GRAND RAPIDS – In the latest installment of our “Breaking Bread” monthly series that spotlights some of the region’s finest restaurants, Stellafly sits down with WLAV-FM (96.9) Morning Show host Tony Gates and the effervescent Michelle McKormick for a special Restaurant Week Grand Rapids edition at Reserve Wine & Food. The special three-course meals for $25 continue as Restaurant Week runs through this Saturday at more than 65 locations (see all of the menus at experiencegr.com) in the area.
Gates, a longtime Grand Rapids radio personality, has spent 28 years at WLAV. His first stint there spanned a decade, before leaving to work in the record industry with such famed recording acts as Whitney Houston and The Grateful Dead. He later returned to WLAV, where he has been for the past 18 years.
McKormick has spent nearly three decades entertaining the masses on the local airwaves.
She is a big part of the WLAV Morning Show, which includes Uncle Buck (Ed Buchanon), imparting her unique sense of humor, and also hosts a regular segment on WJRW-AM NewsTalk 1340.
Our dinner conversation turns to the farm-to-table dining trend right from the start.
Michelle orders the market gazpacho with tomato, cucumber, onion, old bread and older vinegar, while Tony chooses the three young cheeses (dairy, goat, sheep) with honey, chutney and rice crackers.
Stellafly: Why is it important for us to know where our food comes from?
Michelle: I love the local farm-to-table thing. I know, ooh, it’s new, but I love the farm-to-table experience. I once made a mistake on-air of saying factory farms, saying ‘I’m tired of these factory farms.’ I had a guy who lives outside of town, he owns a farm, and he called me at the radio station and said, ‘I want you to come out here and experience eating your food 10 minutes away from the table.’ So, he showed me what it was like to do farm-to-table and I finally understood there are great West Michigan farmers here.
Tony: I think a lot of it is trendy these days and maybe more of a marketing campaign. I think, for me, it’s not o much knowing where my food comes from, because, if I have a craving for pineapple, I’m not going to get it in Hudsonville. Or something to that effect. But I do like the idea of supporting the local businesses.
I’ve always loved the concept of ‘let’s keep the money here’ and the cream will rise to the top. If it’s a good local restaurant and they have good food and they have a local flavor and they cater to people who like that, they’re going to be even more successful. I’m more about supporting the local operations, even if it’s an independently owned franchise. I try to take that into consideration.
Michelle: The beauty of Restaurant Week is maybe people who can’t afford to come out to these somewhat-expensive, high-end restaurants are getting a chance to see this type of food at a really great price. The $25 price is great for people who probably wouldn’t come out and spend the money and now they can.
Stellafly: Do you seek farm-fresh ingredients as part of your dining experience?
Tony: No, I look at that as an added treat, if you will. I look for somebody who knows what to do with the ingredients, and I think that Grand Rapids has gone through such a transformation of successfully catering to a younger population. Younger people have the disposable income, they don’t have the mortgages yet or the kids yet or the ties and they want to go out and spend their money and have a drink. I think that’s why the breweries and the craft beers are doing so well … and also to go eat.
It used to be that Grand Rapids catered to the frugal Dutch mentality that if you paid $8 for something, you had better get a big enough portion that you end up taking home something in a bag.
I think the younger people here demand a quality of life and I think the restaurants are on their list. There are more chefs and a better selection of restaurants than there has ever been, so, if there’s a freshness to it or a local element, that’s just a win-win.
Michelle: I have a bunch of chef friends. Fresh ingredients makes all the difference in a meal. Absolutely. Fresh rather than frozen. I think we’re getting better restaurants, fresher ingredients, better food here. I love the farmers markets. I use all of them – Fulton Street, the one on Plainfield, I’m just a big fan of fresh food.
Our main course offers up choices ranging from a grilled cheese gnocchi in tomato broth, cherry tomatoes and basil to chorizo verde sausage with frybread, grilled summer squash and braised beans to Bangs Island mussels with a sweet white miso and topped with ratatouille. Michelle orders the sausage, while Tony selects the mussels.
Stellafly: Do you base restaurant choices on farm-to-table offerings?
Michelle: I do. Grove is one of the best restaurants in town. I love the chefs that go to the local farmers markets, absolutely.
Tony: Apples can be grown on 7 Mile and be local, but they can also be sprayed and polished.
Michelle: You’re right.
Stellafly: Are you willing to pay more for a meal if it’s farm-to-table fresh?
Tony: I do if I’m a sucker. If it’s organic or free-range, does it taste any different? I’d like to believe that it does, but no.
Michelle: If you knew everything was from a Grand Rapids farm, though, you would go there, because it’s local.
Tony: No, not if I don’t believe it.
Michelle: Ohhh …
You’re talking to a guy here that hunts and kills his own food a lot. Probably 60 percent of what he eats is … from elk hunting, moose hunting, he has a freezer full of meat. That’s what he does. That’s his life. He eats the fish he catches. The majority of his meals he has slain. It’s the truth.
Tony: We were someplace last night at a restaurant downtown and risotto is a great dish, but the lobster risotto was $48.
Michelle: Uh-uh, no way.
Tony: I make a good living, thank you, but really, honestly?
Michelle: It’s not worth it.
Tony: Are you eating there because it’s a trendy restaurant or it’s local? Is the lobster local? I don’t think so.
The final course is a selection of desserts that includes assorted chocolate truffles, sweet-fried gnocchi with summer berries, mint and chevre or a Baltimore snowball. Michelle chooses the truffles, while Tony opts for the gnocchi.
Stellafly: Is Grand Rapids worthy of its growing reputation as a destination for foodies?
Michelle: Everything’s kind of exploded in Grand Rapids the last few years – from ArtPrize to the Medical Mile. Things are kind of happening and buzzing here. What I like are these chefs who’ve worked for years at places like, let’s say Gibson’s, and now they’re going out on their own and opening their own places.
You’re finding there’s a higher demand for great restaurants. It’s been a great boom.
Tony: I think timing is everything. I came to Grand Rapids in the ’70s. I remember when you couldn’t get a meal downtown on Sundays because it was rolled up. I think we had the only McDonald’s in the United States that was closed on Sundays. I don’t really think there was an outlet for any culinary experimentation other than meat and potatoes. It was always a meat-and-potatoes town. The chefs were limited as to what they could do. As the town started to develop, and I give a lot of credit to the Grand Action group, there was a lot of planning ahead and things started to move forward.
After Van Andel Arena was built, people started experimenting with more than just bar food. It’s supply and demand.
Michelle: It has a reputation as a beer town. By the way, craft beer is the new wine, and people are demanding good food. I think there are a lot of foodies here with a lot of the new restaurants.
Tony: I think Grand Rapids has earned a reputation as being a food town. I think people in the know are appreciative of it and are working hard to make it better. A lot of people come in from out of town and they rave about the restaurant here. Yes, I think we have established Grand Rapids as being a food town.
And it’s getting better all the time.
Stellafly: Your final impressions of the meal?
Michelle: You know what? I liked the experience. I loved the atmosphere and the experience, and the staff was wonderful. It was a really eclectic mix of food.
