Stellafly’s Top 11 of Twenty – Eleven

In 2011, Tim Motley and I made significant changes to our business model as we transitioned into Stellafly. We brought on fresh and talented local photographers Michael Cook, Terry Johnston and Katy Batdorff. We also added Richard App and Marcel Thibert to the creative team. We incorporated more outside work from Sean Stearns, Trevor Ditmar, Dave Johnson, Ryan PavlovichSeth Thompson, Mitch Ranger, Laura Bergells and Danielle DeWitt.

GF is still around too. He writes for us when we need to sound grown up.

Sadly, we said goodbye to long time Diarist, Chris Koens, who because of all of his fabulousness, ventured off to pursue his dream as an entrepreneur, focus on his career and his graphic design freelance work. He also plans on dedicating much of his free time to another passion – Grand Rapids Red Project. We sincerely miss having his creative edge and quick wit at the events and at our creative meetings. He spent hour upon hour with me discussing the re-branding process. I’ll never forget his warm hugs, his diehard loyalty, his ability to make me laugh and most of all, his support during a stressful time of transition. Chris is a great guy. If you don’t know him, get to know him. You won’t regret it. Definitely an asset to our community!

While Tim and I were still working with the Grand Rapids Social Diary, we covered hundred events between the months of January and September. We shot tons of music. We incorporated video into our coverage. We were there for the grand opening of the Pyramid Scheme, Prospecto, Traverse City Cherry Festival, even a trip to NYC… simply way too many to count. Looking back, there are far more than 10 noteworthy events.

These are a must for your 2012 calendar! In no particular order.

The 2011 Special Olympics Polar Plunge, Green Gala: Come Out and Play, West Michigan Pride Festival, Festival of the Arts, Rock the Rapids, Fashion’s Night Out 2011, LaughFestThe Fourth Annual Legacy BallPop! Death Wins“Polo for Paws” presented by Gabridge & Co. and City Lights Music Festival

On behalf of Tim and myself, we would to thank everyone that invested in the Grand Rapids Social Diary and continued to support us through our transition into Stellafly. It is because of our clients and friends who believed in us that we were able to take what appeared to be an impossible dream and turn it into reality.

Thank you to Grand Rapids Public Schools, Grand Rapids Gallery Association, Grand Rapids Community Foundation, Roberta King, Diana Sieger, Jonathan Jelks, John Helmholdt, Jason Ley, Noddea Skidmore, David Abbott, 834 Design & Marketing, Kim Bode, Valerie Lego, James Evans, Jim MurraySmith Haughey Rice & Roegge, Jamal Fisher, Tami VandenBerg, Laura Bergells, Shelley Irwin, Jackie Siranni, Donna Bova, Mark Curtis, Jim Cox, Tom Dowdall, Jolon Hull, John VanderHaagen and so many more. 


Without further ado, it’s time to reveal Stellafly’s Top 11 events of 2011.

Number 11. Grand Rapids Ballet Company presents Dracula

It’s no secret that Photographer Tim Motley likes to shoot theater. In fact, a little secret about Tim is that you will often see him stage right. He has photographed Grand Rapids Ballet Company‘s Dracula for several years now and it always ends up being his favorite event of the year.

Event Link:


Number 10. Lott3Metz / Highland Group Christmas Party

December is definitely the Season for beautiful Holiday Parties and some of our favorite people throw a great one every year — complete with Yesterdogs!

This year we welcome Ted Lott and Greg Metz to the Top Eleven. Both are the principals of Lott3Metz. Together they created Lott3Metz Architecture and have designed the Oasis at Steelcase Global Headquarters, several projects at GVSU, expansion planning for New Branches School. In addition to those they have worked on numerous renovation and historic preservation projects. Greg and Ted co-authored the green design guidelines for affordable housing.

Thanks for the invite, Ted! Great party!

 Event Link:


Number 9Until Love is Equal: YOU + Meanwhile Bar + Friends = LOVE 

Last fall, Photographer Katy Batdorff made her stellar Stellafly debut shooting YOU + Meanwhile Bar + Friends = LOVE. This event celebrated human rights, the LGBT community as well as served as a fundraising effort for Until Love Is Equal.

Grand Rapids residents, business owners, friends, supporters and community leaders showed up to support Until Love is Equal. To learn more about this movement and it’s importance in our community, read Ryan VanderMeer‘s editorial featured this week in The Rapidian:


Number 8. Grand Rapids Urban Adventure Race 

“Part bike race. Part running race. Part amazing race. Part ArtPrize.”

Pure insanity.

