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Disappointment over Passport to the Arts

June 9, 2011 - Diane Speer
This year's Passport to the Arts program falls under the category of disappointing.

During the previous two summers, much excitement swirled around the novel concept of collectively marketing all the great arts and cultural activities taking place in Northeast Michigan. Upwards of 35 organizations bought into the concept and included their many great events on a printed "passport." Area residents then used the passport as a summer-long calendar and to track the different events they attended where they collected "passport stamps," thereby making them eligible for some great prizes at the end of the season.

To kick it all off, Passport organizers conducted a fun progressive gala party that highlighted many visual and performing artists at four of Alpena's premier arts and culture venues. The event built excitement and visibility for the Passport.

Now the program has gone the way of the website.

Citing a lack of volunteers able to work on this labor-intensive project and a need to trim costs, the sponsoring Michigan Arts and Culture Northeast group that created the Passport chose this time around to offer the calendar of events and a downloadable passport at their new website. It then fell to the public to find the new website, download and print off a passport.

It was the intent of MACNE to develop a website all along, which is not a bad thing in the least. However, to date, the concept appears to be falling more than a little flat. I keep checking the website weekly ( to see what area arts/culture organizations are on board with the project and what activities are taking place. It is the lack of participants and events that I find disappointing.

Besides the major sponsoring organizations (Art in the Loft, Besser Museum, Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center, Thunder Bay Arts Council and the developer of the website, Alpena County Library), only five other groups have decided to be involved this year – unless, of course, there are others who just haven't put up their events even though the Passport program runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Prior to the start of the 2011 Passport season, MACNE held an informational meeting and invited all of the participants from the previous two years, plus other potential participants. The pitch given to them was that for $100, these groups could list however many activities they wanted at the website. The groups themselves then would be responsible for inputing the information into the computer.

From what I can deduce, this concept did not prove very enticing so that the only other groups with events listed on the calendar besides the big five are the East Shore Art Guild and Gallery in Harrisville, the Northeast Academy of Dance in Oscoda, the Association of Lifelong Learners and True North Radio in Alpena, and Tawas City Park Art Show. And sad to say, one of the five major sponsors hasn't even listed its own events on the website yet.

So yes, I am quite disappointed that such a worthwhile and exciting project seems to have lost major momentum.


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