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07.14.16 – Luncheon Notes and Photos

SPOKES Notes written by Teresa Schaal

President Michael Sytsma welcomed everyone and introduced Keith Lang to lead us in singing “My Country Tis of Thee,” which was followed by Andy Brown providing the invocation.  The meeting was paused for lunch, and resumed with Joe Biermacher welcoming guests and visiting Rotarians.  Paul Keep and Alan Abraham spoke about the upcoming 20th Annual Golf Outing, encouraging people to sign up to golf or to volunteer.

Paula Vilches, a Rotary Youth Exchange Student from Chile, thanked the Club for their support of her year in the Grand Rapids area.  She spoke of the opportunity to go on extensive trips throughout the United States and talked about her experiences as she explored the various places she went to.  This was her “best year yet” and she thanked Rotarians for making this possible.

Immediate Past President, Derek Aten, presented a “Presidential Award” to Jim Pike for his extraordinary work on behalf of the Club as its Treasurer.

President Michael has started a “Rotary Relevance” moment and spoke of several members of our Club being in the news recently.  Ken Estelle was mentioned for his role in Feeding America; Lody Zwarensteyn provided insight about the recent merger of Metro Health Hospital with the University of Michigan’s health care system, and one of Tom Mathison’s young architects was mentioned in the news.  Please notify Michael or the office if you notice a fellow Rotarian’s accomplishment(s) or achievement(s) in the news for future Rotary Relevance announcements.

Our keynote speakers, Dana Friis-Hansen and Ron Platt were introduced as nationally known experts in their fields.  Dana is the Director and CEO of the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM) and Ron Platt is the Chief Curator.

Dana presented first and spoke about his philosophy of “Thinking Big.”  With a 100+ year heritage, his desire is to keep the museum relevant and to move it forward.  An example of this – and engaging young people and families – was their recent “Where the Wild Things Are” exhibit:  they held a Wild Rumpus Party and a video was shown of the festivities of that event.  He aims for events and experiences to bring people into the museum.  The GRAM should be the cultural beacon, the civic anchor in our community.  Dana talked about the history of GRAM, with its first location on Fulton Street in 1910, then moving to the Federal Building that served as a Post Office at one time; and now it’s at its current location on Rosa Parks Circle.  This building is the world’s first Gold LEED Certified Art Museum.

Dana referenced a book, The Great Reset by Richard Florida, as a way of describing the need for creativity and collaboration as a way of helping cities in times of economic struggles.  He reviewed the Museum’s Statement of Purpose and spoke of collaborations with other organizations, particularly with the upcoming 50th anniversary of the addition of the Calder sculpture in downtown Grand Rapids.

GRAM is known for having a fantastic learning center and excels at audience engagement.  They break down the ages in 4 categories:  pre-k, school-aged children, adults, and families.  They have a 3rd grade program which boasts of 99% participation from the GRPS students.

Other programs include “Little Member Mornings” with kids in strollers.  GRAM works diligently to serve people’s interest, provide professional development, and purposeful play (for their younger audiences).  They collaborate with 35 congregations (mostly African American Churches) with a program called “The Art of Family Giving.”

Studio programs include summer camps; for adults there is “Creativity Uncorked” for those who might be inspired by “liquid courage”; and there are drop in programs.  Docent tours are available, some intended specifically for audiences with special needs.

On Sunday they offer a Classical Series in the Fall/Winter and in the summer they offer GRAM on the Green on Thursday evenings, featuring local bands with the GRAM open free to the public.  The intent is to de-mystify the museum experience.  GRAM also collaborates with MSU’s College of Human Medicine for innovation skills, expression of feelings and ambiguity.

Ron Platt, Chief Curator, spoke about this year’s ArtPrize.  They will be displaying the work of 15 artists.  Other upcoming shows include one that has futuristic fashion (10/23/16-1/15/17) that will also offer “touch materials” for viewers in order to involve another sense.

There was a brief Q&A period with questions asked about showing the work of regional artists; strengthening their membership program, and doing outreach activities such as offering late night hours and a dance party for younger members.

Grand Rapids needs to do more to become known as a cultural city, similar to the reputation that Austin, Texas has.  In fact, GRAM has been collaborating with individuals from Austin so that the best practices of both cities can be leveraged to benefit both.

President Michael presented our two speakers with certificates for clean water filters in their names as recognition of their time spent with our Club.  Announcements were made for upcoming meetings.  To note, both the meeting on 7/28 (at Indian Trails Camp) and the one on 8/4 (at Frederik Meijer Gardens) need reservations.

The meeting was then adjourned.

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