Category: Community

Gazelle Sports’ dedication to community: ‘We believe movement can change your life’

Gazelle Sports

Joe Trupp, in a sense, has come full circle.

After struggling through the first run of his life, a four-miler at the age of 34, Trupp began hanging out and asking questions of staff at the Gazelle Sports in Kalamazoo, inadvertently becoming part of the movement community that 11 years later he now helps build and herd.

“The way I felt after that run, gosh, it was incredible and different than anything I had ever felt in my life,” said Trupp, who manages the same Gazelle Sports store in Kalamazoo that helped launch his passion for running and healthy living. “I fell in love with being part of this community of people who help each other, think about each other and inspire each other.

“Gazelle encourages people to grow, whatever that means to them, and I feel good about going to work knowing that I’m helping other people feel good.”

It’s that sense of commitment and camaraderie that has driven Gazelle Sports from its modest beginnings as a running specialty store in 1985 to its center as a five-location, locally owned and operated retailer for athletes of all pursuits.

Gazelle Sports locations in Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Holland, Northville and Birmingham provide a statewide footprint for the retailer, but the stores – more importantly the people who work and shop at them – never lose the reflection of their community. That’s on display through carefully curated gear, sponsored events and run camps and clinics that encourage positive lifestyles.


The stores focus on retail excellence, customer care and being a support system, Trupp said. Employees work to get to know people coming in the stores and strive to understand their goals before guiding them through items that will help them achieve success.

“We want people to be a part of the Gazelle family,” Trupp said. “We want to encourage you to take that first step of a run or that first yoga class, whatever your interest is. We want to meet you where you’re at and be a part of that journey to help you get where you want to go.

“That’s the goal, not to just sell you something, although we obviously hope that will happen. Our people want to learn your story, gain your trust and let you know that we’re on your side. Movement is the mission. Your success is our reward.”

Trupp thinks back to his progress as a runner, which led him from a friend challenging him to run a half marathon to him tackling an ultramarathon in roughly a year. He remembers on that first run it was a group of women involved in the Gazelle Sports training club who taught him the importance of conversational running, that if he couldn’t talk comfortably, he was going too fast.

The message, and the result of listening to experienced runners, delivered for Trupp, who worked at a hair salon located across the street from Gazelle Sports at the time. His persistence and quest for knowledge led the run specialty store to offer him a part-time job, which led to a full-time position, and then five years ago a leadership role.

“That group took me under their wings, and I learned so much,” he said. “If Gazelle hadn’t been there to help me, who knows how (the half marathon) would have turned out. I learned the sky was the limit, and then I got to be a part of a team providing that same thing to others.

“It’s really amazing, I was not a runner, and I was on a different path, but that’s why we say that we believe movement can change your life. It does exactly that. I want to be that person for others who are just starting out, getting back into a routine or are just looking for someone to talk to.”

20 minutes to anything: Here is the center of Detroit

Greektown Casino-Hotel Casino

Maybe it’s a home game for the Detroit Lions, Tigers, Red Wings or Pistons.

Or perhaps a night on the town with friends?

How about a concert or Broadway show at the historic Fox Theatre and its next-door neighbor the Fillmore Detroit?

And let’s not forget live jazz clubs, comedy performances or other late-night entertainment.

Whatever brings you to Detroit, you’ll find the Greektown Casino-Hotel at the center of any stay-and-play visit.

Guests at the 400-room, 30-floor hotel have prime access to its exciting 100,000-square-foot gaming floor, a destination in and of itself, in addition to being less than a mile and a 20-minute walk – shorter with a cab or ride-sharing service – to many of Michigan’s best and biggest attractions.

Here’s a primer on what’s nearby:

  • Little Caesars Arena
  • Ford Field
  • Comerica Park
  • The historic Greektown neighborhood
  • Fox Theatre
  • The Fillmore Detroit
  • Campus Martius Park
  • Hart Plaza

Before heading out to an event, Greektown offers its own incredible entertainment and dining options. There are more than 2,500 slots and 60 table games over two floors of gaming activity. The playing floor, machines and dealers are routinely identified as the best in Detroit.

