pub, grab the kids (not in this order), and head to the Gardens, where nearly 60 distinct and colorful species fly freely in this five-story, 15,000 square-foot conservatory.

Over the next two months, these winged performers are with us; more than 170,000 human visitors from all over the world will migrate to the Gardens to partake in this colorful exhibition of natural beauty. 

For more information, including admission and special programming created for this annual event, please visit its website.

12th Annual Winter Beer Festival: Pound Michigan brews in the open air

It is no secret that the biggest beer event on this side of the state is the annual Winter Beer Festival, which is not only turning 12 this year but continues to grow as it attracts craft beer lovers from all over the nation. 

And while the Saturday afternoon event at the Fifth Third Ballpark has been sold out since tickets went on sale, the Friday night event is a pleasant alternative for those who like to drink under a sunset and stars instead of the day drinking associated (and redefined) with Saturday’s session.

For the serious craft brew freak, here is an exhaustive list of all the beers appearing at the Winter Beer Festival this year.

And, as we mentioned that Saturday is completely sold out (again), there are still a few tickets available for Friday. These tickets cost $45 each (plus applicable fees) and include 15 three-ounce samples.

Remember this is an outdoor festival so dress for the weather. 

For the most current information, including frequently asked questions (what you can bring into the festival, hotel packages, shuttle services, etc.), visit the Michigan Brewers Guild 12th Annual Winter Beer Festival website.

Hand to God: Another fantastical Michigan debut

Opening Thursday, Feb. 16, 8 p.m. (through Feb. 25)
It is hard to imagine that the pipeline from Broadway flows so easily to West Michigan, but if you have been following this trend then it is not hard to see why “Hand to God” is having its Michigan debut at Actors’ Theatre.

Just a year ago, one of Broadway’s most shocking successes drew its final curtain, and almost as swiftly our local Actors’ Theatre bid for the rights to stage this play. 

Unlike most dramatic productions, this play defies all expectations with its edgy, laugh-out-loud humor mixed with poignancy. As a result of this winning combination, this little play that could ended up with four impressive Tony Award nominations, including the competitive Best Play category.

The story revolves around Jason, a student from a Christian Puppet Ministry who has found the best path to a saintly life is to adhere to the teachings of the Bible. 

But the play suddenly careens on another path when his foul-mouthed puppet named Tyrone begins to hand out eyebrow-raising advice on how to satisfy urges and deal with desires. This sets in motion a story where Jason must not just confront Tyrone’s words but will go on to question everything he knows. 

The New York Times reviewer writes, “You can enjoy ‘Hand to God’ merely as a festival of filthy hilarity, like ‘The Book of Mormon.’ But as I watched the play this year, for the third time, I found myself peering more closely into its psychological depth, and finding in it a weird mirror of our unsettling times…Maybe if more of the world’s troubled youth discharged their demons with the help of sock puppets, things might not look so grim.”

“Hand to God” is part of Actors’ Theatre impressive 36th season and represents (yet again) why it is one of the most exciting theatrical outlets in our city. 

Tickets: $28-Adults, $22-Student/Seniors, $10-Student Rush (available one hour prior to each performance) Tickets can be purchased at www.atgr.org or by calling the box office at 616-234-3946.

Retro D'Luxe: Get into the groove at this 80s prom

Prom is a big deal, and on Saturday night at The Pyramid Scheme Retro D’Luxe is looking to trip a few of your switches as they return to the popular downtown entertainment venue with a special installment of their popular nostalgia-driven dance party. 

For starters, the night’s theme is all 80s music prom. That means you can not only get your groove on with some of the most blindly ambitious and adventurous music ever created, but you will get to experience it like many of us did at our proms: in some of the most outlandish of fashions from the era.

Prom season is an economic boom for the city, as high schoolers typically prepare to get dressed up for the dance. One retailer reported that most teens will spend an average of $150 on a dress. Once you add upgrades, like alterations or a handmade, custom dress, then the price easily rises to upwards of $500. For the boys to rent a tuxedo will set a guy back $80. 

But you don’t have to spend that much, as we have plenty of second hand stores or vintage shops, like Flashback on Leonard, to help you get into that perfect 80s gown or retro-tux with a t-shirt.

The best part is that, unlike your high school prom, you are encouraged to drink in the open and not hide it as you might have done then.

For faster and guaranteed entry at this prom, be sure to purchase your $5 ticket in advance or be left crying in the hallway on this fun-filled night.

Taste of Soul Sunday: Celebrate Black History in an evolving city

There are plenty of ways to celebrate Black History Month in our region, but the one event that is a thrill to attend for so many reasons is downtown Grand Rapids Public Library’s Taste of Soul Sunday

At this annual event, you will have a chance to participate in hands-on activities and watch live performances related to Grand Rapids’ African American heritage and culture.  Also, as the name implies. there will be plenty of good eats from local restaurants (Daddy Pete's BBQ, Big Ed's BBQ, Gursha Ethiopian Restaurant, Malamiah Juice Bar) to sample at this day-long activity. 

Musical performances will include Glenda Williams, Sound Proof, Kathy Lamar, and Young Men 4 Christ. 

There are a series of lectures, too, ranging from Dr. Benjamin Wilson on the lives of “ordinary Black Folks” who lived in West Michigan between 1919 and1950 to David L. Head’s story of Granville T. Woods, the first African American mechanical and electrical engineer. 

In addition to activities for kids, like how to make an African tribal mask, there will be an educational workshop on how to create those elegant head wraps led by Master Wrapper Zarinah El-Amin Maeen.

Taste of Soul Sunday is free to the public and sponsored by the Grand Rapids Public Library Foundation, with additional support from Downtown Grand Rapids Incorporated and Meijer.

For more information, call 616-988-5400 or visit the library's website for the entire schedule. 

Los Tucanes de Tijuana: Narco culture’s musical ambassadors

Los Tucanes de Tijuana (LTdT), one of Mexico’s most successful musical acts, will be in Grand Rapids on Saturday night, and judging by their long legacy in the industry, this is going to be a thrilling concert for a host of reasons.

First, LTdT has created one of the most amazing discographies of any Mexican musical act, with a prolific knack of creating compelling and timely compositions that reflect the times.

What started in 1987 at a pub at Bar Razza's Club in Tijuana on the Baja California, their sound has evolved to a commentary on current events.

Secondly, they are part of a genre of Latin American music that leans on the traditions of the Norteña music (similar to the polka or corridor music), but also the emerging genre of  Narcocorrido, which is famously known in Mexico as drug-praising ballads examining the realities of Mexico’s contemporary culture. 

Sure, it is controversial material to base a ballad or dance song on, but isn’t most art created to reflect the realities of any culture? 

LTdT has a solid world following, as they are one of the biggest Latino acts to come out of Mexico, with more than 32 gold records, 30 platinum records, 66 Billboard Magazine hits, and 12 Grammy nominations. The group landed a Latin Grammy Award for Best Norteño Album (2012) for their release “365 Dias.” 

Pre-sale tickets are just $35, with a special children’s admission of $20. Want to wait until Saturday night to purchase a ticket, then expect to pay $50 day of show. 

Jammies: Live local music love festival turns 18!

