Four Ways to Experience Arts and Culture in Grand Rapids

If you’re looking for unique arts and culture events, a visit to Grand Rapids is in order. From LiveArts, an extraordinary, collaborative stage production, to the amazing beauty of the new Richard and Helen DeVos Japanese Garden at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, you’ll want to catch everything that’s happening in Grand Rapids this spring.

Here are four ways to experience the arts on Michigan’s west side from Experience Grand Rapids. 

1. LiveArts

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 1.27.00 PMFor starters, you won’t want to miss LiveArts, a multi-media extravaganza about the vital role arts plays in our lives. LiveArts takes place at Van Andel Arena on April 24 and is a unique collaboration between the Grand Rapids Symphony, Symphony Chorus, Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Chorus, Grand Rapids Youth Symphony and Classical Orchestra, Grand Rapids Ballet, Opera Grand Rapids, and Broadway Grand Rapids.

The performance will include 1,500 performers and feature highlights from familiar music, like Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera” and Beethoven’s “Choral” Symphony No. 9, as well as dancing, visual effects, and more.

As you watch and listen, you’ll be drawn into the story of a young boy who discovers his passion for the cello and follow his journey as he attempts to master the instrument. Instead of taking place entirely on a traditional stage, LiveArts is creatively using multiple levels in the production.

Another unique component, says Roger Nelson, Vice President and COO for the Symphony, is the addition of visual elements. “In an ordinary concert presentation of the symphony, we ask people to use their imagination,” he says. “This show is different because in addition to hearing the music and watching the performers, people will see coordinated lighting, graphical images, and larger-than-life images of the performers.”

You can click here to read more about LiveArts in our first post on the event. Or, click here to buy tickets for LiveArts.

2. DisArt Festival

For 2 weeks, from April 10 – April 25, venues throughout Grand Rapids will host an international exhibition of artwork by artists with disabilities for the DisArt Festival. The 16-day festival will feature innovative work by over 35 international artists, with the aim of changing public perceptions about disability and connecting people through art.

DisArt logo[1]Head to the GRAM at 6PM on April 10th to hear the Curator Talk that kicks off the DisArt Festival, then join the fun at other kick-off events that will take place throughout the evening at a number of venues around Grand Rapids. During the festival, you’ll have the opportunity to view a film festival, a fashion show, several cultural education events, and dance performances as well as more traditional art exhibits. Check here for a complete list of DisArt Festival events.

When you visit the DisArts Festival you’ll also have the opportunity to see the U.S. premiere of Art of the Lived Experiment, which will be on display at three downtown locations: the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM), Kendall College of Art and Design, and the Urban Institute for Contemporary Art (UICA). Art of the Lived Experiment was curated by artist Aaron Williamson for the U.K’s DaDaFest International 2014 and includes a range of artworks, from sculpture and painting to photography and ceramics, by artists from around the world. The collection will remain in Grand Rapids through July 31st

Another exhibition you can see both during and post-festival is artist Riva Lehrer’s The Risk Pictures. Lehrer’s work has been displayed at the United Nations and the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC, among other locations. Visitors to Grand Rapids can see The Risk Pictures at The Richard App Gallery from April 11 – through June 30th. M

For more information, visit the DisArts Festival website.

3. The Discovery of King Tut Exhibit

For an entirely different kind of experience, check out the Grand Rapids Public Museum’s super cool exhibit, The Discovery of King Tut, which opens May 16 and runs through January 2016.

Photo courtesy of the Grand Rapids Public Museum

Photo courtesy of the Grand Rapids Public Museum

King Tut (short for Tutankhamen) became pharaoh when he was only 8-years old and died mysteriously about 11 years later. For unknown reasons, his name was erased from Egyptian monuments and he was all but forgotten until British archaeologist Howard Carter discovered his tomb in 1922.

Two parts comprise the exhibition at the Grand Rapids Public Museum: First, you’ll be transported, via media, thousands of years back in time to the world that existed when King Tut ruled. Next, you’ll learn how Howard Carter discovered his tomb all those years later.