Sam Arabo, an executive casino host, recommends guests visit the hotel-casino’s restaurants during their stay. There is a wide diversity at Monroe Market, a 24-hour curated collection of culinary experiences in a setting similar to a street market. The market has six restaurants that serve everything from burgers and pizza to BBQ and southern-style fried chicken.

Meanwhile, Arabo said a visit to Prism, the property’s signature steakhouse, seafood and pasta fine-dining, is a must-stop.

“We’ve won several awards for our food selection, our wine selection,” Arabo said. “Everybody enjoys it.”

Greektown staff members excel at attending to guests needs and making them comfortable during their stay.

“Customer service is our biggest thing,” Arabo said. “If a guest is happy, my job is easy.”

Why Greektown is the center of NFL gameday in Detroit

Tailgating at the Lion's game, brought to you by Greektown Casin-Hotel

Step outside Greektown Casino-Hotel on a Sunday morning in the fall or winter, and there’s no doubt when it’s a National Football League gameday for the Detroit Lions.

Fans dressed head-to-toe in Honolulu blue and silver stream by. Greektown restaurants and bars are packed. Tailgaters fill nearby parking lots with tents, grills, spaceheaters, generators and fully customized RVs to support their team and enjoy themselves before kickoff.

It’s a community event with statewide draw, allowing perfect strangers to become fast friends over a game of sack toss or throwing a football around, a cold beverage and a bite to eat – and Greektown Casino-Hotel is at the center of it all.

After staying at the neighborhood’s premier hotel and gaming floor, but before hitting the stands, guests can hang out in the entertainment center’s incredible dining areas.

Check out Bistro 555 for the breakfast buffet that will fill you for the day’s adventures. Pop into Monroe Market, a 24-hour curated collection of culinary experiences that line 11,000 square feet in a setting similar to a street market. The market has six restaurants that serve everything from burgers and pizza to BBQ and southern-style fried chicken.

Or guests can also choose to head out to Greektown favorites like the Old Shillelagh, Astoria Bakery, Red Smoke Barbecue or Fishbones.

From there, it’s a short 10-minute walk to Ford Field, but one ripe with opportunity for the full Lions experience.

The franchise’s official pre-game party tailgate is at Prize Plaza on Brush Street, and it has free admission. The close-to-the-stadium spaces opens at 10 a.m. and features beer tents, music, food trucks and interactive fan games. There are also large-screen televisions for watching and listening to pre-game commentary.

But for the more colorful tailgating visit, continue on to the parking lots at Eastern Market. This is the hub of pregame activity and where you’ll find thousands of diehards who arrive early and stay late. They pack for the apocalypse and leave unwanted. Burgers, brats, ribs, side dishes, you name it, and it’s being prepared.

Groups who have celebrated pre-games together for years – and gone to great lengths to put on a heck of a party – are welcoming of fellow Lions fans and willing to give tours of specialized Lions-themed vehicles.

Take the “Since 1957” tailgate leaders, who bought an RV and decked-out the vehicle in Lions memorabilia of all sorts. They’ve been together since 2005 and have designated themselves as “Since 1957” because that’s the last time the team won a championship.

They make sure to put on a spread and “keep everyone hydrated” before kickoff.

Once the game is over and Lions fans are ready to wind down or keep the party going, it’s a quick jaunt back to the Greektown Casino-Hotel for the night.

‘You know the good they do,’ co-workers say about this West Michigan charity

SCG volunteer

It had been their tradition for more than two decades. Several co-workers from Spectrum Health Hospice would get together for dinner once a month on Tuesday nights, and for the holidays they’d exchange Christmas ornaments.

But 25 years’ worth of ornaments adds up. Some of the women started saying they have so many that they don’t know what to do with them all. Others said they no longer put up a Christmas tree and don’t need any more ornaments.

So, they started a new tradition. A couple years ago, the Tuesday Night Steel Magnolias decided to take the money they’d been spending on ornaments and give it to charity instead.