Folks are always asking what is the best bet for those seeking to connect more to our local arts scene and honestly, one of the best answers is still “by attending listener supported radio WYCE 88.5 FM’s Jammies.”

This annual award show is really a right of passage for musicians who have not just labored to create a new release but have often played out in a variety of venues from brew pubs to patio bars to even house parties and basement shows. 

And for $5 (suggested cash donation) you will gain access to a thrilling night of music as 25 acts perform across two massive stages at The Intersection. 

In between the performances nearly a dozen awards will be given out over the course of the night’s entertainment. 

Another perk of the evening of back-to-back performances is that 16 of the 25 music acts have never performed at the Jammies before!

The Jammies is also a chance for the Greater Grand Rapids live music-loving audience to contribute to meeting the needs of its charity partner this year: Feeding America West Michigan.

The Jammies encourages folks to donate non-perishable food items (or cash) to the Feeding America table. (Just a side bar on food donations: No one is looking for old, outdated cans of creamed herring or that lonesome jar of capers. Be mindful that food drives are not a chance for you to clean out your kitchen cabinet of things you don’t want or don’t know what to do with. It is why I keep that “gifted” can of spotted dick on the shelf at home.) 

The Jammies’ schedule is online and is an all ages show until 11p.m.

Creating a city of inclusion: Modern immigration, local impact

The headlines these past few weeks have been devoted to a host of topics but none has generated more energy than those that are addressing the latest battle over the plight of the immigrant in America.

In advance of their latest musical production of “Ragtime,” Civic Theatre is offering a week out of its February 24 opening a special panel discussion event looking at what makes a city inclusive.

Created in partnership with Grand Rapids Public Library, Creating a City of Inclusion: Modern Immigration, Local Impact welcomes panelists from organizations working within immigrant & refugee services of our region. 

Panelists include:
  • Pastor Ricardo Tavarez from the En Vivo Church
  • Executive Director Susan Kragt of the Refugee Education Center
  • Program Manager Kristine Van Noord at Bethany Christian Services’ Refugee Adult & Family Programs
  • Kelsey Herbert from the Office of Social Justice at Christian Reformed Church of North America
  • Grand Rapids Public Library’s Irina Nadeau
The panel will delve into the history of the immigrant path within the Greater Grand Rapids area and share insights on how and why our region needs to continue our tradition of welcoming and supporting these members of our society. 

As an added bonus, those attending the event will be eligible to receive a discount code to be applied towards a ticket to Grand Rapids Civic Theatre’s Ragtime.

This popular musical arrives back on stage at a time when the topics covered in this epic, historical show illustrates some of the very same struggles that we as a nation still continue to understand.

 Ragtime is told through the eyes of three main groups - an African American Harlem musician, a white upper class suburbanite, and an Eastern European family of immigrants - and is set during the early 20th Century.  

The panel event takes place at the Grand Rapids Public Library and is free. More information on this panel event and Ragtime can be found at Grand Rapids Civic Theatre's website.

Snow Days: Praying for the white, fluffy stuff

It seems with every year as we add more outdoor winter activities in the city, the battle to plan such an event devoted to snow on a  day when we can expect to have snow becomes problematic for event producers.

So you can imagine the amount of prayers for snow coming from downtown merchants and restaurants who are eagerly awaiting 2017’s Snow Days. 

This year Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. (DGRI) and their partners are creating something new with Snow Days -- an outdoor festival where truly there is something for everyone over the course of this five-day event that runs February 10 - 14.

Snow Days is more than just a one stop event as it encompasses three distinct activities that range from free- to the low-cost events geared towards adults as well as families. 

First up is the creatively executed Valent-ICE outdoor ice sculpture event devoted to the theme of Valentine's Day.  All over downtown 50+ ice sculptures will turn the city into a giant, albeit a temporary one, gallery of outdoor art. 

Popular items this year include a life-sized Muhammad Ali, NASA’s space shuttle, and a whopping 5,000 pound sculpture! There is even a special pop-up ice bar at the Downtown Market.

For the exact placement of entries that will be on display during the festival, be sure to grab a copy of DGRI’s handy Snow Days folding map available at downtown merchants, eateries, and DGRI’s office.

Also appearing downtown on (POSTPONED*) is a Rail Jam competition for ski and snowboard competitive racers held along the banks of the Grand River at Ah-Nab-Awen Park. In addition to the Rail Jam, this Snow Days location will feature free sledding and open riding for skiers and snowboarders. See their Facebook page for the schedule of Rail Jam events.

But the event that not only has attracted the most buzz is Sunday's return to downtown of the Human Hungry Hungry Hippos tournament. This based on the popular tabletop game and instead of tiny plastic hippos, this new version uses real people munching marbles on the ice at Rosa Parks Circle. The registration for this event has already passed and is sold out but do show up to laugh a lot as you watch the battle. 

This event is brought to Grand Rapids by DGRI and involves dozens of community partners, local businesses, and sponsors, including Ice Brigade, AGA Nation, AHC+ Hospitality, Craig's Cruisers, the Grand Rapids Public Museum, WOOD TV 8 and the City of Grand Rapids.

If you attend be sure to use the #SnowDaysGR so others can track your favorite activities or entries in the ice sculpture competition.

*The Rail Jam is postponed until later this month due to lack of snow. 

Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School: SuperDebut of SuperDre

Finally a Black History Month event devoted to the power of music and art with a healthy dose of laughter. 

Ok, that might be a bit of a stretch considering this special event is Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School Grand Rapids. And you could say it was just another installment of everyone’s favorite no-credit, non-degree art class until you see who is this month’s special live guest model, former Grand Rapidian SuperDre.

The fun is at the Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill this month and will give those seeking a creative outlet a chance to hang with other artists of all skill levels as they go through this fast-paced and often very funny program.

Dr. Sketchy’s is an internationally organized art event with roots in Brooklyn with our local official chapter being hosted by Sarah Jean Anderson and head mistress Vivacious Miss Audacious. 

And if you feel intimidated, don’t be because Dr. Sketchy’s welcomes everyone regardless of skill level. All they ask is that you bring your preferred drawing material as well as a pad of paper for your creations. 

Sponsored by Native Instruments, SuperDre is known to locals for her distinct brand of music and has shared the stage with acts like DJ Irene, Filastine, Bassnectar, John Acquaviva, Ana Sia, Punisher, Terrence Parker, and so many more. 

In 2015, Spin Magazine named her as one of the  “Ten Detroit Techno Up-and-Coming Producers to Watch.” 

Admission is a mere $10 and is open to artists and artists at heart that are 21 or older.  

Finders Keepers: The art of the collection is unearthed at GRAM

History is full of examples of folks who like to keep things in an orderly fashion as they acquire objects. Whether it be art, shoes, or even those garish state spoons your grandma loved to display in her kitchen as proof that she once got around, collecting is, for better or worse, a part of our culture.

Before the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM) welcomes the public on Sunday, Feb. 5 to view their latest show, “Finders Keepers: West Michigan Collects,” members will have an opportunity to attend a special opening preview party for this exclusive and original exhibition. (GRAM also celebrates the opening for “Black Waves: the Tattoo Art of Leo Zulueta.”)

Questions like, “what drives the universal human impulse to collect objects” and “what are some of the hidden treasures of our region” will be addressed in this hyper-local exhibition.

