“The arts do something that nothing else does…”

Ben Rathbun with custom work by Isiah Lattimore

Imagine a community with no art.

What a boring concept.

By day, I am deep in the weeds of the insurance industry. Constantly immersing ourselves within our community, I have the pleasure of seeing firsthand how much our community does care about art.

I am a lifelong Lansing resident and have been influenced by our arts and culture scene my entire life. As I have transitioned to professional life, I have seen the ample opportunities for business owners to immerse themselves within our local art scene.

Our community really seems to be embracing the importance of arts in all aspects of economic vitality. From investments in creative placemaking to providing abundant outlets for local artists, Lansing has countless projects through which residents can experience art. The Lansing Art Gallery & Education Center has been pivotal in helping to facilitate all of these connections to continue to bring quality art to our local community.

Last year, The Rathbun Agency had the pleasure of title sponsoring ARTpath. This public arts initiative allows local residents to experience art on the Lansing River Trail created by Michigan artists. This is an incredible chance to simultaneously spend time in the community while enjoying incredible artwork. Just last year, over 82,000 saw ARTpath along the Lansing River Trail!

Art in public spaces gives our city a unique identity and allows us to show our sense of pride. These pieces not only beautified our downtown area, but also added economic value to all the surrounding businesses. Putting art at the heart of our community enhances our lives by stirring hard-to articulate feelings and inspiring us to imagine a more vibrant, exciting future.

The Gallery has had an impact on my personal relationship with art as well. As I was furnishing my forever home last summer, I reached out to Barb to see if she could assist me in commissioning a piece for my girlfriends thirtieth birthday. She introduced me to the amazingly-talented Isiah Lattimore, who had recently participated in ARTpath 2020 as he created a mural of George Floyd. Isiah created an incredible portrait of my girlfriend and me that is currently the first item anyone sees when entering our home.

The Gallery connecting me with Isiah is exactly how I imagine facilitating art within our community. Now, every time I walk in my front door, I am reminded of not only the painting itself but how I was able to support local artists.

It is important to recognize that artists are an asset present in every community. When thinking about asset-based community development, not every city will have an underutilized waterfront, strong public transportation system or major university (we are blessed to have all three!). But every single community has people who sing, and dance, and tell stories. Most art is consumed in-person, in real time and with other people. People have to go somewhere and do something together. And why is art the solution?

Where art happens, there are benefits to communities and individuals. Those benefits include increased capacity and insight, the ability to bridge and bond and make connections with people unlike ourselves. Art is unique in that it offers individualized experiences, which can comfort you, challenge you, provoke you and sometimes do all of those things.

Why we ultimately need art is because the arts do something that nothing else does, which is drive more stable communities and build community attachment, social cohesion and civic engagement. And how lucky #LoveLansing is that we have the Lansing Art Gallery & Education Center at the forefront of driving change in our community.

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