Santa Claus Girls presents

Their chosen beneficiary? The Santa Claus Girls.

“You know the good they do,” said Judy Carlon, a Kentwood woman who’s one of eight members of the group that took its name from their Tuesday night dinners and their mutual love of the “Steel Magnolias” movie.

“You can watch the money given out. You see them buying the gifts, wrapping them and delivering them. Everybody seems to know the Santa Claus Girls.”

For more than 110 years, the Santa Claus Girls have been a community tradition. Our community provides the volunteers who run the charity and the donors who fund it. The end result is that thousands of Kent County kids experience the childlike joy and wonder of the Christmas season by receiving a gift.

If you’re familiar with the Santa Claus Girls, you know about the impact that The Press-sponsored charity has on the community each and every Christmas. You know that the Santa Claus Girls has been a beacon of hope in West Michigan for generations. Maybe you even received gifts from the Santa Claus Girls when you were a child.

But in case you don’t know much about the Santa Claus Girls, here’s why it’s so important for you to be a part of this community mission that’s a West Michigan legacy:

  • The Santa Claus Girls started buying, wrapping and delivering Christmas gifts to Kent County children in need way back in 1908. Then, same as now, the goal was to provide Christmas gifts to boys and girls who otherwise wouldn’t receive any. Learn more about the charity’s history here.
  • Any child age 6 months to 12 years from families in need in Kent County can register to receive gifts from the Santa Claus Girls. Each delivery includes five items: an age-appropriate toy, book, warm hat, gloves or mittens, a sweatshirt or pajamas, and candy.
  • Santa Claus Girls presents for Kent County kidsEach year, hundreds of volunteers take phone calls to register gift recipients, buy items, wrap presents and deliver the packages. This year’s workspace on 36th Street SE is donated by Knoll, Inc.
  • Because the Santa Claus Girls is 100-percent run by volunteers, more than 98 cents of every dollar donated goes directly to sharing the Christmas spirit by providing gifts for children. The charity has a long-term, proven track record of using the community’s donations efficiently and effectively.

RELATED: Restaurants: Use this $10 coupon to support West Michigan holiday tradition

The $200,000 it takes to make the miracles happen may sound like a daunting amount. But with individual and business donors throughout West Michigan, a community effort makes it all possible.

Last year, a wide variety of individuals, businesses and social groups contributed to the  Santa Claus Girls hats for Kent county kids Santa Claus Girls in amounts that ranged from $2.18 to $50,000. In addition to donations from a wide range of West Michigan businesses, money came in from the Tuesday Night Steel Magnolias, the Golden K Kiwanis Club of Grand Rapids, Sons of American Legion Squadron No. 305, the Union High School Class of 1961 Peppermill Breakfast Club and scores of other groups and clubs.

Last year, for the first time, online donations to the Santa Claus Girls accounted for 10 percent of the charity’s $200,000 fundraising goal. The average amount given online was $136, but gifts of any amount helped the Santa Claus Girls deliver presents to more than 13,000 children from over 5,000 families.

You can help the Santa Claus Girls deliver gifts to another 13,000-plus children this Christmas whether you donate $136, $13.60 or $1.36. Every bit helps, no matter how big or small. In fact, if every household in Kent County donated just $1, that would be enough to hit the Santa Claus Girls goal.

No stamps in the house? No problem. Envelopes not necessary, either. These days, it’s easier than ever to support the Santa Claus Girls. Just click here and make a contribution via PayPal.

Two years ago, when the Tuesday Night Steel Magnolias started giving their ornament  money to charity, Carlon mailed in their donation to the Santa Claus Girls. Last year, she submitted the donation online through the charity’s Web site.

SCG volunteer wrapping gifts“I think I was in a hurry last year and I couldn’t find the address, so it was easier to go online,” Carlon said.

See how easy it is for you to join the tradition of helping the Santa Claus Girls make Christmas wishes come true. Let’s continue West Michigan’s heritage of providing a gift to every child at Christmas!