The collection will include everything from fine art to Victorian jewelry to antique rifles to sneakers and so much more as “Finders Keepers” seeks to probe the depths of what causes one to collect.

Unlike most art exhibitions where a crew of seasoned curators scour collections to create an organized display, “Finders Keepers” enlisted the assistance of the GRAM curatorial team along with community scouts to produce a very public view of an often private activity.

Often being the key word, because we all remember that one aunt who thought she would secure that lake house via her Beanie Baby collection. View responsibly and make sure you don’t use this occasion as an excuse that your hoarding activities are on deck for a show next. Some things like this are best kept under lock and key (and stacked floor to ceiling) at home.

Members can RSVP for the event here.

The Vagina Monologues: More than vulva spoken here

In 1996, Eve Ensler unleashed on an off-Broadway audience an episodic play, “The Vagina Monologues.” And ever since that time we have witnessed numerous new re-stagings of this now classic, feminist-focused theatrical work.

The Vagina Monologues is an Obie Award-winning theatrical tour de force showcasing a divergent cast of guest female voices who share tales based on the vagina.  

The production covers a lot of ground as these thoughtful stories, including a six-year-old girl, a septuagenarian New Yorker, a vagina workshop participant, a woman who witnesses the birth of her granddaughter, a Bosnian survivor of rape, and a feminist happy to have found a man who “liked to look at it,” all tackle an equally diverse setting for each monologue. 

Debuting this year at The Fuse Box under the direction of  “The Vagina Monologues” veterans’ Taylor Abbie and Gabrielle Diandra, this production is a benefit for our local Women’s Resource Center and also supports the international V-Day Foundation.

If you would like to attend, it is advised to arrive ahead of the curtain because the pre-sale is sold out, meaning seating is going to be tight for these shows. Never give up hope on getting in as cancellations can occur, enabling a seat to open up. Otherwise, there is a chance to score on the night of the show one of the very few standing room only admissions available. 

To see if any extra pre-sale tickets have been released or network (beg) for seats,  please visit their event page here.

Bob Marley birthday bash: Return to chill

Let’s face it. The last few weeks have been rough for a host of reasons. We all could use some time to just chill.

And no other artist evokes an atmosphere of chill more than reggae’s legendary Bob Marley, whose birthday will be the occasion of a returning annual party happening at Eastown’s Billy’s Lounge.

Attendees will be enthralled as the music of Bob Marley is performed by the Michigan-originated reggae bands Reggaeloution and Zion Lion

And while it is doubtful that the ghost of Marley will appear, it is possible that a true spiritual awakening could occur since this Rastafarian’s music is rumored to chill the most savage of hearts. 

So if you are on the edge and need a break, then celebrating one of the greatest musicians who evoked the need to connect more with our humanity in all that we do could just be what the doctor ordered. 

For more info, please visit their event page.

Etsy and the art of social impact: A startup with heart and a creative knack for doing business

While the world is full of examples of how artists have connected their works from studio to collector, the advent of the internet unleashed on the world a whole new landscape enabling artists to take greater control of their destiny.

When Etsy arrived on the internet, the options for artists and craftsmen to sell their wares were limited and often mismatched (i.e. Ebay).  

But Etsy did a lot more than just present another platform as it continued to evolve itsbrand to reflect a different corporate value structure.

The biggest shift came when Etsy decided to become a Benefit Corporation (or B Corp), upending the once thought to be traditional path of all startups that sought to maximize profit while also enabling a massive rapid growth.

On Monday evening, Local First welcomes artists and the curious to join them at LaFontsee Galleries as they welcome Matt Stinchcomb, co-founder of Etsy and executive director of Good Work Institute.  

Stinchcomb will share his fascinating story of how a post-punk garage band musician went from touring to cofounding Etsy and later to go on to produce a new type of business school unlike any other via the Good Work Institute (formerly known as etsy.org). You will not look at your resume the same way after hearing this special guest speaker at one of Grand Rapids’ oldest galleries. 

In addition to Stinchcomb’s LaFontsee Galleries free lecture, the Esty cofounder will be speaking earlier on this day to The Economic Club of Grand Rapids. For more information, you can go here.

Us is Them: The boldest art act of the year

For years within the many spaces of our city where I serve as a volunteer, I have made a commitment to drive home the message of what we gain when we place those on the stage whose voices are too often denied the spotlight they deserve. The invisibility of such persons on those stages means that those rising up through the ages have no example, much less clue, if they are welcome or not in said institutions. 

Friday, Jan. 27 is not just the opening of another new exhibition, “Us is Them,” but is a chance for a generation of people within our region, who haven’t been represented locally as they should, to step into the center stage spotlight. It is thrilling to see this exhibition arrive here at this point in our city’s history. 

“Us is Them” originated at the Pizzuti Collection in Columbus, Ohio and was organized by Curator Rebecca Ibel before heading to open at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts. It will feature more than 50 works of art by 42 renowned international artists who use their vast array of media to confront societal issues, from politics to religion to racism.

This diverse exhibition is organized and presented during a period in our time where many profound social justice movements are afoot in society. This art exhibition dives head first into these areas with a honest portrayal of our current state of affairs around our planet and delivered via art. 

This exhibition will challenge us as a community to ask where we are in the work and how we can better enable voices, like these on display, to emerge in our city moving forward, whether via the art we create, showcase or discuss. In short, the power of art to challenge our view points is about to be unleashed within our region, producing exciting opportunities for conversations to emerge.

This show chooses to take the high road, not to isolate or alienate, but will ask each of us to consider where we have intersecting points for dialogue to emerge around what unites us, not  divides or breaks down our collective advancement.

“Us is Them” is an exhibition that is sure to stick with you long after the works have been crated and shipped out of town. While they are here, see them often and let the dialogue that it produces hopefully shift the way we look at ourselves and those around us. 

This is the power of “Us is Them.” 

Artists include: Derrick Adams, Nick Cave, Noah Davis, Roberto Diago, Omar Victor Diop, Jonathan Hammer, Zhang Huan, Wang Jin, Hayv Kahraman, Titus Kaphar, Patrick Lee, Simone Leigh, Tianbing Li, Wangechi Mutu, Adi Nes, Aminah Robinson, Yinka Shonibare, Jeff Sonhouse, Mickalene Thomas, Hank Willis Thomas, Diane Wah, Kara Walker, Nari Ward, Carrie Mae Weems, Judi Werthein, and Kehinde Wiley.

Admission: The 5:30 p.m. reception is free to members, the public is admitted after 6 p.m. and entrance costs $5. For more information, you can go here.

Ai Weiwei at Meijer Gardens: Natural State

When I saw my first Ai Weiwei exhibition, I spent so much time with the works that my hours just evaporated, causing me to almost miss my boat off Alcatraz in San Francisco. 

But the truth is that we have never had an artist like Ai in my lifetime who could delve into so many different human rights abuses and still empty a complex set of mediums to convey deeply rooted meanings that could be shared across the world. That was what moved me about  “@Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz,” held on the island of Alcatraz.

Ai was born in Beijing and spent his childhood in forced exile before moving to the United States in 1981. Over the next 12 years, he would meet many of the art stars (like Andy Warhol) of this era, many of whom were holdovers from the pop movement who so clearly influenced his early works. He would return to China in 1993 to tend to his ailing father in Beijing.

