On November 28, 2009, 150 adventurers gathered at the Mills Community House Theater in Benzonia Michigan for an Evening of Exploration. Introducing new work by local artists in a historic venue, this event may herald an economic and creative renaissance in Michigan’s smallest county.
“The idea is to amp up our creative community by showcasing new artists and works in progress,” host Dan Kelly explained. “I presented a 45 minute excerpt from my documentary movie, Around Lake Michigan, Gretchen Eichberger made her dance and choreography debut with Glorious Dawn, and the recently formed ukulele duo Saldaje (Melonie Steffes and Shaun Anchek) played their first amplified theater show. This was an artistic expedition, a discovery both for the audience and the featured artists.”
More than half of those attending identified themselves as working artists, comprising a vertitable who’s who of the region’s most accomplished writers, painters, musicians, actors, and directors from Leelanau, Grand Traverse, Manistee and Benzie counties.
“There is a great need to create community and for artistic expression,” said composer and filmmaker Jeff Gibbs. “you (Gretchen and Dan) have your fingers on the pulse of that.”
The Mills Community House was also featured prominently. “The second floor theater is a fantastic venue for performance, education or even a dance party,” stated Kelly, “and there’s even a commercial kitchen on the bottom floor of the building. Yet the theater is not well known. One of our goals was to introduce this space and have it adopted by local artists.”
Steve Elrick, painter, Benzie County Players president and Mills Community House board member, was excited to see a full house. “This is the largest one night audience since the theater re-opened in 2007. The Mills board and volunteers worked hard to get the theater accessible to the public, I was glad to see that many people in there, it was awesome.”
The event ran from 6 pm – 9 pm and through reservations were required, there was no charge. Catering was provided by Suz Mclaughlin and served by Sarah Lousinau of Still Grinning, and featured the produce of regional farmers. Other local businesses also benefited.
“I heard that lots of folks went to the Cold Creek Inn and Road House after the show,” choregrapher Gretchen Eichberger commented. “The Mills is centrally located between Grand Traverse and Manistee counties, we envision making it a go to destination, a venue for innovative events that attracts new audiences and energizes businesses in Beulah and Benzonia. If we add the Benzie bus into the mix, it really opens up lots of possibilities.”
Future Evenings of Exploration are in the works. For more information contact:
Gretchen Eichberger 231 871-0215
Dan Kelly 231 882-0460