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Arts and culture get a new space

Masonic Arts, Theatre & Innovation Company forms

Cindy Engle, who has a studio featuring her fused- class creations in the lower level of the U.P. Masonic Center, supports the creation of the Masonic Arts, Theatre & Innovation Company. MATI will be based at the center. (Journal photo by Christie Mastric)

MARQUETTE — The local arts and culture scene is taking a step forward with the formation of the Masonic Arts, Theatre & Innovation Company.

Pronounced MAH-ti, the effort is being spearheaded by Ryan Engle and will be housed in the U.P. Masonic Center, which currently is owned by the the Upper Peninsula Masonic Association. Engle said the building is being sold to the MATI.

Over the years, Engle said he noticed a local outcry from the arts community for its own place, with nonprofits also looking for a spot to hold their fundraisers.

From that need sprung MATI.

“It will be a community-owned and managed company to support the arts, theater and innovations specifically within the arts,” Engle said.

He said MATI, which will be overseen by a five-member board, will be open to theater groups that don’t have their own home to hold practices and even performances — once that is allowed within the COVID-19 pandemic parameters.

MATI is connecting with Campfire CoWorks and the technology company LucidCoast, both located in the U.P. Masonic Center, to create a network of community artists and give them the skills they might not have, he said. These skills include building websites and selling products online.

“It’s some of the business aspects that we’re trying to create an opportunity for,” Engle said.

One of the planned artistic projects was a kids’ academy, but because of COVID-19, there will be no in-person activities for the moment. However, Engle said efforts are focused on a MATI channel on YouTube to create online content for people — kids and adults — to show what they do.

The organization already has been creative, even with its brick and mortar.

MATI recently held a drive-in theater off the back of its building, Engle said, using a 16-by-28 screen to show the movie “Ghostbusters.” He said MATI hopes to show another movie, probably either “Elf” or “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” on Dec. 12, although that date is not yet firm.

Engle said MATI will have the building’s 65,000 square feet for its activities.

“We have tenants within the building already that match with our mission statement, so nothing really has to change,” said Engle, who pointed out that MATI is allowed to have up to about 15% of the building set aside for uses that aren’t nonprofit-related.

Engle said grants and tenant rents will help fund MATI, plus it will work on a Patronicity crowdfunding campaign through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

The possibilities are many and varied.

“Minus COVID, we’ll be doing four or five theater productions a year,” Engle said. “We’ll be looking to do different classes.”

Another possibility is creating a “hackerspace,” which is similar to a “makerspace” that’s found inside, say, a school or library. With MATI, Engle said it is looking more toward the technological side with materials such as laser cutters or computer numerical control machines.

“It’s a big project,” Engle said of MATI. “There’s a lot of moving pieces.”

One of the tenants in the U.P. Masonic Center is his mother, Cindy, who runs a studio that features her fused-glass creations.

She supports the MATI mission, which involves preservation of the building.

“There’s so much of the things that we do here that are for the arts anyway,” Cindy Engle said.

Her son expects a lot of community support for MATI.

“Arts and culture is huge here,” he said.

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