At Experience Live Art, two individuals are bringing the appreciation and education of art to West Michigan residents and students.
Steve Tibbe and Kevin Huver are the two behind the nonprofit. They started the work in 2017.
“Experience Live Art was founded to use the power of the arts to create positive change in our community,” Huver said.
The work the organization does is multi-faceted, starting with the art events that are put on every few months. The ticketed events are affordable — not gala-level prices — and allow attendees to get some food and drinks and watch local artists create their work live.
“We give local artists an opportunity to promote their brand,” Huver said. “And by local artists, we mean everything from culinary to painters, sculptors, musicians, spirits, everything.”
All of the profits go into creating artistic opportunities for local kids. Specifically, Tibbe and Huver call the workshops the Young Artist’s Experience. With all supplies provided, a group of kids are able to learn from a local artist how to create art in a specific medium, then are given an opportunity to make a piece of their own. On a later date, the kids are able to see their work showcased in a local gallery for all of their friends and family to admire.
“You see the process from blank canvas to on the wall, and stand next to your piece and see people look at it,” Huver said. “Through that, they’re learning what start-to-finish work looks like.”
Outreach for the events is done through Facebook, sharing the Eventbrite link and word of mouth, as well as partnerships with the West Side Collaborative and Grand Rapids Public Schools, which means more children have been able to participate than just those that Huver and Tibbe could reach on their own.
When the two founders met in March 2017, Tibbe was going through a career transition.
“In high school I was told, ‘You have to pick a career, a profession, what you want to go to college for.’ I was 15,” he said. “I went 12 years in the medical field, and I was just lost, floundering, didn’t feel fulfilled.”
Tibbe happened to be attending a wedding that his girlfriend was in, where Huver was the photographer. Tibbe was inspired to see someone fulfilling their creative passions and talent as a career. It was there that they became friends, and later when Huver pitched the idea for ELA, Tibbe quickly agreed and they got to work, hosting their first event just months later.
“With funding getting cut from the arts programs and people pushing kids into something … you don’t allow them to find their passion,” Tibbe said. “I had a great job and I was able to help people, but I know I don’t want to do that for the rest of my life.”
The two have now made it their mission to bring more arts to the community ifor people of all ages.
“For the people, the public, to connect with the artists, we feel like that’s a bridge that we want to be able to cross over and allow people to talk to a painter and talk about their process and what makes them do what they do,” Huver said.
By paying every artist for their contribution, Huver and Tibbe hope to empower as many local artists as they can and strengthen the community even more.
“We try to have multiple artists from multiple mediums,” Tibbe said. “Our first event had five painters that didn’t know each other and a few of them since have collaborated, became friends. So we’re also trying to build a community, a sense of belonging within the artistic community.”
As they partner with more organizations and raise more funds, ELA also hopes to provide kids with take-home art kits after the workshops.
“I really align with trying to give kids the opportunity to express themselves in a healthy way,” Tibbe said.
To learn more about Experience Live Art, visit the experienceliveart.com or the groups facebook page.