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Painted public pianos provide "Keys in the Cities" to passersby

Everyone loves the piano.
 
Larry Grudt wants to share that love by bringing painted pianos to public spaces.
 
Beginning May 30, about a dozen artfully-painted pianos will premiere in outdoor spaces around East Lansing and Lansing through "Keys in the Cities"—a program spearheaded by Grudt and a committee of five. The outdoor pianos, Grudt says, are for anyone who wants to pull up the bench and play, and are intended to create an engaging street atmosphere for passersby.
 
"Pianos are a strong draw for people," says Grudt. "And painted pianos are so inviting. No one who sees one ever questions if they're good enough. They just sit down and play."
 
"Keys in the Cities" will feature uprights and spinets painted by local artists and community groups in outdoor locations from May through Halloween. Grudt says artists have brought a diverse array of colorful works to their "canvases," with many reflecting landmarks in Lansing and East Lansing.
 
Grudt got the idea for "Keys in the Cities" from a similar program in Fort Collins, Colo. Posts of painted pianos he had seen online and at ArtPrize also captured his imagination.
 
Two Men and a Truck donated moving services for all pianos, and will store the pianos over the winter months. Grudt says the average life expectancy of the outdoor pianos is one to three years, with artwork weathering before the instrument.
 
All pianos are sourced from private donations, while sponsors and individual donations cover artist stipends, liability insurance, paint and materials, and tarps for pianos and benches. The estimated cost for the program's inaugural year is around $15,000. Contributions are welcome the current and upcoming years.
 
"For me, the program is about what it does for individuals and people passing by," Grudt says. "When you see a piano, it affects how you perceive a location. You don't even have to hear the music to feel a deeper relationship with your community."
 
Lansing piano installations include the Lansing Art Gallery by Brendan Romero Martin, Midtown Brewing Co. by Elisa Schmidt, REO Town by Marissa Thaler, REO Town Pub by Alison Alfredson, South Lansing by Broad Art Museum and Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Community Development Association and Farmers Market, Turner Mini Park by Debbie Fehrenbach, and Sparrow Hospital by Tiffany Klein. Pianos in East Lansing include the "no name park" at Abbot and Albert by Broad Art Museum and Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Fountain Plaza by Jennifer Medler, the Bailey Street Plaza 500 block by Joy Schroeder, and the Wharton Center by Liz Wylegala.
 
Grudt says the group is also seeking funds for piano installations at the Old Town General Store and the Lansing Mall.
 
Source: Larry Grudt, Program Director, Keys in the Cities
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Three communities receive public art grants for placemaking vision

Lansing will do a mural on the side of a building overlooking the Nuthouse restaurant. Grand Ledge will do a sculpture on the river and in view of the city's opera house. St. Johns will make a new sculpture part of the city's upcoming Splash Park.
 
They're all new works of art that are joining the growing roster of public art pieces popping up around Greater Lansing. And they're funded through $10,000 grants awarded through the Lansing Economic Area Partnership's Public Art for Communities program. All three should be finished by November.
 
"We're hoping we continue to see new communities come to the table for these grants in future years," says Sara Parkinson, director of talent and communications for LEAP. "We're ready to help any community create a public art program to help recruit the world class talent the Lansing region deserves."
 
Since it's inception in 2012, the LEAP program has awarded 11 grants to mid-Michigan communities. Past recipients include the cities of Mason, East Lansing, St. Johns and DeWitt, as well as the townships of Meridian, DeWitt, Delhi and Delta. St. Johns is the first community to receive a second grant for public art.
 
Parkinson emphasized that LEAP invests in public art since a vibrant arts and cultural atmosphere can elevate Lansing's ability to attract and retain talent. She says that the grants have become exceptionally competitive, which further shows the region considers "sense of place" or placemaking a priority.
 
"We want to reward communities that include the arts in their strategic planning," says Parkinson. "Each day, LEAP works to attract and support companies that are looking to thrive in the Lansing area. Attracting the best talent to these companies is a huge piece of the puzzle."
 
By year's end, the total roster of public art funded through LEAP's Public Art for Communities Grant Program will include 16 pieces of public art, six bike racks, and one mural. PNC also contributed $10,000 to the yearly program.
 
