One of the beauties of living in Michigan is the abundance of natural beauty that surrounds us, from beachy summers to colorful autumns to snow-swept winters to blossoming springs. Each of our changing seasons serves as a muse, inspiring art in all its forms in every corner of the state.
No matter which direction our quest for culture takes us, there's tremendous creativity to be found. Let's look at a few of the highlights.
DRIVE TO DETROIT
USA Today recently ranked the Detroit Institute of Arts as the No. 1 art museum in the entire country. The. Entire. Country. Its 100-plus galleries and approximately 65,000 works spanning centuries, cultures and styles make it a must-visit for any art enthusiast.
Not far from the DIA is the Grand River Creative Corridor, which runs between Warren Avenue and Rosa Parks Boulevard and features an expansive array of street art, murals and graffiti. Visitors can also hop on the Detroit People Mover and see mixed-media exhibits through the Art in the Stations collection.
For performances and events, look into what's happening at the iconic Fox Theatre, whether for a Broadway musical or a live show. The Fox is a work of art in itself—from its beacon-like marquee to its lavish interior—and it's designated as a National Historic Landmark.
LOOK INTO LANSING
Michigan's Capital also has much to offer. One noteworthy destination is the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University. This contemporary art museum and architectural wonder—designed by Zaha Hadid—is groundbreaking both inside and out. Permanent and temporary collections feature international works of art across a variety of media and themes.
Also on the MSU campus is Wharton Center for Performing Arts. Get immersed in a classical performance by the Lansing Symphony Orchestra or the College of Music, see a Broadway show, or enjoy a more intimate experience at Club 750, where the Jackson Lounge is reimagined into a 100-seat nightclub.
For outdoor art, stroll through downtown on Lansing Community College's Sculpture Walk, where 600 works are presented within a 48-acre area. Don't miss "Red Ribbon in the Sky," a local favorite.
SEEK OUT SAUGATUCK-DOUGLAS
Proudly owning the designation of "Art Coast of Michigan," this art lovers' mecca spills into Fennville, as well as other smaller surrounding cities.
For a blend of provocative and culturally relevant exhibits, films, performances and workshops, head to Saugatuck Center for the Arts. And, galleries such as Amazwi Contemporary Art, James Brandess Studios & Gallery, Petter Art and Wine Galleries, Khnemu Studio, and Roan & Black are just a few popular stops. Or, simply look around ... there's public art all over!
MAKE YOUR WAY TO MIDLAND
The headquarters of Dow Chemical might not come to mind as an arts and culture hub, but reasons to visit this hidden gem are plenty. A tour of the Alden B. Dow Home & Studio, a mid-century modern masterpiece designed by the home's namesake, is just one. There's also Dow Gardens, a 110-acre botanical garden that puts on a stunning seasonal display of annuals and perennials interspersed with stately bridges and water features. It also hosts special events and is open year round—just be sure to check their current hours of operation.
Also worth the drive is Midland Center for the Arts. Known for its world-class entertainment and cultural programming, the center brings together art, history, science, performing arts, films and education. Attend a concert, view exhibits, take a class, and learn about the past and future—and more!
TAKE IN TRAVERSE CITY
Where to begin? Like the other hotspots we've looked at, the Grand Traverse region also has a vibrant arts scene. Make plans to go to the City Opera House for a Traverse Symphony Orchestra concert or the Old Town Playhouse for community theater. The main stretch of downtown is filled with upscale galleries, as well as Crooked Tree Arts Center, while the Dennos Museum Center, a Smithsonian affiliate, is home to a vast collection of Inuit art. On site at Dennos is Milliken Auditorium, where a number of live performances take place.
While up north, don't forget to stop at Legacy Art Park, located on the grounds of Crystal Mountain Resort. Connecting nature, art and Michigan history, this 30-acre attraction features more than 50 works of art in its permanent collection. And, it's an outdoor concert venue! It's open from dawn to dusk year-round.
Allison Kay Bannister has been a West Michigan resident since 1987 and a professional writer since 2002. A GVSU alumna, she launched her own freelance writing business in 2017. Allison is a cookie connoisseur, word nerd, aspiring gardener, and metastatic breast cancer thriver who loves traveling in Michigan and beyond, and enjoys art, world cuisine, wine, music, and making homemade preserves.
This article originally appeared in the Dec '23/Jan '24 issue of West Michigan Woman.
Photo Courtesy of Dennos Museum.