Why this Christmas charity can put 98 cents of every $1 directly into gifts for kids

santa claus girls presents

Members of the West Michigan Quilters’ Guild showed up at the Santa Claus Girls workshop on the last Monday in October. A few days later, on Halloween, it was women from Delta Kappa Gamma. Groups on tap for November include

Santa Claus Girls volunteers wrapping presents

About 10 to 15 people – some in groups and some as individuals – volunteer to wrap presents for the Santa Claus Girls each weekday. Throughout the Christmas season, upwards of 700 people volunteer.

disabled adults from HOPE Network, parishioners from St. Anthony’s church and employees of the Henry A. Fox Sales beer distributorship.

The list is diverse. But during the Christmas season, the groups all have something in common: they volunteer to wrap presents.

Year in and year out, a community of volunteers exemplifies the Christmas spirit by carrying on a century-old West Michigan tradition of wrapping gifts for children in Kent County who are at risk of not getting anything at all for the holidays.

Of course, the Santa Claus Girls not only wrap gifts. They also buy them. Sort them. And deliver them. Altogether, upwards of 700 volunteers pitch in each year to brighten the season for children and families in need.

In fact, there’s not a single paid person in the entire operation! The Santa Claus Girls is 100-percent volunteer run. Even The Press-sponsored charity’s Knoll, Inc. workspace on 36th Street SE is donated.

That’s why you can feel good about giving money to the Santa Claus Girls: more than 98 percent of the money donated to the non-profit organization goes directly into gifts for kids. That’s 98 cents of every dollar you contribute!

Santa Claus Girls sign at Knoll

Knoll, Inc. donates space for the Santa Claus Girls and also supports the charity with building maintenance, trash removal and transporting merchandise from shipping docks to the workshop. ‘They really go above and beyond,’ volunteer Maggie Moerdyke said. ‘They are very giving here.’

“Our phone banks are totally staffed by volunteers. Our wrappers. Our sorters. Even cleaning off the tables in the lunchroom is done by volunteers,” said Maggie Moerdyke, a volunteer from Lowell. “It totally blows me away. It’s very much a community effort.”

There are many places to give this holiday season, but not all giving opportunities are equally charitable. Not only is Santa Claus Girls extremely efficient with the money donated by the community because it’s run by all volunteers, but it also has a long and proven track record.

For over a century, going all the way back to 1908, community volunteers and donors have helped the Santa Claus Girls make miracles for children – ensuring that no child goes without a gift at Christmas.

Last year, the Santa Claus Girls wrapped and delivered presents to 13,105 children from 5,142 families across Kent County. The charity aims to do it all over again this year and needs to raise $200,000.

That money, along with in-kind contributions of donated items, will provide gifts to each registered child including an age-appropriate toy, a book, clothing such as a sweatshirt or pajamas, warms hats, gloves or mittens and candy.

Volunteer buyers purchase items to supplement what has been donated. Then volunteer sorters divvy up the presents by age and gender before volunteer wrappers put a bow on the process. Other volunteers design the delivery routes and on Dec. 14, this year’s delivery day, even more volunteers arrive to bring the gifts to children who registered to be on the Santa Claus Girls gift list.

Jean McArthur has volunteered with the Santa Claus Girls for the past three years, ever since she moved to Rockford from the east side of Michigan and sought a place to donate items that she sews. Each Christmas season she drops off boxes of matching bibs, burp cloths and receiving blankets that the Santa Claus Girls include in gifts for families with infants.

Not only that, but McArthur also volunteers to wrap presents at the workshop.

Santa Claus Girls driver's map

Volunteers plot routes for efficient delivery of Christmas gifts to more than 13,000 children from over 5,000 families across Kent County each year.

“When I came in to drop off my stuff, they gave me a tour and I was just so impressed with what they do and how they do it that I wanted to do more,” McArthur said. “It sold itself: Christmas and kids, you don’t need anything else. It was an easy sell.

“And it’s very rewarding. I get more out of this than I give.”

