Downtown diversity continues to expand

April 11, 2011
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As ArtPrize begins the sign up for venues, the scope of an announcement made last December is given greater consideration.

The financial support for the event is not news to members and guests of the Economic Club of Grand Rapids, based on the annual Business Journal Newsmaker of the Year presentation back on Feb. 7. ArtPrize was a Top 10 Newsmaker in both years of its operation. The December announcement closing the books on ArtPrize 2010 indicated the magnitude of the DeVos family foundation’s loan to the event, and was quoted during the Newsmaker presentation in February:

“Expenses associated with the 2010 event were approximately $2.8 million. The difference between revenues and expenses, as well as capital expenditures for ArtPrize infrastructure, has been funded by a loan from the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation. In addition, the (foundation) provided the 2010 top 10 prize money ($449,000). In addition, a variety of sponsors provided money for the juried awards. The plan is to have ArtPrize become self sustaining (through sponsorships and other revenue sources) over the next couple of years.”

Dick DeVos told the Business Journal then that the family was not withdrawing its support but wanted to assure that ArtPrize would be sustained. The first step was the nonprofit designation. The newly named executive director, Catherine Creamer, will help secure the community’s involvement and the sustainability of the event long-term.

ArtPrize creator Rick DeVos noted last year, “We’re just the catalysts; it’s really the artists and venues that make this a success.” Grand Valley State University students studied the event’s economic impact to the local economy and estimated it to be $7.5 million.

At peace in downtown GR

The diversity of the downtown core is taking a giant step forward in June with the opening of a Zen Buddhist Center at 156 E. Fulton St.

Former Grand Rapidian Russell Pitts is returning home after 10 years spent devoting his life to becoming trained as a Buddhist monk with the Korean Buddhist Taego Order. His spiritual journey resulted in a new name: Venerable Deokwun Russell Pitts Sunim.

The Taego Order is Korea’s second largest order of Buddhist monks with a 1,600-year tradition. The Ven. Deokwun Sunim is also a graduate of the World Buddhist University in Bangkok. He is a former attorney with Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone, former professor at Aquinas College, teacher at Catholic Central High School and theater professional. 

The Grand Rapids Zen Center will offer Buddhist services at 10:30 a.m. Sundays, which involve traditional Buddhist chants, seated meditation, a dharma talk (sermon) by the Ven. Deokwun Sunim, followed by an informal gathering and tea. The center will offer a full range of classes on Buddhism, meditation and Zen practice. Special retreats and services will also be held throughout the year. It also will have a schedule of yoga classes taught by Stephanie Squibb.

The Ven. Deokwun, Sunim and the Zen Center are the subject of an upcoming article in “Modern Buddhism,” a publication that serves New York City’s Korean community.

Appealing to appeal to voters

The group perennially opposed to The Rapid mass transit system’s required public vote to sustain the system is appealing to news reporters in regard to its requests for information from the transit authority.

Kent County Families for Fiscal Responsibility filed Freedom of Information Act requests with Interurban Transit partnership board chairman (and local attorney) Don Lawless last week. Specifically, the group has asked for ridership numbers on each of the transit routes. The Rapid staff complied with 1,700 pages of information — and a $450 bill for the printouts, which anti-Transit co-founder Jeff Steinport found to be “outrageous.” It should be noted that such documentation is available in public records from the local, state and federal authorities at no charge. But the fighting will go on …

Students united for … buses

Speaking of the ITP, some GVSU students have formed an advocacy group to encourage students, faculty and even college presidents to support the Interurban Transit Partnership’s May 3 millage request, which seeks an increase of 0.35 mills and a renewal of the current millage of 1.12 mills.

“Our goal is to organize the student voice for public transit. Access to reliable and efficient public transportation in the community is not a luxury. It’s a necessity,” said Carolyn Callery, a GVSU senior who is leading the group called Bus-A-Move.

The greening of GR

Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell has a new favorite publication and it’s not Newsweek, even though he did recently fire off a fan letter to Tina Brown, the weekly’s editor, to invite her to visit River City. No, this time the mayor said he got a call from an editor at USA Today.

Heartwell said the paper will soon release a glossy, magazine-type periodical about sustainability efforts in the nation. He said the publication will list Grand Rapids as one of the “10 greenest cities in America,” a title the mayor is very proud of.

He is also proud of Eddie Tadlock, the SMG assistant general manager for DeVos Place. Tadlock was the driving force behind obtaining the state’s equivalent of LEED certification for the convention center. Tadlock also keeps his cell phone in a recycled case made from chipmunk hide or something.

“Eddie, you’re one of the greenest guys I know,” said Heartwell.

Classy and neat, too

People who attend performances of the Grand Rapids Symphony are generally thought of as having good taste, but who knew they also are neat?

SMG Assistant General Manager Jim Watt, that’s who — and here’s why. A few Saturdays ago the orchestra was playing a matinee at DeVos Performance Hall, and a comedian who was part of the Gilda’s Club LaughFest was set to take the stage that evening. Watt’s crew had to make the changeover at allegro speed. “They are all the unsung people that you don’t know about. They make things happen,” he said of his staff.

The cleanup went well, as Watt’s crew of 16 finished the changeover with a crescendo and in plenty of time for the funny show to go on. “It wasn’t too bad. It mostly was the symphony crowd, and they don’t trash the building,” said Watt.

Commuters, take note

Don’t say Sharon Evoy didn’t warn you. The executive director of the Downtown Alliance put out an all-points bulletin about potential havoc downtown this Thursday, especially on the morning trip in to work.

The “Get Motivated” motivation show featuring nationally known motivators such as Terry Bradshaw will take the Van Andel Arena stage starting at 8 a.m. and a really big crowd is expected. Evoy said an overflow crowd of about 3,000 could show up.

On the same day, about 5,000 dentists could be roaming downtown’s streets looking for a parking place, breakfast and some floss. The Michigan Dental Association is gathering at DeVos Place this week.

“Traffic into the downtown that morning will be congested as attendees come into the downtown, and visitor parking will be limited. So please inform your staff,” said Evoy.

Consider it done, Sharon.

Medical Main Street?

Michigan’s “Medical Main Street” — not to be confused with the Medical Mile — was on display last week in Booth 303 at the BIOMEDevice Show in Boston.

Medical Main Street, an Oakland County organization, and people from the MEDC were there to sell Oakland County “as a medical device manufacturing center and a life science destination.”

Was West Michigan’s medical device industry on exhibit at BIOMEDevice?

“No. We go to three others. This was not on our list,” said Birgit Klohs, president of The Right Place and one of West Michigan industries’ key sales reps.

The Right Place this year will exhibit at medical device trade shows in Anaheim, Calif., in Minneapolis, and in Dusseldorf, Germany. The Anaheim show is the largest in the U.S., and the Medica show in Dusselforf is the largest in the world, according to Klohs. Anywhere from six to nine medical device companies from West Michigan are part of the Right Place booth, a collaboration with the region’s MEDC SmartZone, according to Klohs.

Michigan is working hard on selling its medical device industry, said Klohs. There are 10 medical device regions around the state. “The largest number of companies and the largest number of employees in the medical device industry are in Kent County, according to the MEDC,” said Klohs.

As for the show in Boston, “we just choose to go to different shows,” said Klohs. “There are so many in this industry, you could be at one a week, so you have to use your resources judiciously.”

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