The #GRURBAN and ArtPrize teams collaborated to come up with some impressive challenges that were incorporated into AP artwork and venues with Amazing Race elements like biking, running, and navigating for punch spots that were scattered throughout the race course. My team member, Grand Rapids Community Foundation‘s, Roberta King, and I really didn’t know what to expect. She’s a long distance runner, me a gym rat. Before the race, each team was handed a map with marked locations and a passport with directions to punch when we arrived at the checkpoints. To make it even more challenging, half of those checkpoints had to be reached on foot while an equal number going in the opposite direction had to be done on bike.

Those at an advantage had marathon/triathlon experience and at a better advantage were those with experience in Adventure racing. Of course, being in your twenties didn’t hurt either.

Regardless of the level of experience, everyone found their A-game yesterday. It wasn’t all about having every checkpoint punched. It was about acquiring as many punches as possible within the allotted 4 plus hours before your legs fell off and you were hauled away in an ambulance.

In all seriousness, each team had to be quick thinking, strategic and have their bearings on where they were inside the city.  I remain impressed that there were some that managed to complete everything.

Check out the results.


Number 7. More-Self-Less “I Dream Beautiful” Bike Reveal 

The week leading up to Christmas, 21 families in need received a special gift.

More-Self-Less, Inc.(MSL) hosted their 2011, “I Dream Beautiful” Christmas party at 25 Kitchen & Bar. Accommodations for each of the 21 families including valet parking, a family dinner, family photos, sleeping bags, sleds, toys with the grand finale of the secret bike give-away at the end of the event.

Several area businesses and 200 volunteers collaborated with MSL this year to help facilitate the event. “Due to overwhelming response last year, we decided to start planning early in 2011 allowing for the opportunity to engage more families – the growth is infectious,” says founder Brady Schmitz.

The donors who “adopted” hosted their adopted families to enjoy a personal connection.

The children were then brought upstairs to the atrium of the building for the final surprise. While thinking they are simply waiting for their vehicles they found Ottawa Avenue illuminated with 50 sparkling new bikes complete with name tag, helmet, and bow.

The power of the holiday season is about giving. Amazing what you receive by doing so.

Visit or call 616-613-MORE to learn more about More-Self-Less, inc.

 Event link:

Number 6. First Annual Brookby Christmas Ball

This December, we attended a Christmas party that will surely be known in the future as the event of the Holiday Season. A party designed to celebrate the history of Brookby and its new future with Aquinas College. 

The formal affair was hosted by Sam and Janene Cummings and Dan and Pam DeVos. Attendance was by invitation only and limited to 125 guests.

The home was its most elegant, spectacularly adorned with holiday decorations in the spirit of the season. Tickets were priced as an effort to raise money for the ongoing maintenance and support of Brookby and its important part of Grand Rapids history.

Event Link:


Number 5. Jay and Betty Van Andel Legacy Awards 

In November, the Grand Rapids Public Museum celebrated a legacy of leadership at the third annual Jay and Betty Van Andel Legacy AwardsDavid and Carol Van Andel and Dan and Lou Ann Gaydou hosted the event that honored three community leaders for their impact upon West Michigan.

Award recipients included Steele and Mary Taylor, who were presented the Jay and Betty Van Andel Lifetime Achievement AwardJames B. Fahner, MD, received the Dave and Carol Van Andel Leadership Award; and Sam Cummings, was this year’s “Casey” Award winner, named for Casey Wondergem.  The award recipients were selected for their personal leadership within the community, their commitment to advancing the Grand Rapids Public Museum and their demonstration of character in inspiring others.

The evening of celebration featured a strolling dinner party, award presentation and admission to the Museum.  Guests also enjoyed a preview of BIG STUFF from the Permanent Collection which opens to the public on November 12.

Event Link:


Number 4. Design 1 Fashion Event Benefiting Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital

Hundreds of fashion enthusiasts were at the JW Marriott on Tuesday night for the third annual Design 1 Fashion Event, benefiting the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. If you live in West Michigan and have young kids in your life—whether you are a parent, aunt, uncle, grandparent, or friend—you probably realize what a blessing it is to have this amazing hospital right here in Grand Rapids.

The night began with a hors d’ oeuvres and cocktail reception that included a silent auction. There were many amazing auction items donated by dozens of local businesses including Design 1 Salon Spa, Jen Kroll Photography, Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, and Thousand Oaks Golf Club. While guests mingled in the ballroom performers from the Daredevil Circus entertained with acrobatics, juggling acts, and a very talented stilts walker.

This year’s event was themed A Fashionable Journey Around the World, and during the runway show the audience was taken to New York City, Hollywood, Paris, Tokyo, and Dubai. But before jetting off to the first destination, the youngest of the models took to the runway. These kids have all been patients at DeVos Children’s Hospital and each of them was dressed in fabulous fashions from K. Bella Bambino.