Tony: You’ve got two-tops, four-tops people who are enjoying the experience and no one’s in a hurry. Everyone’s having a great time. I love to see that. In Grand Rapids, the sidewalks used to roll up at sundown.
It’s cool to see something like this where you can order a world-class glass of wine at an affordable price or have an assortment of truffles like Michelle just had for dessert … which, by the way, she put in her purse.
I think it’s really impressive. And I think it’s the hardest part they’ve been able to overcome is that people used to treat these places as a special occasion – for an anniversary or a birthday – but that’s not the case anymore. We’re drinking $7 glasses of champagne. I mean, c’mon, most glasses or wine are $9 or $11 anywhere you go. I love it, it’s affordable, I think it’s world-class and I just love the overall experience.
Stellafly: What was your favorite part of the meal?
Michelle: Dessert. The truffles. The wine list was awesome and the champagne was ridiculously great.
Tony: I had the cheese plate and the ratatouille was really good, but my favorite was being able to sample the cheeses as an appetizer as part of a meal. You try something new and you just go, Wow!’ The cheese platter was outstanding.
Stellafly: It’s good to be out and about during Restaurant Week, huh?
If you’ve ever been to an ArtPrize party, you know they are pretty spectacular, and Wednesday night’s Volunteer Kickoff Party was no exception. Sponsored by Grand Rapids Community College and hosted by ArtPrizes’s Community Engagement Director Amelea Pegman, the night had a camp theme, complete with an artfully made bonfire, campfire music, and plenty of delicious food and drinks.
As the volunteers arrived in droves (over 500 of them), the ArtPrize staff was ready to greet them with an adorable bandana and their map of the event, complete with a checklist of badges (pins) they were to collect throughout the night. Each badge represented a different personality of an ArtPrizer—such as the Socialite. In between visiting the various stations and having their photos taken at the Stellafly photo wall, they could enjoy the delicious pulled pork sandwich, homemade mac ‘n cheese, and many other delicious treats from The Starving Artist, and they also had the opportunity to try Founders Brewing Company’s Inspired Artist Black IPA, the first Artprize-inspired beer. From what I heard, this is definitely something visitors to ArtPrize 2013 will want to try.
The night was truly about the volunteers who help make this annual event so successful. This year the organization is looking to recruit over 1,000 individuals to give some of their time to ArtPrize and make all those who visit the event feel welcome. Volunteers who attended Wednesday’s event were able to talk to their peers who have been involved every year and also talk to those who have never volunteered about what a great experience it is. Kudos to the entire ArtPrize staff for throwing such a great party and rallying the volunteers as this event quickly approaches!
ArtPrize 2013 kicks off on September 18, 2013 and runs through October 6, 2013 in downtown Grand Rapids. If you are interested in volunteering, visit the newly redesigned artprize.org for more information.
Local Spins Concert Series LIVE opened last night in Royce Auditorium at the St. Cecilia Music Center. The performances centered on singer-songwriters – six Michigan artists in a round-robin format – a term which has soared in popularity over the past decade as way to describe a broad range of solo, mostly acoustic, acts. The musicians played in an “uplugged” performance, giving audiences the opportunity to hear some of their favorite local artists among the most fabulous listening settings in Grand Rapids.
Who better to kick it off than some of our very favorite artists? Grand Rapids’ own Ralston Bowles, Michelle Chenard, Michael Crittenden, Lux Land, Karisa Wilson and Lucus Wilson.
Photographer Raeanna Anglen
“The idea of this series came about during this past fall’s ArtPrize event where SCMC hosted 58 live performances in 4 days featuring musical ArtPrize entries,” said Cathy Holbrook, Executive Director. “Our jazz and Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center series brings in performers from around the world, but we also want to highlight some of Michigan’s great talent and this series will do that.”
John Sinkevics of the “Local Spins” radio show attended many performances at SCMC during ArtPrize where he and Holbrook started discussing the idea. “The vibe that I pick up during the ArtPrize performances was that musicians were excited to play at St. Cecilia and would love to play in Royce Auditorium which has great acoustics,” Sinkevics commented. “When Cathy Holbrook said they might start a local series I said I would be very interested in helping make it happen.”
Michael Crittenden, owner of Mackinaw Harvest Music Studio, has helped organize the music evolution in ArtPrize at St. Cecilia for the past two years and is also involved in the development of the new series.
Upcoming performances at the Local Spins Live 2013 Series
On February 21, 2013 the series brings two ArtPrize music award winners to the stage. Delilah DeWylde and the Lost Boys bring their own brand of folk rockabilly to the first half of the concert. One of Grand Rapids’ most coveted groups, The Crane Wives takes the stage after intermission to play songs from their first two albums in a semi-acoustic performance.
Video Michael Cook
The last concert of the series will take place on March 28, 2013 and will bring the well-known “royal couple” of Michigan’s folk and Americana scene Seth and May to Royce Auditorium. Beginning the evening will be the eclectic and playful band, Fauxgrass Quartet.
What the ticket gets you.
Tickets are $15 per concert. Student tickets are $10 with a student ID. Advance reservations are encouraged for those who wish to reserve a specific seating location. Tickets are available the night of the show if not sold out. A cash bar prior to the show and during intermission. A post-concert “Meet-the-Artists” reception is included for all ticket holders the night of the concert. The reception includes a cash bar and dessert and will feature a performance by an “emerging artist” from the area. Tickets are available by calling 616-459-2224 or visiting the SCMC box office at 24 Ransom Ave. NE in downtown Grand Rapids. Tickets are available online at www.scmc-online.org.
For 129 years St. Cecilia Music Center has upheld its mission of promoting the appreciation, study and performance of music in order to enrich the lives of the residents of West Michigan. Today, St. Cecilia Music Center is known by audiences and artists alike as one of the finest establishments to hear and see world-renowned musicians.
2012 was a year of huge growth for Stellafly. Right out of the gate, we started the year with receiving media clearance to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show — a lifelong dream for me. As we packed up our bags and headed for the big city, I remember what an old dog friend had to say about winning ribbons at that show. She said, “If you can win there, you can win anywhere.” When I walk along the streets when I’m there, I still believe this is true of anything that you put your mind to while you’re in NYC.
In August, I returned to spend time with street photographer JD Urban who ended up becoming a wonderful friend and will be mentioned later in this post.
In 2012, we added photographer Ian Anderson from the Lansing area. We found Ian working as an assistant to local photographer Terry Johnston. Ian is also a full time student at Kendall College working towardan illustration major. I was thrilled to find that he’s nothing short of amazing with his camera work as well. He also doesn’t seem to mind doing the late or inclement weather events which makes the other guys happy. In the Spring, Summer and Fall months, you’ll see him trekking around on his bike and hanging out in coffee shops. We love having him around and hope to support him all the way to his next stage, which appears to be graduation and then eventually Los Angeles.
Raeanna Anglen came to us through a recommendation from a long time friend, Daniel Estrada, who organized a meeting to tell us about a really cool band that had moved to Grand Rapids from Tennessee. We met for the first time in Olive’s in East Grand Rapids. Raeanna’s brother, Riley, his bandmate, Travis Bailey, is married to Daniel’s adorable sister, Frances. We learned that Riley had already landed a job at Founder’s. Raeanna was working at Best Buy and showed enormous potential as a photographer. I asked to see her work. The portfolio was strong and we added her to our creative team. It’s so refreshing to have a photographer that is seeing and experiencing Grand Rapids for the first time. As you see more of her work in 2013, keep that in mind. Her perspective is lovely.
