Concerts coming to Felt Estate with Michigan grant

 High quality art and cultural experiences improve quality of life for residents

By Jim Hayden
The Holland Sentinel

HOLLAND, Mich. (AP) — Area residents have been able to enjoy the view around the Felt Mansion for years. Soon, they’ll be able to enjoy the music as well at the Laketown Township site.

The Friends of the Felt Estate received a $15,750 grant from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs to construct an outdoor stage venue for concerts and other cultural events, said Pat Hoezee Meyer, director of the Friends of the Felt Estate and project manager for Felt Mansion and Estate restoration project.

“The addition of an outdoor stage will enhance our ability to host outdoor concerts and other performances, which will, of course, increase our visibility. When we get more visitors, we increase our revenue, and that allows us to be financially sustainable,” Meyer told The Holland Sentinel.

The new stage is a rehabilitation of an existing foundation adjacent to the carriage house— the two-story structure and barn were built before the mansion itself was constructed. The stage should be complete in the spring and concerts will begin this summer.

It will bring Michigan artists to the area and provide an opportunity for a wide range of concerts and performances in the historic setting of the Felt Estate, Meyer said.

“Whenever we enhance the opportunity for high-quality art and cultural experiences for West Michigan, we improve the quality of life for everyone,” she said. “Art and culture have their own intrinsic rewards, but they also play an important role in shaping a community and providing the sense of place that make Michigan a great place to work, play and visit.”

The grant funding requires a local match.

“We are very fortunate that we have many individual and corporate donors who will assist us in matching those funds,” Meyer said.

State Rep. Bob Genetski, R-Saugatuck, whose district includes Laketown Township, said enhancing arts and culture in West Michigan make the community a better place to work, play and visit.

“The Felt Mansion continues to be an extraordinary place of history, art and culture in West Michigan, and the addition of an outdoor stage will make this an even more important cultural facility in our area,” he said.

The mansion grounds are not new to outdoor music.

In 2009, the Green Food Blue Grass Festival drew thousands to the property for a concert, and in 2010, eight bands including the Guess Who performed there.

The 12,000-square-foot Felt Mansion was completed in 1928 and has 25 rooms. It was built by Dorr E. Felt, the inventor of the Comptometer, an adding machine.

Felt died in 1930 and the family sold the house and property in 1949. Over the next five decades, the mansion was home to the St. Augustine Seminary and when that group expanded to new buildings on the property, the mansion was home to a group of cloistered nuns. In 1978, the state bought the land for a prison and used the mansion as the Michigan State Police headquarters. In 1991, the prison and state police post were closed due to budget cuts.

Laketown Township bought the 44 acres and mansion for $1 in 1996 and the prison buildings were demolished.

Renovations on the mansion itself are complete. It is open for tours and available for rentals for weddings, receptions and other events.

The Felt application was one of 428. The Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs peer review process allows for each grant application to be competitively considered by a panel of in-state and out-of-state arts and culture professionals.