Arts & Culture
“A true artist is not one who is inspired, but one who inspires others.”
― Salvador Dali
Before we begin, a little “full disclosure” is in order. I am not an artist. I don’t sing, play, dance, paint, or sculpt. I don’t do any rosemaling, acting, carving, or scrapbooking. I’m not a photographer, designer, poet, crafter, performance artist, or busker. I am not an artist.
But I’m darn glad I live in a community filled with people who are.
The city’s Office of Arts & Culture recently held a State of the Arts evening at the Ore Dock where manager Tiina Morin shared the department’s past accomplishments and future endeavors with a full crowd of contributors and supporters in attendance.
No surprise, Morin is optimistic about the future of the arts in our area. “There’s a momentum that happens with the arts. Like any industry it’s dependent on continued investment but also passing on artistic and cultural knowledge to the next generation. It’s about growing successful businesses AND nurturing and empowering our community to volunteer, teach and inspire the next generation of local artists and culture bearers.”
In addition to being a city that attracts the entrepreneurial set, we’re also a destination for creative types. Many claim it’s something about the lake and the woods that bring out their artistic drive, but it’s more than that. It’s a community of like-minded people who value the arts as much as they value our myriad recreational opportunities.
Don’t get me wrong. Our arts and culture community is not just those who have recently found Marquette. Many of those committed to this abstract element of our quality of life are long-time locals… people who understand the value of something that provides emotional gratification, rather than a workaholic lifestyle with attention only to dollars and cents.
According to Morin, in addition to our shared enjoyment, the arts also provide tangible benefits as well. “A strong economy and a sense of place. Both of these create a vibrant environment that is attractive. People move to Marquette and stay in Marquette in large part because of the arts and culture amenities this community offers. But also the fact that the City continues to invest in their cultural assets. “
As work progresses on the updated version of the city’s Master Plan, it’s the hope here that city leaders pledge as much to arts and culture in this new edition as they did in the one which was adopted in 2015.
One of the two major initiatives articulated in that plan charges the city with… “A commitment to supporting a robust cultural life and creative economy through an empowered arts and culture office and recognizing that the Art and Culture Division is critical for a vibrant and engaged community.”
That sounds good, but it can only be realized with a commensurate financial commitment when it comes time to divvy up city resources. Arts and Culture shouldn’t be considered “extra-curricular,” and the first place city leaders look when cuts to the budget have to be made. Rather it needs to be treated as a city service equal in importance to things like infrastructure and public works.
With their office in the library, away from the hub of other city operations, it’s possible Arts & Culture occasionally suffers from a little “out of sight, out of mind.” That would be unfortunate, particularly when you consider the shared principles the department has with the library.
President John F. Kennedy said, “If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.” Society, in this case, is the Marquette community. A dynamic program that encourages the arts is essential in order for the arts to flourish. A strong and well-funded Office of Arts & Culture is absolutely necessary to achieve that goal.
Yes, the arts have to prove their worth. Artists and supporters alike must share in that responsibility. But a city department charged with the task of providing a program and platform designed to facilitate the arts is the least we can do. When Winston Churchill was asked to cut arts funding in favor of the war effort, he simply replied, “then what are we fighting for?”
Though fact checkers have determined Churchill never said such a thing, it still sounds good, doesn’t it? Hopefully you agree… whether you’re an artist or not.
In addition to the many galleries around town featuring the work of local artists, our musicians also have a number of opportunities to ply their trade, either as hired bands, or at one of the regularly scheduled Open Mic nights. Open Mic events give aspiring musicians the chance to play and sing a few numbers in a casual atmosphere, entertaining patrons who enjoy a little live music in their social settings.
Kudos to the establishments that hire local bands, but also to those that open the stage for folks who don’t have an affiliation with an organized group, or just want to see how good they are. That’s the idea of Open Mic nights. And it works quite well for the artists, the owners, and those of us who want to be on the ground floor of discovering new talent.
Here’s the current schedule of area Open Mic nights. If you know of any more, let us know!
Mondays – HideAway Bar and Grill (Gwinn) 7 pm • Drifa 6 – 8
Tuesdays – Flanigan’s 7 – 10 • Superior Culture 8 – 10 (starting in May)
Wednesdays – Blackrocks 6 – 9
Next Thursday – Ore Dock 8 – 10
For a daily rundown of area live music events, visit Marquette Music Scene on Facebook.
Even More Arts
One issue facing our area performing artists is the critical need for appropriate venue space. That community took a big blow back in August of 2020 when the roof literally fell in on Negaunee’s historic Vista Theater.
If the Vista was a car and not a theater, you’d say it was totaled… beyond repair. But our area thespians are nothing if not passionate about their craft. While other venues have shared their space, when they can, the Peninsula Arts Appreciation Council, along with committed Vista regulars, are doing everything they can to see that the historic Vista remains historic, and not just something in our history.
First on the to-do list is a new roof. According to PAAC president Rusty Bowers, the cost of that is comparable to the cost of demolition. And of course, neither are cheap. But once a new lid is in place, the rest of the reclamation project can proceed.
Coming up with the cash to make it all happen is an ongoing process. Other than attending a fundraising event, supporters can donate to the cause by visiting the Vista’s website at vistatheater.org.