Art, culture

MARQUETTE – What is the role of arts and culture in Marquette? The city is inviting the community to share its ideas and concerns in this area.

Arts and Culture Master Plan public meetings are scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. Jan. 20 and 10 a.m. to noon Jan. 21 in the Citizens Forum Room at Lakeview Arena. They will be facilitated by consulting firms Christine Harris Connections of Milwaukee and Creative Community Builders of Minneapolis.

The city’s first master plan was written about 20 years ago, and a new plan, it is hoped, will create a vibrant arts and culture scene that will include recommendations and define the role of the city in putting that plan into place.

Tiina Harris, arts and culture community services manager for the city, said, “We have the perfect environment for creating this vibrant arts and culture scene.”

That environment, she pointed out, includes Northern Michigan University, Marquette General Hospital and the natural environment.

However, arts and culture, Harris said, go beyond what some people might at first think of when they think of art. The Marquette arts and culture scene also involves the farmers market, homemade jams and soap, brewing beer and folk dancing.

It even includes the popular community garden, which weaves the outdoors into local culture, she said.

“That’s all a part of that,” Harris said. “It’s not just the fine arts.”

The master plan, she noted, also needs to engage a wide variety of interests, ranging from both the nonprofit and profit segments as well as architects, designers and people involved in historic bridges and restoration, for example.

Already, focus groups and one-on-one interviews have taken place about the master plan, Harris said, and now public comment is being sought.

“This is the most critical, I think,” she said.

What’s special about each upcoming public meeting, according to Harris, is that the consultants will take participants through a “visioning process” that resembles a group activity.

“I think that’s going to be a unique public meeting for that reason,” she said.

Harris said anyone with questions, ideas or concerns about the local arts and culture scene can contact her at 906-228-0472 or

“We want people to feel they’ve been included,” she said.

This input, Harris stressed, will go toward deciding the direction of the arts and culture scene.

After the public meetings take place, Harris said, a public survey will be available to the community online, at the Peter White Public Library and at city hall. In late April or early May, she said, the consultants will present their findings to the Marquette City Commission.

Members of the master plan steering committee represent a wide swath of interests in the city.

One of those members is Nheena Weyer Ittner, director of the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum. She said was chosen to serve on the committee because arts and culture have always been a focus in her life.

What is her vision?

“I’d like to see arts and culture to be a systemic and integral part of the entire community, from how we look to what we do,” Ittner said. “Culturally rich communities bring in diverse populations to live and to visit. They are great environments to raise children and can be amazing economic drivers.

“Arts and culture make communities more interesting and vibrant. I’d like to be a part of the conversation to see what we can become.”

Marquette jewelry artist Beth Millner, another committee member, said, “I just think that education in the arts, and publicity and marketing for local artists, is something I’d like to see in the master plan,” Millner said.

Millner said she wants to see awareness of the city’s arts and culture raised locally and out of the area.

“It’s here,” she said. “But how do we promote that to tourists and locals?”

Harris said arts and culture can play a part in increasing the quality of life for people relocating to the area.

“There has to be something to do,” Harris said. “That’s where arts and culture come in.”

That’s why it’s worth investing in them, she said.

“We have a lot of arts and culture,” Harris said. “It’s here. We’re trying to define how it’ll go.”

And the time is right, according to Harris.

“I feel like we’re ready for it,” Harris said. “The arts and culture community is ready for the next step. There are so many exciting things happening right now.”

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is