Organizational History of the Arts Council of White Lake

In 1985 a group of visionaries pooled their talents and interests to provide a much-needed art program in the White Lake Area. Their fledgling efforts were quickly embraced and were so successful that the first bylaws of the newly created Arts Council were adopted in September 1987 and ever since, members have continued to work toward their mission to encourage, initiate, and facilitate an enriched artistic, cultural and creative environment.

From the beginning, the Arts Council has offered free summer music concerts at the Montague Music Shell, which continue to draw audiences of several hundred each week. Each summer’s program offers a wide variety of musical talent, appealing to music lovers of all ages. 

Along with the concerts, art programs were developed for local schools to help fill gaps in dwindling budgets. The Arts Council subsidized programs presented to students by Michigan artists, and twice sponsored the popular Art Train. Providing grants for special art projects, and offering scholarships for local students to attend art camps, workshops and classes is an enduring objective of the Arts Council.

In striving to fulfill the Arts Council’s mission, the board of directors dreamed of opening a fine arts gallery. The dream came true in 1999, with the opening of the White River Gallery. This progressive, cooperative gallery is operated by members from all over western Michigan who nurture their talents while they display and sell their art.  The Gallery is a tangible reminder of the breadth of programs provided by the Arts Council.

Buoyed by success of the Gallery, the Council turned next to creating an arts education center. The Nuveen Community Center for the Arts became the newest branch of the council in 2002. The Nuveen is funded by a continuing grant from the Nuveen Benevolent Trust, the private foundation of the Nuveen family, who spent decades of summers at White Lake. The Nuveen has created a rich environment for arts education, offering supportive instruction from artists, poets, writers, dancers, musicians, and dramatists. Those who want to learn can be nurtured and inspired at the Nuveen Center.

In 2005, to celebrate the 20th anniversary, and with an eye toward the 25th year, the Art Walk sculpture project was begun.  The Art Walk’s goal is to install 25 sculptures along the local portion of the Hart-Montague-White Lake Pathway bike trail.  By August 2007, six sculptures were installed along the pathway and in 2010, the ACWL’s signature piece, Sailboat – Trees, was placed in Covell Park.

By 2006, the ACWL Board realized that performance art was missing from its menu of artistic options.  They partnered with a newly forming Chamber Music Society to create the Council’s Music and Performing Arts branch.  By the time it was six months old this branch had provided eight well-attended public performances and continues to grow, offering a variety of musical enjoyment opportunities to the public!  In 2010, this branch created the Whitehall Sesquicentennial Brass Ensemble in celebration of Whitehall’s 150th anniversary.

Support for the Arts Council comes mainly from membership dues and the grassroots efforts of members and area business owners who understand the economic value of a broad ranging arts program. Grants from local foundations, corporations, and state arts organizations have provided funds for special projects through the years and help round out the budget. The activities provided and/or promoted by the Arts Council have a clear, positive, impact on the local economy and a successful tourism industry, also attracting new residents and businesses.

From toddlers to seniors, vacationers to long-time residents, this area has been blessed by art developed with local character and global skill. We enjoy the talents of world-class artists, musicians, and writers embraced by a community that nurtures art, culture, and creativity.


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