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Mayor’s Arts and Culture Commission focuses on neighborhoods

Mayor Andy Schor’s all-star stable of artists and influencers met for the first time Wednesday.

The group, known as the Mayor's Arts and Culture Commission, homed leveraging the strengths of Greater Lansing neighborhoods and institutions for a citywide arts master plan.

“We need to give our community platforms to engage in art conversation, and public spaces where people can feel validated, seen and heard,” said Tyson Pumphrey, committee member and executive director of All of the Above Hip-Hop Academy.

“This is what the root of what hip-hop was: Feeling the pressure and replying in a way where, ‘We will be seen, we will be heard and we will have opportunity to be a part of this whole thing.’” Overarching issues for the committee to consider include establishing a performing arts center, citywide arts policy and an arts master plan, Mayor Schor’s chief of staff Samantha Harkins said.

Longtime Lansing Symphony Orchestra board member and arts donor Jack Davis proposed the committee should look at neighborhoods with strong arts and cultural elements to see what they are doing right and implement it elsewhere.

“When we have a study — not people sitting around the room telling us — but a study where we understand what we are missing, we can organize ourselves and figure out how to accomplish this,” he said.

“We have to be coordinated. When we find something we are excited about, let’s decide what we want to have and one of the agencies here can be the leader in that effort.”

The arts and culture committee should have input, but the decision making power would be the individual group or organization, he added. “Then the committee can make a decision on what emphasis we want to have and ask the group how to carry it out.”

Arts Council of Greater Lansing executive director Deborah Mikula said analyzing the neighborhoods would keep the committee on the same page. “We’ll know what we consider as lucrative strengths and what we need to work on as a group,” she said.

“We have a lot of conversations about master planning and we are really excited about what is possible here. We have a blank slate almost, but at some point maybe we will be oversaturated with public art downtown.”

It is important to reach out to all of the Lansing neighborhoods, she added.

There is untapped potential for arts in South Lansing, said committee member Suban Nur Cooley, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures at MSU.

“I am struggling to find the definition of what arts and culture is in a setting like this, we need to look at the development of arts and culture in a community,” she said.

“More consistently this happens organically. A place like New York City doesn’t happen because people meet in the room — it happens because the people in those neighborhoods step up and meet with people like us in this room.”

The commission will be chaired by Erin Schor and split into four sub committees, including arts and culture planning, resource and best practice gathering, metrics and development and events.

Next week’s meeting will focus on defining arts and culture in Lansing, and how it fits into a citywide arts master plan, she said.


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