We also had the privilege of working with photographers Robert Bowden from the Detroit area, local photographer T.J. Hamilton and Dave Johnson from the lakeshore.
When the Grand Rapids Press began laying off their creatives last winter, I sincerely felt sorry for those that had dedicated so much of their life work to the publication. As we all know, things change and businesses have to make tough decisions sometimes. We want to send out a sincere thanks to the GR Press for releasing this huge influx of talent into the creative gene pool. This year, we worked with and featured stories by talented writers such as Terri Finch Hamilton, Cami Reister, Heidi Stukkie and Brian VanOchten. We also picked up Alexandra Fluegal, Laura Bergells and Danielle DeWitt. Be sure to look for more from them in 2013!
Oh, and GF is still hanging around too. Every once in a blue moon, he sends me an obscure email that makes me laugh. He always has a profile he’s working on for us, one with an unknown deadline that will likely need to be updated before publishing. He and his lovely wife, Vicky, became grandparents for the first time this year. I know that these two are enjoying retirement more than most do.
Sadly, we also said farewell to some of our talent as well. Michael Cook, Katy Batdorff and Charlie Hoffman headed off in different directions to pursue their dreams. We gave them hugs, kissed their cheeks and wished them well as they ventured out into the big world.
New this year…
Back in the old GRSD days… wait… who? Anyway, our focus was primarily on covering local events in and around the Grand Rapids area. In 2012, we continued to promote and cover the interesting events in our area but also ventured outside our comfort zone and explored Detroit and New York City. We shifted some of our focus to helping businesses develop an online presence on their social media networks. We became their brand managers — administrators of their facebook pages and twitter accounts. We got to know their audience. We introduced their audience our other clients’ audiences. Throughout the entire year, we picked up a handful of fantastic clients and campaigns that we now consider family. It’s been an exciting year for growth for each of them and we’re looking forward to working with all of them again in 2013.
We’re also continually encouraged & inspired by people who do great work. We’re honored to know: Roberta King, Diana Sieger, Jonathan Jelks, John Helmholdt, Johannah Jelks, Noddea Skidmore, Kaite Lyn Christoffersen, Shannon Williams, Jenny Disko, Todd Ernst, Ian Barrie, JD Urban, Jason Lawrence, Laura Bergells, Shelley Irwin, Jackie Siranni, Donna Bova, Mark Curtis, Diana Sikes, Tom Dowdall, Mark Curtis, Marcel Thibert, Audrey Sundstrom, Molly Klimas, Jim Murray, Patrick Plank, Nicole Cook, Maria Falice, Wendy Wassink, Scott Alfree, Teddy Drake, Heather Hinman, Calvin Webb, Jolon Hull, John VanderHaagen and so so many more that have helped us along the way.
As we move toward our Top Twelve of Twenty-Twelve, we must take note that for obvious reasons every event that we attended could not make the short list nor can the fantastic events we attended but were unable to photograph. Instead of listing our Top Twelve in order, we’ve put them into categories. Each of us submitted our favorite events with a brief explanation as to why it moved us.
Note: Add these to your ‘MUST ATTEND’ in 2013 calendars: Grand Rapids Antiques Market, Butterflies Blooming at Frederik Meijer Gardens, 2013 Special Olympics Polar Plunge, Irish on Ionia, TEDx Grand Rapids, Festival of the Arts, Arts in Ada, Green Gala: Come Out and Play, Festival of the Arts, The GRPS Turkey Trot, Gazelle Girl Half Marathon, Fashion’s Night Out 2013, St. Mary’s Foundation’s Up on the Roof, The Sixth Annual Legacy Ball, and Literacy Center of West Michigan’s BeeDazzling Spellebration.
Without further ado, it’s time to reveal Stellafly’s Top Twelve events of Twenty-Twelve.
Best Concerts of 2012
Submitted by Tim Motley
When we heard that Jane’s Addition was coming to Grand Rapids, we didn’t hesitate to buy our tickets and begin our attempt to secure a photo pass. An exciting and edgy show coming to Grand Rapids is always welcome — particularly for people like Tim and me.
DeVos Performance Hall was the perfect venue for these guys — an intimate setting where any seat really is a great seat. At showtime, the lights dimmed and recognizable Pink Floyd tunes played in the darkness.
We cover a lot of music but this show stood out for me from all the rest. Maybe it’s because I’m in my 40s and it was a fun trip back in time with great memories of parties and youth. Maybe it’s because at the end of the show, each of the band members walked along the edge of the stage, touching the hands of the fans. I am not one to get starstruck but when Dave Navarro came by and held onto my outreached hands for several seemingly long seconds, I will never forget that show. Ever.
After Tim shot the first three songs, the awesome DeVos Stage Security let Tim stay (we had a ticket for him) and we got to watch the entire show together. My husband had snagged Dress Circle seats not knowing that we were in the first row. Right next to the photographer.
In my opinion, Jane’s Addiction has truly only gotten better with time and definitely naughtier. That and the fact that I truly appreciate them as artists so much more now. Surely because I’m old. Great time. Makes the list!
Many thanks to Bari Lieberman for securing Tim a great spot to shoot. Right next to our seats.
St. Cecilia Music Center held its AnnualGreat Artist Gala on November 1st. The Pizzarelli family was there with John Pizzarelli, the world-renowned jazz guitarist and singer. Pizzarelli has cultivated a winning international career by singing classic standards and late-night ballads, and by playing sublime and inventive guitar. Using greats like Nat “King” Cole and Frank Sinatra and the songs of writers like Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen as touchstones, Pizzarelli is among the prime revivalists of the great American songbook, bringing to his work the cool jazz flavor of his brilliant guitar playing.
Best Gallery Show of 2012
Submitted by Terry Johnston
New York City street photographer JD Urban captures the essence of the people he passes on the street every day – from the grandmother carrying her groceries, to the homeless drug addict shooting up on a park bench, to the street artist installing his latest creation in a lonely alley. Both gritty and beautiful, Urban’s work showcases all sides of the human experience, revealing the complexity of emotion that exists in each of us and drawing the viewer into his unique view of his surroundings while providing them with a deeper understanding of themselves.
Last September, Urban’s visit to Grand Rapids began with the debut of a short film from his groundbreaking and moving interview series, The Everyday People Project, at The Urban Institute of Contemporary Arts (UICA) on September 5th. The Project started as a way to help him understand himself through the stories of others and has become the new “reality” television, providing glimpses of hope through struggle, and victory after hardship, via moving and inspiring glimpses into the lives of its cast of “characters.”
The show was preceded by a performance from Grand Rapids’ own Casey Stratton, renowned singer/songwriter, whose powerful, angelic voice and insightful lyrics mirror Urban’s vision and are featured regularly on The Everyday People Project.