Source: Sara Parkinson, Director of Talent and Communications, LEAP
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Sparrow earns special designation in patient-centered maternity care

Sparrow recently achieved a national benchmark in quality care by being certified "baby-friendly" by the World Health Organization and the United Nation's Children's Fund.
 
Certification as a Baby Friendly Hospital means Sparrow demonstrates excellence in providing evidenced-based, patient-centered maternity care that promotes mother-baby bonding and best practices in infant feeding. Sparrow is one of only six hospitals in Michigan and 245 in the nation that hold the Baby-Friendly designation.
 
"I hear daily from our patients how much they like the approach," says Kathy Marble, director of women and children at Sparrow. "It's the voice of the customers saying 'you're doing it, and we're appreciating it.'"
 
The term "baby friendly," Marble says, simply refers to providing care considered best for mother and babies. Examples include immediate skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby after birth, and keeping mother and baby together through the entirety of their hospital stay. When possible, all exams are done in-room, with physicians and nurses doing everything bedside with mother and baby together.
 
Sparrow delivers 4,500 babies each year, and has a 43-bed maternity area at the main hospital near downtown Lansing. All physicians, residents and nursing staff received extensive training in baby-friendly practices. About 100 nurses and 25 physicians currently work in labor and delivery and OB special care areas.
 
Marble added that the overall goal of the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative is improved health outcomes for mothers and babies, and in turn, the greater community.
 
"If you look at Sparrow's mission you see that we want to take care of people in our community," says Marble. "The baby friendly designation and way of doing things makes a difference in the lives of every baby born in our community, now and into the future."
 
Sources: Kathy Marble, MSN, RNC-NIC, Director Women and Children, Sparrow
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
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Fourteen nonprofits receive funding to promote cultural tourism

 
Part of that tax your friends and relatives pay when staying in a hotel or motel in Ingham County will go to encourage more friends and relatives to take in the area's arts and culture thanks to recent grants awarded to more than a dozen nonprofit organizations.
 
The Ingham County Hotel/Motel Funds for the Arts and Tourism awarded funding totaling $103,741.05 to 14 arts and cultural organizations to support the production of publicity and promotional materials used to attract out-of-town visitors. Awarded in mid-April, the total grant for 2015 was divided among the recipients and is administered by the Arts Council of Greater Lansing.
 
"We're proud to be handling the grant on behalf of the county," says Josh Holliday, program manager of the Arts Council of Greater Lansing. "We're happy to see the continued investment in a program that supports organizations who bring people into our community."
 
The Williamston Theatre was among the 2015 grant recipients, and will use the funds to expand their presence on NPR affiliates in surrounding counties.
 
"We're so grateful for the opportunity to be able to expand our presence on the radio," says Emily Sutton-Smith, development director for the Williamston Theatre. "A grant like this makes it possible for a small organization to do something that we wouldn't ordinarily be able to do. It makes a big difference for our marketing programs."
 
Sutton-Smith says that about 40 percent of people attending a show at the theatre come from outside of Williamston or Ingham County. That percent, she says, represents what marketers and developers refer to as "cultural tourism"—or people who travel to a destination for activities related to the visual or performing arts.
 
"Those individuals not only buy a matinee or evening ticket from us, but then they go on and spend money at a restaurant, hotel or retailer," says Sutton-Smith. "So by virtue of what we do, we draw in people who then benefit another business, too."
 
The Ingham County Hotel/Motel Funds for Arts and Tourism grants are supported by five percent of Ingham County hotel/motel revenues, and were established by a resolution by the Ingham County Board of Commissions about 20 years ago. Recipients of the 2015 grant are the Capital City Film Festival, Community Circle Players (Riverwalk Theatre), Downtown Lansing, Inc., East Lansing Art Festival, Happendance Inc., Impression 5 Science Center, Lansing Symphony Orchestra, Michigan Institute for Contemporary Art, MSU Community Music School, MSU Museum, Old Town Commercial Association, Summer Solstice Jazz Festival, Wharton Center for Performing Arts and Williamston Theatre.

Sources: Emily Sutton-Smith, Development Director, Williamston Theatre
Joshua Holliday, Program Manager, Arts Council of Greater Lansing
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Crowdfunding underway for downtown soccer field

Crowds will be gathering on a new public soccer field in downtown Lansing if a crowdfunding campaign reaches its goal.
 