How Ai differs from most artists is that he is an architect, author and a human rights activist who is not afraid to harness his art to speak truth to power and often against the Chinese government for its dismal record of human rights violations. In 2011, when he was arrested, he posted personal and medical x-rays of his abuse at the hands of his government that led to worldwide official and public protest.

Now, Ai’s powerful work, which includes sculpture, photographs, ceramics, and installations, is coming to Grand Rapids. “Ai Weiwei at Meijer Gardens: Natural State” opens Friday, Jan. 27 and runs through Aug. 20.

“It has been an extraordinary experience to work with Ai Weiwei on this highly unique exhibition, as he has been extremely involved in every level of decision making and detail,” states Joseph Antenucci Becherer, Chief Curator and Vice President of Exhibitions and Collections at Meijer Gardens. “With more than 30 works installed across galleries, conservatories and public spaces, this fascinating and thought-provoking collection of works is quite unlike any exhibition Meijer Gardens has ever mounted.”   

Needless to say, this exhibition is one I have been waiting to arrive in our region for nearly a year and is a reminder of the power of art to transform not only us but also the world we live in today. 

Meijer Gardens in 2015 added Ai’s the Iron Tree, which is a rare work of art and was purchased to commemorate our botanical and sculpture garden’s 20th anniversary.

Do not miss this show by one of the world’s greatest living artist. Ai has an impressive and prolific Instagram and Twitter, where he showcases much of his past year’s work supporting the refugee humanitarian efforts in Greece.

Ai Weiwei is part of a new generation of artists not afraid to lend their voices but also their bodies in advancing the justice so many deserve on this planet.

Admission is free for members or with each paid admission. For more information, please go here.  

The Bootstrap Boys: Neighborhood pub debuts first live show

Sure, a new brewery seems to open every other week in West Michigan, but when one who has committed to creating neighborhood-inspired brews are showcasing their pub as a place for community members to gather around a table and not a TV, well, you take notice of what they are doing. 

Not only is there a real tangible energy here that spills over from the busy street just outside on Plainfield Avenue, but once inside that energy is conveyed via the brightly lit corner south facing floor to ceiling windows. This is the beauty of the Creston Brewery in the heart of the Creston -- the city’s largest neighborhood. 

Kicking off its first concert in the newly-opened space that debuted in August 2015, Creston Brewery welcomes the Bootstrap Boys -- a four-piece band that is sure to help you fight off that Sunday feeling you need to nap. (My friends always say you can sleep when you are dead.) 

Our local ‘Boys will be performing an acoustic country-roots music set with plenty of tight harmonies and a delicious lick of guitars and an eclectic bass. 

And while there are plenty of brewpubs to visit these days, why not stop in here and be a part of history as they kick off this new aspect of a business that is reinventing the neighborhood watering hole with real style. 

The entertainment is free. Creston Brewery offers an amazing array of fresh brews, great eats, and of course, a chance to meet someone at this very friendly spot on the north end of Grand Rapids. For more information, you can go here.

Beatriz Santiago Muñoz: Whitney Biennial 2017 artist pops into Grand Rapids

Situated in a westside warehouse district of Grand Rapids (home to many creative studios and artists’ collectives/businesses), Civic Studio welcomes Whitney Biennial artist Beatriz Santiago Muñoz to Grand Valley State University’s (GVSU) 2016-17 Visiting Artists series, Art and the Radical -- a thought-provoking program of lectures from some of the world’s best artists working on projects that aim to increase dialogue as they transform our understanding of art and our world. 

Beatriz Santiago Muñoz’s research-based works are created through lengthy observational periods and employ the camera to document her subjects. 

Her film work is grounded in a rooted-in reality-approach that conveys a sense of place (albeit places often in decay) and is combined with a pace out of sync (in a good way) with many who work within this narrative-producing format. 

Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Muñoz creates work that explores themes of recuperation from trauma, regeneration, and the ways in which our connections to the past are actively produced, maintained and refuted.  Her use of the camera, a device we are all familiar with at this point, according to GVSU Professor Paul Wittenbraker, acts as a “linguistic, political and conceptual frame through which actions or events are seen.”

It is also rare that our region has a visiting artist in advance of the Whitney Biennial. For the 2017 Biennial, the formation of the self and the individual’s place in an upending society are the top themes  for the 2017 Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City (March 17 - June 11, 2017). 

This is a tremendous opportunity for local artists and fans of contemporary art to listen and learn from one who is poised to enter the world art stage during a time of great social upheavals. I am sure this is to be an insightful lecture. 

This speaker series has already presented Jen Delos Reyes and Nicolas Lamper to our region in the fall of 2016 and will welcome Jeanne Vaccaro later this semester.

The event is free, but limited seating so please RSVP via their event page.

$MC Presents: Super Disco Breaks DJ Phizyx & AB

Maybe it is a mix of nostalgia and a desire for an analog experience, but locally for some time various late-night event producers have been diving into old album bins to resurrect forgotten gems for the dance floor from days long passed.  

This trend of falling in love with vinyl is not limited to just vintage records. In fact, it is part of an ever-growing music industry-wide uptick in new music vinyl sales that could translate into a billion dollar industry in 2017, according to NME Magazine.

Locally, this trend of mining for old albums has translated into a revival of long-lost sounds from Grand Rapids Soul Club to the various on-off parties being spun at many of the various venues around the city welcoming these energetic dance events. 

Part of the renaissance in vinyl that is happening in Grand Rapids will be back on stage this Friday, when the $teady Mobbin' Crew will present their latest chapter in a series of dance events as they showcase a night devoted to old school disco dance breaks, b-boy, and hip-hop hailing from those glorious years of 1977 to 1983.

The energy fueling this event is no doubt tied into pop culture’s fascination with this period of time when a movement in music was born. The energy of the music from this period of time was recently the subject of a new Netflix series, “The Get Down.”

Super Disco Breaks is hosted by Grand Rapidian AB and welcomes a headliner from the eastside  of Michigan, DJ Pizyx (Flint/Detroit), who will be joined on the 1s and 2s by Grand Rapids Soul Club’s Boogiman, and DJ Ill-One. 

DJ Phizyx is a former resident DJ at St. Andrews and is primarily known for his expertise in b-boy breaks and old school dance floor gems. He was also the house DJ for Detroit’s Southwest Breakers: Dreams II Reality.

If you plan to attend, be prepared to dance a lot, so you might want to layer as the dance floor will be super hot this Friday.

Admission: $5; go here for more information.

HopCat's 9th: Our local downtown brewpub that has impacted the world of beer

Saturday, Jan. 21, 11 a.m. - 2 a.m.
It is hard to imagine Grand Rapids’ Ionia Avenue before the arrival of HopCat -- a downtown watering hole that not only boasts one of the most eclectic beer lists anywhere in the country, but is a place that has received numerous awards like the prestigious RateBeer.com ranking in 2012 and 2013 as the number one brewpub in the United States.

In addition to a great selection of beers from around the world, HopCat’s other claim to fame is its secret spices that, when added to their deep fried potatoes, becomes the much-sought after menu item: crack fries. 

