Shaping Our Region Through the Arts

Community Heart of REO mural by local artist Tony Hendrick.


For 50 years the Arts Council of Greater of Lansing has supported arts, culture, and creativity throughout the Tri-County Region. In that time, the Arts Council has seen the Region’s diverse communities transform and develop their own unique identities through creative placemaking.

Creative placemaking is a community and economic development practice that leverages arts, culture, and creativity to drive community transformation, establish sense of place, and develop a community’s character.

“When we add creative elements to our community it enhances community pride.” said Executive Director Debbie Mikula. “Placemaking in and of itself is one thing – adding the creative element adds something special. A community comes together through arts and culture. “

The Arts Council of Greater Lansing works in partnership with municipalities, economic development agencies, artists, and art leaders to enrich communities throughout the Region with creative placemaking.

“It takes the people and the talent of the people within the community to make the community what it is. Without people there would be no place. Each of our communities is unique.”

Since the Arts Council was founded, it has helped to implement a wide range of projects throughout the Region by convening community stakeholders from all walks of life. From working with the Greater Lansing Festival Alliance in the coordination of six annual festivals in Old Town Lansing to collaboration with the Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP) in the installation of community art, the Arts Council’s reach is broad and its influence prevalent.

“For me, participating in creative placemaking gets me out of my studio and connects me with other people in the community,” said Tony Hendrick, artist of the “Community Heart of REO” mural. “I think it’s something we all want to be a part of, whether you are a lawyer, an accountant, or an artist, the core element is that each person participating in the project is operating from the heart. When we work on these pieces it makes a more enjoyable, liveable community.”

In 2015, the work of the Arts Council culminated in the Region’s first ever Creative Placemaking Summit. Coordinated and hosted by the Arts Council, the Creative Placemaking Summit brought together more than 150 elected and appointed officials, developers, artists, activists, administrators, economic development professionals, community and neighborhood leaders, and urban planners.

“It is really important to this organization to act!” said Mikula. “The key goal of the Summit was to identify two or three projects we could advance together with our partners and stakeholders throughout the Region.”

One of the projects identified during the Summit is Arts Night Out, a series of Friday night events in rotating communities throughout the Region. The Arts Council will work with community stakeholders to create new opportunities for retailers, artists, community residents, and visitors by showcasing art throughout the community.

The Creative Placemaking Summit will continue as an annual event, building momentum for community and economic development throughout the Region.

While the Region has made significant progress in developing its sense of place, Mikula is excited about the opportunity to build upon the momentum of creative placemaking.

“If we can make this Region more authentic though development of placemaking it will drive community and economic development. We need to determine – What is our heritage? What is our shared notion of who we want to be as a region?”