oUR sTORY

Artrain's visit to Lowell in 1977 inspired the formation of the Lowell Area Arts Council, later to become LowellArts.

History

 

LowellArts connects artists and audiences through the visual and performing arts. Our welcoming, vibrant organization has been growing since its inception in 1977 and is made up of committed arts enthusiasts.

The Lowell Area Arts Council (DBA LowellArts) is a vital resource for the greater Lowell community, connecting artists and audiences through the visual and performing arts. For over 40 years, LowellArts has promoted and supported artists through exhibitions, performances, and events. LowellArts continues to be a welcoming, vibrant organization, and serves both as a catalyst for local economic development and a source of valuable art experiences for the community.

LowellArts began with the enthusiasm of community volunteers and funds raised through a visit to Lowell by Artrain USA in November 1976. Originally called Lowell Area Arts Council, the organization was incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1977 with initial projects that included community beautification, gallery exhibitions of local and regional artists, and theater productions. In September 1978, LowellArts took over the management of the Fallasburg Fall Festival for the Arts, a two-day outdoor event which had been started by the Lowell Historical Society in 1968.

The space on Hudson Street that served the organization from 1977-2016 was generously made available by King Doyle and the King Milling Company. Located in the front third of one of King Milling's buildings, the space consisted of a 1000 sq. foot gallery, a classroom space, and office space. 

In April 2015, LowellArts purchased two adjoining buildings on the corner of Main and Broadway, and launched a $1.25 million "Moving to Main" capital campaign to renovate the space. In November 2016, the organization moved to its current home on 223 W Main Street, which is in a highly visible location, easily accessible, has an abundance of parking space, and is centrally located in the popular Downtown Lowell Historic District.

The new facility, with 4,700 sq. foot of programming space on the first floor, offers twice the gallery space, a flexible performance space, a larger classroom, and an open upstairs space for theater rehearsals and artist-residency programs.

The LowellArts stated purpose is: to encourage the understanding, appreciation, and importance of the arts in the schools and communities we serve, and to provide expression and enjoyment of the arts to all segments of these communities. LowellArts is made up of arts enthusiasts who are committed to the mission of connecting artists and audiences through the visual and performing arts. In the coming years, the staff, volunteers, and supporters will continue to make exceptional, heartfelt efforts to bring exciting artwork and performances the community.

Past Projects

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Yarn Bombing

In 2013, as part of the LowellArts Adopt-a-Tree to Yarn Bomb Project, over thirty trees were adopted by individuals, families, and organizations resulting public art added a bit of whimsy to the summer streets of downtown Lowell.

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Riverside Mural Project

In 2005, students and teachers at Unity High School in Lowell worked with Lowell artist Mary Kuilema to create a large exterior mosaic tile mural wall located along the Flat River just north of the Lowell Library on the Riverwalk.

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North Country Trail Mural

In 2013, eleven Lowell High School art students worked with Grand Rapids mural artist, Erwin Erkfitz, to concept, design and paint this 8' x 48' mural mounted on the east facing wall of the North Country Trail Association (NCTA) in downtown Lowell.

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ArtTrain USA - Native Views: Influences of Modern Culture

 

In 2005, in cooperation with Lowell Area Historical Museum and the Grand Valley American Indian Lodge, LowellArts presented Artrain USA’s art exhibition, Native Views: Influences of Modern Culture.

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A Day Without Art

 

In 2009, Lowell High School partnered with LowellArts to sponsored LHS’ first Day With(out) Art on December 1 (World AIDS Day).Art was used to educate others about the impact of this disease and used to support local agencies that help families affected by AIDS and other hardships.

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The Butterfly Project

 

In 2002-3, The Butterfly Project brought kindergarten through fifth grade students from the Lowell Area Schools to work with 16 artists from Lowell and the greater Grand Rapids area to design and create 32 larger than life butterfly sculptures (4’ diameter wing span).

Moving to Main

Lowell, MI, February 9, 2018: Lowell Area Arts Council, DBA LowellArts' Executive Director Lorain Smalligan announced today the successful completion of their $1.25 million "Moving to Main" capital campaign.

"We want to thank everyone who supported our campaign and to let the whole community know that we have successfully raised the entire amount of our $1.25 million goal. Our list of lead gift supporters is impressive, but even more so is the outpouring of support our community, individual members and friends have shown us," Smalligan said.

The campaign was launched in the summer of 2015 with lead gifts both in cash and in-kind from numerous corporations, foundations, businesses and individuals not the least of which was long-time LowellArts supporter and $1-per-year landlord, King Milling Company. In total, over 350 supporters from throughout the Lowell Community and beyond have contributed toward the purchase and renovation of the two adjoining buildings on the northwest corner of Broadway and Main streets. The campaign reached its goal thanks to final additional gifts from the Lowell Area Community Fund, James and Sally Gunberg Family, and King Milling Company.