The second part of the exhibition is a reproduction of the three incredible burial chambers discovered by Carter. The exhibit uses scientifically produced reconstructions of the chambers and their contents, so you’ll essentially see what Howard Carter saw when he made the discovery.

You can read more details and find ticket information on the GRPM website.

4. The Grand Opening of The Richard and Helen DeVos Japanese Garden at Frederik Meijer Gardens

Photo courtesy of Dean Van Dis

Photo courtesy of Dean Van Dis

If you’ve been to beautiful Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, you’re not alone. With more than 550,000 visitors annually, it’s a destination that attracts people from all over the world to see sculptures by artists like Rodin and Moore, explore the latest gallery exhibits, play in the magnificent children’s gardens, enjoy Michigan’s largest tropical conservatory (wonderful anytime of year but especially nice to visit in the winter), take in a summer concert, or stroll through the bountiful outdoor gardens and—one of my kids favorites—Michigan’s Farm Garden.

Beginning June 13, 2015 visitors can add the 8 ½ acre Richard and Helen DeVos Japanese Garden to their list of must-see exhibits.

The Japanese garden represents the culmination of 3+ years of hard work, begun in 2012 following the initial idea proposed by Fred Meijer in 2009. Designed by Hoichi Kurisu, president and founder of Kurisu International, Inc., the Japanese garden is in an ideal setting that includes elevation changes in addition to a variety of horticultural elements, including scenic bridges and waterfalls. As you walk through and explore the new Japanese garden, you can expect to find tranquility and simplicity in its beauty.

Photo courtesy of Dean Van Dis

Photo courtesy of Dean Van Dis

In a departure from traditional Japanese gardens, the Richard and Helen DeVos Japanese Garden will also contain sculptures, in keeping with Frederik Meijer Gardens’ dual mission of horticulture and sculpture. To honor the essence of the Japanese garden tradition and philosophy, these contemporary sculptures will offer thoughtful and thought-providing aesthetics amidst the naturally peaceful setting.

For more information on the grand opening of The Richard and Helen DeVos Japanese Garden, click here.

So many events, all in one place: it’s time to experience Grand Rapids!

Unearthing Hidden Gems on an 1,800 Mile Eastern Upper Peninsula Ride

Car, Horse, Motorcycle or ORV – No matter what your preferred method of transportation, guest blogger Bryan Much shares his tips for taking the road less traveled on an Eastern Upper Peninsula ride.  

Eastern UP you say?  Yeah, been through there many times. Nice place!”  That was me before I took the time to dig in and really explore the history, scenery, and attractions of the area.  I always thought the eastern UP was “nice”, but now I’m in awe of all that I’ve missed over the years.

I like to do my exploring on an adventure motorcycle, but a car – or even a horse (as I learned along the way) – will take you to treasure.  With motorcycle riding upon us, it’s a good time to share some opportunities for the curious to explore and enjoy.

Rolling along to take in hundreds of points of interest, I covered about 1,800 miles of Pure Michigan goodness.  My goal went beyond the entertainment of taking my own trip.  I wanted to share some information that would make it easier for others to plan a trip of their own. On my trip, I toured counter-clockwise generally along the lakeshores with loops deep into the interior.  I crossed and re-crossed the bridge, ferried to Drummond Island, and rode the highways and back roads that took me where I wanted to go.

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My favorites points of interest usually involve history.  Visiting places and exploring what once was in the past is a very rich experience for me – especially when you add in some interpretive displays or stories from books.  We are still making history today, so the modern and new are equally fascinating.  The thrill of watching a giant ore ship navigate a narrow channel leaves an impression not easily forgotten.

Photo courtesy of Bryan Much

Photo courtesy of Bryan Much

It’s not just the places.  The people you meet and the stories they share make for a memorable trip.  Slowing down and taking a moment to chat often brings great reward.

Photo courtesy of Bryan Much

The end of the day brings the time to reflect while relaxing on a beach listening to lapping waves while watching the sun slowly sink below the horizon.

Photo courtesy of Bryan Much

Photo courtesy of Bryan Much

Waterfalls, mom-and-pop restaurants, fishing villages, wildlife, and history new and old are all part of the fare.  The pictures and stories from my own trip can be viewed here.  Hopefully, it will help a few people sort out some places they’d like to explore on a trip of their own.

