Grand Rapids Civic Theatre brings The Christmas Story to the GRap, Leg Lamps and all.


Recalling the Christmas Story
Before there was the internet there was television.  Before television there was radio.  Before Radio there were books.  And throughout all of that there has been the Christmas Story.  Based on the childhood of the story comes to life in a new and imaginative way with Grand Rapids Civic Theater’s A Christmas Story: The Musical!


Props master at work  . . . how many Leg Lamps are enough?
Michael Wilson deserves much praise (props) for his role as Props Master.  A Christmas Story is chock full of iconography and everyone knows the story backwards and forwards, “Everyone recalls when they first saw the Christmas Story,” Wilson shared with us recently. Even though the story takes place around the holidays, Wilson and his volunteer crew have been working diligently on set pieces since June of this year!  The main time consumer – Perhaps one of the most iconic props in the history of cinema: the Leg Lamp.

For A Christmas Story: The Musical!, one leg lamp was not enough.  Considering they needed to plan for lamps getting broken by accident, having the broken one as part of the story, and the fact that there is a CHORUS LINE of leg lamps, Mr. Wilson and his team had their work cut out for them!  How many leg lamps is enough?  They are hoping that the 21 they made will cover it!


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American Institute of Architects – Grand Rapids Chapter recognizes architecture firms and projects at their 2015 Honor Awards program


Last month, The American Institute of Architects – Grand Rapids Chapter recognized people, architecture firms and projects at their 2015 Honor Awards program. The event was held at the They were held at beautiful Cheney Place in downtown Grand Rapids, MI.



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ArtPrize7 – what a wild ride it has been!


Have you ever been in a room where everyone else is just as excited or more to be right where you are? That’s what the ArtPrize awards party felt like!

Before the awards started the crowd was treated to the energy driven sound of Vox Vidorra (according to their website, the band’s name is a multilingual neologism and alliteration meaning ‘the voice of the life you’re meant to live’). Vox Vidorra played a funky blend of soul music that made us jump out of our seats and bust a move (the wine in my hand didn’t hurt either). The Civic Theatre was such a gorgeous setting for the award ceremony, the atmosphere was electric as the crowd buzzed while waiting for the ceremony to begin.

Rick DeVos made a grand entrance and stunned the crowd with a mind blowing fact — kids that were 6th graders for the first Artprize were now seniors in high school.  Rick let audience think about that for a minute as he  reflected on how each and every participant, artist, volunteer, and community member played a part in impacting those kids’ outlook on the community and art in general.  He expressed how he has enjoyed how ArtPrize makes conversations happen – the buzz that happens around the “must see” pieces, what people like and don’t like.  He mentioned that finding a way to include all members of the community in artistic discourse is what Artprize is all about, and that they truly succeeded this year.

Continue reading ArtPrize7 – what a wild ride it has been!

Go Forth and ArtPrize!


Despite chilly temps and overcast sky, hundreds of visitors filled Rosa Parks Circle in downtown Grand Rapids Sunday as ArtPrize Founder, Rick DeVos and Executive Director, Christian Gaines revealed the public’s top picks.

Top20-1Consumers Energy kicked the event off with the announcement of the winner of the  Consumers Energy SmartArt student ArtPrize Competion. The competition, in its third year, is a collaboration between Consumers Energy and Grand Rapids Public Schools. SmartArt stands for “Students Making Art with a Renewable Theme.” Students were asked to use renewable energy and energy efficiency as themes in their entries. Zoe Bultman received Best in Show from three judges. She received an Apple laptop computer and a $1,000 college scholarship from Consumers Energy.Top20-4Top20-6The first round of ArtPrize public voting came to an end at 11:59 PM, October 3rd. 30,994 visitors had cast 377,302 votes for art, elevating five artist entries from each category — 2-D, 3-D, Installation and Time-Based. These 20 ArtPrize Seven entries will now move on to the second round of voting, with the chance of winning over $200,000 in cash awards.

Gains and Rick DeVos took the stage to introduce the twenty artist entries selected from among 1,550 eligible works.Top20-7Many of the artists and their supporters were present, and as the advancing artists were announced, spots of the crowd would burst into cheers and excited shouts of congratulations! The excitement was palpable, so much so that it was hard not to cheer even if you didn’t personally know any of the artists. Continue reading Go Forth and ArtPrize!

Art Fans … What’s an ArtFan?


ArtPrize welcomed its ArtFans to a special private reception on Monday night, held at Start Garden. This event was sponsored by Warner Norcross & Judd with delicious cuisine provided by The Catering Co. ArtFans represent the spirit of ArtPrize, where artists are celebrated, spectators are challenged, and curiosity is rewarded.