The next day, Urban’s photographic work debuted at The Richard App Gallery as part of Grand Rapids’ Fashion Night Out festivities. Showing with Urban was one of our own, photographer Terry Johnston, a practicing commercial photographer from Grand Rapids, whose work has been displayed across the United States, Canada, Australia, Europe and Japan. Johnston displayed his latest photos, including pieces that document the work of underground street artist eufoe.
Best Sporting Event of 2012 Submitted by Terry Johnston
“If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.” — Nora Roberts
On January 1st, 2012 I asked. I had done my research and couldn’t believe that I was going to be emailing David Frei a personal email. I admit I was a bit nervous, more star struck than anything else. David is the Director of Communciations and the television commentary for Westminster Kennel Club. He was my ticket in.
Happy New Year!
I am writing today from Grand Rapids, Michigan to see what the possibility might be of getting a photo pass.
We are an online magazine based out of Grand Rapids, Michigan. I have been in dogs for a long time. In fact, I had a Bernese Mountain Dog win Best of Breed in 2005. I hung up showing to pursue my interests in social media and marketing, started the magazine. Now we are branching out of Grand Rapids to other cities. New York is on our list for February.
We are mostly interested in shooting during the day, possibly at night. I have one professional photographer that will be traveling with me. We will also be trying to shoot some fashion while we are in the city.
This has been a life long dream of mine (to cover this properly.) I’m good friends with Clint Livingston, Jay Richardson and many other long time dog people. It would be fun to get some great pictures.
We will NOT be there shooting dogs for sale. This would be used ONLY for our facebook and website.
I really enjoy following you on facebook as well. We’re friends! 🙂
Let me know what you think. I’d also love to get some portraits of you (and a brief interview) if that might be possible.
Hi Laura: Please complete and return the credential application form in the Media Center on our home page and we will get you a photo pass. We are very limited in our media capacity for a number of reasons – great media interest is a pleasant problem to have – but I am happy to find room for you. Thanks for your interest in Westminster, we look forward to having you with us.
Upon our acceptance, Terry and I traveled to NYC and I experienced Westminster in a way I had never before. I’ve been to this dog show as an exhibitor, an assistant to a handler and a spectator. To experience it as media was by far my favorite. We interviewed David Frei. We hung out in the media center when they broke the news of big changes that would happen in 2013. We hung out with the USA Network cameramen and the major news stations. We were on the floor fighting for the perfect shot. We uploaded live pictures from the floor during the group competitions and our followers loved it.
We didn’t eat. We slept very little and worked our butts off. It was an exhilarating experience that we are looking forward to doing again in 2013!
This year’s Westminster Kennel Club 135th Annual Dog Show will be held on on Monday and Tuesday, February 11-12, 2013 at Madison Square Garden. Be sure to check them out on FACEBOOK.
Best Downtown Outdoor Festival of 2012
Submitted by Ian Anderson
This year, City Lights Music Festival expanded to a two-day event featuring more than 50 artists. A cross-section of West Michigan’s most popular DJs played in underground parking garages and open spaces surrounding the Calder Plaza. This year’s festival also brought in regional, national and international performers. Friday was headlined by Finnish trance producer Darude, and Florida-based progressive house/trance artist DJ Icey played on Saturday.
The event originated in 2009 as GREMN (Grand Rapids Electronic Music Night) a free event held downtown at Rosa Parks Circle organized by Grand Rapids creative Rob Bliss of Rob Bliss Creative. Due to its popularity, it relocated to Calder Plaza in 2010, and organizers brought in higher-end talent. In 2011, Shannon Williams, Bangin’ Promotions, got involved and the single-day festival renamed itself City Lights Music Festival. It also offered free admission in addition to paid tickets for VIP seating. The event drew between 8,000 and 12,000 people downtown.
In 2012, Williams went solo and brought a larger slate of artists and did away with free admission. The VIP seating area was designated for patrons 21 and older, and was the only place where attendees could have cocktails, prime-view seating and opportunities to meet the artists and private bathrooms.
This summer, due to an overwhelming number of requests, City Lights Music Festival will now be on July 19th and 20th and we will be there with furry boots on!
Best Downtown Race of 2012
Submitted by Ian Anderson
The Color Run, otherwise known as the Happiest 5K on the planet, was called by local pro photographers, the most beautiful event to shoot.
August 5th was an absolutely perfect summer morning. After weeks of supressing heat, we found a break and woke up to ideal racing conditions.
There were people of all ages in white shirts, sweatbands around their heads, and brightly colored wristbands on their arms. Some had tutus, many were wearing neon knee socks, and several were wearing protective eyewear. This was the scene of the inaugural Color Run Grand Rapids. There were over 10,000 excited runners, walkers, and riders (including little ones in strollers covered with plastic) who were very excited at the prospect of completing what is known as “The Happiest 5K on the Planet.”
The Color Run is focused much less on speed and much more on just having a good time, therefore it is not timed. Along the route, there are four color stations—yellow, orange, pink, and blue—that spray runners with powder as they pass through. It’s seems like a reverse laundry detergent ad where in the beginning everyone is dressed in clean white shirts, and as they cross the finish line they are covered in colored dust. Each participant is given a packet of color to use as they cross the finish line and at the end it’s a no-holds-barred color fest.
Before the run, however, there was a flurry of activity on Calder Plaza as those who were participating spent time getting psyched up and ready for the most fun they will ever have in a 5K. There was plenty of music and Color Run staff even led group warm-up exercises in front of the main stage. The Color Run Store was open for business, selling everything from tattoos to hoodies. Promptly at 8:30, the first wave of 1,000 started off and with each group, the excitement seemed to build. Soon you could see clouds of color throughout the race route.
Each Color Run event connects with a local nonprofit, who receives a portion of the registration costs from each participant. The Grand Rapids event partnered with theWest Michigan Sports Commission and the Van Andel Institute’s Purple Community. Because of the Van Andel Institute’s involvement in Sunday’s event, they added a special purple section to the race.
After crossing the finish line, the thousands of Color Runners (as they will now be able to call themselves) gathered at Calder Plaza and enjoyed a fantastic dance party and celebration. All of the fun clothes and accessories aside, it was clear that the most beloved souvenir of the day was the dusting of color. Stained clothing, skin, and colored hair seemed to be a badge of honor for everyone who took part.
Most Beautiful Event of 2012
Submitted by Raeanna Anglen
Lights in the Night – ArtPrize
If you were anywhere near downtown Grand Rapids on Friday night, chances are you looked up in the sky and saw thousands of twinkling lights. This was the all part of Lights in the Night—a truly unique ArtPrize exhibit. Mark Carpenter and Dan Johnson brought their idea to the community—and the community responded in a huge way.
This was the second attempt for the event, as it was rained out the first time. But on Friday night, Mother Nature cooperated and thousands of people came out to light a lantern and be part of history. The lines seemed endless and lanterns were being handed out fast and furiously by dozens of volunteers. Everyone was so excited—while the big launch was set for 8:00, the lanterns were starting to appear in the sky before then.
