The middle aged woman was concentrating hard. For about 20 seconds she disconnected from her large, unruly family and studied the white sculpture outside Grand Rapid's Public Museum.

"Oh, they're doves!" she said with relief. "Do you see it?"

Her adult daughter stepped next to her to get the right vantage point and smiled with recognition. She saw them too. Her  ten year old son, however, could have cared less. He was hungry. And had to go to the bathroom. Again.

So, I made the two hour trip to Grand Rapids this past weekend to check out the ArtPrize fuss and, man, if you want a good reason for supporting public art and making your downtown a vital destination, you couldn't find a better example.

The weather was awful, the U-M vs MSU game was raging (damn exciting, wasn't it?) and still the crowds were out en force,  cruising downtown Grand Rapids, viewing art and getting soaked.

And these weren't 20something hipsters out looking for an excuse to be seen (though there were plenty of those). These were suburban house fraus, and blue collar workers, and who-has-time-for-this-crap middle managers, and perplexed seniors wandering the streets, popping into impromptu galleries (some in bank offices no less), cafes, restaurants, brew pubs, or circling the many outdoor displays. They loved some, hated others and struggled to decide what the hell inspired someone to surround a pile of carefully placed eggshells with cement egg carton bricks. "And, wow, is that an ant farm?"

These people were not only engaged, they were invested. They clearly saw the event as something unique and exciting, even if it didn't always make sense. I asked the woman who discovered the doves what she thought of the ArtPrize event.

"I love it. I'm proud that it's here. I don't really go to art museums or galleries but I really like this," she answered. "I have no idea what I'm going to vote for, though. There's the stuff you really like and then there's the stuff that's artsy in the good way. I can't decide."

Her daughter quickly put in her bid. "I like the Nessie. It must have been really hard to put that in the river."

She was referring to the sea serpent sculpture that sat near the shore of the Grand River, in prime view of the blue pedestrian bridge that crosses it.

I'm not going to make some bigger point here because, well, I think the point is obvious enough. What really excited me was watching locals congregate in their downtown and enthusiastically engage with their surroundings. The street scene was diverse, energetic and, for a change, not focused on buying stuff. To be honest, the people were every bit as fascinating as the art they came to view. And It drove home the point that downtowns should be more than a place to shop. They should be a place to live.

The week that will be...

Okay, soapbox dismantled. Let's quickly chat about the ridiculous number of worthwhile events hitting Ann Arbor this week. Narrowing the field to six was a real labor. Picking David Cross, however, was sweatless.

Many of you probably know him as Arrested Development's never-nude Tobias F√ľnk. Or maybe one of the genius co-creators of Mr. Show. But Cross, like most comics, got his start in stand up, originally touring rock clubs with Sub Pop records. His comedy is off-the-cuff, profane, uncompromising and really really funny.Check out the clips posted in FilterD. If you're not convinced, well, I think there's a new episode of Two And Half Men that night.

As for the stuff that didn't make the cut, I'd be remiss to not mention them...

  • For those who like to hear people talk and talk and talk about smart stuff Thursday is a trifecta of lectures with Nobel Prize-winning poet Derek Walcott appearing at Rackham Amphitheater (7pm), followed by Mexican journalist Lydia Cacho (7:30pm). Across town author Laura Kasischke is reading at Nicola's Books (7pm).
  • At Washtenaw Community College they'll be celebrating their annual World Cultural Celebration, featuring performances and  art from Japan, China, India, Brazil and Egypt. Learn capoer, belly dancing, henna application, tea ceremony and calligraphy from those who really know how to do it right. The celebration features students, family members and friends from over 60 countries, including Russia, Iran, Romania and Venezuela. It's $3 cheap to get in and food tickets are a mere 50 cents each. At very least, why not drop in and pig out on ethnic homemade cooking. For more information call (734) 677-5128 or email intl@wccnet.edu
  • You can catch the much-lauded National Theater production of Shakespeare's All's Well That Ends Well via live broadcast at the Michigan Theater on Sunday, October 11th. This is a growing trend - live broadcasts of renown theater and opera productions being shown at local cineplexes. Save yourself the cost of the flight to London and check out the show the London Sunday Times called, "A masterpiece of deep feeling and cutting intelligence."
  • Or if cheap Halloween thrills are your thing, Paranormal Activity returns for midnight showings at the State Theater, Thursday - Saturday. The audience is bound to be packed with giddy, screaming college students and truth be told, this Blair Witch Project wannabe is actually pretty damn creepy.
Well, that's all for now.
Remember to consume your culture locally,

Jeff Meyers

Want your event in FilterD? We only pick six each week!

Press releases for upcoming events in the Ann Arbor area should be sent by the Sunday before to jeff@concentratemedia.com. Please include high res jpg images that are at least 500 pixels wide.
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