Creative Many Michigan
Creative Many is a statewide organization leading advocacy efforts to advance the creative industries in Michigan, spanning arts and culture, design, arts education and the diverse array of creative expressions. Their mission to develop creative people, places and the creative economy in Michigan underscores the transformative power of the creative industries and empowers Michigan’s “creative many” to join in creating a future that benefits everyone.
ArtPrize: What is the significance of supporting the arts culture in Michigan?
Creative Many: Arts and culture have a significant impact on the vibrancy of Michigan. Arts and culture are a connecting point for so many across our state – starting conversations and fostering creativity in people of all kinds. Creative Many recently released the Creative State Michigan 2018 Nonprofit Report which quantifies some of the economic impact that this sector has on Michigan. We learned that in FY 2015, the 410 organizations in the study (an estimated 16% of the total sector) contributed nearly $1.25 billion in direct expenditures to our economy, and drew in over 17 million visitors – enough to sell out Comerica Park 415 times. Arts and culture mean impact in Michigan, and the artists and organizations who bring it to life provide a valuable resource for our communities – making Michigan a great place to live, work, invest and explore.
Why is it important to celebrate artists? What type of effect do you think it has on them?
It’s important to celebrate artists because it helps to open pathways for people who want to embrace creative lives or careers. Elevating the work of an artist or creative practitioner provides others an improved vision of what can happen when people create – a glimpse into possibilities, and hopefully inspiration to keep creating. We see this as incredibly important, especially in a Michigan where work in the creative industries is not as prevalent or visible as it is in other markets.
How has Break it Down, Make it Better made an impact in the arts community in Grand Rapids?
We are proud collaborators on the annual Break it Down, Make it Better event in Grand Rapids alongside ArtPrize and Avenue for the Arts. The main intent of the day is to create space for interaction that doesn’t exist in the day to day – a space for real talk and catalytic connections. The feedback we hear is that creating the space is the most additive aspect of it all. Devoting a day to potentially critical, often affirming discussion about the creative state of Grand Rapids provides the community an outlet to imagine together. What we love to see are the new collaborations or generative work that comes out of the connections. We value the opportunity to create the conditions for people to connect – and see the Grand Rapids community energized by the convergence of folks from across the state for Break it Down, Make it Better.
What excites you most about ArtPrize 10?
The potential is the most exciting thing for us. ArtPrize is on a trajectory that is focused on providing increased value to the creators and artists that participate in the event. For us at Creative Many – where our work is centered on developing creative people – it’s incredibly exciting to see organizations prioritize the impact on artists, alongside the larger community. Often when art is leveraged for community development, the measurement of impact can be misplaced. We believe investing in creators is a powerful tool in developing strong and resilient communities. We’re eager to see the glimpse ArtPrize provides into the creative energy of Grand Rapids and the country – and we keep a hopeful note that it will give back to that community and strengthen it. Artist Week is a good example of the potential to add substantial value to creative practitioners to grow – both in Grand Rapids and beyond. We’re also excited to see the convergence on West Michigan that ArtPrize brings from people all across the state.
What can we expect to see from Creative Many during ArtPrize 10?
Creative Many will present programming for Artist Week, which is the first week of ArtPrize. Designed for artists and creative practitioners, Artist Week will include professional practice development workshops with opportunities for deepening creative practice. Four unique days will cover themes like legal support, navigating the marketplace, utilizing data and finding residency and other creative development opportunities. The workshops will be free and open to all ArtPrize artists, as well as the wider creative community.
Public policy and advocacy is another vital arm of Creative Many’s work. In collaboration with leadership from the Michigan Legislative Creative Caucus, we will convene a gathering of legislators and community and business stakeholders for a tour of the festival in Grand Rapids – a powerful opportunity to showcase the impact of the arts with policymakers.
Can you share an experience about the impact Creative Many’s programming has had on a specific artist(?
This is our favorite question because we love learning about the journey artists take as they connect with the Creative Many community – whether through our staff, programs, network or events. We sat down with Wayne Ramocan, Detroit-based musician and community developer, to learn what his experience has been.
Wayne: My interaction with Creative Many spans across their training and development, fiscal sponsorship program, and the network I met through their Michigan House project at South by Southwest (SXSW) as a member my band Onefreq.
CM: How did you first encounter Creative Many and what kept you coming back?
Wayne: I remember hearing the director of what at the time was called ArtServe Michigan speak at a nonprofit event. I had just started a job in a nonprofit and her pro-artist language caught my attention. It wasn’t until a few years later that I started to learn what Creative Many does after attending a workshops produced for the Kresge Arts in Detroit Fellows, facilitated by Cezanne Charles. I had been to many trainings in my work – but to attend one dedicated to the artist’s career was a new experience for me.
CM: What did you take away from it?
Wayne: Creative Many counters the narrative that artists cannot make it. Instead they say “you can make it as an artist + here’s how WE did it.” After experiencing their training, I think and talk about my practice differently.
CM: How has your work with Creative Many connected you in Michigan?
Wayne: A number of ways. The band Onefreq (where I play the drums) has been able to connect dots back in Michigan after being invited to perform in Austin at Michigan House during SXSW. From there we got connected to ArtPrize and were invited the last two years to play for the closing ceremony. That gave me a look into the festival in Grand Rapids, and expanded my experience of Michigan’s creative community.
The network of Creative Many has been the connectivity to deeper parts of Michigan, including some collaborations with Seth Bernard in Lake City. Though most places in the state are within 5 hours drive from me, these are very different places than Detroit. It's been a interesting to meet people in the other towns and build relationships.
CM: What’s on your plate now that you’re excited about?
Wayne: I am working now with the artist collective, D.Cipher, to advance the music economy in Detroit. With funding from the Knight Foundation’s Knight Arts Challenge grant and fiscal sponsorship from Creative Many, we were able to build a good foundation for our organization with the structure to make sure it lasts. Creative Many has been instrumental to our growth, giving us the confidence that our hard earned funds would be managed well. We are working with the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy to program the Dequindre Cut space this summer. You can catch one of the Wednesday concerts there through August 22nd.
Header Image: Detroit-based artist ROCKET (!!!) MAN performing during Artist Week at ArtPrize Nine in 2017.