As the official launch time neared, the excitement level got higher and higher. At 8:00, the first horn sounded, signifying the time to light the lanterns and shortly after that another blast from the horn came, telling the crowd it was time to launch. The sky was filled with beautiful lights and they were reflected on the many downtown buildings including the JW Marriott and Amway Grand Plaza hotels. There were plenty of “ooohs” and “aaahs” throughout the crowd and many were capturing the moment with their cameras and cell phones.
Hope really did take flight in downtown Grand Rapids that night in our city, and it was truly a night to remember.
Most Fun Event of 2012
Submitted by Richard App
The Reptile House – Revisited (Story: Diana Lamphiere)
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way…” –Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
It started with a Facebook invite. A little red notification icon as I logged in. I clicked on it, and had a cartoonish jaw-drop of a moment. It was finally happening. Someone was finally doing it. The Reptile House was coming back, if just for one night.
I reached out to Mark Sellers, the owner of Stella’s Lounge, where the event would be held: “Just wanted to touch base with you about the Reptile Revisited event at Stella’s coming up. I was a dancer there in the early/mid 90s. Let me know if you need any help.” The response was almost immediate, asking me to dance for the event. And just like that, the past was back. I would be the girl in a cage again, at least for one evening.
I met with Mark and his right hand man Garry Boyd (himself a Reptile alum) to check out the cage, get a feel for the space, and get a clear picture of what they wanted, which was authenticity. Five other original Reptile House cage dancers signed on. And thus began endless messaging between the dancers about old times, what to wear, and who we might see.
I combed through my music collection to make a Reptile House playlist, messaging often with DJ Colin Clive (formerly of Reptile A-Go-Go, currently of Control at Rocky’s), who would naturally be in charge of the music for the event, and DJ Tim Pratt, who was flying to GR from San Francisco to spin. I remembered the good times and bad at The Reptile House, and reflected again on what I already knew:Reptile was a pivotal moment in my life, a place and time I could point back at and say, “There. Then. That’s where and when I started to truly become who I was going to be.”
It felt like a nostalgia bomb had gone off in the Grand Rapids area. Everyone from back in the day was buzzing about the event, talking about the old days, and going through their archives. I dug through my trunk of memories and found photos, flyers, and a copy of our old dancers rules (example: “You must dance your whole set, even if you do not dig the music. You may get another dancer to sub for you if the tunes truly make you want to die.”). I went through all of my black clothes for fishnet, lace, PVC and leather.
On the whole, though, the vibe was one of joy. People who hadn’t seen each other in years were catching up. People who do still see each other often, but who met in the Reptile days were feeling sentimental. Some people looked so different as to be unrecognizable and some looked exactly the same, some people joked about how late they were out (hardcore partiers from days of yore who rarely made it out past 11 these days), but they were all there and on the nostalgia trip with the rest of us.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” Reptile House Revisited was all about the best of times. We rediscovered our people. Turns out you can go home again.
Most Intriguing Evenings of 2012
Submitted by Danielle DeWitt
Couture for a Cure: Through a Creative’s Eyes (story: Danielle DeWitt)
In October, fashion took center stage on the Medical Mile, as over 400 people arrived at the Van Andel Institute for the seventh annual Couture for a Cure. The first floor of this world-class research facility was transformed into a scene from New York Fashion Week for this event, which raised thousands of dollars to support the life-changing scientific research that takes place in the floors above. After a reception that included a wide variety of hors d’ouevres and cocktails, the crowd moved to the seats along the runway for a fashion show put on by Leigh’s at Breton Village mall, and which featured the spring 2013 line by Daniel Vosovic, the NYC designer who was born and raised right here in West Michigan.
But this event did not just happen overnight. It was a year in the making. Planning began just days after the 2011 event, and a key player in the execution of the annual event since its inception in 2006 has been Patrick Plank, Creative Director and Director of Visual Merchandising for Leigh’s. His position covers a wide scope of work, from creating window displays for the store to spending time inNew York City on buying trips for clients. He was the perfect person to talk to inWest Michigan about orchestrating a large fashion show, and I was grateful to have the opportunity to spend some time watching him in action and hearing about how he got to where he is today.
I arrived at Leigh’s on the eve of Couture for a Cure, and walked back to see Patrick, who was wrapping up a day of model fittings. He told me there would be 16 models, each showing four different looks—Bond Bombshells, a tribute to the 50th anniversary of James Bond; Colorful Characters, because “color is big this year” according to Plank; Rock-Her, some rock-and-roll styles; and After Hours Diva, which would showcase this season’s evening wear looks. I watched as he put together just the right looks for each model and made sure that each look was complimented by the right shoes, bag, and accessories. There was energy in the fitting area that could not be missed, and Plank never slowed down. As I spoke with him I could see the wheels turning in his head, thinking about what else he could do to make the event even more special.
Born and raised in Grand Rapids, Patrick Plank once had aspirations of becoming an elementary school teacher. While in high school, he had his first experiences in retail at North Kent Mall, which gave him the experience he needed to get a job atJacobson’s in 1992, while taking classes at Grand Rapids Community Collegeand Kendall College of Art and Design. For three years he worked in sales, starting in the boys clothing department, then men’s clothing, and then the women’s shoe department. It was around that time he began to use his art background and helped to create displays in the store, eventually earning him the title of Visual Merchandise Manager, a position he held until Jacobson’s closed its doors.
After Jacobson’s closed, Plank took initiative and the experience he had acquired and started his own company, P2 Merchandise Presentations. His clients included Leigh’s and Fitzgerald’s Men’s Store in Breton Village Mall, as well asWoodland Mall and Wolverine Worldwide. In 2005, Larry Leigh asked Patrick to come on board full-time. Seven years later, he still loves his work as much as he did when he began, and is very excited about the increased interest in fashion inWest Michigan. Couture for a Cure began as a small fashion show in Leigh’s and last night filled the Van Andel Institute venue to its capacity. Plank said he sees that this area has, “an increased awareness of fashion” and that people are “treating the event like a fashion event and truly dressing for the event.”
Couture for a Cure has become just that—a fashion event. And much of that has to do with the vision of Patrick Plank. From creating a longer runway and having more models on that runway than ever before, to creating a truly theatrical experience with amazing lighting, music, and even props for the Bond Bombshell segment, the entire show was a work of art.
Thursday night, I arrived and was able to see in real-life what I had heard about the night before. But in real-life, it was so much better. I watched Patrick in action throughout the evening, before the show began, making sure that everything surrounding the show was picture perfect—looking through each look on the racks backstage, making sure the lighting was just right, and checking in on all of the models in hair and makeup. He not only selects the clothing, he manages the staff, works with the production company, and finalizes the music for the show. With all of these responsibilities, I was amazed at how calm and collected he seemed…ready for anything.
Watching a fashion show from alongside the runway is a completely different experience than what is seen backstage. Thursday night’s show required each girl to have four or five looks, depending on whether they were part of the Daniel Vosovic show. They had all of about 2 minutes in between each look to change into their next outfit, line up, and have Patrick take one last careful look at them before they start to walk the runway again. Last minute adjustments are made, such as adding a brooch, clipping a piece of clothing with a binder clip to make it tighter, or helping a model get into her impossibly high heels and ready to walk the runway.