McArthur has enjoyed helping the Santa Claus Girls so much that she presented the charity as a potential beneficiary of the Women Who Care of Kent County group that she’s part of. Every three months the group meets and picks a charity to receive a sizeable donation. This year the group gave $18,100 to the Santa Claus Girls!

RELATED: Restaurants: Use this $10 coupon to support West Michigan holiday tradition

Whether you give $18,000 or just $18, you, too, can help the Santa Claus Girls by donating money with confidence that it will accomplish the charity’s mission as cost-effectively as possible. Hundreds of volunteers from across the community are working hard right now to ensure that the Santa Claus Girls make more miracles for children in Kent County this Christmas.

Please help sustain West Michigan’s 110-year-old Christmas tradition by making a generous contribution to the Santa Claus Girls here, or by calling The Grand Rapids Press at 616-254-2099.

To register a family to receive gifts, please call 616-957-7335 or visit www.santaclausgirls.org/submit.

To volunteer to drive, please email drivers@santaclausgirls.org.

7 ways your West Michigan business can make miracles this Christmas

Child looking into present box

Election Day may be in November, but it’s in December that the really important voting takes place inside Quinn & Tuite’s Irish Pub. All month long, patrons of the Grand Rapids bar cast votes for one of their fellow regulars to receive tongue-in-cheek recognition as “Customer of the Year” on a big board hanging on the wall.

People can vote as often as they’d like, with a catch: Each vote costs 10 cents. At the end of the month, Quinn & Tuite’s donates all of the money to the Santa Claus Girls – a charity that the bar has supported annually for the past 35 years.

Santa Claus Girls business flyer

To help your restaurant or bar get involved in West Michigan’s 111-year holiday tradition, the Santa Claus Girls will supply customizable coupons.

“It’s pretty much a family down here, so everybody likes to rag on everybody,” said Rick Schall, co-owner of the bar at 1535 Plainfield Ave. NE. “It makes it fun for everybody.”

Whether through cash donations or in-kind contributions of toys and clothing, businesses all across West Michigan rally behind the Santa Claus Girls each year. Not just office employees and manufacturing workers, but bars and restaurants join the cause, too.

Last year’s Santa Claus Girls donation from Quinn & Tuite’s tallied $918.70. That’s over 9,000 votes – more than double the number cast at the polls in the most recent city election!

Just a few miles north off Plainfield at Bud & Stanley’s Pub & Grub, customers took a different fundraising approach last Christmas season. The bar emailed special coupons to regulars, and every coupon brought back in triggered a $10 donation from Bud & Stanley’s to the Santa Claus Girls. The total contribution amounted to $1,200!

Raising money for the Santa Claus Girls can be a great way for restaurants to support the community while benefitting a worthy charity that customers care about. How will your favorite watering hole join the cause this Christmas season?

Here are some other creative ways that businesses donate or raise money so the Santa Claus Girls can make sure no child in Kent County ages 6 months to 12 years goes without a gift at Christmas:

  • Knoll Inc. is in its sixth year of offering 23,000 square feet of space for the charity’s workshop, the spot where thousands of toys are stored and wrapped by volunteers before delivery day. The company also covers the costs for Wi-Fi, electricity, heat and trash removal, all would-be expenses that allow more gifts to go to more children.
  • Mark-Maker Co., Inc. last year donated $1,400 to the Santa Claus Girls. child opening doorThe money came from employees tossing spare change into a bucket. (Plus, next to the bucket is a box of irresistible snacks and candy for sale.) When the tradition began in 2002, Mark-Maker collected $50. The donations have grown through the years, adding up to thousands of dollars that have helped buy gifts for hundreds of Kent County kids.
  • Instead of buying Christmas gifts for their bosses, team members at Betz Industries and Betz Pattern donated money to the Santa Claus Girls. Last year’s donation of $2,632 was enough to purchase gifts for more than 100 children!
  • Many businesses hold holiday parties with employees and their families. The party at Purity Cylinder Gases, Inc. incorporates auctions and raffles to benefit the Santa Claus Girls, with the company matching the amount of money raised. Last year’s tally: $23,447!
  • At Walker Tool & Die, each year the employees team with the company’s customers and suppliers to gather a wide range of gift items that then are given to the Santa Claus Girls for distribution to children around Kent County. Check out the stash of gifts from last Christmas!