The ArtFan program was designed with the most passionate ArtPrize fans in mind, and over the past seven years it has grown into a group of forward-thinking philanthropists, art enthusiasts, and community leaders who value art and take action to ensure it continues to have a presence in the community.

ArtFans become personal stakeholders and ambassador for ArtPrize. They enjoy exclusive benefits with behind-the-scenes access and invitations to special events and programming—all designed to bring people closer to the creative participants and producers of ArtPrize.  So much good going on with this group.

To learn more about becoming an ArtFan:

— SF

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Meet the new guy, Mike.




So how do you test the true talent of an aspiring photographer? You send him out to shoot things and they come back with a bunch of photos. When you open the dropbox, you’re elated to see that you love it.

I met with Mike a few weeks ago. We’ve known each other for about 15 years and met through a mutual friend. Over the years, I’ve bumped into him from time to time but most recently saw him at my father’s funeral. He reached out afterward to catch up and talk social media for his growing business, MeadowGreen Group. We decided to meet and catch up.

After working through our business, he asked about shooting for Stellafly. I had no idea that he was a hobby photographer. In fact, I had no idea he even took pictures. He said he loved to shoot in black and white and preferred street photography over event coverage.

Over tequila and beers, I explained how things worked at SF and sent him off to his first shoot that weekend — The Susan G Komen Run for the Cure 5K. Me. Happy.

Now knee-deep in ArtPrize season, SF’s newest addition is cruising the streets, looking at art and quite possibly you.

Regarding Mike’s images below: I cannot say for sure that these were his favorite venues or pieces. What I can say they are his favorite images from his photo walk. That’s the best part of ArtPrize. Our favorites… whatever they may be.

— SF

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It’s official, Grand Rapids. It’s ArtPrize Season.



ArtPrize Seven kicked off its seventh year this week, with a beautiful day, a promising first weekend and record breaking numbers. When it’s ArtPrize season, Grand Rapids shines in all of her glory.

Our television friends have set up camp in their downtown venues,  broadcasting live for our big little city. The city is alive with people. Restaurants are full. Streets are busy. There are food trucks. Live music. Familiar faces.

Parking is atrocious. Many are hitting The Rapid. Way to go, Grand Rapids!

Even the locals who seem “anti-ArtPrize” are quieter this year. Why? My observation is, strictly made through monitoring social media feeds, this year is presenting some seriously substantial art. There are noticeably less dragons and giant like creatures. There aren’t controversial pieces. It’s even rumored that even the BOB’s parking lot is devoid of it too — and the locals are missing it.

Has this new ArtPrize occurred because of the implementation of the Juried Grand Prize?  Is this now two competitions now that both the Public Vote and the Juried Grand Prize award $200,000? or is it that the public voters’ view of “what’s considered art” has changed? It’s hard to say so early in to the competition,  but it’s super fun to watch ArtPrize grow up.

SF photographers, Dianne Carroll Burdick was out and about on opening day.  Here are some shots she captured and shared with us.

— SF
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Seven Cheers for Seven Years, How Beer City does Art


The party kicked into full swing quickly as the corporate sponsors gathered to celebrate the start of ArtPrize’s seventh year (#ArtPrize7).  The HUB facility was a beehive of activity with music, laughter, and of course… ART!  The evening was generously sponsored by Adtegrity and Comerica Bank.

From the parklet out front of the building that was installed in just four days to the “Double Crown” winner of both critic and viewer’s choice, Intersections, in its new semi-permanent home (actually a steel replica of the original, but who cares it’s still amazing/awe inspiring #steelcase) one thing is clear- the art is back in town!

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The “Inside Dish” on Grand Rapids Civic Theatre’s season kick off — The Great Gatsby.



Jessica Schilling

Director Bruce Tinker said it best when he remarked that “’Civic’ is our middle name so being part of the community is very important to the Grand Rapids Civic Theater (“#GRCT”)”.  While the #GRCT is kicking off its 90th season, there is nothing antiquated about how they seek to synergize with other downtown Grand Rapids businesses.  The #GRCT is finding new ways to deepen community partnership and uses art as a reflection of life to address issues that are relevant to us today.  Leading off the #GRCT 90th season is a supercharged classic – The Great Gatsby!

Act One – The Great Gatsby:

This adaptation of The Great Gatsby (“#GRCTGatsby”) was specifically chosen to start the #GRCT’s 90th season because it is a “September Story” that combines the fleeting feeling of a summer flying by and the bittersweet feeling of summer coming to an end. Director Bruce Tinker (“Tinker”) explained that the story follows the summer arc and shows how the Roaring 20’s were a time of turmoil contrasted by extravagant decadence. Daisy observes that she always waits for the longest day of the year and then somehow misses it! #GRCTGatsby is truly “breakneck speed,” running only 82 minutes. This version is also the only stage adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel authorized by the Fitzgerald Estate.  Although there were others, including a movie some may have seen, Simon Levy’s script reads true to the book in a way that has the dialogue coming right off the pages.   