As the last girl came off the stage after the finale, I saw Patrick have a deep sigh of relief and a smile on his face, as I’m sure he knew that once again, he had just created something incredible. The applause and cheers from the audience was proof of that. He had created just the experience that he wanted it to be for everyone there.
When I asked Patrick what he would be doing after the night was over, he said he would relax, take some time for himself, and then begin preparing for the 2013 Couture for a Cure.
ArtPrize IV (story: Danielle DeWitt)
For the fourth year in a row, our city has become an art gallery.
For the fourth year in a row, hundreds of artists have come to Grand Rapids and put their work on display to be the topic of conversation for two and a half weeks.
And for the fourth year in a row, hundreds gathered for the ArtPrize Awards Event that took place on Friday night on the loading dock of the former Grand Rapids Press building, which had been transformed into a fantastic nightclub by Noddea Skidmore and her team. The event was graciously sponsored by Stella Artoisand Haworth. Volunteers served up cocktails and checked out the venue. Our favorite hometown food trucks, What the Truck and The Silver Spork dished up delicious small plates while friends celebrated the culmination of 17 fantastic days in our community.
While this may have seemed like a peculiar place to many, ArtPrize Marketing Director Todd Herring said it best when he commented, “the history of this building and the future of ArtPrize are all part of one red line. One story. About a community open to change.”
Herring played the role of Master of Ceremonies on Friday night. He was joined on stage throughout the evening by the Grand Rapids Ballet Company, performing David Parson’s The Envelope, which was the perfect choice as the audience waited to find out what was in “the envelope.” The winner of ArtPrize IV. The ballet entertained the audience with moments of laughter amidst the moments of anticipation.
The first awards to be given out were the juried awards. There were five this year, each with their own sponsor and expert juror.
Time/Performance Based Art, sponsored by ITC Holdings:Three Phases by Complex Movements, selected by Juror Cathy Edwards.
Urban Space Award, sponsored by Spectrum Health:Flight by Dale Rogers, selected by Juror Susan Szenasy
Three Dimensional Work, sponsored by Haworth:More or Less by ABCD 83, selected by Juror Lisa Freiman
Two-Dimensional Work, sponsored by Varnum:Habitat by Alois Kronschlaeger, selected by Juror Tyler Green
Outstanding Venue Award, sponsored by Grand Valley State University:Site Lab, selected by Juror Tom Eccles
Next up was Darren Kuipers, Interim Executive Director of ArtPrize, who took a moment to thank the artists, venues, sponsors, volunteers, and staff who all worked tirelessly these past few weeks (well, the ArtPrize crew works all year) to make this event possible. (If you are out during ArtPrize these last couple of days, and you see someone with a volunteer shirt or a staff badge, make sure you tell them how much you appreciate all of their efforts to make this event happen for our city. Without them, this would not be possible!)
Then, the man of the hour, Rick DeVos, appeared on stage. He elaborated on Herring’s remarks about our community being “open to change.” He said, “Grand Rapids is emerging as a remarkable place where wild ideas can find an audience.” This year, that audience was made up of an estimated 400,000 people of all ages and backgrounds.
DeVos spoke about the importance of trying new things in order to, “make better things and make things better.” One of the new things ArtPrize tried this year was the Juried Grand Prize. To present that award, David Rosen, President of Kendall College of Art and Design at Ferris State University, joined DeVos on the stage.
Rosen told the audience that he came from Los Angeles to Grand Rapids, “not just for a job, but for life in a community filled with the traditions of art and design. A community driven by the engine of creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship.” He spoke of the courage that ArtPrize celebrates—as well as the “capacity and accomplishments of those who create.”
He also made an announcement of their newly formed five-year partnership withArtPrize. Kendall College has signed a commitment to be an Exhibition Center and Premier Leadership Sponsor and pledged to fund the $100,000 Juried Grand Prize Award for the next five years. He then announced this year’s Juried Grand Prize, Displacement, by Design 99.
Rick DeVos then announced another partnership, this one with Meijer Corporation, who has pledged $650,000 over the next five years to support thepublic vote. It is wonderful to see the community coming together to sustain ArtPrize, and maintain the momentum for the foreseeable future.
Finally, the moment we had all been waiting for. Third Place in the ArtPrize IV public vote was given to Frits Hoendervanger, for his piece, Rebirth of Spring. Second Place went to Martijn van Wagtendonk for Song of Lift. And the winner of ArtPrize IV was … Adonna Khare and her piece, Elephants. Khare was rendered speechless but for two words: Thank You. Her reaction was priceless.
After the awards, guests enjoyed a beautiful celebratory after party.
There you have it. ArtPrize IV is a wrap. As Rick DeVos said Friday night, “this does not happen anywhere else in the world and it’s really cool.”
Yes, Rick. And the city is truly grateful to you for your leadership and for sustaining the growth of ArtPrize over the last four years. Our team at Stellafly Social Mediaare honored to have been a part of this fourth year of ArtPrize.
These are the eight tenets of the ATHENA Award, presented by the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce (GRACC). This was the 23rd year this award has been given out, and each of the nominees in both the ATHENA and ATHENA Young Professional categories exemplify each of those eight principles.
On September 6th, 2011, the nominees were honored at a reception held on the rooftop of Lambert, Edwards & Associates in downtown Grand Rapids. Each individual was introduced to the group following remarks from Rick Baker, President and CEO of the GRACC, and Heather Gluszewski of Huntington Bank. It was an opportunity for each of them to come together and congratulate one another before the annual ATHENA Award Luncheon that which was held on Tuesday, September 18, 2012 at the JW Marriott.
The ATHENA Award recipient this year went to Carol Valade of Gemini Publications. She was joined by eight other nominees, including:
Ten young professionals were also selected as finalists for the ATHENA Young Professional Award. The winner, Milinda Ysasi Castanon, was announced at the September 18 luncheon, and these ten women are:
I was and continue to be honored and humbled by the nomination. More importantly, I have worked with the ATHENA program since the nomination and love the work that they do and their recognition of women in the workplace.
Congratulations to each of these women who are making a difference in their professions and throughout the community.
Most Rewarding Event of 2012 — GRand Jazz Fest Submitted by Laura Caprara
The best part of my role with Stellafly is meeting new people with big dreams. Dreams that are spilled out over coffee or beers. They tell me things that they want to make happen. They tell me because they believe that we can help them get there.
Picking the GRand Jazz Fest 2012 as one of my two picks of 2012 was easy. I watched (and helped) a dream come true.
Last winter, I met with Audrey Sundstrom and her friend and PR Maven, Molly Klimas. Audrey wanted to have a Jazz Festival downtown. She wanted it to be free to the community. She wanted it to be successful.
On an extremely limited budget she hired the Stellafly team for one month. We knew that this wasn’t going to get them much but we were in to help as much as we could. We helped get legs under their Facebook page. We covered their press conference, which was hit by an unexpected snow storm mid stream.
Audrey reminds me of the Little Engine that Could. She worked hard and diligent on limited resources. She made sure she was inclusive all the way down to the audience she hoped would attend. She kept her chin up when she realized that City Lights Music Festival would be taking place the same day, just blocks away.
Sundstrom and her husband, Greg, frequently attend jazz festivals around the state. After repeatedly telling her husband she wanted a festival here in Grand Rapids, he finally told her, “If you want it here, you might just have to start it yourself.”
