WKAR Features
9:50 am
Wed April 28, 2010

Cultural economic development plan could boost local artists

Lansing, MI –

A new economic development plan is looking at arts and culture to help improve the mid-Michigan economy. The cultural economic development plan for greater Lansing could make the region a more attractive place for creative enterprise.

AUDIO:

It's Saturday afternoon and Sergei Kvitko is working in the studio of his 1920's era home in Lansing's Moore's River Drive neighborhood. Kvitko's Blue Griffin Recordings is in the third-floor ballroom of the English Tudor mansion.

Today he's hosting musicians Sarah Plum and Tim Loveless as they record their next album of contemporary classical music. Plum and Loveless have driven all the way from Iowa and Minnesota to work with Kvitko in his unique studio.

Kvitko says it's not uncommon for him to record artists from other states and even other countries.

"Because most people don't even care where I am, if I'm in Lansing or in New York," he says. "In the last couple months I've had people, artists from Argentina, from Russia, from New York City. Everyone flies in here to Lansing - it's the center of the world."

Kvitko is among a small percentage of people in mid-Michigan who make their living through the arts. Community leaders would like to see more jobs in the region have some cultural connection. So they've recently started work on a 10-year plan aimed at growing the local creative economy.

Chris VanWyck is a graphic designer and the creative director at Ciesa Design in Lansing's Old Town. He's on the committee putting together the cultural economic development plan for greater Lansing.

"There's a million different ways in this community that you can work as a creative person," says VanWyck. "I don't think a lot of people are aware of that."

VanWyck says social media like Facebook.com and Twitter.com have brought a lot of creative people together. He says it'll take more than technology to transform the arts community. VanWyck says the most important piece of the puzzle is helping smaller and less profitable artists stay afloat in a tough economy.

"What happens in a community of this size is that we have large corporate companies who support the arts which is that's great," he says. That said you have 1,000 different arts organizations that are all chasing those same people."

Having a stable arts community will go a long way toward creating a more artistic sense of place in greater Lansing. Sergei Kvitko says Mid-Michigan can and should do a better job at becoming a place where creative people want to live. He says Lansing has a vibrant performing arts scene, but the community doesn't always embrace it.

"It's sad," says Kvitko. "I was just in Ann Arbor last night for a concert in Kerrytown and the hall was packed and I'm not sure if we would fill this hall here even with the same high-quality artist. There's something different about, I'm not sure why."

Van Wyck says that's exactly what the plan is trying to change. He says the first steps are laying the groundwork for a cultural shift in the community.

"It's really letting everyone know across the board and the region, the benefit of having a creative economy, the arts and cultural aspect of that and what that means for attracting and retaining best-class employees and retraining students out of the universities as well," VanWyck says.

The Greater Lansing Arts Council already provides artists some office space in Old Town. The cultural development plan could also build a creative incubator with studio space and business resources.

reWorking Michigan
For more on job creation and workforce evolution in Michigan, visit WKAR.org/reworkingmichigan