State of the Arts : GR

The keynote panel “State of the Arts – GR” opens up the day, giving space to talk about the creative future of our community. We are going to dig into what is working in Grand Rapids and where we invest time, energy and – sometimes funds – to make GR better for artists and creativity.

Featuring :

Jenn Schaub (moderator): Co-director of Community Building & Engagement at Dwelling Place, Artist

Natalie Wetzel : Art Director, Artist, KCAD Professor, Co-director of The Moon

Kyd Kane : Founder and CEO of Kyd Kane Poetry

Tommy Allen: Rapid Growth Media Publisher, Artist, Longtime Community Advocate

Stephen Smith, M.ed : Owner of Muse GR, GRPS Teacher

Discussions Include: Finding & Applying for Opportunities, • Future of Creativity • Local Grant Info Session • Legal Roundtable • Marketing through Digital Tools • Glowing Up After Graduation • Teach What You Know • Authentic Community Dialogue • Collective Creativity •Making Money • Get a Second Date with a Curator

The afternoon will conclude with a networking happy hour complete with hors d’oeuvres and music by DJ Joe Moon of Vinyl Fetish.

Break it Down | Make it Better Schedule      
12:30 PM: Doors
1:00–2:00 PM: Keynote Panel: State of the Arts — GR  
2:15–3:15 PM: Breakout Session I: roundtables, presentations, workshops  
3:30–4:30 PM: Breakout Session 2: roundtables, presentations, workshops
4:30–5:30 PM: Networking happy hour with DJ Joe Moon

Get your tickets here.

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Break it Down | Make it Better 2020.

February 21, 2020, 12:30p.m to 5:30p.m. at Little Space Studio

Tickets available here.

Break it Down | Make it Better is a series of events aimed at producing educational programming, discussions, and professional development opportunities for creatives in West Michigan. These programs are presented through an ongoing partnership with the Avenue for the Arts, ArtPrize, and Little Space Studio.

Break it Down | Make it Better 2020 is a half-day skill-building conference taking place on February 21st from 12:30–5:30 p.m. at Little Space Studio. The afternoon will kick off with a panel discussion about the state of the creative community in Grand Rapids. This will be an opportunity to join in the conversation and discuss how we can grow stronger together. Following the panel will be two breakout sessions aimed at helping attendees gain needed skills and knowledge. They will have the opportunity to select from roundtables, panels and workshops with topics such as The History of Artist Run Spaces in Grand Rapids, Finding & Applying for Opportunities, How to Teach a Class, Working with a Curator, Marketing, and many more.

The afternoon will conclude with a networking happy hour complete with hors d’oeuvres and music by DJ Joe Moon of Vinyl Fetish.

The first twenty registrants will receive a complimentary headshot provided by Daytona Niles.

Individuals with disabilities who require accommodations should contact at least 72 hours in advance.

If you are in need of sponsorship to attend the event please email

Tickets available here.

Break it Down | Make it Better 2019

This year’s Break it Down | Make it Better was designed for you, by you. We have listened to your feedback and assembled a day of captivating conversation about being a creative professional in 2019. From working with a curator, to getting paid for your work, to forming artists collectives, conversation topics have been submitted by West Michigan artists, musicians, curators, art educators, and creative professionals.Join us on Saturday, April 6th from 9am -4pm (doors at 8:30) at 106 South Division. Our day will include:

  • A Keynote Panel Discussion- The Ethics Of Art Relationships Between Artists & Institutions
  • Beginner to Advanced Workshops about How to Get Paid
  • 18 Roundtable & Panel Discussions
  • 5 Clinic sessions to connect you with professional resources
  • Light breakfast and lunch from El Granjero included

Discussions Include: Whats Up With The Daac? • Making Money • Applying For Grants • Equitable Practices In Cultural Organizing • Ask a Lawyer • Should You 501(C)3? • Long Term Financial Planning • How To Work With A Curator • Advocating For Fair Pay • Curation As Activism • What To Charge • Funding The Arts Through Philanthropy • Falling Forward • F*&K The Money • Grand Rapids Public Art Approval • Ask An Accountant • Art School Alternatives • Collective Creativity • Applying For Residencies • Neighborhood Voice And Conflict • Authenticity In Marketing • Emerging Artists • Unconventional Arts Spaces • Nothing Is Original • Making The Pitch • Applying For Public Commissions • Digital Media Management – Visual Works • An Inside Look At Arts Education • Ask A Curator • Ask A Talent Booker • Ask A Designer

Break it Down | Make it Better. is a series of events aimed at producing educational programming, discussions and professional development opportunities for artists, musicians, and curators in our community and region. These programs are presented through an ongoing partnership with the Dwelling Place, ArtPrize, and Creative Many Michigan.

Keynote Panel: The Ethics of Art | Breaking Down the Relationship Between Artists & Institutions

Featured Panelists and Workshops will be announced March 6. R


Early Bird Registration: $20

Early Bird Registration Ends March 7th

Day Pass Registration is $30

Student Registration: $10

Day Of Event Registration April 6: $45 

Flashback 2018

Break it Down | Make it Better 2018  included over 108 guests and 40 conversation facilitators for a total of 148 participants. Doors opened at 8:30 and kicked off our day with registration and breakfast, and networking. At 9am the morning panel discussion, The Civic Life of an Artist | The Creative Life of the City began in main space. The first set of discussions began at 10:30am, there were 10 discussions to choose from. Discussion formats included:

  • Workshops – Active sessions featuring participatory learning that require the engagement of attendees.
  • Roundtables – Facilitated discussions with 10-12 active participants.

  • Presentations – Knowledge sharing from experts in their fields, with time for participant questions and answers.

Screen Shot 2019-02-26 at 8.05.23 PM

From ‘Advocating for City Investment in the Arts’ to ‘Building an Arts Based Business,’ conversation topics were submitted by West Michigan artists, curators, art educators, venue coordinators and creative professionals. Locations, themes and discussion types were shared in a printed program and on door signage and volunteers were on hand to help direct participants to the correct location. There was ten minutes between each session to move to the next location. Sessions were hosted on the main floor and the lower level, which was accessible by stairs and an elevator. Lunch from Tacos El Granjero began at 11:30am and included vegetarian, vegan and meat options. Following lunch there were two more rounds of discussions. The final conversation of the day will be held in the main gallery and all attendees were invited to participate. The day concluded around 3:45 pm. Clean up took place directly after the event, volunteers helped to remove trash, break down tables and chairs, take down signage and pack up tables and chairs.


Click here to see more images from 2018’s event.