Grand Rapids

Arts/Culture
7:06 pm
Thu June 30, 2011

Line of people volunteer to move UICA block by block

6-year-old French Bulldog Jasper keeps out of the way, minds spare boxes, and provides 'comedic relief' for the people in between box-passing.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts is moving into a new location. Its new home is only 2 blocks away from where it is now, so today volunteers lined up to help them move. More than 60 people created a human chain, passing one box along from one person to the next.

“You know we depend on volunteers,” UICA Executive Director Jeff Meeuwsen said, “We’re very community-oriented and we said right away, how can we involve people in our move?”

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Culture
12:19 am
Thu June 30, 2011

Free water park an oasis for Grand Rapids neighborhood

Dozens of kids enjoyed the grand opening of the park in Grand Rapids' Baxter neighborhood.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The two acre park is a step towards the city’s goal to have every Grand Rapids resident live within ¼ mile of some kind of greenspace. That goal has been difficult to achieve since nearly all of the city’s land has already been developed. Plus, city government has been cutting down on spending for years.

13-year old Ashley Jones remembers the old vacant lot where the park is now. She refered to it as a ‘hot mess’ before the renovations.

“It looked crazy. It had the prickles when you walked it would stick on your shoes. There was no shade or nothing. And it was kind of boring.”

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What's Working
11:21 am
Mon June 27, 2011

Clean Works Project

In our What's Working series, we hear about the Clean Works Project in Grand Rapids, MI. It runs a needle exchange program.
Robert Scales Flickr

All year, Michigan Radio has been talking with people about projects and efforts that are having a positive effect on the state. Today, we hear from Ruth Olsson, a long-time volunteer for the Clean Works project in Grand Rapids.  The main goal of the project is to reduce the rate of HIV.  To do that, it runs a needle exchange program where drug users can turn in used syringes, and pick up a clean one.

Local Government
5:36 pm
Tue June 21, 2011

Transforming city government in Grand Rapids

Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Today elected officials in Grand Rapids adopted a budget for 2012. The plan closes a $6 million budget gap in the city’s general fund.

The plan includes money for a new ‘transformation fund’ – which can only be used for one-time investments in long-term structural changes.

Grand Rapids took a couple measure last year to keep their budget out the red…they laid off around 175 employees and voters approved a city income tax hike.

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Arts/Culture
5:56 pm
Thu June 16, 2011

Artpod: A conversation with GRAM's new art director

Dana Friis-Hansen is the GRAM's new art director.
Steve Hall Photo courtesy of Grand Rapids Art Museum

Dana Friis-Hansen will take the lead at the Grand Rapids Art Museum next month. On this week's Artpod, we talk with Friis-Hansen about his museum philosophy, the state's art ecosystem, and what he means by "negative space."

Bump it up!

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Auto/Economy
5:21 pm
Tue June 14, 2011

Fastest growing job market in the nation this summer? Grand Rapids

Downtown Grand Rapids
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

According to Manpower’s survey Grand Rapids has the best employment outlook of any other metro area in the country.

That’s not really news to Bill Benson, principle at WilliamCharles. He helps companies in the area find talented workers.

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Economy
12:51 pm
Mon June 13, 2011

Grand Rapids LipDub creators launching PR firm

A screen shot of the Grand Rapids LipDub.
youtube.com

The creators of the Grand Rapids LipDub video are using the buzz they've created to launch what they call an "international brand awareness firm."

Rob Bliss, Jeffrey Barrett, and Scott Erickson say their new firm, Status Creative, will build upon the success they had with the Grand Rapids LipDub video (which has had more than 3 million views since its release on YouTube).

From their press release:

“We’re not going to shy away from the spotlight that the Grand Rapids LipDub is shining on us,” said Erickson, referring to the worldwide media coverage and over 3 million YouTube views the video has generated in just two weeks. “But we want people to know that our experience and capabilities go far beyond that single project.  We envision taking the same creative energy and applying it to everything from political campaigns to consumer product launches.”

They say they'll limit their work to 10 campaigns in 2011.

Arts/Culture
4:53 pm
Thu June 2, 2011

Artpod: The LipDub video heard 'round the world

Ryan Slusarzyk and Abbey Sloan sit in the back of a classic Chevy truck near Rosa Parks Circle. They have a line in the Grand Rapids lip dub "drove my chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry."
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

In case you've been living under a couch cushion for the past week or so and haven't heard about the Grand Rapids LipDub video getting rave reviews, let's bring you up to speed:

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Arts/Culture
10:20 am
Thu June 2, 2011

New Director at the Grand Rapids Art Museum

The Grand Rapids Art Museum announced they have a new director. From their press release:

The Board of Trustees of the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM) announced today the appointment of Dana Friis-Hansen as Director and CEO.  The Art Museum selected Friis-Hansen, who most recently served as Executive Director of the Austin Museum of Art, as part of a national search effort. Friis-Hansen will begin work at the Grand Rapids Art Museum on July 13, 2011.

