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joeDowntown

Kennedy Center "Capacity-Building" in GR

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Dick and Betsy DeVos donated $22.5 million to the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. The announcement in the GR Press said:

Grand Rapids will be the first medium-size city in the nation to participate in a "capacity-building" program created by Kennedy Center president Michael Kaiser to assist and teach arts managers and boards of directors in matters such as fundraising and management.

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With the greatest respect: who cares? Shouldn't this be in the DC section of Urban Planet?

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Slightly more info on "Capacity Building" programs can be found on the Kennedy Center website here. You'll notice they wasted no time renaming the institute and throwing up a new logo on the page.

I'm not 100% clear on what capacity building is, but it appears to be mainly seminars and training sessions for the managing boards of fine arts organizations. They have several different program initiatives listed, with a couple city-based initiatives in New York and DC... And now a new Grand Rapids city-based program initiative has just been added.

With the greatest respect: who cares? Shouldn't this be in the DC section of Urban Planet?

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Slightly more info on "Capacity Building" programs can be found on the Kennedy Center website here. You'll notice they wasted no time renaming the institute and throwing up a new logo on the page.

I'm not 100% clear on what capacity building is, but it appears to be mainly seminars and training sessions for the managing boards of fine arts organizations. They have several different program initiatives listed, with a couple city-based initiatives in New York and DC... And now a new Grand Rapids city-based program initiative has just been added.

Well, what matters for us is that the Kennedy Center will apparently be taking an interest in specifically GR's organizations, like GR Ballet, GR Symphony, Opera GR, etc. There's not much else in the ways of details, likely because they haven't been worked out yet.

So far I don't think this involves any new buildings or offices, just some collaboration with the Kennedy Center and (hopefully) more vitality to our city's existing cultural institutions. But again, the details aren't out there yet, so there's not a lot to go on for now.

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A good thing, in other words. Thanks to the DeVos family. Another example of why GR is blessed with philanthropic local rich folks.

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To build on the idea, this may also have to do with the relatively low rating GR got in Forbes as a place to live and do business. One of the markers was the quality of the arts. And while we think of ourselves as having some pretty good institutions, comparatively, we do not. My guess this is a way to raise that ranking.

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Agreed LA Dave. We have a very active Art scene. Passage of Time at the old Public Museum is a perfect example of how far we've come, and I can't think of another city in Michigan that has anything close to what Meijer Gardens is doing for the art scene (the Chihuly exhibit is awesome). Personally, I think our art scene is top notch. Of course it can always improve (everything can), but we have a great community.

Joe

I have to take issue with that statement about the quality of the arts. For a city of its size, Grand Rapids has a very fine symphony orchestra, an opera company, a ballet, an art museum of good regional quality, a conservatory with a first-class sculpture garden, several important public sculptures by major artists (Calder, diSuvero), an annual arts festival bringing thousands of people downtown, a high-publicity arts competition for young artists and a very strong philanthropic tradition of support for the arts. If you look at Sun Belt cities of much larger size, the arts are often a joke. (Tucson Philharmonic, anyone?)

Forty years ago, I would have agreed with you, as the Symphony was about the only game in town and it was pretty much of an amateur affair. But even then, the Festivals were about to begin, the Calder had been placed and there was a lot of excitement about what GR could become on the arts scene.

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Agreed LA Dave. We have a very active Art scene. Passage of Time at the old Public Museum is a perfect example of how far we've come, and I can't think of another city in Michigan that has anything close to what Meijer Gardens is doing for the art scene (the Chihuly exhibit is awesome). Personally, I think our art scene is top notch. Of course it can always improve (everything can), but we have a great community.

Joe

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Lest it be thought that I'm unmindful of how far we've come... I do remember the symphony playing in old Welsh Hall. Argh. What a sorry venue. Or the Opera making do with second hand out at Calvin College. For a city of our size we punch above our weight. Yet going back to my point about the "capacity building" this may be more of PR effort aimed at coastal elites with the purpose of further elevating GR's status. While Meijer Gardens and the Art Prize gain national credibility, other aspects of the art portfoliio need work, not least improvements in the Art Museum's collection (and its shows: Princess Diana? Really?? Say no more.). Or take the Symphony: does it have the same artistic oomph as the Gilmore? Right now, it's out-shined.

So while I certainly enjoy the artistic offerings in our community, and enjoy their growth in excellence -- honestly, we still have more to do.

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Or take the Symphony: does it have the same artistic oomph as the Gilmore? Right now, it's out-shined.

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Worth noting: the Symphony's efforts in 'live to projection' film score performances are among the best in the genre. While perhaps not fully embraced or appreciated by traditionalists, there are only a handful of orchestra's in the world that present these programs with any regularity. Literally, you need to visit New York, Berlin or London in order to be assured one of these performances will be in the season schedule. This fall's "Lord of the Rings" offering will mark the fourth year in a row the Symphony will do a 'live to projection' concert and they are very skilled at it.

Just sayin'...

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Lest it be thought that I'm unmindful of how far we've come... I do remember the symphony playing in old Welsh Hall. Argh. What a sorry venue. Or the Opera making do with second hand out at Calvin College. For a city of our size we punch above our weight. Yet going back to my point about the "capacity building" this may be more of PR effort aimed at coastal elites with the purpose of further elevating GR's status. While Meijer Gardens and the Art Prize gain national credibility, other aspects of the art portfoliio need work, not least improvements in the Art Museum's collection (and its shows: Princess Diana? Really?? Say no more.). Or take the Symphony: does it have the same artistic oomph as the Gilmore? Right now, it's out-shined.

So while I certainly enjoy the artistic offerings in our community, and enjoy their growth in excellence -- honestly, we still have more to do.

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And, while we are at it, I forgot the Civic Theater, for many years a place for local thespians to strut their stuff.

And that is, I think, the genius of Grand Rapids. It is a place where home made culture has made a home. It would have been easy enough for culturally minded people of means simply to jet down to Chicago or out to New York to see a play or hear a concert. Instead, there was a commitment to culture in the area. And, there was generous support for that commitment, which was the point of my original kudo to the DeVos and other families.

So, I am sorry, but I cannot agree with the notion that, as compared to similar metropolitan areas without major universities, Grand Rapids somehow comes up wanting. Certainly that was true 40 years ago. I take issue with that characterization now.

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Oh, yeah, it is coming back to me.

Still, I don't know how you compare a piano competition to an active symphony season. While Kalamazoo obviously has certain cultural advantages by virtue of being the home of Western and K College, I don't think that one can compare those advantages to the goings on in GR, except perhaps on a per capita basis. (Tchaikovsky concertos per 100 people?)

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