Arts Night Out: Stimulating Greater Lansing’s Economy

Launched in May 2016, Arts Night Out, the new monthly event hosted by the Arts Council of Greater Lansing, is essentially a community takeover where boutiques, bicycle shops, baby stores, design studios and coffee shops become mini art galleries, featuring art and artists from across the greater Lansing area on the first Friday of each month. The event takes place in one of four communities: Old Town (every other month), REO Town, downtown Lansing and East Lansing.

Arts Night Out showcases artists of all mediums, giving the community an outlet to learn and engage with the arts community in the area, which is a huge asset to a growing, diverse city like Lansing. Aside from it’s educational (and social) implications, Arts Night Out has stimulated greater Lansing’s economic development by giving people a reason to be out and about “after hours.”


Debbie Mikula, executive director of the Arts Council of Greater Lansing, noted that when the initial event was held in Old Town in May, it was difficult to get businesses to stay open from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

“One challenge that we face is that many boutiques, shops and even restaurants close early in the afternoon,” said Mikula. “I think the culture is starting to change over a little bit to having more of a night life, but initially it was hard.”

Once the first event took off, no one questioned whether the event would benefit the businesses who participated. More than 2,000 people attended the first event in Old Town and many businesses saw a direct impact from just the one event.

Mikula said that Ciesa Design, a design studio located at 200 East Grand River Ave., received five new clients from the first one-night event in May. Other participating businesses like SPIN Bicycle Shop and Polka Dots Boutique said that they not only enjoyed the event, but benefitted from it as well.


“There was a lot more foot traffic that wouldn’t have been here on a typical Friday evening,” said Jennifer Hinze, owner of Polka Dots Boutique. Hinze said that many of the visitors she had in her shop didn’t know much about Old Town prior to the event and many seemed impressed and excited about what’s going on in the community.

“I don’t think that some businesses realized what a great turnout it would be,”
she noted.

Chad Cottom, owner of SPIN Bicycle Shop at 206 E. Grand River Ave., agreed.

“I was blown away with how successful it was,” he said. “We had a painter and a sculpture artist who used our space and it was so cool.”

According to the Arts Council, the non-profit sector has an annual economic impact of $73 million on Lansing’s local economy. The arts scene supports 750 direct full-time jobs and impacts more than 1,700 jobs. Michelle Rahl, director of Business Development for the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce confirmed that the arts play a vital role in Lansing’s economy.


“The Greater Lansing region’s art scene is dynamic and impactful, generating millions in economic development and enriching the lives of the residents and visitors to our great community,” said Rahl. “Our Chamber members, the Arts Council of Greater Lansing and the Lansing Art Gallery, continue to create innovative opportunities for folks to experience the art scene in new ways, such as events like the recently launched Arts Night Out or the pop-up art kiosks. The arts have an incredible impact on all facets of our region.”

While the arts are a crucial aspect of greater Lansing’s local economy, a $58 million economic impact annually in tourism, a major aspect of the arts is the artists. A large part of what makes the Arts Night Out events so successful is that it doesn’t leave out the stars of the show, instead, artists are utilized in educational settings, learning how to work as an artist and make a living as well as educating the public about what they do and why art is important.

“One thing we talked about for artists is that we want to expose people to a lot of different kinds of art,” said Mikula, explaining how exposure to various art forms is good for the community, allowing them to further appreciate the work and those who create it.


“We also help artists market themselves and build their businesses,” said Mikula. “We advise them on things like having business cards, making sure their website is up-to-date, doing things like that that can help them be more successful. We also match artists with venues to help them gain more exposure and better participation in Arts Night Out.”

The greater Lansing arts organizations are continuing to make an impact on the area. To learn more about Arts Night Out, visit

Megan Martin

Megan Martin

Megan Martin is a Communications Specialist at M3 group and a graduate of Calvin College in Grand Rapids. She is a foodie who loves art, tea, and anything outdoorsy.

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