With an overwhelmingly positive response from a crowd of thousands, the six musical acts and everyone else involved, the event was considered a huge success.
As West Michigan Jazz Society Board Member John Miller put it, “This could be the start of something big.”
Sundstrom originally approached the West Michigan Jazz Society (WMJS) and asked for suggestions on local jazz musicians. They became the nonprofit fiduciary for the event, which helped GRandJazzFest get off the ground.
“The West Michigan Jazz Society played an important part by giving GRandJazzFest credibility as a jazz event,” Sundstrom says.
Early support by DTE, the presenting sponsor, and from the Downtown Development Authority kicked the event into further motion. Soon, Sundstromstarted her own nonprofit, GR and Jazz, with friends and fellow jazz aficionados,Desiree Foster and Patti Flood, and then asked Molly Klimas of IntentPR to come on board to help with publicity for the event. Before the event, many more sponsors and friends got involved to ensure its success.
Sundstrom’s vision for GRandJazzFest was modeled after the River Raisin Jazz Festival in Monroe. She wanted to offer a variety of jazz genres such as big band, contemporary, traditional and Latin jazz and make it free so anyone could attend.
The August 18 event at Rosa Parks Circle began shortly after noon with one of West Michigan’s premier jazz ensembles, The Grand Rapids Jazz Orchestra, who has played traditional, swing and big band favorites for more than 35 years, including playing the first and third Sunday of each month at Founder’s Brewery. Dressed in matching blue shirts, the Orchestra kicked off the festival with upbeat big band music including a few sax solos. The entire day was filled with amazing regional talent.
Sundstrom was still smiling the next morning and thrilled with the festival’s results.
“It turned out to be everything I had hoped for,” she said. “I am grateful to all of the sponsors, the staff, the volunteers, the musicians and everyone who came out.”
Sundstrom had the vision for GRandJazzFest, but insists, “The event wouldn’t have been what it was without everyone’s help and so many people deserve a lot of credit.”
Thank you Audrey Sundstrom and your talented team for bringingGRandJazzFest to Grand Rapids. Please “wash away our dust” again next year.
And if the success of Grand Rapids’ first-ever jazz festival is the deciding factor on whether or not there will be a second GRandJazzFest, you might want to block out the third Saturday of August 2013 now.
BY :: SPARKLY STELLALY
PHOTOGRAPHY :: TIM MOTLEY
VENUE: Kendall College of Art & Design of Ferris State University at the Historic Federal Building
DATE: September 28, 2012
When Diana Sieger and the Grand Rapids Community Foundation (GRCF) throw a party, the people come. Last Friday evening the Foundation held its annual donor celebration that included the presentation of the 2012 Jack Chaille Award for Community Philanthropy. Hundreds of those who support the GRCF newest addition of Kendall College of Art & Design’s downtown Grand Rapids campus, the historic Federal Building.
The group that gathered on Friday was essentially a “who’s who” of West Michigan philanthropists. Guests of honor John and Nancy Kennedy were joined by community leaders such as Ralph Hauenstein, Mike and Sue Jandernoa, John and Marie Canepa, Greg and Meg Willit, and countless others who are so supportive of the foundation’s efforts. They enjoyed hors d’oeuvres from YoChef’s Catering Company and great wine from Martha’s Vineyard. Conversation was lively, and the atmosphere was one of joyful celebration as everyone came together to toast the Kennedys and this community foundation that is near and dear to their hearts.
Midway through the event, everyone made their way into the auditorium where GRCF President Diana Sieger welcomed everyone and began with the fantastic news that during the 2011-12 fiscal year, the foundation raised over $20 million. They also made grants and scholarship awards of just over $11 million, supporting initiatives surrounding housing and education in West Michigan. The GRCF is one of Grand Rapids’ greatest assets, serving as a permanent endowment for our community.
Sieger then introduced GRCF Board Chair, Eva Aguirre Cooper of WOOD-TV. She noted the level of “strategy, seriousness, and diligence” that goes into each decision regarding which grants to recommend for approval, and recognized the trustees who were there on Friday night, including Wayman Britt, Paul Doyle, Carol Karr, Paul Keep, Christina Keller, and Cecile Cave Fehsenfeld. Also recognized were David Rosen, Kendall College President; and David Eisler, President of Ferris State University.
The program continued with the presentation of the 2012 Jack Chaille Award for Community Philanthropy. This year’s recipients were John and Nancy Kennedy. There was a beautiful video tribute to Kennedys that included comments from two of their children, and their friends Mike Jandernoa and Phil McCorkle. Sieger then invited the Kennedys to receive their award, and they had three of their four children with them—John, Margaret, and Tom. (Their son Paul was unable to attend)
The Chaille Award is given annually to GRCF donors who not only support the Community Foundation’s mission, but also many other community efforts. John Kennedy is President of Autocam and Nancy is a full-time community volunteer. They are involved with Grand Valley State University, University Prep School,Saint Mary’s Hospital, the Heart of West Michigan United Way, the Catholic Schools of Grand Rapids, and of course the Community Foundation. John was part of the original committee for grant distribution, and they established Employees of Autocam Fund at the GRCF. The Kennedys also made a leadership gift to help secure the new building for the foundation. All four of their children have served on the GRCF Youth Grant Committee, and both Margaret and Tom served as the Youth Trustee on the board.
John and Nancy Kennedy are the supporters every nonprofit dreams of having. They are engaged 100 percent with each cause they are involved in and as Diana Sieger said, they are “great examples of people who give from their hearts. They are not only generous with their financial gifts, but they are active and very engaged volunteers. When they are behind something, a project or a cause, their time, talent, and treasure go into it. They are purposeful about their philanthropy and only take on causes to which they can fully dedicate themselves.”
Sieger then presented the Kennedys with their award, which is different for each recipient every year. The Community Foundation created an invitation package for the event this year that, when put together, formed a beautiful poster. The Kennedys were given a framed copy of this poster for their home, which was very fitting being that the award was given during ArtPrize and in one of the largest venues for the event. It was truly a work of art!
Thank you to Diana Sieger and the entire staff of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation for all of your hard work and dedication to our community, and congratulations on a remarkable year! Stellafly is very excited to see what this year will bring!
Destruction can spur creation, and from despair beauty can emerge. Just ask up-and-coming local designer Liesl Geneva. It’s been a long road for the Comstock Park native, who recently won the ArtPrize Fashion Force Challenge, and it all started when she decided to rip things apart.
Geneva’s life as a designer began in 2009 in a California garage. After moving from Michigan on a whim, Geneva said things did not go as planned. She couldn’t find work and could barely afford the rent she paid for a shared studio space inside a converted carriage house.
“I was mad. I was mad about a lot of things – living off of no money, sleeping in a motor home off the side of the road. I couldn’t even afford a room somewhere,” she described. “Then one day I just grabbed a t-shirt and started tearing it apart.”
What emerged was something Geneva said she never could have imagined, something she describes as simply “magical.” “That was definitely a turning point in my life, and without getting so frustrated it never would have happened.”