On the occasion of their ninth anniversary in Grand Rapids, HopCat is inviting the public to come celebrate with them. Instead of free cake, those who show up can enjoy complimentary crack fries from 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. (with every meal) -- as well asinvite guests to participate in a series of special activities happening on this special customer-focused appreciation day when the gifts keep coming your way.

Right when the doors open at 11 a.m., fans of their limited release brews will have a chance to secure bottles of HopCat’s 2017 Oil Spiller —  their trademark Imperial Stout — and 2017 Red Nymph, brewer Ernie's too-tasty-to-be-true flanders red sour ale. 

In addition to a host of specialty brews created for the day will be three collaboration offerings from New Belgium Brewery, Arcadia Ales and Rockford Brewing Company. 

There is also a chance at 3 p.m. to enter to win $500 during. HopCat’s crack fries eating contest, and the local winner will advance to the finals in Ypsilanti at the 2017 Michigan Brewer’s Guild Summer Beer Festival. If you wish to compete, you must register before 2:30 p.m. on Saturday. You can do it in person or contact HopCat’s general manager, Matt Wemple, at mwemple@hopcat.com or by calling 616-451-4677.

If you miss the event, or maybe the thought of crowds of folks watching a person cram as many crack fries in their pie hole is not your style, then lucky for you there is a more civilized way to celebrate this wildly popular downtown brewpub by attending its special beer anniversary dinner on Sunday, when specialty beers will be paired with a five-course meal. Check out the details here.

For more info about Saturday’s event, you can go here.

Hook a Sista Up’s Shift Your Mindset, Shift Your Income: Start your economic engines, ladies!

One of the joys of being in Grand Rapids these days is the flurry of folks seeking to create new ways of making a living. Some might be happy with punching the clock, but as we have witnessed over the last decade, there is a steady stream of people here seeking to build something new.

And while we have plenty of larger institutions with a host of clients they serve at various stages of development, one organization that I have had the privilege of getting to know better over the last couple years is the woman-led entrepreneurial group Hook a Sista Up (HASU) from Linda Otterbridge.

What makes HASU really shine is the sheer number of women who not only are making waves in their offerings to the world, but how they are incredibly supportive of one another. It is really an exciting group of women entrepreneurs who are taking control of their vision and making it a reality.

A part of HASU’s success is the group’s ability to meet women where they are, and, through strategic steps like these, accountability check-ins enable them to celebrate as they support one another on their path forward. 

For their first meeting of 2017 they are inviting others to join them on this journey with special guest speaker Mattie McKinney from MyEcon. McKinney is a corporate business professional and educator who has more than 20 years of management experience

McKinney will present at this orientation and accountability check-in a presentation titled, “Shift Your Mindset, Shift Your Income,” during which attendees will have a chance to learn about ways to eliminate debt and reduce expenses as she shares tips for building one’s business wealth.

The best part is a chance to meet others who are also seeking to find a way to make their visions a reality. Come prepared to listen, share and learn that you are not alone in the pursuit of your dream. Always true to their name, they are really here to Hook a Sista Up with a better future. 

Admission: $10; see the event details here.

LocalMotion Awards: Locals wanted/celebrated

The new year is a time of creating fresh pathways, of integrating ways of working, and for placing a will to resolve that which might have troubled us in the past. This time of the year is a time to also celebrate what we already have, as evidenced by this year’s LocalMotion Awards from Local First

Our LocalMotion Awards is a chance for our city’s residents and businesses to celebrate those organizations within our community who are taking bold steps as they seek to improve our region through the intelligent leveraging of our local supply chains, the establishment of sustainable practices, and enacting smart neighborhood revitalization efforts, and dedication to the power of the triple bottom line that Local First imparts here. The triple bottom line refers to companies’ emphasis on the social, environmental and financial bottom lines.

The event also follows Local First’s mission with a strolling dinner provided by members of the organization and is a chance to network with others looking to celebrate and learn more about this exciting movement that has brought so much positive change to the region. 

Before and after the awards ceremony, guests can also enjoy the music of Desmond Jones and a live art painting demonstration by artists from Picardo Art, Sanctuary Folk Art and The Collective Artspace.

This is a fundraiser for Local First, and the perks of attending are incredible -- but the real pinnacle is that you get to meet so many folks who are committed to making their contribution to Grand Rapids extend beyond just padding their bottom line. These are the people and businesses who are truly changing so much of our region for the better through their example. And that, my friends, makes all of them local heroes.

So, why not join this tribe who are sure to inspire each and every attendee?

Admission: $40 - 50; see event details and purchase tickets here.

New Urbanism Film Festival: Short films to spark community dialogue

A few things happen locally now when you remark in a conversation that you would like to attend a “new urbanism” event. Either folks look at you with a vacant, “I-don’t-know-what-you-are-saying” blank stare, roll their eyes large, or get so excited they nearly spill their craft beer on your artisan cheese board. 

But you’d be wrong to roll your eyes or look confused when you consider how incredibly cool it is that the Inner City Christian Federation (ICCF) is bringing to Grand Rapids a program of short films from the New Urbanism Film Festival (NUFF), held in Los Angeles each year since 2013. 

The NUFF L.A.-based event is known for its immersive experiences created around the topic of new urbanism, like walking tours, bike rides, art strolls, and foodie stops, but also for the thought-provoking films that it screens.

Keeping in line with the festival’s vision that dialogue on new urbanism topics needs to be happening outside of places like the classroom, developers’ offices, or city hall, the New Urbanism Film Festival has been taking the best of the festival on the road to communities around the nation in the hopes of sparking local dialogue around the issue.

New Urbanism’s short films program will continue the festival’s mission to present emerging themes like the merits of creating walkable neighborhoods with tree-lined streets, as well as looking into topics like mixed housing neighborhoods, parks and green spaces, and how architecture and good design play into what works…and what may not.

This night’s diverse program will address in this bite-sized format a host of topics that only a short film can deliver with insights on density, design, walkability, urban cycling, displacement, public art, and even parking. 

This ICCF event is co-sponsored by the Michigan chapter of the Congress for New Urbanism.

Admission: $3

Sibelius’ Symphony No. 5: Grand Rapids Symphony to perform 20th century masterpieces

On the first of the year, everyone sets the bar quite high for creating new pathways via those pesky resolutions we all set for ourselves. But they don’t have to be seen as a chore. 

In fact, I would guess that if you have been wanting to add a bit of a cultural kick up to your New Year, why not select the thrilling and perfectly timed Grand Rapids Symphony’s (GRS) concert this weekend?

Your local GRS welcomes to the podium the youthful Teddy Abrams, the music director of The Louisville Orchestra who will conduct an eclectic and, in many ways, a contemporary  program of 20th century masterpieces that originate in three different countries but ring familiar to our modern times. 

This weekend’s program is filled with powerful music created during a time period in our world when the upheaval of societal systems were drastically shifting, the world was warring with one another, and the arts were attempting to connect with their audiences as music composers sought to produce new works under hostile  governments. (Dare I say that our world history is often a document of repeating cycles.) 

The night’s clear stand out is Jean Sibelius’ “Symphony No. 2” -- a powerful and (still) very modern piece that will put any orchestra through a thrilling ride of an ambitious score. Sibelius is so beloved as an artist that in his homeland they have a national holiday named in his honor. The closest the U.S. has got to this is Easter, when a few folks quietly celebrate the creator of the Peeps. 