The campaign to fund development of a new field launched Friday, April 24, at the opening game of the Lansing United Soccer Team. The $60,000 fundraising campaign through the crowdfunding site Patronicity had been previously announced in mid-April by Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero and business and community leaders.
 
The $200,000 Beacon Field is envisioned for the southeast corner of Ferris Park. Plans call for a 60- by 120-foot synthetic turf field enclosed by a kick-board, as well as solar lighting for extended play into the evening.
 
The Capital Area Soccer League says about 5,000 kids in the Lansing area currently play youth soccer. No reservations will be required to use the neighborhood field that will be available to anyone regardless of their connection to an organized team or league.
 
Beacon Field organizers also plan to apply for a Public Spaces Community Grant through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. The grant provides 1:1 matching funds if organizers can meet the $60,000 goal within one month. The city of Lansing would then contribute $80,000 toward the project to complete the funding.
 
The vision for Beacon Field rose from a public-private team that includes the city of Lansing, Wieland Davco, the Capital Area Soccer League, Traction and Truscott Rossman. Emergent Biosolutions donated $10,000 and Jackson National Life $20,000 in financial sponsorship.
 
Beacon  Field is modeled after mini soccer fields built in South Africa for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The fields were created as safe gathering places for youth in urban neighborhoods.
 
"Soccer is a global sport that bridges communities," said Bernero in a statement. "With the community's support, this field, located in the heart of downtown Lansing, will be a place where people from all backgrounds can come play a sport they love."
 
Supporters of Beacon Field can contribute via credit card toward the $60,000 goal by visiting www.patronicity.com. Contributions via check can be mailed to the Capital Area Soccer League at 1427 W. Saginaw, Suite 175, East Lansing, MI 48823.
 
Sources: Josh Hovey, Vice President, Truscott Rossman
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
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Capital City Comic Con to debut at Haslett High School

Dennis Louney drove to Grand Rapids with his son and came back with an idea for Lansing.
 
It was a dream, he says, he'd had for some time. And after seeing the thousands of people spilling out the doors at a comic convention, he knew the timing was right to bring a similar event back home.
 
Now, after eight months of planning, Louney and a group of like-minded professionals will unleash what promises to be a super-powered extravaganza. The first Capital City Comic Con—affectionately known as C4—will take place May 2-3 at Haslett High School. The convention will sprawl from the north end of the school, throughout two gymnasiums, a 700-seat performing arts center, dressing rooms, expansive hallways and cafeteria space.
 
"We knew we could build this," says Louney. "The most important thing now is to get people to come."
 
Louney and other members of the "Phantom Five" have planned an event based on people's love of comics, games, movies and television. Between 2,000-3,000 people are expected to attend the two-day event that will feature a variety of multi-media exhibitors and vendors of comic books, card and board games, action figures, merchandise, videos, apparel and more. Attendees can also participate in or observe costume and cosplay competitions, performance art, improvisational and interactive cosplay, panel discussions, and gaming tournaments.
 
"Our goal is to open things up to a wider audience," says Louney. "We've worked to make it family friendly and fun."
 
The convention will feature special guests, graphic artists and writers—both from the national and local arenas. Among the scheduled guests are Michigan novelist and screenwriter Rick Chambers, and actor Mark Boyd from Twelve Monkeys. 
 
"This is just a great way to bring people together," says Louney. "Lots of people follow sci-fi, read graphic novels or play online or board games. With all the high-tech coming to Lansing, it promises to be an event that will appeal to a lot of people."
 
Organizers of the inaugural Capital City Comic Con include Phantom Five members Christina DeJong, James Curtis, Malinda Barr, Randy Chapel and Dennis Louney. For a schedule of events and a list of participating vendors, artists and organizations, visit the website here or follow on Facebook.
 
Sources: Dennis Louney, Co-Founder, Capital City Comic Con
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Stadium renovation features options for the multi-faceted fan

When the lights shone on the $13.5 million renovation to Cooley Law School Stadium on opening day, spectators saw there was more on deck than simply baseball.
 
With an updated concourse, picnic and play areas, and new top-of-the-line food venues, take-me-out-to-the-ballgame has grown to be more than a sporting experience restricted to the stands. And come mid-season, a special events venue will be available at the home of the Lansing Lugnuts for organizers of everything from corporate meetings to wedding receptions.
 
