Only a few short weeks ago, we bid farewell to the old year, we popped balloons and threw confetti in the air, we made champagne toasts, and we stayed awake to watch the ball drop in Times Square to welcome in 2015. And if my predictions are true, I can say without hesitation and with great enthusiasm that 2015 is going to be a wonderful year!
So why all of the excitement? For those of you who haven’t yet heard…the Arts Council of Greater Lansing is celebrating our 50th Anniversary in 2015 and a full year of festivities has officially begun! But perhaps before sharing how we are going to begin our celebration next month, I’d like to share a little bit of the history on how the Arts Council was formed and how it has changed over the years to get to where we are today.
According to our historical documents, our predecessor organization – the Metropolitan Lansing Fine Arts Council was incorporated on February 4, 1965. The Council's purpose was "the coordination, promotion and development of cultural activities in the metropolitan Lansing area." The Council functioned as a membership organization with arts groups and supporting groups as members and sought to offer coordinating services to these independent arts organizations and their activities. An initial project of the Council was the production of a festival – Day with the Arts, which reflected the creative endeavors of the individual artists and crafts persons, the performing companies and the many arts support groups of this community and continued for many years. In 1974, after many years of volunteer leadership, the Arts Council established a professional office and hired an Executive Director, the first such appointment in Michigan.
At the same time in the early 70’s, the need for a central facility for arts activities was identified and another non-profit – The Center for the Arts - was formed in June 1975 to coordinate this endeavor. A site on Grand Avenue was purchased and renovated, and leases were established for independent organizations to program both the gallery space and the theatre.
After a number of years of operating alone but always supportive of each other, on July 1, 1978, the Metropolitan Lansing Fine Arts Council and the Center for the Arts merged into one entity to consolidate its activities in support of the arts. It was then known as the Metropolitan Lansing Fine Arts Council at the Center for the Arts, Inc. In 1983, the name of the corporation was changed to the Arts Council Center of Greater Lansing and by 1994, shortened to its present name, the Arts Council of Greater Lansing, Inc.
The new entity thrived through the 1980’s and 1990’s but began to realize that they were confined by their space and by their need to accommodate ever expanding programming. An unsuccessful project to build a new facility and relocate all entities who used the Center was shelved in 2001 due to the economic downturn in the economy. By 2008, the Arts Council made the difficult decision to sell the Center for the Arts and to invest these dollars to provide much needed funding through grants to area arts organizations and artists. They also revamped their entire long-range plan and became a true local arts service agency, providing arts advocacy, grant writing, professional development opportunities and a centralized website to promote all of the arts.
The Arts Council of Greater Lansing, Inc. officially moved into a new office in Old Town Lansing in 2009 and continues to build its membership and stabilize its work and finances. We are proud to note that a new strategic plan was adopted to cover the years 2015 – 2017, and we are well on our way to establishing our leadership and legacy over the next 50 years.
And it makes me wonder:
What we will accomplish by 2065.
Did anyone know back in 1965 that the Arts Council would still be in existence today.
Did they know the kind of impact that would be made in the Lansing area over the ensuing 50 years, incorporating creativity into every nook and cranny.
Did they realize how many artists they would inspire and how many arts and cultural organizations would be established because of the road they laid.
And now, 50 years later, we get to celebrate our founders’ initial vision – a vision not so dissimilar to what we have today – to support, strengthen and promote arts, culture and creativity in the capital region. Close to 200 individuals have served as past and current board members of the Arts Council and they have left their indelible hand prints on the extraordinary work that we have accomplished. To kick-off our year, we invite you to our “Founders Celebration” – an event that will celebrate their insight, passion and vision. We hope you will join us for this complimentary reception on Thursday, Feb. 12 at the Marquee in Old Town Lansing from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. and raise your glass along with so many others in celebration to the longevity and vision that our organization has achieved. Here’s to 50 Years!
Wishing you all an exciting New Year,
Deborah E. Mikula