Also performed this evening is Sergei Prokofiev’s “Violin Concerto No. 1,” which was created right before the turbulent years of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Rounding out the program, Abrams brings it back to our American soil with Samuel Barber’s “Medea’s Meditation” and “Dance of Vengeance” and Aaron Copland’s music used in the iconic Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town.”

A word of caution: when you get to the end of the thrilling Sibelius’ Symphony No. 5, be sure to count the final six chords signaling the end. This ending has tricked many a concert-goer over the years who have been known to clap prematurely thinking it is over after the first of the final chords has been struck.

Admission: Tickets start at $18; students with a valid ID $5.

Rap for a Stack (The Short Stack Edition): Next gen hip hop voices live on stage

Everyone likes a good competition, and on Friday night fans of rap music are in luck as the Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grille -- a unique and gem of a watering hole on the west side of the city - will host the Rap for a Stack contest.

A stack is a pile of cash, and, in this case, a $500 short stack for which area rappers, who have pre-signed up in advance of the event, will battle the night away in this High Rise United & Screaming Needle Tattoo & Body Piercing Studios joint production.

Hosted by local entrepreneur and MC performer Ajax Stacks, Friday’s Rap For A Stack has been created as a way to expose emerging artists to our music scene while also building up our local hip hop community.

The competition is three rounds and will only involve eight MC/groups in a single elimination format. What makes this event a thrill to behold is that Rap for a Stack will see performers bringing their A-game in this winner-take-all thrilling format set in one of my favorite venues in the city.  Arrive early and enjoy a bite to eat from the bar’s kitchen. 

Admission: $10 in advance, $12 at the door

Common Ground: Race & the American Dream panelists reflect on MLK

This year Grand Valley State University is hosting a series of events commemorating the life and legacy of civil rights champion Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK).

Over the decades since King’s assassination, Americans have been engaging around the topic of race at the national and community levels.

As we look at his life and meaning of his message, it is clear that even after all the dialogue we still in our very fractured nation have a lot of work to do around the topic of racial inequality. 

However, while this issue may be polarizing to some, it is a conversation that we need to have as we seek to repair our past and move forward together as a people into the future. In my opinion, we need to embrace these commemoration events as they bring us into a dialogue on MLK’s mission for humankind.  

GVSU’s Hauenstein Center in partnership with the college’s Division of Inclusion and Equity are hosting a special MLK public event on race and the American Dream at the Eberhard Center. 

Jason Riley, columnist and editorial board member at The Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times Magazine’s award-winning staff writer Nikole Hannah-Jones will be a part of panel examining the progress made during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, as well as looking at our present day and future as we seek to build a more equitable (and fair) society.

Given the level of public discord on this topic even after MLK’s death, it is critically vital that we listen to history as we move forward to ensure we do not repeat the mistakes of our past. 

Admission: Free

Mustard Plug: 25th anniversary & annual holiday show

It is really hard to imagine that Mustard Plug is 25 years old. But this locally formed ska band that took the world by storm in 1991 is still performing strong after all these years. 

Of course, the city was different then, as I recall one or two shows in unsanctioned venues because we simply did not have a lot of options in those days for that style of music.

Fast forward to the present and after many years of performing on the road, Mustard Plug has,for as long as I can remember, played a special holiday show for us locals.

What makes this one stand out is that while their fans have gotten older, these former kids of the 90s are now the parents of the new millennium and will be bringing their children to this all ages show so that they too can enjoy the joys of ska music in a big open venue where wild dancing is encouraged. 

Bandmate Jim Hofer says, "We may have some messages in our music, but essentially we just do this because we love it and we want people to lighten up and have fun."

So, grab the kids and come out for this festive and always fun night devoted to a band whose legacy in music is truly unmatched locally.

This all ages show will also feature bands Koffin Kats, PotatoeBabies, I Believe in Julio, and All Night Tigers.

Admission:  $10 in advance, $12. day of show. 

The Roast of Monica Parker: One of Grand Rapids' best deejays gets hers

The city may have fewer and fewer dance clubs, but the amount of deejays is not declining anytime soon. 

In fact, one local is about to get her moment in the spotlight as she becomes the subject of a roast held at Rumors Nightclub in the heart of the Avenue for the Arts on Division Avenue.

DJ Monica Parker is no stranger to the dance scene of our city, as she has played for many years as the house DJ at Rumors and also has popped up at events like the annual LoveWins at the Rainbow Bridge party in June.

On Tuesday night, DJ Monica Parker will take over the hot seat that Batty Davis inhabited last year as Rumors’ first person to be honored at this now annual roast.

This year’s roast will be hosted by the witty and towering Jasinya Sanchez and will feature a cast of Grand Rapids’ most bad assed drag kings and queens, including Batty Davis, Anna Mossity, Tequila Sanchez, Evelyn Forest, Reba Rose Rau, and Harold Sanchez.

Fans of roasts will no doubt enjoy this one because, just like “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” you never know what is going to pop out of these roasters’ mouths -- so it is best to be there to see it revealed live than hear about it later. There’s never buyer’s remorse when considering a roast ran by some of the best drag queens and kings of our city. 

Holiday Hoedown with Delilah DeWylde & the Bootstrap Boys

There is nothing like a little honky-tonk country, the raw sexuality of rockabilly, and the warmth-inducing surf music to chase your winter blues away on the Friday before Christmas.

And, luckily for you, on Grand Rapids’ westside is a tiny little bar that is committed to showcasing the best sounds of this style of music.

Taking a break from their more straightforward performances, Delilah DeWylde and the Bootstrap Boys invite the public to join them for a Holiday Hoedown at the Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill. 

The Bootstrap Boys, made up of Big Jake, Nicky, Clyde, and Jake Bootstrap, are a four-piece country outfit whose brand of country-fried original music is performed neatly situated next to some of the greatest covers of all time, from outlaw to old-time cowboy to even pop all being on deck -- including a few holiday gems at this lively and very alt-Christmas event.  

Also appearing on stage is the always energetic Delilah DeWylde, whose concerts defy convention, as this duo made up of DeWylde on the big ol’ bass and Lee Harvey on the electric bass delivers their take on the best of American roots music. 

This brand of music is not only famous for its devotion to a life in song told via the hard-partying honky tonk country with a hefty portion of hillbilly twang and gutbucket blues, but it’s so smoking intense that Delilah has to mount the bass to hit all the right notes in a style of performing that is her own. 

Yes, you have a lot of choices in the city, but if you are seeking that little watering hole on the edge of a neighborhood where you can loose yourself for a few hours, then get to Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grille Friday.
Admission: $5

Throwback New Year's Eve: Party like it is Y2K!

I will admit that one of the joys of New Year’s Eve is, after so many of them, they begin to all blend into two categories: those we like; those we don’t.

Looking at the spectrum of offerings in our city, it was easy to land at SpeakEZ’s celebration for a host of reasons.

One, SpeakEZ’s past events have always delivered on the best of our local talent in an intimate setting where happy memories are recorded often. Need proof? If you were at the Adele tribute concert with vocalist Noddea Moore Skidmore then you know what I mean. This venue attracts such amazing talent on a regular basis. 