 

Going all the way back to 1908, the Santa Claus Girls has gathered, wrapped and delivered presents for children in Kent County who otherwise wouldn’t get anything for Christmas. The all-volunteer organization sponsored by The Grand Rapids Press delivered gifts to 13,105 children from 5,142 families last year. Each child receives a toy, book, warm hat, gloves or mittens, a sweatshirt or pajamas and candy.

For every child who receives a gift, there is a giver who makes it possible. That’s the essence of the Christmas spirit. Yet, what the Santa Claus Girls do doesn’t happen everywhere in the world. It is West Michigan’s heritage. Our legacy. Your opportunity.

The Santa Claus Girls aims to raise $200,000 in individual, business and community donations to make miracles for thousands more children this Christmas. Every donation helps, big or small. Can your business give $25? Or $2,500? How about $25,000? The Christmas spirit knows no bounds.

The Santa Claus Girls are run entirely by volunteers, with nary an elf on the payroll. That means more than 98 cents of every dollar donated goes directly to gifts for children. Please help meet the need by making a generous contribution here, or by calling The Grand Rapids Press at 616-254-2099.

To Register a family to receive gifts, please call 616-967-7335 or visit www.santaclausgirls.org/submit

To Volunteer to drive by emailing drivers@santaclausgirls.org

Spotlight on: Muskegon Lumberjacks

Muskegon Lumberjacks hockey game

‘One big party,’ how $1.7M in arena renovations changed this hockey experience

When the capacity crowd at Mercy Health Arena (formerly L.C. Walker Arena) celebrates a Muskegon Lumberjacks goal by yelling “You got Jacked,” it’s a fun taunt at the opposing goalie.

But it’s equally appropriate as a measure of excitement felt by the thousands of fans providing a home-ice advantage for Michigan’s only United States Hockey League team.

With a $1.7 million renovation and elite hockey talent – the Lumberjacks have had 18 NHL draft picks and 51 players earn college scholarships in just the last 5 years – the hockey and the social experience has changed from preconceived perceptions, said Mike McCall, the Lumberjacks president.

“Our number one goal is to make sure we created something for everyone,” McCall said. “When you come into this building, there’s a wow factor, there’s a vibe and there’s a sense of fun. We’re grateful to have the opportunity to present that night in and night out.

“(The renovation) is helping to revive the downtown. The Muskegon area is growing. The vibe in the whole community is improving. There’s a new sense of pride and we want to be one of those helping lead that.”

The project was unveiled in late 2018, and this will be the first full season for fans to experience the team’s 30 home dates that stretch into April. The upgrades include a new and improved concourse area, suite boxes, club and lodge seating, and the creation of a party platform that includes a beer garden, bar and an open-air and supervised kids’ zone.

The new concourse design keeps fans in the arena rather than leaving the seating area and into a closed off hallway. The work brings concessions to the inside and is transformative.

“The great thing about this openness that we created in the arena is that it’s really created a social environment. People can walk around, and they can see the game, they can see their friends, they can see their kids. It’s really one big party.

“You can grab a beer or a hot dog and still watch the game. You are right on top of the action. There’s no better place to watch a hockey game.”

Attendance was up 20 percent last year despite a reduction in the number of seats, McCall said, and that shows people are responding to the changes.

The USHL took notice too, honoring the Lumberjacks with the 2019 Organization of the Year award.

“Our goal is to win it again this year and the next year,” McCall said. “We want to continue to be the best team in this league.”

The Lumberjacks, who feature players ages 16 to 20 on the development track to major college or professional hockey, are a community experience and attribute, McCall said. With the majority of the team’s games on Friday or Saturday nights, the setting is ideal for families, business or group outings or getting friends together.

