Red Lotus celebrates fairies, wizards, fantasy. . . and new beginnings

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by Donna Schillaci

Under the leadership of new director Heidi Stukkie, the Red Lotus Center for the Arts is growing its presence in downtown Muskegon with expanded art exhibits, theatrical and musical performances, and community cultural events. And according to Stukkie, last week’s “A Night of Fairies, Wizards, and Tragedy” was the first of many to come.

Formerly the Muskegon Center for the Arts/Red Lotus Gallery, the center was founded in 2012 to support and facilitate the arts and arts-related events in Muskegon. For the past few years, the gallery has been located in the lower level of the historic Century Club building, 356 W. Western Ave.

Stukkie, who moved here three years ago from Grand Rapids, was a longtime Red Lotus member and friend of founder Michael Schaafsma. Last December, when Schaafsma was considering closing the gallery, she decided to go into partnership with him, and with her background in marketing, she looked for ways to expand the center’s membership and increase art sales. She has seen success with both, increasing the number of members four-fold in her first six months, while bringing in more gallery visitors and higher sales.

The Celtic-themed “A Night of Fairies, Wizards, and Tragedy” featured the work of many local poets and writers, including readings by Kwame Kamau James, Hana G. Sawyer, Bill Jacobks, Martha Colburn, and Schaafsma. Jacobks and Colburn also presented a short play written by Jacobks about Padraig Pearse and the Dublin Rising of 1916.

In keeping with the night’s theme, local author J. Michael McFadden took the stage in full wizard regalia to read an excerpt from his young adult fantasy novel, Deidre’s Dawn. (This book and its author were recently profiled in the 2/14/18 issue of the Examiner.) The second novel of McFadden’s “Enchantment” series, Rising Darkness, continuing the mystical saga of Deidre, was published last month and is available through Amazon.

Stukkie hopes to bring more varied theatrical and live music events to Red Lotus in the near future, in addition to the monthly open mic nights, as well as panel discussions like last Sunday’s “What is good art and who decides?”. She’s also looking at the possibility of renting out the space for community or family events.

In her effort to promote the gallery and increase sales, Stukkie has made several improvements in gallery operations over the last six months, including implementation of a review process by a six-person panel for all local art that’s submitted for exhibition, and staffing the gallery so someone is there during all hours of operation (Tuesday and Sunday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Wednesday through Friday 10 a.m.-6 p.m.) She has also become involved with the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Muskegon, and plans to hold special events to tie in with the cruise ship visits this summer.

Last week’s event preceded the opening of Red Lotus’s current exhibit running through June 9, “Realms of Fantasy.” A Fine Arts Photography Show will follow, from June 11 through July 14. Submissions for this exhibit are being sought from the community, and more information can be obtained at the gallery or by calling 231-981-8525.