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City receives arts grant

April 5, 2010
The Alpena News

Alpena is one of five cities in Michigan to be chosen asa pilot city for the Michigan Municipal League's Center for the 21st Century Communities program. That news was made by Mayor Carol Shafto during Monday's Alpena Municipal Council meeting.

Each pilot city focuses on an area determined by the Municipal League to be vital in rebuilding Michigan for the future. Alpena was selected to concentrate on the cultural economic cevelopment segment of the initiative.The designation comes with agrant of $20,000 to support the efforts that will be showcased throughout the state as a model. At an earlier meeting,council voted to direct the funds to Michigan Arts and Culture Northeast, which will utilize it toward the continuation and expansion of "Passport to the Arts: Your Town is Artown," a collaborative project initiated last summer to market Alpena as an area rich in arts and culture.

"The City of Alpena recognizes the power of collaboration between city officials and other community leaders in building cultural tourism. We applaud this group for its effective teamwork and leadership. We look forward to being part of ARTown, Michigan," Shafto said.

Article Photos

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz
Mayor Carol Shafto accepts a $20,000 grant check from representatives from the Michigan Municipal League. The money will be used toward the continuation and expansion of the Passport to the Arts program

The four organizations that joined forces to initiate the Passport project are Art in the Loft, Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan, Thunder Bay Arts Council and Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The original project involved recruiting 34 artists, arts and culture organizations and arts-related businesses to partner in a summer-long calendar of more than 130 cultural activities and events published in a handy "passport" form distributed to residents and visitors. The passport was stamped each time a passport holder attended a published event. Each person with 10 stamps was eligible for a prize drawing including a trip to New York City. The project also featured a gala kick-off progressive party around the City and a contest in the Alpena News entitled "Where Art Thou"? In which readers guessed the identity of a different secret passport location each week.

This year, the originating organizations agreed to continue and expand the program. They formed a nonprofit corporation, Michigan Arts and Culture, Northeast, which has adopted the name "Artown, Michigan" and established a board of directors , Mary Ellen Jones and Rose Szydlowski (at large); Karen Bennett, Sue Fitzpatrick (Art in the Loft); Nancy Hier and Janet Smoak (Besser Museum); Tim Kuehnlein and Carol Lund (Thunder Bay Arts Council); Sarah Waters and Cathy Green (Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary);). Councilman Shawn Sexton was appointed by the city as its representative on the board. City Planner Greg Sundin will serve as liaison between the city and the board for purposes of administration of the grant funds.

"We are excited about continuing and building the Passport Project and we welcome the City of Alpena as a partner. Northeast Michigan is an amazing place to live, work and visit and Alpena is a vibrant hub of the region as an arts & culture destination," Jones said.

The goal of the Michigan Municipal League is to help to achieve community sustainability and improve quality of life by helping its members to create places that are attractive to live, work, learn and play. MML is also interested in supporting projects that can be replicated in other communities. Mayor Carol Shafto, President- Elect of the Michigan Municipal League, viewed the Passport project as an ideal vehicle to serve the purposes of the grant. Representatives of the Michigan Municipal League and City Officials were invited to a dinner meeting in January held at Art in the Loft to discuss possibilities for collaboration.

Michigan Arts and Culture Northeast already has submitted its plan for the use of the grant funds, which will include a reprise of the Passport project over a longer period of time and a broader regional area, from Tawas to Cheboygan. This year the Passport gala kickoff will take place on June 11 and the program will continue until Sept. 17, with announcement of the prizes on Sept. 24.

Any artist or art-related business wishing to participate in the Passport Project is encouraged to contact Jones at (989) 724-5434. Information and registration forms are also on the Web site at The deadline for submitting events is April 15.



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