Street Talk

Street Talk: Startup tackles used cars

Art for all.

August 31, 2018
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Five Grand Rapids entrepreneurs launched a website to help take the guesswork out of buying a new vehicle.

Carmony, a new website launched by Grand Rapids natives Ben Gezon, Ben Kohl, Karlo Zadro, Lance Beaudry and Matt Conflitti, helps car buyers who aren’t sure where to begin. Potential matches are based on a series of questions asked of the potential buyers.

“We’ve built our own proprietary algorithm to uniquely match people to cars,” Beaudry said. “If you get feature fatigue or get overwhelmed with everything to consider when buying a car, Carmony can help.”

On findcarmony.com, shoppers are asked to select their budget, ZIP code and up to four important traits they want in a car, including resale value; reliability; off-road capabilities; family, pet or eco-friendliness; and towing capacity.

The site then shows vehicles that best match shoppers’ requirements and also generates a match score to available cars. More than 30,000 Michigan vehicles for sale can be found on Carmony.

“Carmony is changing the landscape for customers when searching for the perfect vehicle,” said Joe Grimm, general manager of Betten Baker Honda in Muskegon.

In addition to hosting Betten Baker Honda’s inventory on their site, the Carmony team works closely with the company’s sales team to streamline the car shopping experience for customers, Beaudry said.

Carmony’s founders bring a host of entrepreneurial and web design experience to their new operation. Gezon, the original founder and CEO of Carmony, developed a deep passion for the startup world while studying engineering at the University of Michigan. This passion meshed with his love of cars, so he founded his first company in the automotive software space, which only lasted about two years before closing.

He is now owner of White Lake Dock & Dredge, an environmental dredging company, where he is responsible for overseeing management of the company.

Beaudry’s first startup failure provided lessons learned and a path for him to start his own digital marketing and web design company, Avalanche Creative. For the past four years, he has been growing his company, while more recently joining the Carmony team as its UX designer and business developer.

Zadro works full time as the front-end developer on Carmony in addition to owning several ad-revenue generating websites. He is heavily involved in the entrepreneurial scene in Grand Rapids and is one of the drivers behind Code for Good West Michigan — an event dedicated to nonprofit organizations.

Kohl went to Western Michigan University for computer science and has since become a PHP developer utilizing the Laravel framework. He has also worked on a contract basis with several other startups before he joined the Carmony team as the back-end developer.

Conflitti is the most recent member to join the Carmony team and recently graduated from Grand Valley State University with a degree in computer science and math.

Conflitti worked with the Carmony team for almost a year before graduation and impressed the team so much that he was asked to join as a co-founder. He leads the team’s data science efforts in addition to being a full stack developer.

Final act

After 22 years, the Grand Awards is closing the curtains.

Oct. 21 will mark the final Grand Awards ceremony, which will be held at the Fountain Street Church. The Grand Awards has honored college and community theater performers since 1996.

The Grand Awards Board, which is made up of one representative from each participating theater at the collegiate and community levels, made the decision to “move forward with a different platform in the future in order to honor and recognize the theater community and scholarship winners.” The type of platform and direction the board has decided to take was not disclosed.

Although the Grand Awards event will no longer take place, performers still will be awarded coveted scholarships that are given to outstanding honorees in various categories, such as stage managers, lead actor/actresses, supporting actor/actresses, show producers, directors, institutions and countless personnel who make theater productions successful.

The number of scholarships can change from year to year — a decision made by the Grand Rapids Community Foundation. However, the types of scholarships will remain the same.

Over the years, hundreds of theater performers have been honored at the prestigious event from different institutions such as Actors’ Theatre Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, Circle Theatre, Aquinas College, Grand Rapids Community College, Grand Valley State University and Cornerstone University.

Art in the park

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is hosting 16 contemporary sculptors with an innovative twist.

The exhibition is jointly organized by DisArt, a Grand Rapids-based arts and cultural organization promoting the full participation of people who are disabled in and through the arts. The exhibition is titled “Process and Presence: Contemporary Disability Sculpture.”

“Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is honored to collaborate with DisArt in this landmark exhibition. Three years in the making, the curatorial team has sought to organize a broad-based and enlightening exhibition featuring artists from across the globe,” said Joseph Becherer, chief curator and vice president of collections and exhibitions.

Through examples of three-dimensional practice including sculpture, performance, installation and video art, the exhibition emphasizes the relationship between disability and the fundamental human experiences of change and embodiment. The exhibition offers audiences a survey of contemporary disability sculpture through artists whose work represents local, national and global perspectives on the experiences of living with disability, according to Meijer Gardens officials.

“This exhibition presents some of the finest examples of contemporary disability sculpture in a wide variety of media, from ceramics to video installations and traditional sculptural techniques to performative works. The depths and dimensions of this exhibition are both enlightening and rewarding,” Becherer said.

Cornerstone to the exhibition is the sister-state relationship between Michigan and the Shiga Prefecture in Japan, a region long celebrated for its commitment to artists with disabilities. A survey of contemporary disability sculpture, it also celebrates the 50th anniversary of the sister-state relationship and expands globally in a collection of objects contextualized by both contemporary and legacy artists from Michigan, Europe, Australia and Japan, including works by the world-renowned Judith Scott.

Officially beginning the Friday prior to ArtPrize, the exhibition will be on display from Sept. 14 through Jan. 6, 2019. ArtPrize kicks off Sept. 19 and runs through Oct. 7.

Visitors will be welcomed into the exhibition by several accessibility measures designed by DisArt and Meijer Gardens to encourage the full participation of all visitors, including audio descriptions, altered installation practices and other digital resources.

“The objects in this powerful collection speak to the global experience of disability, offering visitors a new understanding of how creativity and identity are directly linked,” DisArt Co-Director Christopher Smit said.

“The exhibition is a collection of art objects that are both intriguing and relatable to the experienced art lover and those new to the gallery setting. When displayed together, the work strengthens our understanding of disability as a cultural identity and successfully challenges commonly held negative assumptions about the disabled experience,” added Jill Vyn, co-director of DisArt.

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