Residency program for artists a good way to banner area

The art scene in the Marquette area has been getting deserved attention in recent years, and one initiative begun by the Marquette Chamber of Commerce will surely add to the region’s creative resume.

The chamber recently announced the implementation of a program called “The Marquette Creative Residency — A Home for Creatives on the Superior Coast.”

The program is open to people working in a wide variety of creative fields, such as advertising, architecture, art education, technology, culture, design, fashion, film, literature, music, performance and visual arts.

Similar “artist-in-residence” programs have been underway for years elsewhere, like at the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park and Isle Royale, so this is nothing new for Michigan. But it is the first such program we’re aware of that’s offering artists a place to stay near the cultural hub of downtown Marquette and the scenic shores of Lake Superior.

The creative residency program will provide artists with a shared living space, a food stipend and some means of transportation through the use of a fat-tire bicycle. They’ll have to fund their own daily living expenses, including materials used in creating their artwork, and costs associated with traveling to the area. But, all in all, it appears to be quite the opportunity for artists interested in capturing a sense of what the Upper Peninsula culture has to offer.

One caveat of the program is that artists must hail from out-of-state — meaning no Michiganders allowed.

Some might see this restriction as excluding the many great artists Michigan already has from participating. But we believe that caveat is a positive way to introduce the U.P. to people who may not already be familiar with it, and bring more attention to the unique culture we Yoopers enjoy each and every day.

Another positive is that during their time here, the artists will hold at least one presentation or exhibit, which will allow those of us who enjoy art to view some fresh perspectives we may not be familiar with.

The long-running Art on the Rocks and Outback Art Fair festivals, along with the recently added Fresh Coast Film Festival, are only some of the many events in Marquette that are contributing to the region’s growing art scene. And there’s no denying the fiscal impacts these types of events have on our communities.

The Marquette Area Arts and Culture Master Plan, which was included in the city’s latest community master plan, conservatively estimated the economic impact of arts and culture in Marquette at about $7 million to $10 million.

That’s no small figure and it seems plausible the industry will continue to grow in the coming years.

But one could argue that art isn’t all about the money. In a world as divided as ours can be, art still has the ability to transcend differences and unite us behind ideas that are universal and known to all of us on a more personal, human level.

By bringing in folks from outside of Michigan, we hope to learn something new from these artists. Maybe some will challenge our beliefs on certain fronts, or make us question why we’re doing things the way we are or have always done them, and maybe some of these artists will decide they like the U.P. enough to stay here permanently.

In a state that offers inspiration just about anywhere you look, we’re sure artists will find something in the Marquette area that makes them tick, and we look forward to seeing their creations.