Event showcases art in Benton Harbor

Published 8:20 am Thursday, September 17, 2015

(Submitted photo)

(Submitted photo)

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. — With its continuing mission to enrich local culture and build a thriving and attractive downtown Benton Harbor, the New Territory Arts Association is launching its Artoberfest for the ninth time. The event is meant to showcase all that Benton Harbor and the surrounding region has to offer, inviting the public to the Benton Harbor Arts District to enjoy music, food, wine and craft beer.

The festival takes place this Saturday, Sept. 9, at 164 Park St., next to the Livery in Benton Harbor. The day-long event is meant to shine attention on the local region and community artists, but it also acts as the primary fundraiser for the New Territory Arts Association.

The organization, started in 1998 as a grassroots movement, describes its mission as one to promote the arts and, in doing so, to energize and revitalize the local region, in particular, the city of Benton Harbor’s Arts District.

The Arts District is the home to a number of local businesses and destinations that, according to NTAA Board of Directors member Tom Ives, focuses particularly on culture, including “food, music, and art.” Visitors have a varied choice of restaurants and encounter art of all formats in various gallery and teaching locations. The Citadel offers dance and music lessons and, next door, Ives’ own 3 Pillars Music offers a selection of musical instruments and recorded music.

The motto of the NTAA is that “art builds community.” According to Ives, the desire to live in a city with a thriving culture, with activities and businesses that enrich and excite, is one that should motivate people to create that culture.

“Some things you can’t wait for someone else to do. You just do them yourself,” he said.

It’s that motivation that has built the Arts District into the growing place it is today. As businesses, local citizens, and groups like the NTAA have invested in and worked to improve local buildings and parks, audiences, consumers, and more businesses have followed. When the holiday lighting on Main Street and in the district had started to age, it was an effort by locals including the NTAA, AEP, and the Benton Harbor Parks and Recreation Conservancy that led to the new displays that appeared in 2014.

Throughout the year, the Arts District plays host to a number of events, many created, sponsored, and managed by the NTAA. Every few months, businesses in the Arts District open their doors for regular Art Hops, a family-friendly event that gives artists a chance to have their works viewed by an audience and allows people to explore the businesses in the area. The Livery, known for it’s locally brewed beer and vibrant live music, hosts an open stage the first Monday of every month, giving storytellers, poets, and musicians a place to perform.

The festival itself will feature a number of musicians, including acts from the area, playing music ranging from soul, jazz and blues to jam, rock and funk.

The Citadel’s own Danny Dine will perform with students from his guitar classes and local bands Slim Gypsy Baggage, Sankofa, and The Chuck Jagers will take the stage throughout the day. They’ll be joined by touring acts, including guitarist Megan Dooley and Woodstock, New York’s Bruce Katz Band.

Artoberfest will offers plenty in addition to music, with 20 artist booths and a variety of regional food available, including South Haven’s Momma’s TJM BBQ, Kalamazoo’s Camzie’s Pizza, St. Joseph’s the Baja Gringo Taco Truck and Mimi’s Gourmet Cupcakes, and Benton Harbor’s own Water Street Gelato Works. Craft beer from close to 20 breweries from Michigan and around the country will be available, along with wine from St. Joseph’s own White Pine Winery.

The rain-or-shine Artoberfest, which runs from noon until 9 p.m., is a free event for all-ages until 4 p.m., after which, those over 21 years old will pay an admission of $5. The funds raised from admission, sales, and donations will go in large part to help the NTAA continue their events and to fund the NTAA Scholarship Fund, Arts District beautification, and various other services provided to the region. A full list of sponsors, and the Artoberfest schedule is available at newterritoryarts.org.

Justin Flagel is the founder of the web magazine and podcast Anywhere the Needle Drops, where he and others showcase their interest in music, pop culture, creativity and life. Follow their work at anywheretheneedledrops.com. Feedback can be directed to contact@anywheretheneedledrops.com.