Arts Board aims to bring bandstand to Civic Center Park

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison-Park News | Published March 22, 2023


MADISON HEIGHTS — The Madison Heights Arts Board is exploring options to bring a stage to Civic Center Park, something that officials say could be used at events like Trail Tunes, and by local groups that want to hold their own performances, plays and presentations.

The park, located by City Hall on 13 Mile Road west of John R Road, is home to many events. The last Trail Tunes was held there in October, the third one to date, having made its debut in 2020 as a safe way to have fun amid the pandemic. Coordinated by the Arts Board, last year’s event featured a dozen bands along the trail loop. More than 1,000 attendees followed the path, stopping at whichever act caught their eye or ear.

Other events there include the fireworks display during the Festival in the Park, before the Fourth of July; the Juneteenth celebration, by Madison Heights Citizens United; an LGBTQ+ Pride Celebration; the Crank Cross bike race, hosted by Morning Cranks in the fall; and the Pumpkin Walk at Halloween, another event by the Arts Board, with stations offering games and candy.

Members of the Arts Board believe that a dedicated stage at Civic Center Park could benefit all of these events, providing a space for performers to be seen and heard. The city has rented a stage from Oakland County in the past, so having its own stage could save the city money and even create another source of revenue when rented out to others.

“For me, it really fits into that realm where it’s something we’re now working toward, at a time when we’ve run multiple events at that park, including three successful Trail Tunes,” said Mark Bliss, mayor pro tem of Madison Heights and creator of the Arts Board. “We have an understanding of what we need and what we want, and that’s something we’re working toward, looking into grants right now and what the locations could be. It’s still early to say with certainty we will get a bandstand, but I don’t think it’s early to say this is something the Arts Board is working on and prioritizing.

“Part of the goal, too, is we want organizations to be able to rent the bandstand,” Bliss said. “Bands could use it to hold their own concert in the park. Theater troupes could put on performances, like Shakespeare in the park. Those kinds of things open up when we have it.”

He said the Arts Board has been researching the concept since the last Trail Tunes.

“The conversation was sparked then, in the fall. We were talking about what we’ll do next year. We know we’re adding a ‘Battle of the Bands’ component at the next Trail Tunes, and since we’re doing that, having a stage where we can have the top two performers play would be very beneficial,” Bliss said. “A bandstand could really change things. Like our Pumpkin Walk is really popular, but what more could we do if there was a stage in close proximity? It opens up so many possibilities when it comes to performance art in the community. And while it’s not something that will happen overnight, we think it would be helpful for the residents to understand the vision that the Arts Board, and subsequently the City Council, has for that park.”

While he didn’t cite a specific price, the mayor pro tem said that “bandstands are considerably more affordable than we thought they’d be,” and that the Arts Board “is no stranger to fundraising,” having already privately raised the money that paid for numerous outdoor murals around the city and covering the core costs of their events, as well.

“It would also likely involve a grant, and the good news is there are quite a few grants for this kind of initiative,” Bliss said. “As we’re continuously looking for these grants, we can be opportunistic and take advantage of it as a city because we’re planning for it. I think oftentimes, communities that are older and built out miss opportunities because they’re not charting a vision looking for grants available to achieve it — they get into maintenance mode, where just fixing things is the entire emphasis and prioritization. But then they’re missing those opportunities that can really change the community for the next 50 years. That’s what we’re trying to address here: The Arts Board is charting a course with this and other initiatives, and members of council have also been supportive.”

Roslyn Grafstein, the mayor of Madison Heights, believes the demand would be there.

“Civic Center Park is a happening place. People come from all over for different reasons, which makes it a place worth adding to and enhancing, when possible,” Grafstein said. “In fact, just a few weeks ago, after the (mass shootings) in California, there was a group (Asian & Pacific Islander American Vote ) that held a vigil there, because they feel safe and secure at our park. We worked together with the police chief to get it set up. It was somber but beautiful.”

Sean Fleming, a member of the Madison Heights City Council, said a stage could possibly take the form of a permanent amphitheater.

“I’m not sure where exactly it would go, but I do think it’s a great idea overall, and that it could be used for tons of events, whether it be Trail Tunes, Juneteenth, the Pumpkin Walk, or even other outdoor concert series and events. We could even rent it out, and if we were one of the only cities around here to have one, it could become another revenue stream for the city. We could also develop new recreational programming around it,” Fleming said. “I just want to make sure that if we have one, that we will be serious about programming and making sure that we actually use it. I don’t want a structure just sitting there decaying away.”