#GRCTGatsby is a favorite story among many, there is a reason it is a classic – the costumes, the music, the story . . . what’s not to love about extravagance, scandal, and wild parties?  When speaking with the actors prior to opening night, we were excited to hear that many of the actors involved auditioned for this play because they loved the story so much. Brain Peerbolt, the actor play Jay Gatsby, hopes that the lines from the page will echo in the minds of the audience, much like they did for him when he first read the novel.


Two of the ten actors involved are new to the #GRCT, so there is some new blood in with the seasoned veterans.  We had the privilege to talk with three of the main actors – Nick (David Cobb), Daisy (Audrey Filson), and Gatsby (Brian Peerbolt) – prior to the opening night (September 11, 2015).  They all enjoyed taking on the characters but shared that they met challenges along that they used to give their characters depth . . . each character struggles with a different sort of moral ambiguity, so the “bad guy” is not easily discernable as you learn more about their motivations and see them try to live their lives.  Filson and Peerbolt have become such a part of their characters that they’ve begun seeing some of their characters’ traits extending into their everyday lives.  Filson observed that she is much more animated, and Peerbolt has adopted the “Gatsby ‘Yes’” as part of his common tongue!

After visiting with some of the actors we were invited to take a look at the stage and the set designs that were out . . . just when we thought we couldn’t get any more excited, one look at the #GRCTGatsby stage left us giddy to see it live.  The crown jewel is a replica of a 1920s era Mercedes that they found online – and get this, it works… and you can buy it after the #GRCTGatsby run!  There are three other major location sets, and three secondary sets; he commented that there are pieces and fragments of the scenery, much like the lives of the characters are fragmented. Tinker went on to say that because of how many scene changes there are the play is more like a musical than your run of the mill production.

Act Two – Volunteers:

When you think about “Community Theater” and “volunteers” most of us think first about the actors, as hundreds of hours of their time provide the community with a fantastic evening of entertainment.  However, did you know that nearly EVERYTHING related to a show at the #GRCT is made possible through volunteer hours?  There are volunteers to help with building the stage scenery, the props, costumes etc. It truly takes a village to make it all possible!

One of the most beautiful examples I saw of this was in the creation of the costumes for all of the actors.  The amazing Costumer, Bob Fowle, had no small task before him making costumes for all of the actors; Daisy alone has seven costumes!  Now I just want to take a moment to let that sink in… that’s a costume change almost every 10 minutes.  If you know anything about women’s clothing in the 1920s, you know that flapper dresses were covered in beads and sequins; Bob has around TWENTY regular volunteers he calls on to help him make sure the actor’s look perfect on stage . . . including sewing on all of those beads and sequins!  



Act Three – Partnerships:

Embracing and embodying the “community” spirit, the #GRCT is partnering with multiple community organizations throughout the 2015/2016 season.  Through these partnerships the #GRCT is able to promote resources within the Grand Rapids community and in turn, those organizations are able to promote the arts through unconventional avenues.

Tis the season for anniversaries, and the Mental Health Foundation (“MHF”) is celebrating its 25th year simultaneously with #GRCT 90th season.  The MHF is working in conjunction with the #GRCT to promote the theater and raise awareness of mental illness in everyday life.  The Great Gatsby has undertones of mental illness throughout; the MHF is going to use this play to teach through its trademarked “be nice” (Notice Invite Challenge Empower) curriculum geared at teaching bully and suicide prevention programs.

While you’re in the 1920’s mood, you can follow up your visit to the #GRCT with a swing through the Grand Rapids Public Museum (GRPM).  What can be more exciting than gangsters and the roaring ‘20s?!  Starting September 26th, the GRPM will have a prohibition themed exhibit, which came to them through the National Constitution Center.  The exhibit uses the prohibition era to demonstrate how an amendment is made to our constitution . . . if you know anything about history, you know that trying to prohibit alcohol in the country did not go over well!  The GRPM will have volunteers in 1920s costume interacting with theater attendees at the #GRCT before certain shows; the GRPM is also doing a social media campaign and giving away free tickets – so be sure to LIKE them on Facebook, for a chance to win:

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Final Act:

With the 2015/2016 #GRCT season line-up this community is in for months of excitement!  What I think is more impressive, however, is how our Grand Rapids community (and those surrounding) get the benefit of having an organization as specials as the #GRCT, impacting each of our lives in ways we likely do not even notice.  I strongly urge each reader to check out the line-up at and treat your family, your friends, and yourself to a show, and become a part of this exceptional community!