Growing up in Mt. Pleasant, Taylor Idema has always been involved in music – singing at church, playing the piano and being part of her school’s band and orchestra.
But something was missing: a place to hear and participate in music somewhere other than a school auditorium; a public space where students and families could come together outdoors to embrace the arts.
“I performed at school a lot, but we didn’t really have a good community venue,” Idema, 17, recalls thinking just before her freshman year at Mt. Pleasant High School as she mulled project ideas for her Girl Scout Gold Award. “I definitely saw that as a need.”
So like any good scout, she knew what to do: be part of the solution. The city needed an arts pavilion and she would work towards her Gold Award – the top honor a Girl Scout can achieve – making it happen.
After four years of fundraising, partnerships and perseverance, Idema’s dream is now a reality. On Monday, Aug. 5, more than 100 residents and community leaders came together to celebrate the official opening of the Island Park Arts Pavilion.
Community leaders celebrate the ribbon cutting of the new Island Park Arts Pavilion on Aug. 5.
“At the end of the day, this project has given me an overwhelming sense of pride in my community,” Idema told attendees. “From the bottom of my heart, thank you.”
Situated just west of the Timber Town playground, the wooden amphitheater features stone details and ample space for a variety of events. A few finishing touches – including grass seed – are coming soon to complete the approximately $200,000 project.
“Our community has rallied around this project,” Mayor William Joseph said. That includes donations from local businesses, $45,000 from the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe and $75,000 in a matching grant from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “Because of that generosity, audiences for years will come to enjoy a wide variety of performances in this picturesque setting.”
Onion Creek Drummers from the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe perform at the Island Park Arts Pavilion's inaugural concert on Monday, Aug. 5.
Seeing her idea come to life wouldn’t have been possible without help, Idema emphasized, including support from Mt. Pleasant’s Director of Parks and Public Spaces, Chris Bundy.
“I am very thankful for his guidance throughout this project,” she said at the event, which featured a ribbon cutting and performances from local musicians.
“I was very intimidated” at first, Idema said. “But every single person I worked with was so encouraging, helpful and kind.”
From their very first meeting – the teen pitched her idea to the city at Arby’s – Bundy could tell Idema was a “bright spark.”
“I’ve enjoyed working on the project with such a promising young person … who came to us with a great idea and the willingness to put in the work to make it a reality,” Bundy said Monday.
This is not the first time youth have made their voices heard to create positive change in Mt. Pleasant. In fact, that’s just how the skate park at Island Park and Hannah’s Bark Park at Mission Creek Park came about.
“You hear a lot (of negative perceptions) about young people these days. Taylor is a prime example that’s not true,” Bundy said. “You’re standing in a park with young people who had a lot to do with what’s here. You have a number of examples in our parks system where young people really stepped up and made things happen.”
It should serve as an inspiration to young people that they can make a difference “if they do their homework and are willing to see it through,” Bundy said.
In this case, it also helped that an arts pavilion was already in Mt. Pleasant’s Master Plan.
“During our last master planning process, public input said they wanted it,” he said. Having that document in his “back pocket,” and a teen who had already done plenty of research on the idea, made it an easy project to support.
Jan Saylor, a Mt. Pleasant resident of more than 13 years, was one of many local residents out on Monday night enjoying the pavilion’s inaugural concert.
“I think it’s a great idea,” she said, adding that the venue is a much-needed addition to the community. “Taylor had a good idea. I’ll be here every time they have (events).”
Cheryl Puhlman, who recently retired from working at City Hall, agreed.
“I just think it’s gonna be awesome,” she said.
Many residents turned out Aug. 5 for an evening of music as the community celebrated the official opening of the Island Park Arts Pavilion.
Idema also thanked Amanda Schafer, Executive Director of the Mount Pleasant Area Community Foundation, for her mentorship and help preparing for meetings with potential community partners.
“Once you hear her plan, you know it’s a good idea,” Schafer said. “Almost everybody she pitched wanted to (help).”
While she acknowledged Idema may be ready to spend some time just being a typical college student, Schafer said she can only hope this will be the first project of “what could be many.”
“Especially when you have success at such a young age, you hope that she’s inspired to continue,” she said. “I think community will always be a part of everything that she does. This project got to be her first.”
Bringing the arts to the greater Mt. Pleasant community was Idema’s goal, but she got even more than that in the process. Now equipped with four years of experience in fundraising, working with community organizations and project management, Idema is considering a career in public relations and looks forward to her first semester at Central Michigan University in the fall.
“I have learned a lot. I’ve learned how to bring people together,” she said. And another thing that never hurts? “Being prepared with a good pitch.”
But pitching big ideas for a city you believe in certainly comes more easily.
“I love Mt. Pleasant,” she said. “It’s a good place to grow up and there’s a strong sense of community.”
For more information on the Island Park Arts Pavilion or to reserve the space, contact Parks and Public Spaces at 989-779-5331.