Lakeshore leaders part of ArtPrize exhibit Leadership on Canvas 2022

Steve Rusticus, chief operating officer at Gateway Mission, says he’s learned a lot about leadership over the years, as a pastor and working in management positions in industry. 

Formerly the Holland Rescue Mission, Gateway Mission is dedicated to working with the homeless and addicted in Ottawa and Allegan counties. The faith-based organization believes inner transformation leads to outer change.

“I don't think leaders are born, they become leaders, and the way they become leaders is that other leaders invest deeply into them,” Rusticus says. “That's really what happened to me. As I started to look at my life, I could see coaches and teachers and pastors and other people who invested in me. … I love watching other people step into leadership -- scary, messy, crazy sort of leadership positions – and see them excel. Most of them excel far beyond anything that I could have done.”

Rusticus is this year’s Leader on the Lakeshore along with Travis Williams, CEO of the ODC Network. They were chosen to participate in Leadership on Canvas, which invites community leaders to paint alongside artist Cynthia Hagedorn to create a series of works, transforming ArtPrize supporters into artistic contributors. Their work will be an ArtPrize entry that will be displayed at DeVos Place during the art competition held in Grand Rapids Sept. 15 through Oct. 2.

Connecting through art

Rusticus, who says he earned a D in eighth-grade art, described his selection as both an honor and scary. For his artwork, he created a leadership square, showing visually the process that people go through on their journey to become leaders. 
Steve Rusticus works on his painting.
When Hagedorn started Leadership on Canvas in 2014, she never imagined how it would evolve into the West Michigan tradition and institution that it has become, but the journey has been humbling and inspiring. Many know her as the founder of Holland’s popular Live Mannequin Night, an annual event that lets people become characters in elaborate window displays.

“Art is a vehicle to bring the community together,” she says. “I want people to experience and enjoy the benefits of art. This project is about connecting people under the umbrella of the arts, and, specifically, ArtPrize. 

“Historically, I just thought it would be great to bring these community leaders together, but one of the coolest aspects about the process has been seeing how much they are willing to open themselves to the experience (of creating art). They want to learn and grow, and they’re excited to try something new, which is, in itself, inspirational. Most of them have never even picked up a paintbrush, so it’s compelling to hear their process, and to experience how that comes to
fruition in the final work.” 

Painting reflects growth 

ODC’s Williams described his selection as a Leader on the Lakeshore as humbling

"It's great to see that the work we are doing at ODC is recognized," says Williams, noting the Holland organization's mission focuses on education and conservation. 

"Our goal is to create outdoor spaces and outdoor opportunities that the public can engage in with kids and families. We're working in a lot of areas to create these different opportunities. It helps us generate revenue for the organization and make us more sustainable when you're doing more than just one thing. Education and conservation really go hand in hand.”
Travis Williams works on his painting.
Under conservation, ODC supports the Macatawa River Greenway, a network of  protected public and private lands in the Holland/Zeeland area; Project Clarity, a community-wide partnership committed to improving the health and clarity of Lake Macatawa and the Macatawa Watershed; and sustainability and conservation groups working on land and water preservation. 

On the education side, ODC has three preschools that provide play and nature-based education, two nature centers and a consulting group for schools that are working to get kids outdoors. 

“When we create those green spaces and those outdoor spaces, it gives us places to take the kids and to get them outside. We also educate the kids and the families, which creates the mindset that we need to preserve and protect the outdoor spaces,” Williams says. “That's why those two things go hand in hand. You can't really have them separated." 

Williams, who took art classes while a student at Hope College, had fun working with Hagedorn. He learned a new technique from her that involved using cards to scrape the paint. 

“I spent a couple of hours with her painting and both learned a new technique and learned about the program. It was very enlightening,” Williams says. 

His painting reflects his growth over the past 23 years in Holland, as his children and the nonprofit have grown up.

"At this point in my life, things are changing, and I was trying to show with the grass moving in the wind that there's this ever-shifting, changing thing going on in life that we're always adapting to," Williams says. 

Highlighting leader-artists

For each new Leadership on Canvas iteration, past leader-artists nominate two new leaders to participate. Last year’s Leadership on Canvas installment introduced “Leader on the Lakeshore” to the slate of leader-artists, with one such leader-artist selected that year and two with the current team.

“As a vehicle for connecting and community, I love the expansion and outreach of including leader-artists who serve the Lakeshore and to be able to fold them into the community of ArtPrize,” Hagedorn says. “My roots are on the Lakeshore, so that connection is special for me.”

Past award recipients Mark Herman, owner of Crazy Horse Steakhouse and Saloon in Holland in 2021, and Sally Hallan Laukitis, retired Holland Visitors Bureau executive director, in 2018, nominated this year’s Lakeshore recipients. 

Sally Laukitis explains Travis Willaims' ArtPrize pieces during an unveiling ceremony he was unable to attend. (Shandra Martinez)

Herman says that expanding Leadership on Canvas beyond Grand Rapids to the Lakeshore has been valuable in recognizing leadership and encouraging more giving back to area communities.

“It helps put a spotlight on the Lakeshore area,” he says. “It recognizes leaders in these communities for what they’re doing now, and hopefully inspires people going forward to do more and give more. There’s a lot going on in the Lakeshore area, a lot of people in need, and a lot of organizations and people who step up to help here.”

Herman emphasized the transformative experience of painting alongside Hagedorn and being involved in Leadership on Canvas.

 “Cynthia is phenomenal to work with,” Herman says. “The experience at her studio was like no other I’ve ever had. She takes people like myself who are not talented whatsoever in the arts and guides and steers them.

“She managed to pull this creativity out of me that I didn’t know I had,” he says.

New elements in 2022

New to Leadership on Canvas for 2022 is a Bridge to Michigan leader-artist, chosen jointly by the Grand Rapids-area and Lakeshore-area teams as a bridge to connect both areas. The inaugural leader-artist is Muskegon-based David Lorenz, vice president at Travel Michigan at Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

Sally Laukitis describes the painting of Dave Lorenz, who wasn't able to attend the unveiling. (Shandra Martinez)

Also new to the exhibit this year will be a Featured Artists Book, copies of which will be available for purchase during ArtPrize. The coffee table-style book will include a photograph of each painting, each leader-artist’s artist statement and photographs of each leader-artist at Hagedorn’s studio.

Hagedorn says an additional goal of Leadership on Canvas is to show that art is approachable. 

“I hope this work will encourage others to participate in collaborative creativity and to make connections – artistic connections and human connections,” she says. “At its core, that’s what leadership is: to try things, to take risks, to work in collaboration with others toward a greater vision and to create new synergies that exceed the sums of their component parts.”

The leader-artists of Leadership on Canvas 2022 are:
  • Jim Alton, president, ABG / managing partner, Acrisure. A Fintech Company
  • Guillermo Cisneros, president and CEO, West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  • Michael Davenport, president and CEO, Jireh Metal Products, Inc.
  • Edye Evans Hyde, founder and executive director, Ebony Road Players/Performing Artist
  • Susan Jandernoa, co-founder, 42 North Partners
  • Hossain Marandi, president and department chief of pediatrics, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital
  • Bill Payne, principal, BP Ventures

Bridge to Michigan
David Lorenz, vice president, Travel Michigan at Michigan Economic Development Corporation

Leader on the Lakeshore
Steve Rusticus, COO, Gateway Mission
Travis Williams, CEO, ODC Network

Cynthia’s “Leader for Me”
Alan Salmon, CEO, Montage Inc.


Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.