First Friday Openings
Celebrate Local Art the First Friday of Every Month!
The MacRostie’s monthly exhibition openings always coincide with First Fridays: a celebration of art & community in downtown Grand Rapids, a project of Grand Rapids Arts. Come in to enjoy food, music, artist talks, and then be sure to “hop” over to all of these other great art destinations within walking distance! For more information about First Fridays, visit www.grandrapidsarts.org.
From Business North:
Grand Rapids seeks out arts destination identity
By Beth Bily, Nov/Dec 2011
Want to enjoy a rich, vibrant arts scene? Leaders in Grand Rapids are hoping those considering an arts/culture trek might think of this rural community first.
Grand Rapids has always boasted more arts offerings than one might expect from a small town. It’s home to the Reif Performing Arts Center, the MacRostie Art Center and has its own orchestra and strings instruction program. Unlike many other small town volunteer-based arts programs, these are full-time going concerns, complete with paid staff and a regular slate of performances and shows.
Grand Rapids was chosen as the first site for the Minnesota Orchestra’s newly launched “Common Chords,” an outreach program where the orchestra tailors a week of programming to the community it is visiting. During the week of Oct. 10-15, the orchestra visited local schools, held a number of group performances and an “Art of Conducting” workshop at the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce.
It was just prior to this mid-October visit that Grand Rapids launched it’s first official “First Friday,” a term commonly used to describe the first Friday of the month, which coincide with art gallery openings.
Katie Marshall has been executive director of the MacRostie Art Center for the past six months. She said her organization and others began informally hosting First Fridays last summer — prior to the October official kick-off. Attendance over the past few months has been solid for the MacRostie and other businesses in the arts cluster.
The marketing of First Friday to date has been local. Marshall composes a flier for the event and each participating business is then charged with distribution. Downtown sandwich boards also direct foot traffic to First Friday participants. However, marketing efforts will broaden in the future. Grand Rapids Arts, a local collaboration among area arts venues, received a grant in early October for marketing the once a month event.
“So far we’ve had mostly local people, but we’re beginning to hear from people in other communities that they’re excited to see First Friday in Grand Rapids,” said Marshall. “It has the potential to draw a wider crowd as the word spreads.”
That’s what some with close ties to the business community are hoping for. Among those championing First Friday is Ed Zabinski, city councilman and senior vice president at Grand Rapids State Bank.
“I think First Friday coupled with the work of the Farmer’s Market could be a real tourist draw,” he said.
Zabinski also sees a role for local arts that goes beyond tourism.
It could be called a “creative class” mindset — or the notion that today’s professionals tend to gravitate to and stay in communities with arts and cultural amenities. It’s a concept that’s been championed by economist Richard Florida, who visited Duluth in 2007 in an organized effort to spark a creative class movement in the Twin Ports.
Zabinski and Florida may be onto something. Matt Lehtinen, an executive from West Range iron ore concentrate producer Megnetation, chose to relocate to Grand Rapids, in part, for its arts offerings.
Lehtinen said he and his family were impressed with the restaurant, cultural and arts amenities Grand Rapids offered. He also added the Reif Center, and its shows and touring acts are a big draw. “I’m extremely impressed with the acts and diversity of programming offered at the Reif,” he said.
And it’s not just acts coming in from out of town that make Grand Rapids a Range arts hub. Local artists also contribute to the vibrant arts scene, said Rick Harding, local businessman and arts enthusiast. “The creativity of this community makes it a unique and special place to live.”