Nov. 19 2008 12:00 AM

CiesaDesign nets Guvvy Award for work marketing the arts


Not more than 15 minutes after he’d left the podium Thursday night, Chris VanWyck’s inbox was already lighting up. “Word travels fast,” he said, looking down at the screen of the device in his hand where a congratulatory text message from Erik Larson, executive director of the Impression 5 Science Center, read, “Yay Lansing.”

The word traveling at digital speed back home from the Detroit Institute of Arts was that Lansing’s Ciesa Design was bringing home the Exemplary Business Award from the 2008 Governor’s Awards for Arts & Culture.

“We are blessed as a community never wanting for arts and culture,” said VanWyck while accepting the Guvvy, as Lauren Ciesa, owner and president of CiesaDesign, and fellow creative director Michael Sundermann stood at his side.

The graphic design firm, which originated in East Lansing more than 25 years ago and moved to Lansing’s Old Town in 2007, was recognized for offering high-quality marketing and branding services to area arts organizations and events, as well as providing brochures, banners, Web design and posters. Ciesa’s work includes promotional materials for the East Lansing Art Festival and the original brand and brochure for the area’s First Sunday Gallery Walk. When it came to their old neighbors in East Lansing, Scene Metrospace, Ciesa not only designed the log and helped brand the fledgling gallery, but it also helped pay utility bills.

Standing in the lobby after the announcement, Ciesa said he was proud to have come so far over the years, from his original two-person staff helping with the early East Lansing art festivals to having a staff of 10 who give their time and talents to the arts. “We’ve sort of created a culture of activism,” Ciesa said.

But the real credit for sustaining the arts in Lansing, he said, goes to the area’s arts organizations and their leaders. “We get the pretty posters and the color and all this stuff, but really it’s the directors of these organizations who work very hard,” he said.

Many of those hard-working folks packed into a couple buses or drove separately to be part of the evening. While onstage, VanWyck took the opportunity to acknowledge his neighbors and conspirators in the local arts and culture scene. “Our greater Lansing contingent is well-represented in this crowd tonight,” said VanWyck, prompting applause from around the theater.

Familiar faces in the crowd at the swanky gala event included Corinn VanWyck, director of the East Lansing Art Festival (and Chris VanWyck’s wife); Jamie Schriner-Hooper, director of the Old Town Commercial Association; Jeff Croff, artistic director of Icarus Falling Theatre Ensemble; and glass sculptor and set designer Craig Mitchell Smith.

Another high point for Lansing came during a performance by DJ Kurse and a local dance troupe that was complemented by one of Smith’s unmistakable glass sculptures suspended overhead.

Terry Terry, head of the Old Town Business & Art Development Association, which took home a Business Honor Roll Award at the 2003 Guvvys, also attended. As he waited to congratulate Ciesa and Co., Terry reflected on the “synergy” happening in Old Town and how far it had come from a handful of artists gathering to make and show their work to a cultural and commercial destination spot. “Through these efforts, we have turned it into what it is today,” he said.