"We're very excited to present all these options for people who live here," says Linda Frederickson, assistant general manager of marketing and special events for the Lugnuts. "The stadium is a great place."
 
Among the newest concourse options energizing America's favorite pastime are the expanded Tailgate Terrace picnic area in right field. Groups, too, can enjoy an all-you-can-eat buffet for $30 through the new Pepsi Porch. Originally the Bullpen Bar and Grill near the third-base line, the venue was expanded from 40 to 150 seats. Any open seats not taken by a group will go on sale to individuals one week before the game.
 
Then, come June, the stadium will unveil The View—a spacious alternative to typical meeting and event spaces. Overlooking centerfield, The View features luxurious indoor seating for 150 guests, with additional room provided on an outdoor patio.
 
The View will be open year-round for meetings and special events, and available for private groups on game days. Meeting planning packages are available, with food options that include catering and the standard menu. The gourmet burger bistro Good Hops also relocated from the main concourse to offer patrons at The View additional choices.
 
Room set up, conferencing systems and other meeting amenities are available based on customer needs. And while a unique setting for corporate meetings, The View can also be set up for birthday parties, anniversaries and family-related events. 
 
"It's one of the most distinctive meeting space in the region," says Frederickson. "It provides a beautiful view for any kind of event—hence the name."
 
While renovation is nearly complete for the main stadium, construction recently began on The Outfield, one of the country's first upscale residential units at a professional minor league ball field. The new development by the Gillespie Group will rise above right center field, and will feature more than 80 residential units. The public-private development is slated for completion in spring 2016.

Sources: Linda Frederickson, Assistant General Manager of Marketing and Special Events, Lansing Lugnuts
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Rough Draft Solutions provides strategic writing and editing for small businesses

Amanda Washburn understands what a blank screen is all about. She's a writer.
 
Armed with that core knowledge, Washburn decided she would help others fill the void and fine-tune what they had started. So in January 2014, she filled her virtual red pens and sharpened her cyber pencils and set in motion a business that provides strategic writing, editing and marketing solutions for small businesses.
 
Rough Draft Solutions works with clients to identify objectives, create content strategies and take customer relationships to the next level. Washburn says she can jump in to craft messaging, tweak and organize concepts, and get points across through the most cost-effective and efficient communication channel. Whatever stage a company is at with a project—be it a blank slate or communications in process—she's there to help.
 
"I realized that many small or local businesses don't have anyone doing marketing for them," says Washburn. "So while they may be doing great things and making great products, no one really know about the value of what they're providing."
 
Rough Draft Solutions has worked with about 25 clients including engineering firms, insurance agents, financial advisers, web and graphic designers, health care organizations and city administrators. In each instance, Washburn sits down to tailor solutions through a content-marketing toolbox that includes blog and web posts, newsletters, press releases, social media, and internal communications.
 
Washburn breaks her services into three key phases: strategizing, creating and polishing. She says she firmly believes that there is no one-size-fits-all marketing tactic or plan, and adds that she can jump in at any point of the process.
 
"We're specialists in helping businesses communicate in authentic and engaging ways," says Washburn. "Anything that has to do with writing, we'll do it."
 
While currently a one-person shop, Washburn plans to take Rough Draft Solutions to the next level. She's currently looking to hire interns over the summer and to build a for-credit internship program.
 
Sources: Amanda Washburn, Rough Draft Solutions
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Prima Civitas and MEDC join forces to boost Michigan's economy

Prima Civitas and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation have formalized their longstanding working relationship through a cooperative agreement aimed at promoting economic development throughout Michigan.
 
Signed earlier this spring, the agreement sets the stage for broader collaboration on ongoing projects or those in the works.
 
"We felt it was important to formalize our relationship and work to continue to improve Michigan's economy," says Arnold Weinfeld, CEO and board chair of Prima Civitas. "The more formal relationship will allow us to expand our services across the state and work with more partners involved in the same type of work."
 
The two organizations will continue to collaborate on worker recruitment and training, as well as projects that support businesses in creating and retaining jobs. Other key efforts will encourage the export of Michigan products and services, and foster private sector involvement and support for the state's economic development.
 