The entire process took about a week. After removing the neck and sleeves of the shirt, she built a dress form out of chicken wire and a borrowed easel so she could begin the process of putting everything back together. Geneva then grabbed ink from a screen printing run she had done and began to paint.
“I started painting this design. It wasn’t what I intended but it was better than I imagined,” she said. The design was a vibrant, multi-colored butterfly with the outline of a woman within its wings. As Geneva looked at what she had created, she immediately knew she needed to bring the design to others.
To do this, Geneva asked herself a question: “How do I make this so that anyone that loves it can wear it?” She answered the question by using ribbon and grommet to modify the shirt so it could be adjusted at the shoulders and waist, making it a design that could be worn by any woman. A design Geneva has dubbed “wearable art.”
All of the designs in Geneva’s Apparel Artistry Collection, which include one-of-a-kind dresses, shirts, skirts, and wraps, can be adjusted to fit sizes 2-22, something the designer said is something not only unique but important.
“I have never been the skinniest girl in the room, and I’ve always had so much trouble finding clothes that fit me. A lot of designers design for a size 0 or 20, and there are a lot of fit issues if you fall in the middle,” she said.
Geneva describes herself as a “deeply spiritual person who is passionate and fierce when it comes to equality, love, and kindness” and her designs are not only wearable art but serve as extensions of her passion for aiming to “be the change.”
Her first foray into fashion – before the fateful ripped tee – had been screen printing t-shirts, which were often sold at state Pride Festivals. “My sister was ‘coming out’ and having a hard time; she’s very femme and shy – I told her, ‘I just need to make you t-shirts so no one thinks you’re the token straight girl!’ It made her laugh,” she said.
After moving back to Michigan, Geneva decided to continue to play with the idea of wearable art. In 2010, she sold her first line of shirts that adjust, some of them hand-painted like the premier butterfly design, and completed her first dress. “It was another one of those magical moments. I had an idea, put it together and it actually worked!”
Geneva said she has often surprised herself as she does not have a design background. “I really just approach the problem of how do I do this? I play with it in my head, and I have that a-ha moment and just start making whatever it is.”
Not having a designer’s background didn’t hold her back when competing in this year’s ArtPrize Fashion Force Challenge held in July. The first-ever competition pitted 13 aspiring designers against each other, themselves, and the clock in a night filled with style, and yes, surprises.
Each designer created two looks: one in advance from $100 worth of ArtPrize merchandise and the other in front of the live audience the night of the Challenge. “I hadn’t even seen the material I’d be working with,” Geneva admitted.
For her first look, Geneva selected a variety of neighborhood t-shirts from the 2011 ArtPrize competition. In true Apparel Artistry style, she cut the t-shirts apart and put them back together as a cocktail dress that was bright, chic, and fun.
The live challenge presented Geneva with a familiar problem: transform a long sleeve t-shirt into a work of art; however, in this case, she only had 15 minutes. “It was right up my alley, I knew I could show off my forte,” she said.
“The hardest part was threading a needle in front of a live audience. You’re going so fast, so the thread would tangle. I could not get the needle threaded!” said Geneva. Yet, four needles later, she had created a design that judges agreed was just what they were looking for.
Geneva was crowned the winner of the Fashion Force Challenge and awarded $500. “She also received automatic placement in this year’s Style Battle, West Michigan’s largest fashion competition taking place Thursday, September 2012 at the Goei Center. This year’s theme for the event is “This is Art.”
For Style Battle, Geneva will represent Apparel Artisty and the ArtPrize Hub Store as the official Fashion Force Ambassador. She’ll work with a team of fashion professionals, including a photography, hair stylist, makeup artist, and model to create and photograph four complete looks in three hours.
This is the first year ArtPrize is participating in Style Battle. Paige Fagan, an event coordinator with ArtPrize said the organization wanted to participate in order to show off other forms of art, including fashion design. “Liesl’s concept was formed off of the ‘This is Art’ idea. She’s using the idea of street art and showing how all things can be beautiful, along with how important it is to be able to appreciate all art forms,” Fagan said.
Initially, Geneva was worried that being an official representative for an organization may mean she’d have to relinquish creative control over her design; however, she said that is not the case. “I’ve kept all the creative control. It’s totally worth it.”
The ArtPrizeHub Store is also featuring limited edition apparel by Apparel Artistry and displaying Geneva’s winning Fashion Force design during the 19 day competition.
Since winning the challenge, Geneva said her line has definitely seen a noticeable increase in attention, which is perfect timing considering she just unveiled her fall line. “I had a lot of fun with wools, plaids, and flannels, trying to do them in a bright, vibrant, fun way. You can find a lot of wool in grays and browns, which are pretty and practical, but I love color,” she said describing her line.
One of the items in the latest line is a Heidi hoodie, a funky addition to any fall wardrobe that can be worn twelve different ways. “I love making clothes that are unique and that adjust to fit,” she said.
A question Geneva gets a lot is whether or not her design are easily adjusted. “People ask, ‘will I need help putting this on?’” she explained with a chuckle. “The answer is no. I design my items in such a way that you can adjust it yourself.”
Currently, Geneva works solely through direct sales, either through her Etsy page or her website; however, she said she hopes to begin offering her designs in local boutiques. In the meantime, she’s riding the wave of her latest successes, always looking for inspiration to spur her next a-ha moment. “It’s like a form of magic,” she said. “You never know when it can hit.”
LOCATION :: THE HUB
BY :: THE SPARKLY STELLAFLY
PHOTOGRAPHY :: TERRY JOHNSTON
ArtPrize opening day is right around the corner, and there is already a noticeable buzz throughout the city. Banners are up, art is being installed, and official ArtPrize events are on the calendar.
Last evening, the ArtPrize team hosted a celebration for the sponsors who help make the 19-day event possible. There are 178 sponsors and six media partners who make up the list this year, and the Sponsor Party gave each a tour of the 2012 space. Guests were treated to delicious hors d’oeuvres, wine tasting, live music, and the first peek at The HUB, located at 41 Sheldon.
The HUB is essentially the “nerve center” for ArtPrize. It’s the headquarters for the ArtPrize team and volunteers, and it is the only place where you can find the full collection of ArtPrize merchandise. You can register to vote, pick up an event guide, and get your wristbands for the ArtBus. On Friday night all who were passing through gave it great reviews. There was also an opportunity for the sponsors to get registered for ArtPrize voting, and beat the crowds that will be coming out in the next week to get signed up.
The ArtPrize store in the HUB is bigger and better than ever. From buttons to posters, from onesies to jackets and everything in between…you can find it there. While guests shopped tonight they were treated to live music by Hannah Niah & The Boys.
Another new area in the HUB is the park just outside the entrance. The road in front of the building has been closed off and with the help of Landscape Design Services and Herman Miller, there is an adorable landscaped area with quite a bit of seating. It will be a great place for ArtPrize guests to meet up throughout the next few weeks.
Stellafly would like to thank the ArtPrize team, especially Event Producer Noddea Skidmore, for the invitation to be involved again this year. We are proud to be part of the Official ArtPrize Media Coverage Team. This privilege allows us to bring you all of the behind the scenes coverage of this year’s event! Stay tuned!