Arts/Culture
4:18 pm
Thu May 26, 2011

The Grand Rapids lip dub video released

Arts/Culture
1:18 pm
Thu May 26, 2011

The making of the Grand Rapids lip dub (video)

Rob Bliss (in the green shirt) and crew set up for another take of the Grand Rapids lip dub on Sunday afternoon.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Rob Bliss is known around Grand Rapids for putting on some crazy events. World record Zombie Walks, giant community pillow fights, water balloon fights, the ‘world’s largest inflatable water slide’, electronic music festivals, sidewalk chalk floods…I’m sure I’m forgetting one or two.

The latest is a professional lip dup video featuring at least a thousand people from the Grand Rapids area.

Here's a video we put together on the making of the lip dub:

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What's Working
6:29 am
Mon May 16, 2011

Education blueprint: North Godwin Elementary

user BES Photos Flickr

This week, What’s Working focuses on education by taking a look at one Michigan school that went from academic mediocrity to being a model for educational reforms in the state. North Godwin Elementary is located just south of Grand Rapids in a working class community with a high immigrant population. Many families in the area are refugees from countries such as Bosnia, Cuba, Vietnam, and Liberia. A high number of students spend a few years learning English as a second language. 

When Arelis Diaz arrived as a teacher at North Godwin Elementary in 1995, the students were struggling to reach proficiency in basic skills. She spent five years as a teacher, and then served as principal of the school from 2000 to 2005. In that time, North Godwin’s students began excelling on standardized tests, bringing student proficiency rates to upwards of 80 percent across all subjects. That academic success at North Godwin continues today. The school has been the recipient of praise and awards for its turnaround, including the “Dispelling the Myth” award in 2010, given by The Educational Trust. 

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Environment
12:49 pm
Tue May 10, 2011

Grand Rapids teams up with Red Cross to help flooding, tornado victims in the South

CEO of The American Red Cross of Greater Grand Rapids Cheryl Bremer joins Mayor George Heartwell in asking residents to support relief efforts.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The city of Grand Rapids is joining efforts to help victims of major flooding and deadly tornados in the Southern United States.

Mayor George Heartwell urged people to give whatever they’re able to afford.

 “I feel so strongly that the suffering of any people anywhere needs to be our suffering. As long as there are people in need and we have the ability and the capacity to help address that need, it’s critical for us to do that.”

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What's Working
6:52 am
Mon May 9, 2011

What's Your Art?

2010 ArtPrize exhibit displayed in Grand Rapids
HarrisinMI / Flickr

This week, What’s Working is taking a trip to Grand Rapids to focus on the “What’s Your Art?” campaign. Many of us are familiar with the annual ArtPrize event held each fall in Grand Rapids, but there are many other art events taking place in the city throughout the year. The What’s Your Art? campaign aims to raise awareness of the many arts-based events held year-round in the Grand Rapids area.

Caroline Older is the Executive Director of the Arts Council of Greater Grand Rapids, and she is overseeing the “What’s Your Art?” campaign. She says What’s Your Art is focused on supporting the culture of art in Grand Rapids more than any one specific event.

“The goal is a long-term goal, not a short-term answer. The impetus behind the What’s Your Art campaign came in the fall of 2008, when we all know the stock market tanked. It was a very tough time for lots of non-profit organizations, and the foundations in our area were looking at ways to try and help support arts organizations. And what we wanted to do was raise awareness about how incredibly rich this region is with its arts and cultural organizations. And we’re so thrilled that ArtPrize takes place, and we wanted to leverage the excitement that ArtPrize brings to the arts for the other forty-nine weeks of the year when ArtPrize isn’t taking place.”

Older says that, while What’s Your Art is still in its startup phase, there have been a number of factors that have contributed to the campaign’s success thus far.

“When we started it, we were very much hoping to help organizations drive some ticket sales. And who knew at that time that websites such as Groupon or, I think it’s LivingSocial, would be developed and be so successful at marketing last-minute ticket deals. And lots of arts organizations have ended up using those.”

Although What’s Your Art is a work in progress, Older says the campaign is developing ways of measuring its success as it evolves.

“In terms of measuring the success, we’re looking at how many people we have reading our e-newsletter which is growing exponentially each month. We have Facebook followers and we’re looking at how many additional Facebook followers we get each month, and the same thing for Twitter. And then of course we’re measuring how many visitors we get to the website, but, as I said, it’s all a work in progress. We’re very excited about the support that we’ve received from the foundations in town, particularly the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, in helping us with marketing and public relations needs in regards to this effort.”

