Inside The Alluvion, Traverse City’s Newest Arts Venue
By Beth Milligan | June 4, 2022
New details are emerging on plans for Traverse City’s newest performing arts venue, a nearly 4,000-square-foot space called The Alluvion located inside the Commongrounds Cooperative at the intersection of Eighth Street and Boardman Avenue. Operated by three partners – Commongrounds Cooperative, Crosshatch Center for Art & Ecology, and musician Jeff Haas – The Alluvion is planned to open this fall pending a successful fundraising campaign to finish building out the space and launch a visual arts program on the property. If partners hit their $50,000 crowdfunding goal by July 15, they will unlock a $50,000 matching grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation for the project.
The Alluvion will be located on the second floor of the four-story mixed-used Commongrounds Cooperative building, now under construction. The venue, designed in consultation with local musician May Erlewine, will feature a 150-seat listening room “dedicated to producing high-quality and highly-accessible performances, community events, classes, workshops, and more,” according to Commongrounds. An artist green room with showers overlooking the Boardman/Ottaway River, a bar with food and beverage service, a modular stage and movable seats that can be reconfigured to accommodate a range of performing arts events and screenings, and a recording and production studio with “world-class audio and video technology” are all included in the project plans, according to Commongrounds. The recording room will be capable of livestreaming events, a key detail Erlewine recommended based on her experience pivoting to virtual events during the pandemic.
“Her vision for this has been such a huge influence, especially emphasizing the audience-artist connection,” says Crosshatch Center for Art & Ecology Co-Founder and Co-Director Brad Kik. “She told us about the importance of reaching virtual audiences.” Livestreaming not only helps buffer venues against COVID shutdowns but allows artists to offer livestream passes as a perk to their fans on support pages like Patreon. The technology also makes it feasible to host national artists in a 150-seat room by offering a second revenue stream with livestream tickets.
Commongrounds Operations and Membership Director Andrew Lutes says that while the facility will be high-end, the goal is to make The Alluvion accessible to both the community and young and emerging artists. “It’s the missing middle in Traverse City,” he explains, citing Studio Anatomy as another local venue filling that gap. “You have venues like Interlochen and the City Opera House on one end, and bars on the other end. This will have the infrastructure of a professional venue, but will be accessible.”
To meet that goal, venue partners plan to offer regularly scheduled, public, no-cost events, such as free concerts, events from community nonprofit and arts partners, and space for community gatherings. “We don’t lock the doors,” Kik says, noting that the public will be able to wander in and explore the space or participate in events planned to take place morning to evening throughout the week. The Alluvion will have an artist residency program, as well as Open Stage – a recurring concert series free to emerging musicians to book their first shows. “For an audience, this is a great place to catch up-and-coming bands of all kinds,” according to Commongrounds. “For the artists, this can be an important and often validating experience in building an audience and making a recording of an early live show.”
“Alluvion” refers to the flow of water against a shore, a flood, or soil deposited by a river – all fitting references to a venue located on the Boardman/Ottaway River, according to Kik. “It also represents how culture is made through movement,” he says. The venue is planned to open this fall, though the exact timing is contingent on fundraising. “It’s more of a money line than a timeline,” Kik chuckles. The project partners launched a Patronicity campaign this week to raise $50,000 for the venue, offering perks at different donation tiers ranging from merch to event tickets to a private concert with the Alluvion House Band, whose members include Lutes, Andrew Dost (of the band fun.), Dana Falconberry, and Phillip Parker. Alluvion has already raised nearly $14,000 of its goal; if the campaign hits $50,000 by July 15, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation will kick in a $50,000 match through the state’s Public Spaces Community Places program.
The fundraising campaign will also cover costs to launch a visual arts program at Commongrounds. Jessica Kooiman Parker is leading that project as designer and curator, aiming to install public art throughout the building. That will include not just exhibits in typical spaces like walls and lobbies but murals and other art in on-site food hall Nobo Mrkt, plus unique locations like ceilings, floors, bathrooms, the parking garage, and hidden spots throughout the building. “These are not your typical gallery-style spaces,” says Kooiman Parker. “We’re thinking of it more as street art, where you might not expect it. Art can be anything and everywhere. We’re trying to push more contemporary work that’s more interactive, more courageous, having storytelling through the work. It’s a really fun opportunity to explore ideas and emerging artists and give them a platform to express themselves that they might not have in traditional galleries.”
A visual arts council will help select artwork for the building, both through invitations to artists and by putting out calls for submissions. Artists will be paid stipends for exhibiting at Commongrounds and can also sell their works if they choose. “That goes back to art appreciation,” says Kooiman Parker. “Artists are always asked to do so much. I feel passionately about supporting them in a practical way.” While some works, such as murals, could be longer-term installations up for a year or more, a majority of art could change out on a quarterly basis. “I’m a true believer in keeping things fresh,” says Kooiman Parker. She says she’s already working with the Justice and Peace Advocacy Center (JPAC) and the Tusen Takk Foundation on artist plans and will begin lining up other works for the building’s fall opening as soon as the fundraising campaign is complete.
Kik and Lutes say that the overall goal of the building’s arts programming is to offer a platform for artists – particularly those who are young and up-and-coming – to hone their craft and build audiences while also establishing The Alluvion as a trusted venue for national performers and fans. “It should be a place that’s never pigeonholed, where nobody feels like it’s not a place for them,” says Kik. “The goal would be to get to the point where people want to buy tickets without even looking at the lineup, just because they know and trust the space.”Comment