“Coming to a Lumberjacks game is a release,” he said. “You’re going to yell, you’re going to scream, and you’re going cheer. You’re going to see people you know, have some drinks and have a great time.”

That is exactly the atmosphere that Andrea Sponaas has witnessed.

“If there’s one thing that’s been consistent, it’s been the jaw-drop (from people) as soon as they walk in,” said Sponaas, the vice president of corporate partnerships for the team. “You can tell the people who have not been here since the renovations. It’s awestruck. It’s ‘Oh, my gosh, this is fantastic.’”

Lumberjacks games are safe, clean, affordable and convenient, Sponaas said, and the team’s leaders want to keep the momentum going.

“We’re making sure we’re bringing in new fans and exposing them to how great this league is and exposing them to the atmosphere that we’ve built,” said Sponaas, who was with the team 10 years ago when it launched in Muskegon.

“The Muskegon Lumberjacks of today are an entirely different experience. If folks haven’t been to the game, seen the arena changes, I think they’re really missing out.”

On the hockey side, Lumberjacks Head Coach Mike Hamilton said fans can expect 100 percent effort and an exciting, active style of play. The USHL is the highest level of junior hockey in the country, he said. Prospects come from around the world to play in the league. The players have moved away from their homes – in some cases their countries – to pursue their dreams.

“Everyone who plays youth hockey, this is their goal,” he said. “Every night they’re being evaluated, not just by us, but if you look around there are NHL scouts, there are colleges scouting.

“They make a huge commitment just to be here and develop into the best hockey players they can be, but they recognize that they’re here to be part of the community. Muskegon is invested in them and their actions on and off the ice reflect on Muskegon. We win together.”

Visit the Lumberjacks website to find the team’s schedule and learn more about Muskegon’s team.

Project 1 by ArtPrize: Ideas to explore, experience and personalize your public art discovery

Project 1 logo

Walking across the city’s iconic Blue Bridge, the sounds jumping from the speakers installed by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer are mind-bending at first. Mixed messages looping as visitors traverse the Grand River are intensified by more than 400 flashing lights that overload the senses.

Slow down and the realization comes that the Voice Bridge installation at Project 1 by ArtPrize is simply bringing part of the cacophony, and also the fleeting nature, of urban life to the forefront.

Lozano-Hemmer invites visitors to record a short voice message into intercoms at either end of the bridge and then follow it down the path. The messages weave and bump into earlier voices until they disappear and are replaced by others.

Is it a metaphor for life’s ephemeral nature? Or something else?

That’s what Project 1: Crossed Lines wants you to think about and determine on your own.

The evolution of ArtPrize to Project 1: Crossed Lines has allowed organizers to deepen the significance of art by creating a theme that serves as an inspiration for the pieces while also examining critical issues. Crossed Lines looks at how boundaries, both visible and invisible, affect a sense of belonging that can unite or divide the city.

Kevin Buist, artistic director of ArtPrize, says the lines contribute to or detract from people’s sense of belonging.

“Some of these lines are clear: neighborhoods, wards, roads, and rivers,” Buist wrote in his essay launching Project 1. “Other lines are harder to see: the legacy of redlining and other discriminatory housing practices; the way perceptions of safety map onto city space; the limitations imposed by the built environment on persons with disabilities; the shifting implicit borders that come with cycles of urban decay, development, and gentrification; and more.”

With time running out to experience the first-ever Project 1 – the public art exhibition ends Oct. 27 – it’s time to take stock of the installations that are available and how to explore the public art that has transformed Grand Rapids, and potentially the people who experience it.

Voice-Bridge-by-Rafael-Lozano-HemmerLozano-Hemmer’s use of the bridge provides the first opportunity at introspection. Bridges by their nature create connections and cross lines, in this case from the downtown to the west side of Grand Rapids. He uses proprietary interactive technology to create harmony but also what could be viewed as a disconnect because there is not a cohesive message.

Project 1’s questions to consider as you examine Voice Bridge:

  • Why does the invitation to participate generate belonging, community and ownership?
  • Why do you think the artist chose this location for his work?
  • What is the bridge connecting and what does it represent?
  • How does Voice Bridge address ideas about physical access, power and belonging in the city?

