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In the past few days, no fewer than five close colleagues and friends iterated the importance and value of “hustle”—having the courage, confidence, self-belief and self-determination to go out there and work it out until you find the opportunities you want in life. To put it simply—step up to challenges, put in 110 percent, take the lead, accomplish what you most desire.

And “hustle” is now my go-to word, for all of us immersed in the arts sector, for being proactive in building the kind of community or neighborhood that we want to live and work in. If not us, than who?

But how? How do we get more involved in our community? How do we creatively make our place one that we love and take pride in?

Too often, we are reactive to our surroundings and “wait for the phone to ring.” I hear of artistic and creative projects every single day that would change the entire character of our place, yet too often, they are never implemented. Great ideas, visionary ideas in fact, but more often than not…there is no follow through, and the dreams that once were, remain only that…dreams. 

My advice? Start small—do something in your own neighborhood, in your yard, on a street corner. To get what you want, start from where you are, and with what you have. Take for example, the Arts Council’s small incredible edible garden, planted by our own communications and events manager, Dawn Gorman, in the flower box outside of our office—feel free to pick, as it is there for you if you need an herb or two. Or the small painted rocks with flowers, animals or just plain abstract art, that just show up in unexpected nooks and crannies outside of the shops in Old Town Lansing. These small acts can be catalytic and lead to bigger partnerships and projects. Start out with small successes…I promise they will lead to bigger ones.

But then the question becomes, how do we as artists and creatives get more involved in the community? My advice? Get out there and talk to each other, reach into other sectors, build partnerships and understand what other people care about. While most of you who are reading this are involved through the arts, what happens when we participate in things that aren’t arts related—like community meetings; politics; volunteering for other nonprofits or at our children’s schools; etc. This is the intersection where we can use our creativity to help identify and find solutions to community challenges.

People who hustle, aren’t above any task. They roll up their sleeves to get done whatever needs to get done. Take our friend and artist member, Andrew Sandstedt. He has ambitious goals and a big vision. He understands that he can’t succeed if he doesn’t go for it. Have you been to the Cedar Street Art Collective? If you have, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, you should! He knew a good thing when he saw it, built strong relationships and partnerships and knows that there is no reason to hold back. He is going to make things happen even in light of sometimes not knowing how to get there—he operates with the general principle that actions breed results. So proud of his endless inspiration and drive!

So artist friends…when you love something, do something! Step up, make contact, build, create, just do it—small or large! Show up each and every day, make every minute count and be fully engaged. Use your creativity to make the world a better place. Hustle! The community won’t know what hit them!

Deborah E. Mikula
Arts Council of Greater Lansing, Executive Director