Since 2015, Michigan House
has been the gateway for Michigan artists, companies and innovators to connect with other creatives from around the world at SXSW
. If not for the COVID-19 outbreak, 2020 would have been Michigan House’s sixth year at SXSW. This year, Michigan House has launched a similar model to showcase the best of Michigan, but on a local, statewide level — Michigan House Summer
As they began thinking about this new phase of the pandemic, co-founder Ted Velie says they recognized the need to create a space for people to reconnect and get inspired. “That’s our plan for the summer, [to] kind of bringing a little piece of what we've done in other places [and] bringing it back home to Michigan,” he says.
Each event will feature a fireside chat, a Michigan-made marketplace, local food and drinks, along with live music by local, independent artists. “One of the pieces of the program that we're trying to keep consistent is that each [segment] will feature somebody from that specific place, talking with somebody from another part of Michigan,” says Velie.
Michigan House Summer had its inaugural event last week at Studio Park, featuring a conversation about Black tech-entrepreneurship with James Chapman, CEO of Detroit-based startup Plain Sight
and Andrea “Super Dre” Wallace, CEO of Grand Rapids-based music data startup Fourtifeye
. Performances included Detroit rapper Noveliss as well as artist Ajax and DJ Adrian Butler, both of Grand Rapids.
“There already are silos within the state — West Michigan versus you know, Southeast Michigan and all that,” says Velie. “Then, over the past year and a half that's even been more so.”
While Michigan House did participate in a virtual version of SXSW in March, it wasn’t quite the same as being in-person. “While we had fun with it and while it was worth our while, it definitely was missing something,” says Velie. “Being able to throw the event last week, to see people we hadn't seen in 14 months, to see people seeing other people, you know, running into people and the conversations that … spurred from [the event were] really, really fulfilling.”
Over the past year, however, Velie says they have learned a lot about virtual events and that going forward they plan on creating more hybrid events. “We'll never do anything ever again that doesn't have some sort of a livestream aspect or something like that,” he adds.
Thinking strategically about the future of Michigan House, Velie says there’s a possibility that they go to SXSW each spring and then host an event series like Michigan House Summer every summer, where they travel city to city highlighting the things happening around the state.
So far, there are two more stops for Michigan House at Studio Park this summer, along with Traverse City and more dates to come for events in Ann Arbor, Detroit, Kalamazoo and Marquette.
“We're really trying to kind of build a year-round program, where we're consistently getting to highlight people and ideas and the companies that they're building — both within the state and then, you know, to this wider audience.”
Photos courtesy of Carbon Stories