Prima Civitas and MEDC are currently coordinating the Michigan Supply Chain Innovation Summit slated for this August. The conference provides a forum for thought leaders to explore innovative business solutions within the supply chain, and to showcase Michigan's logistical assets and resources.
 
Other ongoing collaborations include rebuilding the cut and sew industry; assisting, retraining, and securing employment for displaced professionals; and building and maintaining a statewide internship initiative.
 
Prima Civitas is a nonprofit community and economic development organization supported by Michigan State University, the C.S. Mott Foundation, and other partners. The organization promotes collaborative relationships across government agencies, nonprofits, and the private sector to promote the state's economic growth.
 
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation is the state's marketing arm and lead advocate for business development, talent and jobs, tourism, film and digital media incentives, arts and cultural grants, and overall economic growth. The MEDC offers a number of business assistance services and capital programs for business attraction and acceleration, entrepreneurship, strategic partnerships, talent enhancement, and urban and community development.
 
Sources: Arnold Weinfeld, CEO and Board Chair, Prima Civitas
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Sparrow, Volunteers of America applaud first year of practice, add dental care

The Sparrow Medical Group Volunteers of America practice recently marked its first anniversary of providing care to the area's homeless.
 
Since March 2014, the innovative practice has logged more than 3,100 patient visits and helped individuals regain control of their health. Many of the patients are physically disabled, suffer from mental illness, and unable to access government health benefits to which they are entitled.
 
Located onsite at the VOAMI, 430 N. Larch St., the clinic is believed to be the first practice in Michigan based in a homeless service center.
 
"This is a common sense and compassionate option that makes our community better," says Darin Estep, director of community engagement for the VOA. "When people are feeling better and are healthier, they are better equipped to work on other things in their lives."
 
Estep says that fragile health is the main reason many people end up homeless. Before the clinic, the majority of homeless would tolerate a medical condition until it became an emergency. An ambulance or 911 was often their only option.
 
The clinic operates five days a week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and consists of six exam rooms, a lab and a room for doing simple procedures like stitches. Financial assistants are also onsite to assist with applications to health insurance and Sparrow's financial aid program.
 
"It looks like any other Sparrow medical practice and is beautifully appointed," says Estep. "It's a measure of respect that our clients can sit on a nice exam table and be treated like you or I would if we went to see a doctor."
 
Plans are underway to build and open a four-chair dental clinic next door to the practice in partnership with Delta Dental. Sparrow is among the groups helping to plan the clinic.
 
"Dental care is a huge part of health care and is sorely lacking among the homeless," says Estep. "The clinic is all part of our interdisciplinary approach."
 
The VOA also opened a legal clinic in December that advocates for the homeless and walks them through the disability process when appropriate. Part of that process, Estep says, involves securing medical confirmation of their disability, often through the in-house clinic.
 
"With the addition of a dental and law clinic, we have a full spectrum of options," says Estep "Our interdisciplinary team can now look at the most urgent homeless cases in the community and determine what may be keeping them from recovery."
 
Sources: Darin Estep, Director of Community Engagement, Volunteers of America Michigan
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

New academy for high schoolers peaks interest in insurance careers

High school students in Ingham County can prepare for careers in the growing insurance industry and earn college credit through a new one-year program unveiled by the Ingham Intermediate School District, Lansing School District, Accident Fund Insurance of America, and the Insuring MI Future Coalition.
 
Available to high school juniors and seniors, the Insurance Leadership Academy provides students the chance to learn about the insurance industry by attending classes three days a week at the Capital Area Career Center or Lansing Eastern High School. Students will also spend two days a week at Accident Fund Insurance where they will job shadow, participate in presentations, and learn job skills.
 
"The insurance industry is facing a future crisis since nearly 40 percent of our workforce in Michigan is 55 or older," says Lori Conartan, communications director for the Insurance Institute of Michigan. "We see a big need to attract young people to our industry."
 
One of the bigger challenges in building that future workforce, Conartan says, is changing the perception of insurance careers as boring or "last resort."
 
"But when they're able to look at it closer, they see the challenges and opportunities," says Conartan. "Jobs in insurance are rewarding because you're helping people. There are a wide variety of jobs, too, likes sales, accounting, IT and marketing."
 
