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SAUGATUCK: Patrick Rapai invites us to Zimbabwe

While at a garage sale the other day, I came upon one of those street scene paintings popular in the 1950s and '60s. These colorful and vibrant images helped shape a generation's romantic views of the city and the life awaiting them there, whether it was Paris, New York, or even Grand Rapids. But as an adult, when I would visit such cities, I was shocked that many of the scenes depicted above people's couches often lacked the diversity of faces actually a part of the bigger picture. 
 
As if sending a truth bomb across the ages, painter Patrick Rapai invites us to travel with him via an art opening at Saugatuck's Amazwi Contemporary Art (ACA) gallery to his homeland of Zimbabwe, where we can experience his distinct vision of urban life. Rapai's exhibition is part of an ongoing series of African artists that ACA is featuring throughout the summer, with its first show featuring a stunning collection of urban paintings that any city dweller will recognize as truth. They remind us that places can be at once chaotic and diverse, with a wonderfully rich harmony of color that we breathe in freely when there.
 
Folks seeking to expand upon the cultural art experience of Rapai's work are invited to stop in two days before the Saturday night ACA reception by attending a special Thursday night speaking event at the Saugatuck Center for the Arts (SCA), which will include a hands-on demonstration of his technique involving paint, plaster, wood glue, and more. SCA will also have a few of the artist's paintings on display that evening. Please RSVP to attend the free SCA Thursday night talk.
 
The artist will be present at both events. Prior his Saugatuck gallery opening, Rapai will debut his first exhibition in Chicago (5/17). To follow his journey to America, follow the gallery's Facebook page
 

Admission: Free
 
 

DETROIT: Movement is the new beat street

Opening Saturday, May 23 (Through Monday, May 25)
Motown may call the Motor City home, but techno was also birthed in Detroit and is still celebrated the world over with an international following. Each Memorial holiday weekend, fans of this musical art form flock from across the globe for three days of dancing under the sun (and dancing later in clubs – both legal and illegal – all night long). This year, more than 130 acts will be spread over six stages celebrating the growing genre of electronic dance music (or EDM) that is popular the world over. 
 
This year marks my tenth visit and I could not be happier about the way this event has evolved to include some of the biggest names in the industry while still remaining close to its roots, showcasing the rich cultural heritage names like (current and former) Detroiters Richie Hawtin, Kevin Saunderson, and Derrick May bring to the event. With this being its 15th year (10 as Movement after the organizers had to change the name from the Detroit Electronic Music Festival or DEMF), this event still never forgets its humble roots, continuing to offer many folks a chance to debut.
 
Movement is also a chance to see rising acts of music on the Red Bull Music Academy stage, where more than one named artist has gone on to great heights in the EDM field. And there are even surprises to the ticket, like this year's biggest double-take as DJ Snoopadelic (or, as many know him, Snoop Dog) will be spinning the crowd into a purple haze of dance floor that is uniquely his own.
 
 If you need more proof of the energy and fun you can expect, just visit the newly revamped and amped up website: http://movement.us/
 
Admission: Day, weekend, and VIP tickets available on Paxahau's event website.
 

MUSKEGON: Bless my boat and all those who sail with me

Sunday, May 24, 12:30 Princess departs, after 1 p.m. Blessing Parade
While some may be familiar with the risks associated with riding a motorcycle during the busy and lazy days of summer – and the annual Blessing of the Bikes - many forget about another popular summer pastime of the maritime nature, boating.

The concept of blessing a boat is not a new one or even unique to this region, but Muskegon is close and on Sunday you have a chance to get your own boat blessed, watch a parade of boats get blessed from shore, or view it from the surface of a boat as the on-board priest blesses each and every boat that passes by it at the annual Blessing of the Boats.
 
The Port City Princess is by far one of the best ways to experience the views as more than 70 boats line up to parade down the Muskegon Channel as the priest blesses each and every boat of all shapes, sizes and sails. 
 
Those who board the Port City Princess will be treated to not just a "choir loft" view of the action, but with each $25 paid admission will receive a champagne brunch. Typically the Sunday boat trip costs $35 but for the Blessing of the Boats you can experience a nearly two-hour ride, live guitar music, and a plated brunch with all the proceeds benefiting Muskegon's St. Paul's Episcopal Church. Departure is at 12:30 p.m. sharp from downtown Muskegon's Mart Dock. 
 
You can hold your spot by contacting 231-728-8387 to reserve passage or if you find they are sold out, you can always watch it for free from the beach starting just after 1 p.m. on Sunday with the best viewing spots on the channel near Harbour Towne.
 
Sure, you could go to the Blessing of the Bikes, but this annual, nautical-themed event is just as special and makes it a good reason to visit Muskegon this weekend.
 
 
Admission: $25 for cruise, free to landlubbers. Reservations, 231-728-8387
 
 

GRAND RAPIDS: Avenue Q is a warm, fuzzy, and LOL good time

Opening Friday, May 29, 7:30 p.m. (through June 14)
There are really two kinds of folks who will be attending Grand Rapids Civic Theatre's ambitious (and head-scratching) production of Avenue Q, the popular contemporary musical that is without a doubt the most challenging piece of theater you are likely to see in your life.
 
For starters, the first bunch of folks you will see in the theatre are those who have no idea what Avenue Q is all about even after all the disclaimers. These folks will be easy to spot. Because even if they remain in their seats throughout the opening numbers sung by Muppet-like characters on tunes like "What Do You Do with a B.A. in English?" or the memorable "If You Were Gay," if they have not left by the song  “Everyone's a Little Bit Racist,” you can be sure by the end of the puppet sex song "You Can Be as Loud as the Hell You Want When You're Makin' Love" performed with the assistance of narrator and building supervisor Gary Coleman of Different Strokes fame, the exodus will be complete. (It is not really Coleman on the Civic Stage but honestly, if you arrive thinking this is a Muppet musical I cannot be too careful.)
 
So what does any of this mean?
 
This is where the second crowd is key and important to our city. The Civic Theatre is a major player on the American community theatre stage, as the fourth-largest in the nation. And while many will say there is no room for such laugh-out-loud, blue comedy on the stage here in Grand Rapids, I would strongly disagree.

It is what Civic Theatre has always done here: push us to consider the diverse ways of of living and thinking that theatrical works enable us to experience. We already are witnessing lots of changes to the fabric of the city, so in order to capture the attention of our growing, sophisticated market, then into one's life must fall an occasional show like Avenue Q to serve this diversity.
 
Here's the real reason I think you will enjoy this production: It is not PC and never once claims to be. Avenue Q is rooted in dark comedy, tackling themes many in society are grappling with every day. And this is the power of a theatrical show like Avenue Q here in our city. It might not be your cup of tea but if it is, you will want to swallow before the next number begins because this show is laugh-out-loud on nearly every single number.
 
Avenue Q is the first big hit of 2015 long before it even opens here. If awards matter to you, then Avenue Q is a rare triple-crown winner, with a Tony for Best Musical, Best Book, and Best Score. It's a show with a big heart on its furry sleeve for American comedy.
 
 
Admission: from $18.
 
 
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