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Passport program goes paperless

April 27, 2011
By DIANE SPEER - Lifestyles Editor , The Alpena News

Now entering its third year, the successful Passport to the Arts program is changing.

The intent remains the same to market Northeast Michigan as a hub of arts and cultural activities but the program is going paperless.

Under the new concept, participating organizations are invited to enter electronically as many events as they want on the official Passport to the Arts website, The public also will have access to the website, where they will be able to check out a master list of events taking place throughout the region.

Instead of picking up a professionally printed booklet of summer-long events, people now will download their own passport straight from the site. Just as in years past, they will use the passport to collect stamps at the various events they attend, turn in their completed passport at the end of the summer season and become eligible to win a grand prize.

"Everything today is websites and Internet so you have to change, plus there was the cost of printing and logistics of printing," said Mary Ellen Jones, president of Michigan Arts and Culture Northeast, the organization that developed the passport concept. "We wanted to focus on other ways to market all the great arts and cultural events taking place. It really was our goal to have a website for all things arts and cultural up and down the region."

While the passport will run from Memorial Day to Labor Day as in years past, the website itself will be a 12-month calendar of activities that people can look at any time of year.

"This new format allows for a continuous update of the calendar that maximizes efficiency all the way around," said Tim Kuehnlein, a MACNE board member. "Our partners can add events year-round. It's a 12-month calendar. Before it was limited to three months in the summer. There also will be the editing function which will allow for changes in events and provide much more accuracy."

In anticipation of the changes, all of the participating organizations from 2009 and 2010 have been invited to a meeting Thursday from 5-8:30 p.m. at the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. MACNE representatives will be on hand to register partners, explain the new paperless program and train participants on how to use the website to upload their activities.

"We encourage our partners from the last two years to participate and attend the meeting on Thursday," Kuehnlein said.

Kuehnlein also said that besides encouraging past participants to come, a number of other businesses and organizations identified as being closely connected to arts and culture also have been invited to the meeting.

Another change this year to the overall program is that a gala kick-off event will not be held prior to the start of the passport season. The last two years a progressive party highlighted by the work of visual and performing artists as well as gourmet food and beverages signaled the start of the summer program.

"The thinking behind the idea was to not do the same thing year after year," Kuehnlein said. "Also, we are putting our energies into getting the website going."

The Passport to the Arts program first began in 2009, under the umbrella of four key organizations: Thunder Bay Arts Council, Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan, Art in the Loft and Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The program has since received the support of the Michigan Municipal League, Alpena County Library and NEMCOG.

Those attending Thursday's meeting have been asked to RSVP at the website.

"We encourage everyone to come to Thursday's meeting and learn how to use this amazing tool that still makes it exciting for the public," Jones said.



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