Secondly, while I typically loathe theme parties, SpeakEZ doesn’t fall into the trap of overworking a concept, instead keeping things light and accessible. This year, with a theme of partying like it is New Year’s Eve 1999 on the eve of Y2K, we can just see the revelers anxiously sipping cocktails nervously as the clock inches towards midnight. Will the big ball drop, or will it be a errant satellite instead that descends upon our partying revelry is all part of the fun of reliving this moment of time.

Lastly, while you enjoy the music of the 90s under the direction of band director Scott Patrick Bell, you can expect for the low cost of only $55 per person admission to the party, which includes live entertainment and a three-course meal with a midnight champagne toast. 

Reservations are available from 7:00pm – 9:00pm and can be made by calling SpeakEZ NOW at (616) 458-3125.

We understand that in featuring one event to consider attending this New Year’s Eve that we will most certainly be avoiding the other options to engage in locally. The key is that if you want to attend a festive occasion this year, please seek one out because, for the first time in our history, we have more events than we have space to feature them all here in Rapid Growth. The trick is to not sit at home this year. Get out and experience your city as you welcome in the new year.

Admission: $55 per person

I-96 Holiday Classic Basketball Tournament: Reboot of a sporting classic

The holidays are the best time to openly flaunt your nostalgia flag since the entire season is devoted to such outbursts of joy. 

Luckily for those who like their nostalgia with a healthy portion of good old-fashioned sporting glory, the Grand Rapids Public Schools Athletics (GRPSA) are bringing back their popular  East vs. West Battle of the Best of I-96 Holiday Classic Basketball Tournament.

It may have been many years since the last tourney was staged here, but it has not faded from the memory of those who looked forward each winter to this day-long basketball event at which rival teams get together to raise money for a great cause.

And just like each annual tournament from the past, the Holiday Classic features top ranked teams from both the east and west sides of Michigan who will go head-to-head in a highly competitive, but ultimately thoroughly enjoyable, day of championship basketball.

How they determine the winner is actually quite simple, with each game enabling a team to win a point for their respective side of the state. The winner is decided at the final match, during which the side of the state with the most points earns a year’s worth of bragging rights. There is even halftime entertainment for many of the day’s games, including half-court “swoosh” basket contest where attendees can compete for prizes. 

The best part is that the Holiday Classic raises funds to support GRPS K-12 sports programming to help eliminate any “pay to play” fee students may be facing.  And that is the best win of all in my opinion. 

Holiday Classic Schedule:

12:00 p.m.     Williamston vs. Rockford
1:45 p.m.    Lansing Sexton vs. Benton Harbor
3:30 p.m.    Detroit Henry Ford vs. Wayland Union 
5:15 p.m.    Detroit Community vs. GR Union
7:00 p.m.    East Lansing vs. GR Ottawa Hills

Admission:  $10 per person. Children ages five and under are free. One ticket is good for all five games. 

Mr. & Mrs. Claus: All skate with the first family of Christmas

What is more exciting than sitting on Santa’s lap this Saturday? 

How about a chance to go round and round with the big guy and his main squeeze, Mrs. Claus, at Grandville’s Tarry Hall Roller Skating Rink?

Opened in 1959 with a simple mission to provide a athletic space for families to have fun on eight wheels, Tarry Hall Roller Skating Rink features a booming 5,200 watt sound system for Top 40, pop, rock, hip-hop, country, dance, and religious music for folks to get their groove on under a state-of-the-art light show. 

In addition to an afternoon of hearing festive holiday tunes with Mr. and Mrs. Claus, Tarry Hall will also feature a scavenger hunt, face painting, and the return of the crowd’s favorite, the balloon guy. 

With each $5 paid admission is a free roller skate rental. If you want to upgrade to rollerblades, then add $1.

Guests can also purchase a special $20 ticket that comes with an elf costume complete with a hat and an all skate rental card good for one free admission per month for a year.  (An $84 value!) 

So, get your ugly sweater out and grab the kids as you roll out to Grandville for an afternoon of prime skating time with the big guy from the North Pole. 

Admission: $5.

'Nightmare Before Christmas': New holiday classic and a chance to sing along

The warmth of summer may have departed from our region, but you’d never know it as the “Movies Not In The Park” series from Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. (DGRI) will yet again be screening another film before the end of 2016 at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts.

For its sixth feature in this newly launched series, DGRI offers an opportunity to view for free in the comfort of a warm theatre “The Nightmare Before Christmas” — a musical from the mind of Tim Burton.

This more than 20-year-old musical classic has all the trappings of what makes Tim Burton one of the strangest, and yet most imaginative, filmmakers of our time. And while this story is written (not directed) by Burton, it is the animation work of director Henry Selick that will delight those seeking an alternative to the overt sweetness of the holidays.

The musical centers on the struggles of character Jack Skellington — the Pumpkin King of dreadfully drab Halloweentown — who, while seeking a secret passageway to Christmastown, discovers Santa. Saint Nick then offer Jack something of a life-changing moment of opportunity. 

The film is a delight as this stop-motion animation, which took three years to create, unspools a wonderfully imaginative world where Jack’s drive for self-improvement and best intentions ultimately clash in this inventive and most unlikeliest of Christmas classics.

In short, “The Nightmare Before Christmas” does not disappoint but delivers the perfect present this holiday.

Admission: Free

Bolshoi Ballet: 'The Nutcracker' as larger-than-life

If you had hoped to attend the 2016 Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow to experience its thrilling production of “The Nutcracker,” then if you have not booked your trip to see them plan on dropping more than $3,000 to get there by Sunday.

For those on a budget, and for the seventh year in a row, fans of this world-class ballet troupe can experience the joys of “The Nutcracker” on Sunday afternoon right here in West Michigan and still be home in time for work on Monday morning without the obligatory jet lag.  

For the low cost of just $18 a ticket, you can sit in comfortable seats with a cup holder (not found in Moscow’s  Bolshoi Theatre) and enjoy a larger-than-life dance performance at Celebration Cinema North. 

The story is set on Christmas Eve and takes off immediately after Marie’s gift of a wooden nutcracker doll transforms into a towering prince who sweeps up the young woman as they depart on a magical journey told through dances that cover a spectrum of nations. 

“The Nutcracker” is the gold standard of all of the holiday live productions that one can attend each year, and Grand Rapids provides opportunities this year to see two world-class production via two very distinct dance companies: the Bolshoi Ballet on the big movie screen and the Grand Rapids Ballet (GRB), which will be wrapping up its 2016 run of its recently reimagined “The Nutcracker.” (See Rapid Growth’s coverage on GRB's version of "The Nutcracker" here.) 

Admission: $18.

'A Christmas Carol' by Doris Baizley: A comedy for the ages

Opening Friday, Dec. 9, 8 p.m. (through Sunday, Dec. 10)
Once you reach a certain age, it goes without saying that if you get caught rolling your eyes at the suggestion that you must go see another retelling of the 1843 “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens, then you are within your right to do so. 

I mean, the body can only take so much sugary holiday cheer before it rots the soul this time of the year. Need more proof? We have a “Bad Santa 2” now playing in the movie theaters. People need a pressure release that a cooked goose and foggy pudding just can’t deliver. 

Luckily, for those seeking a little creative levity this holiday season, our local theatrical company, The University Wits (TUW), will present at Dog Story Theater “A Christmas Carol by Doris Baizley.”