Kaleidoscopic

Amanda Browder’s textile installations are the only element featured at all three of Kaleidoscope, Project 1 by ArtprizetheProject 1 locations, downtown over skywalks, draping the community center at Martin Luther King Jr. Park, and at the Tanglefoot building.

She engages the community by wrapping areas where people move through daily life and where they congregate. Volunteers sewed donated fabric for weeks to create the intricate, colorful designs that change the appearance of otherwise drab cityscapes. From different angles – consider walking through the skywalk links and then observe them from the outside – the installations have varying perspectives.

Project 1’s questions to consider as you examine Kaleidoscopic:

  • Do you think the colors and variety of the fabric are important in the artwork?
  • Do you have clothes, flags or fabric that represents a community you belong to? How would you feel if that fabric was in the installation?
  • How has this work transformed the building it occupies?

The Oracle of the Soulmates

Heather Hart created submerged rooftops, complete with shingles and dormer windows, that look like they were dropped from the sky. The rooftops refer to home, stability or shelter. Hart speaks about the rooftops as thresholds between public and private space. Combined with family and oral histories, and activated by performance, her work explores the power these thresholds have in our lives.

Installed in Rosa Park Circle downtown and in Martin Luther King Jr. Park on the city’s Project 1 by Artprize, rooftopsSoutheast Side, the pieces can foster conversations about housing, hopes and dreams and the often unequal playing fields various socio-economic and demographic groups experience while trying to achieve stability.

Project 1’s questions to consider as you examine The Oracle of the Soulmates:

  • How does this work showcase the community it is in?
  • How does it create a space for storytelling?
  • What space do you experience storytelling in your community?
  • If this sculpture was in your neighborhood, what stories, songs or performances do you think would be shared from the rooftops?

The Boom and the Bust

The 25-foot sculpture created by Olalekan Jeyifous rises from the ground at the corner of Louis Street and Monroe Avenue in downtown Grand Rapids. The installation

The Boom and Bust, Project 1 by Artprize

referencing the balance of urban life, growth sought for vibrant cityscapes but an economic boom that often leads to individual displacement. Jeyifous researched the recent history of housing in Grand Rapids. By combining references to skyscrapers and single-family houses, he shows how the energy that continues to transform Grand Rapids has far-reaching impact and implications.

The piece is comprised of three sections, a base resembling a single home, a middle that features a steel lattice supporting an array of small homes, and a top that resembles a skyscraper.

Project 1’s questions to consider as you examine The Boom and the Bust:

  • How does this sculpture reflect the Grand Rapids community and families that live here?
  • Why do you think the artist chose the city’s downtown for this work?
  • If it was hard for you to find a place to live in a community, would you still feel welcomed?

Critical Infrastructure

With the site-specific architectural installation at the landmark Tanglefoot Building, a Critical Infrastructure, Project 1 by Artprizeformer industrial flypaper manufacturing site now repurposed to house artists’ studios, Paul Amenta and Ted Lott transform a private space into a fully accessible public space through a series of ramps and landings. In collaboration with DisArt, an arts and culture organization that focuses on creating public art events that cultivate and communicate a disabled culture, the environment addresses accessibility in both form and function. The work creates a stage for action and expression.

Project 1’s questions to consider as you examine Critical Infrastructure:

  • How has this installation transformed the space it occupies?
  • How does the piece advocate for the disabled community?
  • Why are performance, storytelling and community engagement important elements to this work?

As Buist sums up in his essay defining Project 1, the art is organized around the idea of belonging and how individuals react or interpret that feeling.

“Belonging is a state of being, so these artworks are places to be, not just things to look at and think about,” he wrote. “It’s our hope that Project 1 does much more than communicate an idea; we hope it can alter and reorganize the city, breach borders, cross paths, blur boundaries, and point toward a future city where we all belong.”

Learn more about Project 1 by visiting the art exhibition’s website.