What followed was a spectacular display of fashion from A.K. Rikk’s, hair by Design 1, and makeup by Aura Skincare & Cosmetics all put together in a remarkable show produced by The Matthew Agency. Each segment of the show took the audience to a new destination, and each destination featured its own unique styles. Every look was amazing from head to toe.

As the night came to a close and the models took one last walk down the runway, there was a buzz in the room about how fantastic the entire event was, and everyone seemed to agree that this year’s show was the best one yet. Congratulations to all involved in making this happen, especially Design 1 Salon Spa, and a huge thanks to everyone at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital for all that you do!

Event Link:


Number 3. ArtPrize

When we rebranded as Stellafly, we were in the middle of a social media campaign with ArtPrize. The art based contest  brought two weeks of amazing art, artist receptions, parties, speaker series and most importantly, creative conversation to our community. Grand Rapids is officially on the international map because of ArtPrize and is now considered sustainable. A recent study, conducted by the Anderson Economic Group, showed that 2011 brought in $15.4 million into the Grand Rapids and Kent County economy, attracted more than 320,000 visitors and created more than 200 new jobs during its 19 days.

Event Link:


Number 2. Graveyard Shift with House Industries 

It’s no secret that creatives know how to fun. AIGA West Michigan does Halloween in style.

Each year, the AIGA West Michigan Halloween party trumps all others. Last year, they brought in DC’s Design Army, this year House Industries.

To get things started, House Industries‘ co-creator Rich Roat spoke about their Delaware-based type shop which began in 1993 and officially formed as a font foundry in 1994. Their viral success came about 10 years later. The team sticks to a set of aesthetic principles and works on each project until it’s finished instead of applying some sort of arbitrary deadline is a great way to maintain integrity.

They’ve gone beyond typography and even illustrations to develop objects such as furniture, textiles, sculptural elements and, in the case of the Girard family, dolls, puzzles and more. They also partner with outside artists, like Grand Rapids artist David Dodde who creates posters and other products for the company.

The UICA was wall-to-wall in creatives complete with a very competitive costume contest with awesome prizes (such as the latest version of Adobe Creative Suite), delicious fare from the WinchesterDJ Tom EngelsmanDJ Jobot, and performances by DITA and local favorite, Alexis.

Kudos to event organizers, Gwen O’Brien and Dottie Rhodes. Thanks for lettingStellafly and Mikey Cook stop by to capture this great time!

For more information on the West Michigan AIGA:

For more information on House Industries:

Event Link:


Number 1. GRadPICS

In December, Grand Rapids Public School (GRPS) high school seniors got close-ups, free of charge.

Titled GRadPICS, the free photo shoot ran for three straight days, photographing many seniors at all six high schools in the GRPS district — Creston High School,Central High SchoolGR MontessoriUnion High SchoolCity High School, andOttawa Hills High School.

The pictures have been posted to the GRadPICS Facebook page in albums labeled with each school’s name. The high resolution image files are available to download. The students also received each photographer’s full permission to use for yearbooks, personal pictures, websites, and profile pictures.

Johnston is one of four regularly subcontracted photographers who shoots for Stellafly. He presented the idea explaining that it was the type of gift he’d always wanted to provide. It was a logical opportunity to expand our connection with GRPS. We recently established a formal partnership focused on using social media to promote awareness about the school system, its programs and events. We plan on doing it again in 2012.

To see the images:

Contributing photographers: Tim MotleyTerry JohnstonKaty BatdorffMichael CookRyan PavlovichSeth Thompson and Mitch Ranger

Videographers: Sean StearnsTrevor Ditmar

Assistants: Marcel ThibertIan Anderson

Project Lead: Rich App

Social Media: Laura Caprara

Many thanks to our media friends for picking up the story:

The Rapidian:

Grand Rapids Press:
WGVU Morning Show with Shelley Irwin

WZZM 13:

 Event Link:


In Memory of Clint Hull

This year, we lost a good friend after a short and courageous battle with cancer.

Clint Hull loved spreading smiles, sharing laughs, and playing many different Special Olympics sports with his friends. He will be missed by many.

We met met Clint and his sister, Jolon, for the first time at the 2009 Festival of Trees, a fundraising event for Special Olympics Area 11. We were instantly hooked on his huge smile, big laugh and kind heart. We couldn’t help but want to learn more about the Special Olympics.

May you rest in peace, sweet Clint. We will miss you and will never forget what you taught us about simplicity and happiness.

The team will be plunging in Clint’s honor in February at the 2012 Grand Rapids Polar Plunge. If you would like to make a donation, visit our firstgiving page:

Clint’s obituary:



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