Centennial Nights aim to introduce new world of art to Mount Pleasant
In 2011, Chelsea senior Chris Stewart had his entire perspective on entertainment and community expanded by Electric Forest, an electronic music festival in the woods of Rothbury.
Several years later, Stewart combined his love for the festival environment and his pursuits in public relations to create his own production company, Magical Mitten Productions.
On Sept. 29, the group joined forces with downtown banquet venue Centennial Hall to create a live musical showcase and art collective called "Centennial Nights."
The first Centennial Nights, on Sept. 29, 2017, raised $200 for those affected by Hurricane Maria, a natural disaster resulting in 547 fatalities in Dominica and Puerto Rico.
"I feel like Mount Pleasant in general really needs something fun to do that isn’t trashy, and (that isn't) Wayside (Central) or just a crowded bar with a bunch of people you can’t really talk to," Stewart said.
Centennial Nights are put on by a group of 10-12 friends monthly, who work on constructing sets, gathering acts and promoting around campus.
The event is now a collaborative entertainment group joined by Skuzzy Boys Presents LLC from Lake Orion junior Spencer Roberts and Ludington junior Jesse Weier.
The event's art director, Katrina Marberger said all artists are invited to exhibit their work, no matter its context, genre or volume.
The events have showcased local artists, such as indie-rock group Pineapple Psychology and indie-folk rock band Pining.
Marberger said Centennial Nights already does a successful job with meeting the festival itch students on a budget might fail to fulfill.
"There's a lot of people who want to get to experience festivals but unfortunately may not have the means to do so," Marberger said. "Some festivals are extremely expensive and far away and may not appear as an option."
The core group of producers is currently working with the city to create the first ever Pleasant Fest-a day-long music festival they hope will take place outside the banquet hall in May.
Stewarts said his promotional career continues to expand, especially as listeners demand up close encounters with the music and the economics of the entertainment industry alternate.
"The live entertainment industry is an extremely ever growing industry, especially now as record sales plummet," Stewarts said. "The live music entertainment industry continues to grow because it’s now becoming the (best) way for musicians to generate revenue."
The first show of 2018 took place on Jan. 13 — acts included alternative folk group, Crystal Images, hip-hop group Abstract Generation, dubstep artist Hazedog, house DJ Florhythm and several others.
Pining was co-founded by Onondago senior Ty Bugbee and December 2017 graduate Joshua Stutsman.
The two roommates described their five-piece band as a half and half mixture of musical preferences. Their stage presence mixes jazz, rock-and-roll oldies and indie-folk.
Bugbee said performing at Centennial Nights is like coming home.
"This was one of the first places we were ever invited to play out, so every time we're back its like a bunch of friends coming together," Bugbee said. "We've been able to watch this event grow and grow along with them as a band.
"It doesn’t matter what they’re creating, they just want a platform to share that on. I think a lot of events you go to you’re going to hear the same style of music from start to finish and I think that’s just kind of boring in my opinion."
The next Centennial Nights will be held Feb. 23 Guests are encouraged to RSVP on the Centennial Nights: February event page on Facebook.
Each Centennial Night consists of a charity art raffle earning an average of $80 monthly. Money collected in January went to the Sally and John Goodrow Fund, an outreach program in Mount Pleasant aiding residents and families in need of emergency assistance.
Megan Ferguson, a December 2017 graduate, is a regular art vendor for the event and returned to CMU to check up on the program. Ferguson said the event was all about connectivity.
"For me, art was all about connecting with individuals in the community and learning more about the natural resources that we are surrounded by, whether that's the (Chippewa) River or going back to my hometown," the Grand Haven native said.
For Saint Clair Shores sophomore Ashley Bourlier, the Jan. 13 show was her first Centennial Nights.
"I've never been to a show like this before, it's very free spirited and I like how everyone has so much individuality," Bourlier said. "People aren't afraid to be themselves and they're not afraid to just be in the moment."