Paul LaPorte is known as the Art Guy; every Monday he appears on the Ron Jolly Radio Show (weekdays 7 am -10 am on WTCM Newstalk 580 AM) at 8:30 am. Last week during the show, LaPorte pointed out that with Frankfort artist Ann Loveless winning ArtPrize and the $200,000 cash prize, that all eyes were on the Northern Michigan art community.
“I really believe that this is the kind of story that a New York or Paris radio station expected to be covering about an artist or art competition in their backyard,” said La- Porte. “Certainly this is huge for Ann, but it is equally important for the art community here in Northern Michigan. We find ourselves in the center of the biggest art competition in the world with the spotlight on us and the question is, now what?
LaPorte, who was recently named president of the Artcenter in Traverse City, is among other art-lovers in Northern Michigan who hope to create their own version of ArtPrize. While ArtPrize takes place just down the expressway in Grand Rapids each fall, several in the region’s arts community believe there is an opportunity to create something up north.
“Certainly there is this huge spotlight on our region right now but in time that will go away unless we act,” said LaPorte. “While we don’t want to duplicate ArtPrize, we feel that we have all the pieces to put together an art event that will create a major buzz for our region. We have a group from the area working on some ideas.”
In the works is a new regional arts organization. On October 1, representatives from 18 arts organizations in Northwest Michigan gathered at Crystal Mountain to form the Northwest Michigan Arts Coalition.
“A person who prefers to remain anonymous approached us and other arts organizations in Northern Michigan last year and pointed out that one of the missing pieces to our region is a collaborated effort to promote all of the world class artists we have in the region,” said LaPorte. “He pointed out that the wineries, golf courses, restaurants and others are collaborating to promote the region why isn’t the art community?”
LaPorte says the idea took off. “We at the Artcenter talked about it, agreed and reached out to the other art centers in Northern Michigan from Mackinac Island to Manistee. What we found was everyone agreed,” said LaPorte. “Our first meeting (a small steering committee began planning last fall) on October 1 was very energizing. A lot was accomplished and I am confident that moving forward Northern Michigan will be getting the attention it deserves to be recognized as a world class arts destination.”
Gallery owner and Artcenter board member Bob Striet, who participated in the October 1 gathering, agrees.
“There’s no reason to go to Santa Fe or Carmel or New York to find good art.” said Streit, owner of The Twisted Fish Gallery in Elk Rapids. “Here in northwest Michigan, we are blessed with great natural beauty and hundreds of talented artists and great arts organizations.”
PLANNING A PLAN
More than 40 art leaders participated in the study session. According to LaPorte, several ideas were developed and the next step is the steering committee will meet in the coming months.
“We expect over the course of the next year that this new arts organization will be formed,” said LaPorte. “We expect to have some sort of major event and a plan in place to market our area as an arts destination.”
But up first for LaPorte is finding a home for the Artcenter Traverse City. Founded in 1951 the 400 members, the organization was established to provide opportunities in the areas of arts education, exhibits, shows, art fairs, and other cultural events. But for the past couple of years the Artcenter has found itself essentially homeless.
“After we lost our location at the former All Faiths Chapel (at the Grand Traverse Commons) we have been without a place to host monthly exhibitions, art classes, lectures and other events,” said LaPorte. “Fortunately, we have several people who feel that Traverse City needs to have the Artcenter and that it is a vital component to the culture of our community. We are working on a couple of options and hope to have a major announcement soon.”
Anyone interested in being a part of the new Northwest Michigan Arts Coalition or assisting in helping the Artcenter Traverse City is encouraged to contact Paul LaPorte at artcentertraversecity.com or 231-941-9488.