Choosing Lansing: Dylan and Jeana-Dee Rogers

The home of Dylan and Jeana-Dee Rogers reflects their many hobbies and passions. A "Happy Michigan" sign hangs above their couch. Their refrigerator is in their dining room, displaced because of the DIY renovation of the wood floor in the kitchen. A display case of pipes hangs by the door and almost everything in the house is "thrifted."
The happy, Michigan couple is becoming quite well known around the area for their many contributions to the art and music scenes in Lansing, but also, Jeana-Dee laughs, "for our manner of dress and our dancing skills." It’s also quite likely that, should you be in the Eastside neighborhood of Lansing, you will see them riding their yellow, tandem bike (complete with sparkly lights), enjoying a pipe on their front porch, or burning a tree in their backyard with friends (which they do have a burn permit for).
A "Force" Comes to Lansing
Dylan describes Jeana-Dee as an "overall force in Lansing." She laughs and says he is being ridiculous. But if you take a look at what Jeana-Dee has done, and is doing, in Lansing, it’s not really that ridiculous.
While Dylan grew up on the South side, it took Jeana-Dee a bit longer to end up in Lansing. With a journalism degree from MSU in hand, she took a job as a photographer for a newspaper in her hometown of Flint. But, being a photographer in Flint meant mostly shooting crime and she just didn’t feel like she belonged. So, armed with a grant for grad school, she made her way back to MSU and Lansing.
Like he had always imagined, Dylan found himself at MSU. But, "I found myself three years into a degree and realized I had no idea why I was doing it." Dylan took some time off and it was around this time that he and Jeana-Dee met. With some gentle urging from her, although Jeana-Dee insists "There is nothing gentle about me," he returned to MSU and received a degree in Humanities.
It wasn’t long after they met that the force that was Jeana-Dee began to rub off on Dylan.
While both eventually worked at Americorps for the Northwest Initiative, Jeana-Dee was coordinating programs that taught literacy through photography on the Northwest side, and another program for children who had parents or relatives that were incarcerated. Through Jeana-Dee, Dylan found strength and began to see that "Lansing is a place that if you have an idea and vision, you could put the work in and really make something happen."
REACH For Your Dreams
Feeding off of Jeana-Dee’s drive, Dylan took his love of music (you can find him almost every Tuesday at Open Mic. Night at Dagwoods), and the inspiration he drew from living in and learning about Old Town, and formed the Lansing Unionized Vaudeville Spectacle (LUVS). The LUVS are a 15 piece, musical performance act. The music, he feels "reflected the place I was falling in love with all over again … [Lansing]."
After a lot of time and effort the band is thriving and will be headlining some tours this summer, including the Festival of the Sun. They will also be doing a tour of the UP, which will be the subject of a documentary. The band is Dylan’s way of investing in the Lansing arts community.
Combined with his job at an Industrial Parts Calibration Facility, his "factory by day, Vaudeville by night" lifestyle has been called very "Charlie Chaplain-esque."
After being in Lansing a few years, Jeana-Dee discovered REACH Studio Art Center, a center that strives to allow anyone in Lansing a space to explore and practice art making, and decided "I like the arts; I would like to work in the arts."
After creating a program that worked with Lansing Public Schools and art, and being a guest artist for the studio, the transition was pretty natural. Today, she is the Education Coordinator for at REACH and is thankful to be working somewhere that is so similar to what was available to her growing up in Flint. "I would be a very different human being if I hadn’t had that exposure to the arts." It is an honor for Jeana-Dee to help bring that tradition to Lansing.
Jeana-Dee’s contributions to the arts don’t stop when she leaves REACH; she also sews costumes, designs sets, and builds props for the LUVS (she also tap dances in a Michigan costume). Additionally, you will soon be able to see Jeana-Dee’s art displayed at both the Avenue Café, where a sign she designed will soon be their main marquee, and the Soup Spoon Café, where she is scheduled to paint a mural on their outside wall.
In her “spare” time she films, edits, and recruits for a TV show that finds bands to play in abandoned buildings around Lansing. She also coordinates a Movement Workshop for teens (a collaboration between Reach and MSU), and is currently toying with the idea of sewing clothes for Lansing women. She holds up a piece of vintage fabric, a fairly hideous garment, and declares, “I restyle said hideous garment and make it interesting.”
To this endeavor, Dylan declares, "Jeana-Dee has vision." And, according to Dylan, that’s what it takes to do what Jeana-Dee does; "Vision and willpower."
The Future is Bright
When it comes to the future of Lansing, Jeana-Dee wants three things: diversity, the city to make things, and public art. Jeana-Dee is already contributing to this last one by working with, and raising money for, Teen Open Studios (through REACH) to create public artworks for the City of Lansing. The group has installed numerous art installations from murals to sculptures. "Lansing could really use those bright spots and I would love to just cover every open façade"
From Dylan’s point of view, the city has the potential to encompass all the best aspects of the greatest Michigan cities; it’s walkability, the local food and businesses, the night life, and the art scene. "All of these things have a ways to go but we are moving forward with all of them and I think that’s really positive."
To those that want to make the most of their Lansing community, Jeana-Dee and Dylan have one piece of advice; volunteer.
Though they want to travel and see the world, Lansing, they agree, is a great home base. "Lansing feels like home. We’ve found a community and things to do that are fulfilling." The couple is thrilled to be living in what Dylan calls "The capital city of the best state in the USA!"

Photos © Dave Trumpie
Dave Trumpie is the managing photographer for Capital Gains. He is a freelance photographer and owner of Trumpie Photography.
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