Regional art alliance in the works

UPPER PENINSULA — “We want artists to be attracted to this area. We want them to be able to move here, to stay here, to be able to make a living here,” said Tiina Harris, the City of Marquette Arts and Culture Center’s Manager.

The City of Marquette Arts and Culture Center has paired up with the Bonifas Arts Center in Escanaba and the U.P. Travel and Recreation Association in an effort to organize the arts throughout the U.P.

This collaborative effort was sparked by ArtPrize 8, in which several art centers in the Upper Peninsula came together to rally up 51 artists to send to the downstate art competition.

With expressed interest from the Ironwood area and the Copper Country, they’re working to create and promote the Regional Art Alliance.

“Arts doesn’t know boundaries, that’s why we’re working regionally. We’re not confined to our individual city boundaries, county boundaries,” Harris said. “Artists traverse the entire U.P, they exhibit all over the U.P, they sell all over the U.P, they teach, they educate our children. We have to work that way as well, we can’t just think of our geographical locations.”

“With everyone across the U.P, we can have a strong, unified presence, regional marketing and we can really move forward,” said Pasqua Warstler, the Bonifas Arts Center Artistic Director. “We’re just really inspired and fortified so there are a lot of options.”

The organization of both for–profit and non–profit art centers has a number of reasons for wanting to create the alliance, like increasing arts and culture tourism.

“We’re hoping that people are driving in over the bridge and over the border and coming into to see us, that we’re bringing in more artists up here and we have a strong economy with cultural tourism,” said Warstler.

“We know people come up here for the great outdoors, we need to help them find the other places to go so part of the alliance is building a cultural trail across the U.P,” said Harris. “So if you’re coming here to visit a waterfall, what are the other really interesting artist studios, museums, historic sites that you can go to as well.”

They are also striving to attract and retain artistic talent in the U.P. Harris used Beth Millner’s Jewelry in Marquette as an example of local artistry that has made a mark in the art industry outside of the confinements of the U.P.

But beyond all of this is a deeper rooted goal of preserving and increasing the arts and placing an emphasis on educating local communities on its importance.

“The creative economy needs to be at the leadership tables especially when there is community development and economic development issues going on and they’re not right now,” said Harris. “Often the creative sector is an after thought.”

The leaders of this movement are hoping to reach out to museums, historical sites and other cultural programming in the U.P.

If you’re interested in jumping on board, contact the Bonifas Arts Center or the City of Marquette Arts and Culture Center.