Creston business relaunches as nonprofit Lions and Rabbits Center for the Arts

Creston’s Lions and Rabbits, an art gallery and event space, has transitioned to a nonprofit, Lions and Rabbits Center for the Arts. The transition will allow the Center to increase its social and economic impact through public art as well as arts education and programming for local artists and the community. 

Over the last few years, founder Hannah Berry began organizing more public art projects in addition to the work she was already doing at then, Lions and Rabbits. 

In 2018, Lions and Rabbits partnered with Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. (DGRI) to facilitate artists to create the Movies on Monroe venue. In 2020, it worked with the city of Grand Rapids and several partners to commission 27 female-identifying artists to paint portraits of powerful women on mechanical boxes, which was inspired by the book, “Rad American Women A-Z.” Last year, Lions and Rabbits launched After Dark GR to paint over 50 murals in the city through the cooperation of local businesses and artists. 

It was during COVID-19 that Berry began thinking about shifting her business to a nonprofit in order to have a greater impact through its increasing number of public art projects, in addition to developing programming.

“People during COVID came in and were like ‘this ship can be bigger than one person.’ It's not that nobody wants to work here, it just needs more — more attention to the exact mission,” says Berry. “To be able to make the impact that we want to be able to see, we need to level up and showcase all of the things that we can bring.”

Now that Lions and Rabbits Center for the Arts is a nonprofit with a staff, it will be hosting fundraisers, with proceeds going toward creating more public art. Funds will also be used to provide educational courses, such as helping artists file LLCs and manage insurances and taxes.
“The goal is to attract artists to be able to come and learn things here so that when they know what they want to do, they have those resources,” says Berry. “We might not necessarily be doing a drawing II class, but that's because there are drawing II classes that you can take in the city. So, it's much more filling the gaps of the missing pieces.”

While there are citywide projects in the works, such as repainting barricades and storm drains, Lions and Rabbits Center for the Arts will primarily be focusing on the Creston neighborhood. 

“This neighborhood is the next neighborhood to get gentrified and if you can continue to create economic development in [the] neighborhood, then you should be making it with the neighbors that are residing [here],” says Berry. “We, as an organization, are just working with neighbors, with artists, with entrepreneurs to be able to guide them to economic prosperity — with pride in their neighborhood, surrounded by a community that lives and works here.”

In the future, Berry hopes to have an even larger space to support artists, perhaps a space for artists to live, work and create, which she says are all things missing here. “The space that I want is to be able to showcase how artists can bring in economic development into the city.” 

Throughout the summer and fall, Lions and Rabbits Center for the Arts will be hosting free block party events with entertainment, artisan markets and food and drink vendors, with all proceeds going back to the organization’s mission of creating public art and art programming. Events can be found on its website.

Photos courtesy of Lions and Rabbits Center for the Arts
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