So take a look, make some plans, and go hunting for some treasure of your own!  See you in the eastern UP!

Bryan Much retired from the military after having advanced from Private to Colonel. He now spends much of his time advocating for off-highway motorcyclists and exploring and recording paths for them to ride and enjoy.  He serves on two councils relating to trails and is a member of many organizations related to this recreational interest.

The Agri-Tourist’s Guide to Taking a Michigan Farm Tour

Spring is here, which means Michigan’s growing season is just around corner. Today, the Michigan Agritourism Association shares their insider tips for having some fun on a Michigan farm this summer. 

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As warmth fills the air and the sun stays up longer each day, spring is a welcome relief from a winter of bone-chilling temperatures. Michigan farms are waking up. Greenhouses are planted, seedlings are sprouting, newly born baby animals cry out, and orchards will soon be blooming.  Farm crews are opening up the barns, dusting “winter” off the play areas, and preparing to open the wonder of a farm to visitors.

Asparagus3Fresh, delicious, local produce will soon be available at road-side stands and farm markets, along with an opportunity to interact with those who grow your food. Asparagus is the first harbinger of spring  that normally pops out of the ground in early May. It can be prepared in so many different ways and is a treat to the taste buds after a long winter.

Insider tip:  Since it is only available fresh for about 6 weeks, try to get it as frequently as you can before it is gone for the season! 

This year’s Asparagus festival is May 15-17 and includes a Kick Ass-paragus 5K Fun Run/Walk, the infamous asparagus poem contest, a parade full of homemade asparagus hats and more.

In June, strawberries make their debut!  Many Michigan farms offer picked or u-pick strawberries, which is a fun experience for families. Ask the farm folks to show you the different growth stages of a strawberry:   from their start as small white blossoms to plump red ones which quickly fill up a quart box.

SB6_11_14Insider tip:  Wear a red shirt for when the strawberry juice drips down your chin!

In late June and into July, the growing season kicks into high gear with cherries, raspberries and blueberries.  If you loved picking strawberries, look for farms that offer U-Pick on these fruits, too.

Insider tip: If you’re not already a jammer, try hand-making jams and jellies and freeze them to savor the flavors year round!

The National Cherry Festival in Traverse City is one of the oldest and largest festivals in the country. The eight-day celebration, held July 4-11th this year, is jam-packed with activities for all ages. Though not as large, strawberries, blueberries and raspberries take main stage at various festivals around the state.

tomatoesThrough mid-July well into August, indulge in fabulous Michigan sweet corn, tomatoes, peppers, sweet onions, peaches, plums, and almost any vegetable you desire.

Insider tip:  Visit the farm market first to get what is locally fresh in season, then plan the rest of your meal planning and shopping from there. Grilled vegetables?  Absolutely delicious!

For longer outings, look for farms which offer farm-style play areas, animal petting, and educational sessions and tours. Enjoy the onsite bakeries and food venues for fruit slushies, ice cream, fruit pies and of course – donuts!   We have no scientific proof, but farm bakery donuts just taste better when eaten while enjoying fresh air and the views of a farm!  A down-to-earth farm outing will simulate all five senses, teach you how food is grown, and most importantly, it’s just plain fun.

donutsInsider tip: Look for picnic areas, inviting benches and chairs to pull up and soak it all in. 

Plan your next experience by searching for local farms at www.michiganfarmfun.com or with a printed directory available at Michigan Agritourism Member locations, Michigan Farm Bureau offices, Michigan Welcome Centers or by calling the Michigan Agritourism Association office at (866) 964-3628.

Have you been to a Michigan farm? Tell us about your visit!

Allissa McManus and Beth Hubbard are passionate Board members of the Michigan Agritourism Association, which is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote agritourism by supporting our membership of farmers, farm marketers, and agritourism operators, who work tirelessly to provide fresh, delicious produce, education and farm fun to residents and visitors of our great State of Michigan. For more information about us and our members, please visit www.michiganfarmfun.com.