Attorneys, fraud investigators and web masters also find employment within the industry. Mid-Michigan boasts about 6,800 jobs in insurance, as well as a 17 percent job growth in Eaton, Clinton and Ingham counties from 2010 to 2014. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 7.4 percent growth for insurance-related jobs in Greater Lansing from 2010 to 2020, while Michigan Labor Market Information reports an average annual wage of $55,000 for the tri-country area.
 
Conartan says the new Insurance Leadership Academy is a win all the way around.
 
"It's a win for students who are exposed to a great career," she says. "It's a win for the industry since students at a younger age are getting to know about careers in insurance. And it's a win for parents since the program provides nine free credits toward college."
 
The program is modeled after an Eaton County collaboration between Eaton RESA and Farm Bureau insurance. The Insuring MI Future Coalition members are the Insurance Institute of Michigan, Michigan Association of Insurance Agents, Michigan Association of Health Plans, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Life Insurance Association of Michigan, and Department of Insurance and Financial Services.
 
Sources: Lori Conarton, Communications Director, Insurance Institute of America
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Life as a Zebra supports groundbreaking research at University of Toledo Medical Center

The Life as a Zebra Foundation is adding some different stripes to their ways of raising funds, increasing awareness and advocating for the prevention, treatment and research of hard-to-diagnose invisible illnesses.
 
In April, LAAZF will welcome world-recognized expert Dr. Blair Grubb and his associates from the University of Toledo Medical Center as speakers and special guests at the 4th Annual Benefit Concert for Invisible Awareness and Research. Grubb's visit, says co-founder Katie Dama Jaskolski, represents a new partnership that supports the medical center's groundbreaking research into postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome—or POTS.
 
"This research project has the potential to improve the lives of so many who suffer from the often debilitating and life-altering disease," says Jaskolski. "It's a dream come true to have the chance to work with Dr. Grubb in order to make a difference in the lives of so many."
 
Jaskolski says that most of the proceeds from this year's gala will be allocated to Grubb's research only—a departure from previous LAAZF galas that supported multiple foundations. Anything beyond the targeted goal of $10,000 will be applied toward funding general operations for LAAZF—a non-profit supported by volunteers and charitable donations.
 
Grubb is considered a leader in the discovery and use of new approaches for the treatment of POTS—a debilitating disease that causes dizziness, sudden fainting, and an inability to carry on the basic functions of daily life. In 2015, Grubb was named one of the America's Top Doctors by Castle Connolly.
 
Jaskolski and her sister Allie Dama founded the Life as a Zebra Foundation in 2012. Each had lived with debilitating symptoms while searching for correct medical diagnoses. Dama Jaskolski has been diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and POTS, while Dama was diagnosed with polyarteritis nodosa vasculitis.
 
The 4th annual gala will be held April 11 from 6-11 p.m. at the MSU Kellogg Center. The evening includes cocktails, appetizers, a silent auction, presentations and headliner acts including pop/Americana artist Noah Guthrie from Glee and Boston-based singer-songwriter Chris Trapper of the band The Push Stars. For tickets or more information, click here.  
 
Sources: Katie Dama Jaskolski, Co-founder, Life as a Zebra Foundation
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
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Alchemy Detroit brings timeless tailoring to The Runway

Shelley Van Riper spent years looking for the perfect blazer. Now she's bringing her finds to The Runway.
 
As the owner and founder of Alchemy Detroit, Van Riper was invited to hang her entire collection at The Runway starting this spring. Her line of classic and professional chic includes blazers, scarves and tees—all designed for women with an eye for timeless tailoring.
 
"I have people from age 20 to 65 wearing my pieces," says the Detroit-based designer. "It's classic, and timeless and versatile, and for the professional career woman, stay-at-home mom or the matriarch."
 
Van Riper spent 20 years building a career in the corporate world before leaving to found her women's wear label. Alchemy Detroit, she says, draws inspiration from men's wear with sophisticated, subtle touches that provide feminine appeal.
 
"I wore suits to work every day before corporate casual," says Van Riper. "Even then, I would wear a blazer even if it was with jeans."
 
Van Riper says she struggled with finding simple, classic pieces with clean lines and timeless quality. Sometimes, she says, she even went to men's departments at high-end stores to have them tailor a suit with the same details and craftsmanship she saw in men's suits.
 
