We at City Pulse are continually impressed by the community of creative individuals that surrounds us. We feel nothing short of pride as we cover your wins and losses, opportunities and accomplishments, and all the work that is yet to be done.
If you’ve been in this arts community for any amount of time you will notice that it feels, well, close. Not exactly small, but you get to know the names and faces pretty quickly. In a city of our size, it’s easy for one person to make an enormous impact in a short time. It’s also very difficult when that person is lost to our community. We want to recognize and honor the late Brandon Navin, whose contributions through the Artists Umbrella were only just getting started. In a State News article earlier this year, Navin described Lansing’s artistic community as unendingly creative, a “bottomless wealth” of talent. We couldn’t agree more, and so we dedicate this issue to him in certainty that his quest for connection and beauty will live on.
What does it mean to be an artist in Lansing? Who gets to use that word to describe themselves? As recently reported in City Pulse, the Lansing theater community continues to work through important conversations about equity and representation. The MSU Broad Museum of Art is launching an exhibit that will question the very nature of public art, which can range from a community mural to an abstract symbol (of what, exactly? and for whom?). The Lansing Art Gallery’s current exhibit features an artist whose work comments on the “efforts of minority groups to remain.” The Robin Theatre will welcome an impressive, thoughtfully curated array of travelers, scholars, comedians and poets over the next few months.
We wholly support the efforts of individuals who use their platform to advance equity in the arts. Keep participating, keep critiquing, and don’t give up. When you push for racial justice and push back on male chauvinism in the arts, you are transforming our entire city, even if sometimes you can’t see that because your head is down, deep in the work.
Please realize that whatever kind of art you do, whether you are a musician, a booker, a painter, an instructor, a dancer, an organizer, or a promoter — you are part of an ecosystem that adds up to our shared culture. The arts do so much more than drive our economy, as those who must appeal to those in power sometimes say. The arts are our culture, and what the arts do, so culture follows. This is why the true meaning of a Lansing artist is a person who won’t settle for anything less than radical equity, justice, inclusivity, a beautiful goal that might even be fun to work toward together. We have exceedingly high hopes.
A Lansing artist is, generally, not someone who works in the arts full time. For most, it means spending the time you have after work, then after caregiving, in order to make something creative. That act alone is radical and powerful, and you are heroic just for doing that. From there, it might mean pursuing the funding opportunities available to artists through the Arts Council of Greater Lansing. To be an artist may mean entering a competition, mounting a show, taking a class, or starting a side hustle.
We hope it also means finding your community of like-minded creatives. This will mean friction, tension and sometimes a little drama: the things that make the arts great and the things that make relationships hard. Community means compromise, which initially comes as a surprise. As we get more into our communities, then the choices around how and when to compromise become one of the sincerest joys of our creative life.
What is the value of this profound exploration of our shared lives passingly referred to as “the arts”? You only need to look at the cultural wars taking place all over this country to understand how literature, art, movies and theater threaten a deeply sad, unimaginative and often affluent few who are determined to bend the world to their pale vision of order and obedience. And for those of us who can afford to fight back with our financial power, it is always the right thing to support individual artists and the institutions that aggressively advance creativity, equity and joy.
Eli Broad, for whom the campus museum is named, liked to quote Andrew Carnegie by saying, “He who dies with wealth dies in shame.” No one more exemplifies this ethos than Lansing’s own late Jack Davis, who died two years ago. Together with his wife, Sue, Davis was a powerhouse Lansing champion and a tremendous financial supporter of the arts. Their spirit of collaboration, advocacy and generosity will change our city for years to come. So, again, we want to put in our bid for naming Lansing’s proposed performing arts center, currently referred to as the Ovation, the Davis Center. Publicly celebrating their legacy will undoubtedly inspire another generation of philanthropists to give now.
Enjoy the Arts Issue.
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