Janean Couch, Lowell Area Community Fund, says, “We are pleased to support LowellArts and even more excited to see the community’s support and energy around helping them to solidify their new permanent home. They are an integral part of the Lowell community.”

The James and Sally Gunberg family share, “We are so pleased that LowellArts has found a prominent and permanent home on Main Street as it continues to provide the greater Lowell area with so many life enriching opportunities.”

Brian Doyle, President of King Milling Company, says, “We are proud to support LowellArts and are very happy that they are able to achieve their goal of moving to Main Street to expand their arts programs and classes.”

"Early on, our Board felt that LowellArts should be on Main Street, and the Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce and the Lowell business community made it clear that they agreed with us. Our past home on Hudson Street had served us well for over 35 years, but we felt that it was time to challenge our organization and make the move. We opened our doors briefly in November of 2016 for our Holiday Artists Market and immediately saw a 30% increase in artwork sales. Early in 2017 we completed construction and officially opened our doors that February. We began to see the impact of our move to Main Street almost immediately. Our expanded gallery space, performance area and newly-created series of musical House Concerts has increased foot traffic and visits to neighboring shops and restaurants, and they in turn are sending their patrons to visit us. It is a win-win for all of us," stated Smalligan.

We want to thank everyone who supported our campaign. We have successfully raised the entire amount of our goal.​

Lead Gifts to LowellArts Moving to Main Capital Campaign: Lowell Area Community Fund, James and Sally Gunberg Family Foundation, King Milling Company, Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, The Christoff Family Fund, Lowell Historic Commission, Meijer Foundation, Look Memorial Fund, Amway Corporation, Consumers Energy Foundation, Frey Foundation, Fifth Third Bank, City of Lowell DDA, and Steve and Amy VanAndel Foundation.

Inkind Donations from the Greater Lowell Community: Enwork, All Weather Seal, Flat River Electric, Architectural Building Restoration, Wolverine Wood Products, Mathison Mathison Architects, Arctic Heating and Cooling, Perry Beachum Flooring, Canfield Plumbing, Clear Sky Technologies, Handyman Dan, and Mary Tobin Design.

 

​Over 300 additional businesses, individuals and households also made gifts to support this campaign.

The History of the Fallasburg Arts Festival

On the weekend of September 15 and 16, 2018, the Fallasburg Arts Festival celebrated its 50th anniversary in Fallasburg Park just three miles north of the city of Lowell. The Festival was born in 1968 as the Fallasburg Fall Festival, and it was hosted by the West Central Michigan Historical Society (now known as the Fallasburg Historical Society) as a fundraiser. At that time, it was a craft selling event serving refreshments of doughnuts and cider. The participants wore turn of the century (that’s the 20th Century) attire, and visitors were encouraged to pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the Flat River at Fallasburg Park.

Fast forward to 1978… the WCMHS invited the newly formed Lowell Area Arts Council (now LowellArts) to help with the festival’s continued growth. Soon the festival would become a juried show with artists from across the Midwest vying for coveted booth locations. At the same time the event was maturing into a truly community event with local nonprofit organizations using it as their fundraiser as well, selling every kind of food from Rotary Dogs and Apple Dumplings to Walking Tacos and Corn on the Cob. This was also the year that the tradition of the Quilt Raffle would be introduced with a special Fallasburg Quilt being designed and raffled off. Today the raffle includes gifts from nearly every participating artist, allowing for nearly 100 happy winners at the conclusion of the festival. You need not be present to win.

Music was also an original feature of the festival but in 1999 the organizers moved to find sponsors to provide for even more local talent on the festival stage. This year, over thirty musicians with ties to the Lowell community will perform during the two-day event.

Many things have changed in the past 50 years but many have remained. Today LowellArts is the sole coordinator of the Fallasburg Arts Festival, and the event hosts an average of 10,000 visitors a day for the event, rain or shine. The Festival has always prided itself on the quality of the original artwork; jewelry, weaving, metalwork, basketry, and so much more that is made available for sale. No commercial products or mass produced goods are allowed past the jury process. In addition, the long held tradition of demonstrations of age old skills such as weaving, iron forging, carving, chair caning, and more is on display in the Fallasburg Park pavilion. Admission and parking are still free. The setting just above the Flat River is as beautiful as ever. Shoppers still search out treasures and one-of-a-kind gifts and yes, the Fallasburg Historical Society’s members can still be found selling doughnuts and cider on the south end of the Fallasburg pavilion. After all, it’s a tradition.

by Gary Eldridge and Shirley Willis

LowellArts

223 W Main Street

Lowell, MI 49331

616-897-8545

info@lowellartsmi.org

 

Gallery Hours:

Tuesday - Friday 10am-6pm

Saturday 10am-5pm

Office Hours:

Tuesday - Friday 10am-6pm

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LowellArts is supported in part by:

LowellArts is supported in part by an award from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts.