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Mayor Andy Schor gives priority to the arts in 2020

Posted at 8:10 PM, Feb 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-06 21:04:45-05

LANSING, Mich. — In Mayor Andy Schor's State of the City address, he focused on improving a variety of issues ranging from development, infrastructure and finances, but he also surprisingly shifted a priority toward an increase of art throughout the city.

During his speech Wednesday night, Mayor Schor said art, especially public art, will be a "significant focus" in his administration. News 10 spoke with Lansing art organizations who say they are surprised and excited for this effort.

"Seeing municipal leaders use the pulpit to really champion the arts is really just a joy," said Barb Whitney, former director of the Lansing Public Gallery.

"It's fantastic. It's a great investment," said Courtney Millbrook, former director of Lansing Symphony Orchestra.

Both organizations say they depend on the thousands of dollars they receive from city grants.

"This takes art to the people where they live, work and play," Whitney said.

"The arts impact all areas of the city. They do impact mental health, they do impact economic development, they do impact education, so as an organization we can be part of solutions in lots of different areas, rather than just be on our own in the corner," Millbrook said.

That's why the mayor budgets more than $100,000 into art.

"So we know it's part of the vibrancy of downtown and having businesses in the downtown and restaurants and places to eat and retail. It's all part of the picture that we have seen greater interest downtown," Mayor Schor said.

Although funds are little in comparison to the multi-million dollar budgets, the mayor said that money needs to be set aside.

"I don't know what else generates this type of activity," Schor said.

Although not mentioned in Wednesday's address, the mayor recognizes the want and need for a smaller performing arts center downtown.

"There was a feasibility study that was done which says we need a 1,200 seat theatre. We have Wharton, which is 2,500 seats but we need a concert venue for where the symphony can play, but that need is about a $40 million price tag that we don't have," Schor said.

The next step for the city is a fundraising study to see how they can get a performing arts center built. The mayor said the study is in progress.

In the past, the city has been heavily involved in the popular music festival Common Ground. However, with the location change to Cooley Law School Stadium, the mayor's office said they will be investigating less money into the festival because the event will be more self-sufficient in the stadium.

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