“The Power of Imagination,” by Jennifer Ramirez, spans all four walls of the Jaycees shelter building near the sled hill at Civic Center Park. The same Arts Board that arranged for the mural has now also secured funding for a bandshell that will be set up nearby.

“The Power of Imagination,” by Jennifer Ramirez, spans all four walls of the Jaycees shelter building near the sled hill at Civic Center Park. The same Arts Board that arranged for the mural has now also secured funding for a bandshell that will be set up nearby.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Madison Heights Arts Board secures funding for bandshell

Board will mark sixth anniversary with lavish Arts Gala fundraiser

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison-Park News | Published November 8, 2023


MADISON HEIGHTS — The Madison Heights Arts Board is celebrating six years of service with its first annual Arts Gala fundraiser Nov. 17, as well as the good news that it has been awarded $250,000 for a bandshell at the city’s most prominent park.

The grant was part of $500,000 in funding awarded by Consumers Energy Foundation through its annual Prosperity Awards. The other $250,000 went to the Cheboygan Area Arts Council to help fund the opera house there — one of only seven remaining in Michigan.

As for Madison Heights, the $250,000 will support the “Rock the Heights” project, building a state-of-the-art bandshell at Civic Center Park, located at 360 W. 13 Mile Road. The stage will serve as a community space for all sorts of performances.

Mark Bliss, the founder of the Arts Board and mayor pro tem of Madison Heights, said that the bandshell will be utilized for events like the music festival Trail Tunes, as well as the Pre-Fourth of July Festival in the Park. It will also be available for private groups to use.

In addition to bands playing music, there could be theater troupes putting on plays, or even presenters holding educational events. Bliss said the possibilities are endless. He also noted that no taxpayer money was used, since the grant covers the entire purchase.

“This was a long-term goal this board has had for many years,” Bliss said. “One of the key benefits to the bandshell relates to placemaking. A student could be walking across the park from Lamphere High, and they could see the stage, stand on it, be a part of it and be inspired. Their drama club could even rent the stage and do theater in the park. And it’s right across from the first outdoor mural that our Arts Board commissioned, which is just incredible.

“The city and Arts Board made it a priority to get this quarter-million-dollar grant and build this structure because the arts are an important part of any community,” Bliss continued. “Music heals — it brings people together. Live performance inspires future performers. And frankly, it’s also great for the property value of homeowners. Even if they never see a performance, they will still benefit from it, and without any tax dollars being spent.”

Since its formation six years ago, the Arts Board has seen a flurry of activity, starting with the “This is Home” photo contest and calendar during its first year, followed by near-annual occurrences of the Pumpkin Walk — now called the Trail of Treats — around Halloween.

The board also created the annual Trail Tunes event that started during the pandemic, and spearheaded three “Off the Trail” concerts, an Americans with Disabilities Act pride event and drumline, four “Little Artists” paint parties, two community karaoke events, four large-scale  outdoor murals — including three at buildings in the parks — and three interactive ground murals.

In addition, the Arts Board has worked with the Detroit Institute of Arts on the museum’s Inside|Out exhibits, arranging citywide scavenger hunts themed around them. The board has also set up displays by local artists at the renovated Civic Center, with each piece available for sale.

Bliss marveled at the board’s progress.

“If you look at where we were, versus how far we’ve come in the six years the board has been in existence, the sheer amount of murals and programming and concerts we’ve accomplished is second to none,” Bliss said. “I don’t know if there’s any direct comparison, regionally, because this board is completely volunteer-run without any major investments from the city budget. It’s all done by residents who care about bringing arts to the city. And to see it now capped off six years later with this incredible bandshell — a $250,000 grant investment into the city — is just awesome.”

Sean Fleming, a member of the City Council, said he looks forward to the finished bandshell.

“I think it’s good that we were able to secure a grant for such a large structure, and that the city doesn’t have to pay for it,” Fleming said. “My hope is that the (bandshell) will be used quite a bit, and that it will become a focal point for the park.”

Madison Heights Mayor Roslyn Grafstein said that the bandshell will also save the city money.

“In the last few years, more activities have been hosted here that have relied on a stage rental. Taking out that additional expense provides more opportunities for small and local groups to host plays or concerts with a smaller budget,” Grafstein said. “It is slated to be ready for our traditional Festival in the Park, but it may also be ready in time for the private nonprofit Madison Heights Citizens United to use for Juneteenth.”

As part of its ongoing fundraising efforts, the board will also soon hold its first annual Arts Gala, honoring local artist Jennifer Ramirez, creator of such large-scale outdoor murals in the city as “Mythical Creatures” (2022), on the walls of the shelter at Huffman Park; “Nature’s Repose” (2020), spanning the concession stand at Rosie’s Park; and “The Power of Imagination” (2019), on all four walls of the shelter at Civic Center Park.

The event is at 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 17, at Club Venetian Banquet Center, 29310 John R Road, and runs for about five and a half hours. The dress code is “creative formal,” described as attire with a black-tie foundation while allowing for creative flair in the form of textures, colors and accessories that personalize your look and complement the theme of “The Elements.” Guests who reserve in advance have the first choice of seating in their preferred element: fire, water, earth or air.

Tickets are priced at $75, while groups of 10 or more can buy tickets for $65 per person. Each includes a five-course meal, with vegetarian and vegan options available, your choice of coffee, tea or soda, as well as beer, wine, or one of the club’s signature cocktails. There will be live music and dancing, charity auctions, and a meet and greet with Ramirez and other artists. In addition, each attendee will receive a wine glass with an etching themed around their element.

To pay by cash or check, email artsboard@madison-heights.org to make arrangements, due at least seven days before the event. There are no refunds. To RSVP online, visit eventbrite.com and search for “Madison Heights Arts Gala 2023.”

Bliss expects it to be a great time.

“For my wife and I, as parents of young children, we don’t get dressed up and go out as much as we’d like, so we’re excited for this gala,” Bliss said. “It’s an opportunity for everyone to have a great time around an arts theme, and it’s for a great cause.”