Arts & Entertainment and Economic Development

Opera finds home for Emerging Artist series

The Harris Building will showcase live music, arts and theater.

September 11, 2015
| By Pat Evans |
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The Harris Building
The Harris Building in Grand Rapids’ Heartside neighborhood is a 38,000-square-foot venue for events, art and music. Courtesy The Harris Building

With new audiences in mind, Opera Grand Rapids kicks off a new collaboration on Friday.

The organization has paired with The Harris Building, 111 S. Division Ave., to begin the Emerging Artist program. The program is meant to showcase local talent in hopes of promoting locally grown opera musicians.

The Harris Building, built in 1892, has been in the process of renovation since 2013, with various tenants moving in such as The Local Epicurean, which currently occupies ground-floor frontage of the building. Now the second floor of The Harris Building will be used to showcase live music, arts and theater.

The Sept. 18 event begins at 5:30 p.m. with a VIP private party that includes champagne and hors d’oeuvres. At 6:30 p.m., food and cocktails will be available to guests, with a special preview of the building’s ArtPrize exhibit and a performance by Opera Grand Rapids.

The performance will be a mixture of opera, musical theater, cabaret and songs with Michigan themes.

“There is so much possibility with this collaboration,” Opera Grand Rapids Executive Director Anne Berquist said. “Our goal is that it will allow us to reach audiences that we don’t reach with our staged productions.”

Tickets for the event are $85 per person and $150 per person for VIP tickets, including a sponsored table for eight. Proceeds from the event will support the development of the Emerging Artists program.

The future of the building’s space will include “popera” performances by Opera Grand Rapids. Dates are tentatively scheduled for December, February, March and May.

The partnership between the opera and The Harris Building includes continuing support from the building as it supports the development of the series with funds from art and event sales.

“Our Emerging Artist performances will be a new way to highlight the great talent we have right here in our backyard,” Opera Grand Rapids President Daniel DeWitt said. “We are thankful to The Harris Building for supporting the development of this new program, and we hope that others join in their support.”

The Emerging Artists series is one of the ways Opera Grand Rapids hopes to change the city’s perception of opera, Berquist told the Business Journal in July.

“There’s a stereotype and perception of what opera is — and often people think about what opera is without ever attending an opera,” Berquist said.

“Opera Grand Rapids has never done this process of rethinking what is the future of opera — what is our product and how can we be part of the community and enhance the community and grow with it the same way the community is growing?”

The “popera” performances will offer a more intimate setting for opera, which is usually “grandiose” and up to three hours long.

“If we want to be a part of the community, we have to adapt and grow the audience,” Berquist said.

“Michigan is very keen on discovering talent and retaining young talent,” Berquist said. “That’s part of our goal: to discover that talent and give them the tools to get out there and have their own career.”

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