Older says technology and social networks have proven themselves as effective ways to raise awareness about the arts. But she says people sometimes underestimate the various benefits a healthy art culture can have for a local community.

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May 3rd election
2:42 am
Wed May 4, 2011

Grand Rapids area supports more bus services...by less than 0.5% margin

Memebers of the Friends of Transit group try to figure out how close they are to winning just before the announcement Tuesday night.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Supporters of a millage to fund and expand bus services in the Grand Rapids metro area celebrated a narrow victory last night.

More than 34,000 people cast ballots. It passed by just 136 votes.

David Bulkowski breathed a huge sigh of relief after hours of unclear results. He’s with the Friends of Transit – a political action committee supporting the bus service.

“We are conservative West Michigan. And together these 6 communities have said ‘yep, we want it.”

The bus system, known as The Rapid, will now be able to serve riders later at night, on the weekends, and more frequently during the workday.

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Arts/Culture
5:32 pm
Fri April 29, 2011

Pure Michigan ad: Live the "artful" life in Grand Rapids

"Nessie on the Grand" is one of more than a thousand entries in the annual ArtPrize event in Grand Rapids.
Daniel E. Johnson Creative Commons

Pure Michigan's latest ad features the city of Grand Rapids. 

The new commercial paints Grand Rapids as the state's 'go to' place for arts and culture, with lines like "where food is art, and music flows in every color imaginable; let's start living the artful life."

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West Michigan
10:45 am
Tue April 26, 2011

Del Shannon's "Runaway" tops charts 50 years ago this week

Del Shannon performing on the TV show "The Golden Age of Rock And Roll."
screen grab from YouTube

Fifty years ago this week, "Runaway" by Del Shannon was the Number One song in the U.S.

It was the first rock 'n' roll song by a West Michigan-born artist to hit the top.

He was born in Grand Rapids, and grew up in nearby Coopersville.

Aside from his own hits, Del Shannon wrote Peter & Gordon's hit "I Go To Pieces", and he produced a 1964 recording by a young Michigan musician named Bob Seger, among other achievements.

Bonnie Raitt recorded her own version of "Runaway' in the 1970s.

Tragically, Del Shannon took his own life in 1990. He was inducted into the Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame in 1999.

Earlier this year, ahead of the 50th anniversary of the song's recording, John Sinkevics of The Grand Rapids Press wrote about Shannon and his no. 1 song:

Few could have guessed at the time that this pop single would propel the Coopersville native — born in Grand Rapids as Charles Westover — to national super-stardom or that it eventually would be regarded as a milestone in rock history.

 

Here is a link to Del Shannon on a show called "The Golden Age of Rock And Roll". The song recording is from 1961, but the TV show is from 1965... as evidenced by the groovy dancers:

Arts/Culture
3:57 pm
Thu April 21, 2011

Artists signing up for ArtPrize 2011; one tiny change this year

"Nessie on the Grand" won 6th place in ArtPrize 2009, the competition's first year.
Daniel E. Johnson Creative Commons

Registration opened this week for artists who want to take part in ArtPrize 2011. The winner of the yearly art competition is decided by the voting public who visit the event in downtown Grand Rapids.

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Culture
3:10 pm
Fri April 8, 2011

The restoration of an old jazz club in Detroit (video)

Jerry Balenger talks to a group from Grand Rapids about the restoration of Cliff Bell's jazz club in Detroit.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Cliff Bell’s is one of the oldest Jazz clubs in the city - a little history from Cliff Bell's website:

Through the 30's 40's and 50's Cliff Bell's and the Town Pump Tavern anchored two ends of what was Detroit's busiest night crawl with clubs, pubs and Burlesques dotting Park Avenue. During the 70's and 80's the Club operated under a series of other names. Many remember The Winery, La Cave, or AJ's on the Park.

In 1985 the famous club closed and remained empty until in late 2005.

Like a lot of places in Detroit, it was left empty for a long time. The plaster cracked, the ceiling leaked, but that all changed in 2005 when Paul Howard and Scott Lowell began the renovation of the shuttered club.

In this video, the owner of the building that houses Cliff Bell's talks about the restoration of the club.

This video was shot by Lindsey Smith, and produced by Juan Freitez.

Government Shutdown
2:34 pm
Fri April 8, 2011

Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum could be among the first victims of possible govt. shutdown

Exterior view of the Gerald R. Ford presidential museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan
(courtesy of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum and Library)

The Gerald R. Ford presidential museum and library would be among the first places people in Michigan would see affected by a possible federal government shutdown.  

On a normal Saturday in April, a few hundred people visit the Ford presidential museum in Grand Rapids.   But, if Congress can’t reach a budget deal by midnight tonight, the Ford museum’s doors will stay locked over the weekend.

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