Amy Stein-Hansen
Ashlee Cowles
Carol Murray Jewelry
Cindy McSurely
Deborah Crandell
Diane Frederick
Elizabeth Calcutt
Greta Bolger
Heather Harris-Brady
Holly Polich
Ian Jones
Jim Young
Judy Zorn
Julie Avery
Kristi Wodek
Laura Quackenbush
Leslie Donaldson
Linda Gits
Lora Frankel
Lisa Ventimiglio
Marcia Conlon
Mark Bowyer
Mary Dye
Megan Holtrey
Melissa Johnson
Mercedes Michalowski
Molly Thompson
Helen Raica-Klotz
Raizel Coiman
Renee Hintz
Sharon Hubbard
Sharon Mick McAuley
Tamara Hoffbauer
Ginny Hawkins
Walter J. Lee
William Lindemann
Yvonne Sage

NW MI Arts & Culture Network

Connecting & Celebrating Creativity

TRAVERSE CITY RECORD-EAGLE 5/19/23 – The creative spirit runs strong in northern Michigan. Artists and culture bearers infuse our region with their art, words, music, and magic, giving voice and shape to our shared stories in the brightest of colors and deepest of emotions. It also sparks community conversations and community building, bridging across sectors to challenge, connect and create new pathways to a future that is yet to be written.

Creativity is powerful. Whether we experience it as a creator, a participant, an observer, a leader, or all of the above, the role creativity plays impacts all of us and should never be undervalued.

Celebrating creativity was a key thread when the 2023 Northwest Michigan Arts & Culture Summit convened on May 9 at Interlochen Center for the Arts. There were over 100 arts, cultural and community leaders in the room and via Zoom for this seventh annual regional summit. Attendees came from many corners of northern Michigan and beyond to participate in rich discussions, impactful topics, much networking, and a shared commitment to further the arts in our ten-county region. Dozens of speakers led panels, breakout, training, and talks, sharing resources, insights and inspiration aligned with the theme, Create: Connections, Capacity, Communications, Champions.

The regional summit is part of the Northwest Michigan Arts and Culture Network’s DNA. We gave birth to the Network at the first summit – held in the middle of a blizzard – in 2016 and used subsequent ones to structure and shape our vision to connect the dots among artists, culture bearers, nonprofit organizations, creative business, and communities in the ten counties of Northwest Michigan. Each summit since has reflected our growth and our times – through the pandemic, recovery, challenges, and the new normal – as well as the creativity and resiliency our sector brings to the table every day.

What were the key takeaways? There were many. Here’s a sample from the opening sessions:

Fostering a Creative Mindset

Consultant and retired president of Faber Castell USA Jamie Gallagher spoke of the essential role creativity plays as a critical skill needed to thrive and succeed in today’s world; an era he described as VUCA – Volatile, Uncertain, Complicated and Ambiguous. Creativity enables problem solving, drives innovation, and fosters collaboration. All are significant yet society faces a creativity crisis, Gallagher said, citing the creativity scores of 5-year-olds are at 98% and then decline to 30% for 10-year-olds, 12% for 12-year-olds and only 2% for 30-year-olds.

Addressing the creativity gap is a role our sector can play. Artists often serve as intuitive bonding agents within society. Speakers noted the importance of diminishing judgement and fear by encouraging creative confidence, trust, and positive public perception. Key attributes in developing a creative mindset include believing in one’s creativity, persistence, childlike imagination, curiosity, suspending judgement and tolerating ambiguity.

Changing the Narrative

Interlochen Center for the Arts president Trey Devey applauded the region’s rich artistic legacy and cultural vibrancy. Citing the economic, social, educational, and intangible benefits the sector brings, he noted “how far above our weight we punch” with artists and institutions rivaling those in much larger communities. Yet, awareness of the arts as a key regional driver is seldom prioritized in the same way as recreation or the environment. This is a narrative we can change. Within our communities, we must remind ourselves why we do what we do, why it matters and our vision for an even stronger creative future. Leaders across all sectors are invited to join in sharing the stories, the strengths and the importance of arts and culture in enriching life in northern Michigan.

Making New Triangles

Writer Anne-Marie Oomen talked of traditional community building triangles and asked the question, what would happen if ‘Art’ was in the center of the triangle? Instead of the arts hovering on the sidelines, what if it was the anchoring hub with three vertices: Science/Environmental, History/Justice, and Culture/Social Science? Oomen noted the opportunities, innovation and partnering that can arise when the arts are at the table as a partner. She used several of her own past projects as examples, including When Water Moves a collaboration with FLOW blending environmental focus with Anishinaabe culture, poetry, dance, and video. Reframing the triangle with arts as the foundation, challenges us to create many new triangles and envision innovative collaborations from what might have been unlikely partners in the past.

Sharing Our Stories

We were reminded that our personal stories are the heart of the arts. Whether rooted in childhood, career or pivotal life experiences, those stories, and the emotions they evoke drive our connection to arts, culture, and creativity.

All were challenged to share their own core story with the thought starter, “When I think of arts and culture in northern Michigan, I think of …”  Responses were left on cards or later emailed. They were as varied as those in the room. Interlochen Public Radio is gathering them as we tell our regional story with common threads and personal insights. If you’d like to add your voice, send your response to nomiarts@interlochen.org

The Summit is over, but our work to further arts and culture continues. It’s time to tell our stories – of impact, of connection, of community, of creativity – loudly and proudly. Let’s start creating new triangles together.

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As published in the Traverse City Record-Eagle, 5/19/2023

Mary Bevans Gillett is the Convener/Director for the Northwest Michigan Arts & Culture Network. To connect with the Network, visit www.nwmiarts.org or contact arts@nwmiarts.net.  

“What arts & culture in northern Michigan mean to me” responses can be sent to nomiarts@interlochen.org

PO Box 1859
Traverse City, MI

Our Members


Charlevoix Circle of Arts

Crosshatch Center for Art & Ecology

Dennos Museum Center

Elizabeth Lane Oliver Center for the Arts

Good Hart Artist Residency

Great Lakes Chamber Orchestra

Leelanau Historical Society

Michigan Legacy Art Park

National Writers Series


Traverse City Dance Project

Glen Arbor Arts Center

Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum

Jordan River Arts Council

Mash-Up Rock & Roll Musical

City Opera House

Benzie Historical Society

Harbor Springs Festival of the Book

Downtown Development Authority

The Historic Vogue Theatre of Manistee

Northport Art Association

Voices Without Borders

Blissfest Music Organization

Raven and Lotus LLC

Traverse City Arts Commission

Crooked Tree Arts Center

Up North Arts

Cadillac Visitors Bureau

Parallel 45 Theatre Festival

Old Town Playhouse

Twisted Fish Gallery

Interlochen Center for the Arts

Traverse Symphony Orchestra

Rachael Harrell – Drama Kids

The Croft Residency

Drama Kids – Rachael Harrell

Michigan Museums Associations Scholarships & Conference


Gary Gatzke

Ian Jones

Jim Young

Kristi Wodek

Mark Bowyer

Mary Gillett

Megan Heator

Molly Thompson

Renee Hintz

Susan Wenzlick

Ted Alan

Greta Bolger

Edward Kocher

Nick Walsh

Heather Harris-Brady

Monica Stokes

Amanda Kik

Mercedes Michalowski

Sharon Hubbard

Leslie Donaldson

Elizabeth Calcutt

Maia Hausler

Becky Lancaster

Linda Dewey

Melissa Johnson

Daniel Stewart

Walter J. Lee

Michelle Bien

H. Eleanor Jones

Tom Kaufmann

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