May 4 2016 12:12 AM

New monthly art event kicks off Friday in Old Town

Local Artist Kimberly Lavon will make art prints live in Turner Mini Park for Arts Night Out.
Courtesy Photo
An ArtPrize for Lansing? Well, let’s not get carried away. There are no $200,000 cash prizes at stake this weekend. But the Arts Council of Greater Lansing is hoping that its latest creation will infuse the arts scene with new energy — and maybe infuse the business scene with some fresh capital in the process.

Arts Night Out, a new 5 p.m. Friday, May 6 monthly art event organized by the Arts Council of Greater Lansing, kicks off Friday in Old Town. Modeled after events like Grand Rapids’ ArtPrize and Kalamazoo’s Art Hop, the event matches retail spaces and art galleries with visual, musical and spoken word artists. While those two events are sprawling, citywide affairs, the Arts Council of Greater Lansing is starting with a smaller focus.

“We're adapting it by going to distinct neighborhoods,” said Kaitlin Lapka, Arts Night Out organizer. “We want to make it really dense and saturated and walkable so we can experience that level of excitement but in really concentrated areas.”

Friday’s event focuses on Old Town, where the Arts Council’s headquarters are located. The event will travel to different neighborhoods, but will return to Old Town every other month.

“For our pilot year, we’re looking at four neighborhoods — Old Town, REO Town, downtown Lansing and downtown East Lansing — and we’re going to rotate through them,” Lapka explained. “But every other month we’ll come back to Old Town. That’s our home base. It will help us establish the routine and see how this event works.”

The event will be held on the first Friday of each month. Next month, the event moves to East Lansing.

The Arts Council has 26 Old Town businesses signed up to participate in the kickoff event. Offerings include a concert with Jen Sygit & the Ukulele Kings at Elderly Instruments, a meet-and-greet with glass artist Craig Mitchell Smith in his studio and screenings of “Second Shift” at Message Makers.

“Businesses, especially in Old Town, are already up for these ideas,” Lapka said. “They know that in Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids, events like this bring in a lot of money to the businesses and to the downtowns. People are definitely into it.”

Even Terry Terry, CEO of MessageMakers, will show off his artistic side with an exhibit at the Old Town Professional Building, just south of the former Temple Club.

“It’s going to be a great spot to have a show,” Terry said. “I have quite a bit of space.”

His exhibit will include a variety of mediums, including acrylic paintings, pastel drawings, digitally altered photography and found object sculptures. His love of art goes back to his youth.

“I started helping my father in his darkroom before I was in kindergarten,” he said.

While a student at MSU’s James Madison College, Terry created multimedia shows for Abrams Planetarium and co-produced “The Electric Way,” an experimental television show. While he settled into a more businessfocused career, he has continued to foster his artistic side. Having an office in Old Town has helped him connect with local artists.

“I’ve been hanging around the arts community for a long time,” Terry said.

Kimberly Lavon, who operates a studio/ gallery in East Lansing, will make linoleum block prints on the spot at Turner Mini Park from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Lavon recently completed her self-published book, “Exquisite Corpse: How to Make a Sugar Skull Monotype.” She will give away a limited number of commemorative Arts Night Out prints and will also have her own art prints for sale.

“If you can imagine an Emeril Lagasse cooking demonstration, but for art, that’s what it will be like,” Lavon said.

Working in Greater Lansing, Lavon has watched with jealousy as events like Art Hop and ArtPrize thrived in other cities. She’s hoping a Lansing-centric event will energize the art scene here.

“Turning the whole neighborhood into an art gallery is brilliant,” Lavon said. “We have so many creatives in Lansing, but we didn’t have this kind of event.”

Like Art Hop or ArtPrize, there’s no check-in point or rigid schedule.

“You just come into Old Town, and the experience starts there,” Lapka said. “There’s nothing to pay; there’s no specific place to start.”

But there will be some guidance.

“We will be handing out maps of the neighborhood, which will have a list of all the participating businesses, and there will be flags on every store,” Lapka said. “You can just go into each store and see what’s going on, see what art they have.”

Grand Rapids band Desmond Jones will cap the festival with a 7:45 p.m. performance at Turner Mini Park. The five-piece band, known for its improvisational jam band style, got its start in East Lansing.

On the April 22 episode of “City Pulse Newsmakers,” Deborah Mikula, Arts Council of Greater Lansing executive director, and Katrina Daniels, program director of Old Town’s MICA gallery, explained that this event has been years in the making.

“Two years ago, Katrina was one of several gallery owners who began to ask, ‘If we could do some sort of event that would bring the visual, the performing and the literary arts together, in a walkable, neighborhood setting, what would that look like?’” Mikula said. “For the past couple of years, we’ve been planning, molding and shaping, looking at other models. We wanted to create an event that connects all of our artists with all of our downtowns.”

At the same time, Daniels started shifting her events away from Sundays — traditional gallery walk days in Greater Lansing — to Thursdays and Fridays.

“At MICA, I noticed that for Sunday gallery walks, we weren’t getting a huge crowd in,” Daniels said. “I started moving MICA’s events to those nights and started to do community collaborations with Lansing Bike Party and Soup Spoon Cafe and local musicians. The numbers that we were reaching were astronomically higher, and it was pretty instantaneous.”

Daniels is excited about how Arts Night Out will bring people into neighborhoods they may have never visited.

“We’re going to flood this area with people who have never come here before,” she said. “And it’s walkable, so you can park your car or take the bus or take your bike over. The energy is going to be high.”

Arts Night Out

Old Town, Lansing
(517) 372-4636