March 18 2013 12:00 AM

Eight local arts and culture organizations receive “Sense of Place” grants

Wednesday, Dec. 14 — Eight local arts and culture organizations will receive grants totaling $125,000 as part of the Lansing Economic Development Corp.’s arts and culture “Sense of Place” grant program, city officials announced today.

Leslie Donaldson of the Greater Lansing Arts Council announced the recipients this morning at a press conference at the Lansing Art Gallery. The grants ranged in amounts from $5,000 to $48,500.

“(Art) touches lives in very important ways,” Mayor Virg Bernero said at the press conference. “Art and culture helps create a sense of place. Ultimately it affects a city’s bottom line.

“Locally as well as regionally, the arts mean business,” he said.

This year’s recipients are the Allen Neighborhood Center, All-of-us Express Children’s Theatre, the Lansing Art Gallery, the Lansing Symphony Association, the MSU Community Music School, the MSU Residential College in Arts and Humanities, the Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council and REACH Studio Art Center, Donaldson said.

The grants will be used for a variety of arts-related projects, including funding the Allen Neighborhood Center’s third annual World Day at Hunter Park in June, the Lansing Art Gallery’s “Art by the River” exhibition in June and August and a children-lead production of “The Little Prince” through All-of-us Express Children’s Theatre and Riverwalk Theatre.

“These eight projects will help Lansing provide a unique experience and provide qualities that shape our community and make Lansing a better place to be,” said Karl Dorshimer, LEDC interim president. He said he has traveled to other communities where art galleries and exhibitions were a focus and “it really gave a sense of place and identity to that location.”

This is the second year for the grant program, Donaldson said. Last year, the Lansing Art Gallery won one of two grants to pursue its City Streets Exhibition Project last summer. REACH Studio Art Center received the second grant, which they used to take the graffiti murals from the Direct Inn project and turn them into sculpture.

This year, the program received additional funding, which enabled it to provide eight grants, Donaldson said. About 15 projects were submitted to a jury panel that determined which proposals would receive grants.

“Everybody’s projects that we received and reviewed were all very worthwhile,” Donaldson said. “These had something extra to them that were really quite exciting.”

Donaldson said the projects would occur throughout the year in different parts of the city, helping to encourage artistic creativity and a sense of place throughout the area. The outdoor exhibitions and festivals will also help bring tourists to the area, she added.

For her, sense of place means enticing visitors and tourists to the city, defining an area through its art or culture, supporting creative employment and investing in the city in a variety of areas, Donaldson said.

Bob Trezise, CEO of LEAP (Lansing Economic Area Partnership), agreed and said a strong arts base can help attract businesses to the city by making the region an area where CEO’s want to settle down in and raise their families.

“Art represents wealth and opportunity,” Trezise said. “These are the types of things that ultimately seal the deal with a business.”

Bernero also emphasized the power of the arts for promoting the city.

“It affects the quality of life, it affects the quality of tourism, it affects who you attract and who you retain in terms of young professionals,” Bernero said. “It makes a difference in terms of vitality for the city.”