Unlike other stage and screen versions of Dickens’ tale that we’ve witnessed for nearly two centuries now, this new TUW production of “A Christmas Carol by Doris Baizley” has something sweet for lovers of the theatrical but also a gravitational pull of a treat aimed at those seeking something to tickle the funny bone.

This new adaptation still carries the thread of a story about  Ebenezer Scrooge, a bitter curmudgeon who is taught a lesson in kindness and love by some unexpected and other-worldly guests.  But what sets Baizley’s version apart from all the others is that we are introduced to this popular story through a cast of traveling actors who are looking to stage Dickens’ story for the audience.

The production has one tiny problem when their lead actors are nowhere to be found, forcing the stage manager and the tiny prop boy to bring the play to life. 

And rather than blowing my perfect record this year by revealing plot points via a leaked spoiler (and thus end my chance at an Apple Watch 2 to be delivered under my tree this year), I am just going to say that “A Christmas Carol by Doris Baizley” is unlike any other holiday production around this year -- so do not miss it. 

Admission:  $12 - $16

'The Nutcracker': Artful ballet with a beautiful opening night party

Opening Friday, Dec. 9, 7:30 p.m. (through Dec. 18)
In 2014 locals were delighted to witness the stage debut of a new re-imagined ballet production of “The Nutcracker.” 

For this new version of this popular Christmas production, Grand Rapids Ballet tapped the enormous talents of former Grand Rapidian and illustrator/author Chris Van Allsburg (“The Polar Express,” “Jumanji”), the Tony Award-winning set designer Eugene Lee (“Wicked,” “Sweeney Todd”) and choreographer Val Caniparoli (San Francisco Ballet), who, through their combined inventiveness, would bring to birth locally a brand new holiday classic.

And while we are all familiar with the dance of the sugar plum fairies, mice that duel and battle with a precision only a dancer could deliver, and, of course, the storybook thrill of the heroic toy soldiers all combined make this enchanting fable one that should not be missed, regardless of where you fall on the kid scale these days.

The magic of the night’s success is brought to life through the dancers who keep the audience spellbound as they perform to music of our Grammy-nominated Grand Rapids Symphony. 

And, as an added bonus on the third year of this new production, the Grand Rapids Ballet’s dancers and company invite guests to purchase tickets for the AfterGlow event immediately taking place following the opening night’s performance at the equally theatrically designed Pantlind Ballroom at Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.

The cost to attend this special opening night party is $45 per person. Each AfterGlow purchased ticket includes delicious appetizers, desserts, two complimentary drinks, and a chance to dance in this elegant setting with a room filled with performers and fans of our local ballet.

If you wish to attend this special AfterGlow event, when purchasing tickets at ticketmaster.com for the Friday, Dec. 9 performance of “The Nutcracker” be sure to select the “add  AfterGlow tickets” to your order before checking out.

Admission: Ballet priced from $34 - $83, Friday night’s AfterGlow $45.

West Michigan Gay Men's Chorus Concert: The power of lifting one's voice in song to change the world

If you need a little levity to help get you through the holidays this year, then a stop at the annual West Michigan Gay Men’s Chorus (WMGMC) is the best ticket in my opinion to lift your spirits. I mean, gay is in the title.

Not only is the WMGMC a great place to experience live holiday music delivered via our community-based chorus, all the members of which volunteer to put on concerts and appearances throughout the city all year long, but this holiday show is a chance for the singers to reflect on the year we have experienced as society.

As with each concert, the guys invite special guest vocalists to share the stage. For their 2016 holiday show, "A Musical Potluck of Songs," they welcome the festive and feisty Sweet Adeline’s Percolate Quartet.  The chorus even joins Percolate Quartet on a special rendition of "Please Come Home for Christmas.”

Making a debut this year will be a new vocal arrangement of  “Winter Wonderland” by arranger Greg Jasperse.  

For the second act, the WMGMC will revisit Orlando’s Pulse tragedy, when 49 people were murdered and another 53 wounded on June 12, 2016 in a terrorist attack/hate crime inside the popular gay nightclub.  

Holding fast to the theme of peace on Earth that we all sing often during this time of the year, the WMGMC will sing “Child of Peace,” which asks those gathered to commit to the work of crafting peace in our world. 

What makes a WMGMC concerts such a thrill is how these vocalists are able to take us on a musical road trip where somber themes live next door to messages of hope, providing room for lighter, even humorous material to appear.   

Best of all, this year’s holiday concert is free. The WMGMC will be taking a collection, and a portion of the proceeds will be directed to the Grand Rapids Community Foundation's Our LGBT fund. 

Admission: Free

Water Protectors' Benefit: Join The Meanwhile & support the Michigan Host Tent at Standing Rock

This past Sunday, the United States Army Corps of Engineers denied the Energy Transfer Partners’ Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) permit that would have sent a portion of the 1,172-mile pipeline under the nation’s largest fresh water river, the Missouri River. 

This act would have threatened numerous sacred sites, but also, most importantly, the fresh water of all those downriver, including the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation whose sovereign land is dependent on access to fresh, clean water. The DAPL pipeline was originally scheduled to run north of Bismarck, North Dakota, but the residents complained and it was re-routed to Native American land. 

The permit to cross the river was the last piece of the pipeline that the Native Americans going by the name of Water Protectors - as they call themselves - have been protesting since April of this year. 

And while the permit has been denied and the Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II is urging the Water Protectors to leave the Oceti Sakowin Camp, before many can depart the land, which is currently home to 5,000 residents living with up to two feet of snow, it will take some time to disassemble the structures that make up the encampment. 

Rapid Growth is joining East Hills’ The Meanwhile to raise funds to assist with the Michigan Host Tent at Standing Rock, with 30 percent of the entire night's sales to be donated to our Water Protectors.

And while the event is all day, the special reception for this event will take place from 6-8 pm.

If you cannot make it and just want to donate directly to the to the Michigan Host Tent, please click here.

Want more background on the event? Read about Rapid Growth’s Tommy Allen’s journey to Standing Rock in November and why this battle for fresh water will continue in our state -- you can visit our publisher’s in-depth story here.

Admission: Free

World AIDS Day: The living are beacons of hope

The theme of this year’s World AIDS Day is “Leadership. Commitment. Impact” — three words that, when enacted, honestly can truly change our world. 

And locally you can take those critically important steps by joining others who will be gathering at Fountain Street Church again to commemorate the lives we have lost, as well as provide support for our fellow citizens, friends, and family members living with HIV every day. 

This event is part of a long, local tradition of not letting the memory of those who cannot speak today be forgotten. We all bear witness in music and via the moving testimonies that will be shared on this day devoted to remembrance. 

Scheduled to perform again this year is Grand Rapids’ Vox Vidorra, whose soulful sounds are sure to once again move those in attendance to action.

And while HIV has become a manageable disease to many, it is worth reminding ourselves that pledging to work for a cure is still our goal. 

The worldwide HIV epidemic is not over. But because of the many advances in treatment, we have more people than ever living with HIV than anytime in our history.

Looking to know your HIV status? Please use this site, which uses Google maps to pinpoint exactly where you can receive testing.

If you would like to understand more about those members of our world who are living with HIV and leading through open dialogue, please visit Positive Spin’s site.

Admission:  Free