The announcement that the Broadway hit “Hamilton” will visit the Wharton Center’s Cobb Great Hall in May 2019 generated a huge buzz, but it is what happened before and what will take place later that equally excites Debbie Mikula.
Mikula, from her role as chief executive of the Arts Council of Greater Lansing, has watched the entire arts and culture scene in Michigan’s capital city flourish since she took the helm of the advocacy group in 2013.
“What we have in Lansing is really rare,” Mikula said. “The arts bring us all together and help build the fabric of a community. We have such talented individual artists that paint, perform and create, and then we have the organizations that support such a robust and vibrant diversity of events and activities that make us a great place to live, work, play and visit.
“The building blocks have been in place, and now it just keeps expanding and that’s a wonderful thing to see.”
Greater Lansing, as the third-largest metropolitan area in the state, is an arts and culture powerhouse with first-rate amenities and a commitment to creativity that is unmatched. In a region that is 90 miles away from 90 percent of Michigan’s population, Lansing can claim:
- Having the state’s largest performing arts venue in the Wharton Center
- The internationally acclaimed Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University
- A symphony orchestra operating continuously since 1929
- A walking sculpture tour of nearly 30 permanently installed pieces
- A vast offering of art galleries, local theater and music venues
The arts have proven to be both a place-making epicenter for people living in Greater Lansing as well as an economic engine for the region. Estimates place the impact at $147 million per year when people dine at area restaurants, stay the night at hotels and spend on incidentals while experiencing cultural events.
Take a closer look at what Lansing offers and plan your visit with this list of tips and event calendar:
The Wharton Center for Performing Arts: The Wharton is Michigan’s premier facility for touring Broadway shows, with the previously mentioned blockbuster ‘Hamilton’ on the way from May 14 to June 2, but the center also has three other stages for theatre, dance and musical performances. The venerable hits “School of Rock” runs from Sept. 18-23, the Phantom of the Opera sequel “Love Never Dies” takes the stage Oct. 9-14 and “Fiddler on the Roof” from Dec. 4-8 are among the shows preceding Lyn Manuel Miranda’s hit. Tickets to all shows can be found here.
Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum: The contemporary museum, which opened in 2012 on the Michigan State University campus, presents thought provoking exhibitions across all mediums, bringing local artists to light and drawing national shows to mid-Michigan. The museum also has educational classes and seminars to boost public understanding of arts and culture. The striking building is an exploration of the senses in itself and was designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Zaha Hadid.
Lansing Symphony Orchestra: On the cusp of its 90th year, the orchestra is one of Michigan’s longest running professional troupe and its leadership takes pride in presenting classical masterpieces as well as a range of modern music that touch audiences. Performances by internationally known guest artists supplement the standing Pops and Chambers series. The symphony jazz band further diversifies the organization’s cultural reach.
Lansing Community College Sculpture Walk: Nearly 30 sculptures, carefully crafted and strategically placed in and around the school’s downtown campus, provide a scenic and leisurely walk for the arts-minded visitor, a meeting attendee looking for a break or a business professional stretching their legs. All the pieces have ties to students, faculty or alumni from LCC. The signature “Red Ribbon in the Sky” juts 30 feet into the air and is a centerpiece of the display. The college also has more than 600 piece of other art that is accessible in public spaces.
Local galleries, theatres and festivals: Lansing’s neighborhoods are a hotbed of independent art galleries, community theatres and festivals that built an atmosphere for creatively in arts, music and food. From Old Town to REO Town and East Lansing, there are delightful discoveries to find something in everyone’s wheelhouse. The suburban cities of Eaton Rapids, Williamston, Charlotte and St. Johns, among others, have all created public performances and developed local arts elements that supplement the Capital region.
Coming in 2019: The Capital Region Community Foundation has funded a $100,000 project to place a new piece of art in the roundabout at Washington Square and Michigan Avenue. The sculpture chosen for the high-profile location, with a direct view to and from the Capitol building, will be a public vote of sorts with foundation asking for opinions once finalists are selected.
Public murals: Multiple wall-size murals have sprung up in Greater Lansing in recent years. Among the highlights are the “Under the Bridge Project,” a set of four 50-by-25-foot pieces under the US-127 overpass along Michigan Avenue. This stretch of roadway that links East Lansing and Lansing was transformed by artist Brian Whitfield, who used community history to create colorful images that are highlighted by changing shades of lighting. There’s also a jazz and blues festival-inspired, two-story piece painted by teen art students in the heart of Old Town Lansing on the building that houses the Arts Council.
The deliberate intent to raise the awareness of the arts is found in all corners of the region as people look for connections and a high quality of life, Mikula said.
“We know that people choose vacations or take jobs based on what’s available in the city,” she said. “We’re seeing the change, we’re seeing the transformation of the arts that draws people to Lansing.”
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