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The upcoming GoSite, located in the northwest glass enclosed corner of the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM), is designed to create an environment that both welcomes people into the space as well as sends people out into the community to experience the many wonderful, diverse offerings.
To assist in the flow of information to and from the downtown GoSite, an Inclusion Committee was established. Committee members help ensure the GoSite reflects the entire community, and they serve as advocates for different segments of populations, activities, geographic areas and other aspects of the metro Grand Rapids region.
The Inclusion Committee members are actively involved in various activities and projects, and bring a wealth of knowledge and insight to the table.
One of the committee members is Joann Reeves, a longtime resident of downtown Grand Rapids. She is looking forward to the GoSite for a number of reasons.
“I’ve lived in downtown Grand Rapids for close to 15 years, and the growth has been phenomenal,” she says. “It will be nice to have one place centrally located downtown to find out what is going on in the city.”
She views downtown as her neighborhood, and is helping the GoSite reflect a welcome presence for others who might choose to live in the heart of the city as well.
Reeves also thinks the GoSite is a great resource when friends and family visit from out of town, as a place where together they can discover interesting places to stay and unique things to do.
Through countless hours of volunteer work, Reeves has years of experience helping to bring people together and witnessing others doing the same.
“I am very involved in the community, particularly with Festival of the Arts. I have seen how this city comes together in collaboration with other organizations to put on numerous successful events. For instance, there is LaughFest, ArtPrize, the 5/3 Bank Run and GRJazzFest to name a few,” she adds. Reeves says the GoSite will provide information on all of the events, conveniently under one roof, encouraging participation and information on how to get further involved.
Another committee member is Abigail Bradley. This past year she assisted in helping the Korean American Adoptee Adoptive Family Network (KAAN) hold a successful conference in Grand Rapids. Bradley was adopted by a West Michigan family of Dutch heritage. She is active with the West Michigan Asian American Association as well.
Bradley is a well-known local artist, and recently moved her studio to a collective space near Grandville Avenue, in part to band together and help increase the profile of professional and emerging artists in Grand Rapids. The space includes individual studio areas with a central gallery connecting them all, where group exhibitions can be presented.
“When I decided to pursue the path of artist-entrepreneur, I knew I had to be disciplined and focus on key areas in order to be successful and sustainable,” she says. In addition to group exhibitions and networking to help build a stronger base for local art, Bradley identifies three avenues of creative production that together keep her moving forward: ‘innervision’ (create freely from within), commissions/collaborations and teaching.
Bradley’s family background along with her artist-entrepreneurial work provide personal insight and experience on bridging the gap between cultures as well as art-business relationships, knowledge she will share with the GoSite team.
Steven Naylor, an ordained minister who serves with the Interfaith Dialogue Association, is an important voice on the GoSite Inclusion Committee as well.
He uses the phrase “common ground” when discussing what happens when people of different faiths and traditions feel welcome and comfortable to gather and talk about this meaningful aspect of their lives, and ultimately finding similar values in life’s bigger questions. Often it challenges participants to become even stronger in their own beliefs as they share their experiences and discover areas where they would like to know more, he says.
Ensuring that information about the full spiritual landscape of Grand Rapids exists within the GoSite also helps present an important message, adds Naylor.
“More are seeing Grand Rapids on the map: it’s a place that people are curious about,” he says. While the region may sometimes have a reputation of homogeneity when it comes to religion, people are starting to see a different story, a more diverse story. “There’s a diversity, a depth, a richness; it’s real, and it can be experienced.”
“It’s not just newcomers either, locals are seeking out these experiences, asking questions,” says Naylor. He feels it’s helpful to let them know, for instance, that the Buddhist Temple, or the Jewish Temple, various Churches, or many of the other gathering places in Grand Rapids are open and welcoming to visitors who want to know more.
As with others on the Inclusion Committee who are involved in many different projects, Hugo Claudin is no exception. He works with LINC Community Revitalization Inc., West Michigan Latino Community Coalition and participates in the Avenue for the Arts through his studio space Mexicains sans Frontieres.
At LINC, Claudin is focusing his energy on curating a new gallery space next door to the organization's headquarters at 1167 Madison Avenue SE. The building is a former service garage, which Claudin feels is the perfect atmosphere to encourage creativity at the most basic level.
“I want to keep that garage mentality, a lot of great ideas and things are created in a garage – music, furniture, art. Warehouses too, they are hothouses of creativity for artists using them as studio space,” he says. In addition to presenting exhibitions and events, the programming at the LINC Gallery will include hands-on activities for those in the neighborhood. Claudin adds, “We’ll focus on practical knowledge rather than academic.”
Claudin is interested in ensuring the voices in the Southeast Corridor neighborhood community are heard as the LINC Gallery progresses, much like the GoSite Inclusion Committee is seeking to do for the metro Grand Rapids region. In this aspect, Claudin brings to the committee not only a voice for his community but knowledge of successful communications strategies to achieve inclusivity goals.
“How do we get people in the door? How do we make culturally relevant programming? A lot of what we do at LINC is- we ask!” he says. That means knocking on doors, encouraging participation, empowering people to help in the place making process of their neighborhood.
Speaking of asking, if there’s one person on the Inclusion Committee who will be the first to walk up to someone who looks a little lost at a street corner or in a grocery store, it’s Lysandra French. She has learned that a welcome smile and a sincere invitation to participate can go a long way.
“I am not from here originally, and when I first moved to town it wasn’t exactly easy to feel a part of things,” she says. “There’s good people here and really great things to do but there needs to be that invitation in, a welcome feeling.”
French was proactive in finding a way to be included.
“For me, it was volunteering and getting involved in that way. But I have that kind of personality; I will find a way to connect and ask questions about learning more. There’s so many who may not find those invitations at first glance and then remain isolated or move on, yet there’s so many in the community who would like to reach out and invite newcomers in- there’s just sometimes a disconnect.”
French’s vision for the GoSite is to be that connection, a welcome place where it feels comfortable to step outside the comfort zone, and get to know each other better. To stop in and ask questions, and to ensure there’s an invitation ready for people to experience and participate in the many things the city has to offer.
These are just a handful of the many placemakers graciously offering to serve on the GoSite Inclusion Committee, ensuring that all are welcome to fully engage in the information sharing space.
Recommendations for additional GoSite Inclusion Committee members are considered on an ongoing basis. To learn more about the role and responsibilities of committee members, or to make a recommendation, send an email to the GoSite staff.
The GoSite is an innovative, fun, and welcoming place for tourists and locals alike to find and share information and ideas about Grand Rapids.