Michigan’s first ‘avenue’ collaboration
EAST LANSING, Mich. — Few people realize Lansing is experiencing an arts rebirth, says a group of Michigan State University students and faculty who recently collaborated with Lansing residents and businesses on a first-of-its-kind project to raise awareness of the city’s cultural growth.
“The Ave” launched in June as a hub of digital stories focused on the culture and geography of Michigan Avenue in downtown Lansing.
“The presence of MSU — with its world-grant commitment to civic engagement, its innovative technological expertise and its focus on active teaching and learning — is why Lansing is the first city in Michigan to do this,” said project leader Vincent Delgado, academic specialist for MSU’s Residential College in the Arts and Humanities.
So far, eight Lansing businesses and more than 100 individuals from around the community have joined the pilot project. Simply put: “The Ave” is a collection of stories and placards that provide telephone numbers to call and QR codes to scan to see and hear stories from Lansing’s own.
From narratives about musical performances to filmmaking to Michigan Avenue’s people and places, stories can be found online and on placards at Gone Wired Cafe, the Women’s Center of Greater Lansing, Applause Salon, The Loft, Soup Spoon Café, Jerusalem Bakery, The Listening Ear and Eclectic Tattoo. Lansing’s Redhead Design Studio created the website.
Students in classes taught by Laura DeLind, RCAH visiting assistant professor; Geri Zeldes, associate professor of journalism; and John Monberg, assistant professor in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures, generated content for the first set of stories.
“For me, part of what made working on ‘The Ave’ so meaningful was that I am a Lansing native. I went to school just a block off Michigan Avenue, so the opportunity to share the stories of where I grew up was remarkable,” said Emanuele Berry, a senior with dual majors in RCAH and journalism.
Delgado said another MSU course will be added to the class mix, with plans to expand the place-making endeavor to other Lansing avenues, such as REO Town, Old Town and Grand River Avenue in East Lansing. “The Ave” team is collecting data to test the project’s effectiveness.
“This form of place-making might be more powerful than bricks and mortar projects as an economic development tool because it changes the way people understand the identity of a place,” Delgado said. “Through collecting and sharing these stories, students meet people, discover neighborhoods and find more reasons to stay and work in the area.”
“The Ave” partners also include the Greater Lansing Convention and Visitors Bureau; Arts Council of Greater Lansing; MATRIX: MSU Center for Humane Arts, Letters and Social Sciences Online; neighborhood organizations and Lansing artists.
The project is funded with support from the City of Lansing Arts and Cultural Grant Program, funded and administered through the Lansing Economic Development Corp., with assistance from the Arts Council of Greater Lansing.
Michigan State University has been working to advance the common good in uncommon ways for more than 150 years. One of the top research universities in the world, MSU focuses its vast resources on creating solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges, while providing life-changing opportunities to a diverse and inclusive academic community through more than 200 programs of study in 17 degree-granting colleges.