Blog: Neeta Delaney

Neeta Delaney is a champion of the arts. She's the current President and CEO of ArtServe Michigan and the former President and CEO of the Jackson County Community Foundation, where she spearheaded the Armory Arts Project. Neeta will be writing about why Michigan should care more about... you guessed it, arts and culture.

Post No. 3

Be An Ambassador for the Arts 

A couple years ago when board members of both the Michigan Association of Community Arts Agencies (MACAA) and ArtServe were engaged in merger negotiations, one of our meetings was held at the Flint Institute of Arts. Board members from the Detroit area who had never been to the Flint Cultural Center were totally blown away by what they found there.

I can also say with confidence that several board members from smaller and/or rural communities who had not been to Detroit in decades would have been shocked to find the richness of cultural offerings here.

This lack of awareness cuts in all directions – urban/rural, East/West, Upper Peninsula, Lower Peninsula, etc. Add to that the fact that you can still feel a number of regional divides – regions that don’t seem to care about or support one another in any meaningful way. 

For example, it’s no secret that there is no love lost between Detroit and Grand Rapids, a situation that in subtle and not so subtle ways works against our collective ability to promote the arts, cultural and creative strengths of the state as a whole.  

I realize we’re all caught up in the significant challenges of our own work and that time, energy and dollars are limited. There are certainly plenty of legitimate excuses. 

I really believe, however, that if Michigan wants to promote its cultural richness, it has to begin with a collective appreciation among all of us. We’ve got to get out and experience it ourselves and then tell our friends and neighbors the amazing things we’ve seen and done. 

So I encourage you to be a tourist in your own town, region and state. Plan a visit to the new “green” Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM), have dinner and drinks in the growing entertainment district along the Grand River and stay in the new JW Marriott or the historic Amway Grand Plaza. Head to see the newly renovated Flint Institute of Art and the edgy Red Ink Studios adjacent to the Farmers Market in Flint. Find out why Old Town Lansing receives such praise. Check out the Box Factory in St. Joe. to watch a wide range of artists and artisans at work. Visit ART 634 and the newly opened Armory Arts Project in Jackson for a real eye-opener in terms of perception of a community vs. reality. Bring a group of friends who haven’t been to Detroit in a while down to Campus Martius Park for an event, show them the inside of the incredible Guardian Building, enjoy unbelievable barbecue at Slows Bar BQ and jazz at Cliff Bell’s - the art deco gem on Park St. and walk along the newly developed riverfront. Stop by Pewabic Pottery, the Heidelberg Project, the newly reinvented DIA, stock up on spices at Rafals adjacent to Eastern Market and take in a salsa lesson and savor Cuban food at Vicentes.   

Plan a trip to the
Michigan Legacy Art Park in Thompsonville south of Traverse City where you can ski or just hunker down in front of a fireplace at Crystal Mtn. Resort and then snowshoe through more than 30 acres of former cross country ski trails graced by over 40 awesome pieces of outdoor sculpture in every style and medium imaginable.

When you have more than a weekend, plan a trip to the U.P. where you’ll be bowled over by the arts and cultural scene along the waterfront in Marquette as well as hidden gems like the
Vertin Gallery in Calumet which showcases the arts & history of the Keweenaw through the works of 40 area artists, many of whom have shown and sold their work around the globe. 

You may not realize it, but perhaps the most powerful way we can shine a light on the full range of Michigan’s incredibly diverse, authentic home-grown/world class arts and cultural offerings is to experience them ourselves, share those experiences and then grab the hands of our friends and family and open some eyes, ears and minds!