Sustaining Vibrant Community in Big Rapids

Anyone who has chased a dream of any kind understands the danger of growing complacent. There are adages such as, “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it,” that allude to the momentum it takes to achieve your goals. Executive director Lynne Scheible weaves this timeless insight and others into her leadership of Artworks Cultural Center, located in Big Rapids.

Artworks opened in 2000, but its roots go back to two councils, the Mecosta Council for the Arts and the Humanities Council of West Central Michigan, held in 1975 and 1983, respectively. These gatherings were convened to promote meaningful and thought-provoking art through dance, music, festivals, and exhibits. Both councils came together to form Artworks, an organization that continues to expand and evolve with a mission to “initiate and promote arts and humanities activities that enrich our lives, nurture creativity, and vitalize the community.”

Artworks accomplishes this through its diverse programming that includes educational seminars, summer art camps, a foreign film series, book clubs, and poetry readings as well as a gallery that showcases local, national, and international art exhibits.

“We never wanted to be the area’s best-kept secret, so we’ve focused on familiarizing people with who we are and what we do. Sometimes people are intimidated by an art space, so we work hard to communicate we’re here for everybody. Regardless of your age or knowledge of art, we strive to offer something for everyone,” says Scheible.

She went on to elaborate on the importance of this work and its potential to impact people in positive ways. “We’re trying to showcase how we’re making a difference in connecting people to the community so they can see themselves in a different way.”

Scheible got involved in this team-building and strategizing work a number of years ago after getting a degree in organizational development and innovation. Her ongoing goal for Artworks is to see it maintain its relevancy within a diverse community by asking questions, finding the answers, and ultimately bridging the gap between community members with various hobbies and needs.

For example, Artworks partners with Hope Network, an agency that supports emotionally and cognitively impaired individuals, to give these men and women a chance to get out of predictable routines (perhaps we could all use this!) and position them where they’re encouraged to express themselves creatively. One participant attributes her anger management success to Artworks programs. She feels better — more relaxed — when she is doing art. Clearly, the arts promote good health and well-being for everyone.

“A community with an art center is vibrant. It suggests the community is more than bricks and mortar, that it has a heart and soul. It suggests that people care and want to connect through creative expression,” added Scheible.

Starting November 15, Artworks will host its holiday market. With works from over 100 artists, the market is a fun and exciting time for holiday shoppers to purchase one-of-a-kind gifts handcrafted by artists from all over Michigan. Gift-giving at its best! The market has everything from pottery to fiber products to watercolor originals. There will be a special open house on Thursday, December 20.

Whether you’re looking to dive into a new book, learn how to line dance, play the harmonica with other impassioned musicians, expand your worldview with a foreign film, or locate a thoughtful gift, Artworks can accommodate.

Artworks Cultural Center  106 N. Michigan Avenue, Big Rapids MI 49307 l (231) 796-2420 l ArtworksInBigRapids.org