NEXT time

By Allan I. Ross

Old Town gets young in February with art, music, comedy exhibition

Lansing’s Old Town district is a textbook example of transforming a formerly undesir able neighborhood into a thriving arts community, but that doesn’t mean it still couldn’t use some tweaking. And Henry Brimmer thinks he’s just the guy to do the tweaking.

Brimmer, 68, professor of advertising and public relations at MSU, launches NEXT this weekend, the February exhibition at MICA Art Gallery. NEXT will be a monthlong series of pan-artistic events that Brimmer hopes will spark something bigger.

“My feeling is whenever I go to Old Town, I see the same group of people with similar art exhibits,” Brimmer said. “I usually have to drag my kids there. So when I was approached to do the February show at MICA, I thought we could take the opportunity to focus on a younger crowd.”

Brimmer said the seed for NEXT was planted last summer when he had the idea to turn his son’s high school graduation party into a one-day art exhibit. His son, Matias Brimmer, 19, a freshman in MSU’s Art Department, said that although he likes Old Town, he’s on board with his dad’s plan to shake things up in the gallery district.

“It’s very stale and less open to new ideas and new art,” Matias Brimmer said. “This series … will usher in a younger community of artists. People don’t know that they can make money in the arts, and they get excited when local artists make it big.”

The NEXT launch includes musical performances by the band Cicadas at 4 p.m. Saturday and, starting at 11 a.m. Sunday, there will be an event inspired by Detroit called a “noise brunch” (essentially, a music jam session held over orange juice and bagels). The latter event is being organized by Augusta Morrison, an MSU education student — who’s also an artist and musician — working in Detroit this semester. Henry Brimmer met Morrison, 23, at one of the Broad Art Museum’s music events last summer. When he proposed the idea of NEXT to her, she immediately got on board.

“Augusta is plugged into the experimental music scene,” Brimmer said. “She’s a perfect example for what NEXT is all about.”

Brimmer said that originally, he was hoping to rotate his son’s pieces out as other artists introduced their work, but he said no one has stepped forward yet. Other NEXT events will include fashion exhibits by Cody Sehl and standup comedy by the event’s emcee, Stephanie Onderchanin. Brimmer also hopes poets will step forward to take advantage of the space.

“What I’m hoping is for it to become a catalyst for the kids to make it a place that they want to make theirs,” said Brimmer. Although he wasn’t there when Old Town underwent its renaissance about 25 years ago, Brimmer said he’s of “the same generation that kicked it off,” and he wants to make sure the next generation gets its chance.

“It’s a good idea to start with a solid group,” he said. “The older adults can get out of the way, and then the kids can do what they want. These are younger people that have crossed paths before. I don’t think you can artificially make people want to go to a place.

“Pockets of effervescence grow from the roots up. You can’t say, OK, we’re going to make ‘old town, young town’; what you can do is provide a venue and see if it takes.”

Brimmer has another NEXT event planned for MICA this summer and hopes to introduce the concept to other areas.

“This would work well in REO Town too — we could turn (NEXT) into a nomadic circus event,” Brimmer said. I don’t’ know where it could end up. That’s up to these kids — let them take the next step.”

Nicole Halverson contributed to this story.


4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 1 (exhibition launch) 11 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 2 (noise brunch) MICA Gallery, 1210 Turner St., Old Town, Lansing FREE (517) 371-4600,