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The Conversation Continues . . .

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The conversation continues . . .

This morning I stopped into Tillie’s, a party store on north Monroe Avenue. I’m a regular there. Whether I desire a lottery ticket, Cheetos or an adult beverage, it’s where I tend to  my easy-and-quick-to-satisfy vices. The storeowner, Mike, is a strapping ex-football player who is filled with personality and wit.  People sometime stop in the store just to take a look at the big guy. The store helpers include Mike’s wife, Pat, and their kids who live in town, Jennie, Mike Jr., and Anne, along with Pat’s dad who everyone calls Grandpa. Then there’s Leah, Jim and Jerry. The grand kids frequently pitch in too.

Tillie’s is a destination for some, similar to the old Cheers television show – and everybody knows your name. As well, everyone an opinion of  their own and feels quite free to express it at Tillie’s. Mike always remains neutral in such discussions, except for an occasional non-partisan jab directed at his regulars who understand his humor and may also be too intimidated by his size to rile him up. This morning a couple of older male customers were bemoaning President Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Refusing to engage in such chatter, Mike busied himself behind the counter. I was quietly fuming and contemplating directing a nasty comment at the old men when Jeff Hage, a local photographer and ArtPrize participant unassumingly walked in the door creating a massive shift of positive energy.

“So, what do you think,” I asked. He intuitively responded, “I didn’t see you there.” We went back and forth about where we were standing, guessing the size of the crowd and our own impression of last night’s incredibly impressive grand finale ArtPrize winner event at DeVos Hall . Soon everyone in the store was joining in on the up-beat conversation, inquiring about Jeff ‘s artwork and questions on the future of ArtPrize. One customer grabbed the Grand Rapids Press from a rack and started reading it aloud. More customers walked in and joined in the conversation. I asked, “What can we learn from ArtPrize?” The talk revolved around how wonderful the event was for local business. “Everything Artprize has been has exceeding expectations,” Jeff commented. Others had suggestions for the maps, routes and venues.  The happiness, delight, amusement and amazement that filled our city during the past weeks had touched everyone in the store in some way. The group of awe-filled men stood in a semi-circle around Jeff, their faces transformed into smiles and wonder; pondering art and it’s possibilities.

As Jeff left for his studio, he gave us a glimpse of his photography projects in the works. Which reminded us, we need to get to work too. The conversation wrapped with comments praising the DeVos family and their contributions to Grand Rapids.

The positive energy and wonder created by ArtPrize has magically enchanted our entire city. I wonder about the other ArtPrize interactions occurring all over town this morning. Essentially anyplace where two or more people are gathered, the conversation continues.

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