While Van Riper eventually found a way to dress for success, she found herself constantly yearning to return to the creative discipline she had first pursued in college: fashion design.
 
"Fashion design never left me," says Van Riper who had switched her major and chose a business track. "It was my core."
 
Last year, Van Riper resigned from her desk job and put together the elements she needed to launch Alchemy Detroit. She devised a business plan, traveled to the garment district in New York, and made the connections she needed to create patterns, source materials, and tailor and produce her first products.
 
Van Riper says working with Lansing's Runway will enable her to make similar connections in Michigan, and provides a creative environment where she can mix with other fashion designers.
 
"I'm really honored to be hanging there with other Michigan designers," says Van Riper. "The Runway is a really exciting opportunity to bring people together to share resources, information and ideas."
 
Sources: Shelley Van Riper, Owner, Alchemy Detroit
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Inaugural leadership program looks to attract and retain Lansing talent

A new leadership initiative through the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce will help the Greater Lansing region identify, develop and retain the next generation of community leaders.
 
Leadership Lansing will offer both established and emerging leaders the opportunity to receive extensive training in leadership skills as well as to gain a greater understanding of how community institutions shape the region's quality of life.
 
The eight-month initiative begins in October 2015 and is currently enrolling up to 30 participants for the inaugural year.
 
"We really wish to encourage a wide range of participation that is reflective of our diverse economy in Greater Lansing," says Kristin Beltzer, LRCC executive vice president and chief marketing officer. "Leadership Lansing offers terrific opportunity for large and small businesses to develop their talent."
 
Participants will engage in seven workshops over the course of the program. An overnight retreat will acquaint them with key institutions, industry sectors and business leaders that make up the fabric of the Greater Lansing region. Workshop themes include leadership influence, education, healthcare, home-grown entrepreneurship, engagement and quality of life, and creating a vision for the future. Training on specific leadership skills will be part of each workshop.
 
Certified and credential leadership instructors Ross Woodstock of Kolt Communications and Susan Combs of Susan Combs Coaching and Consulting will facilitate Leadership Lansing. 
 
Combs says the new Lansing program will draw from the best practices of leadership programs across the state, and build an appreciation of the resources that are unique to Greater Lansing—including state government, associations, and Michigan State University.
 
"Our hopes are that participants will walk away with a broader understanding of our community, as well as specific leadership skills that they can put into practice in their organizations," says Combs. "Programs like these help people see the big picture and make connections across sectors."
 
Sources: Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce; Susan Combs, Owner, Susan Combs Coaching and Consulting
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Cuts and Convos provides haircuts and hope to Lansing homeless

When you look good you feel good. Most everyone has heard that. Jonathan Arias took it to heart.
 
In November, Arias founded Cuts and Convos, a Lansing nonprofit that offers beauty and barber services to low-income residents. Arias also provides legal, health and spiritual information to the people he serves—all during or immediately following their hair cut and styling.
 
In just four months, Arias and a cadre of volunteers have cut and styled hair for nearly 70 people through the Lansing City Rescue Mission, Cristo Rey Community Center, Haven House and Homeless Angels. Services are scheduled every-other-week or once a month. On occasion, speakers from local nonprofits or pastors provide the "convos."
 
"Many of the people we meet haven't received any tender loving care in a while," says Arias. "That's the beauty of what we do."
 
Arias says he came up with the idea for Cuts and Convos by combining his passion for justice with his long-time hobby of cutting and styling hair. After discussing the project with classmates and instructors through the MSU College of Law, Arias realized the value his blended service could bring to both individuals and the community.
 
"Sometimes the biggest barrier to employment is not being clean-cut and well-groomed," says Arias. "Our services can help give someone a shot at getting their foot in the door."
 
Arias says his greatest reward is hearing how the services of Cuts and Convos have changed someone's life or perceptions. A high school student, for instance, received compliments instead of taunts after Arias and other volunteers cut and styled her hair. And two men told him how their job interviews had led to employment after Cuts and Convos helped them prep with a shave, hair cut and coaching.
 
"We cut people's hair and we listen to their stories," says Arias. "We feel it gives them hope to know that regardless of where you've been, someone cares about you and wants you to feel good about yourself."
 
Sources: Jonathan Arias, Founder, Cuts and Convos
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
    
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.
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