Organizational History of the Arts Council of White Lake

In 1985 a group of visionaries pooled their talents and interests to provide a much-needed art program in the White Lake Area. Their fledgling efforts were quickly embraced and the first bylaws of the newly created Arts Council were adopted in September 1987. Ever since, members have continued to work toward their mission to encourage, initiate, and facilitate an enriched artistic, cultural and creative environment

Since its inception, the Arts Council has offered free summer music concerts at the Montague Band Shell. These beloved programs draw audiences of several hundred each week. Each summer’s schedule offers a wide variety of musical talent, appealing to music lovers of all ages. 

Buoyed by the success of the concerts and enjoying increasing community support, the Council turned toward developing art programs for local schools to help fill gaps in dwindling budgets. The Council subsidized programs presented to students by Michigan artists, and twice sponsored the popular rolling Artrain art exhibit. The Artrain project inspired the community to make a deeper investment in the infrastructure of our local cultural sector. That investment enabled the Council to providing grants for special art projects, and offering scholarships for local students to attend art camps, workshops and classes. Financial support for our students remains an enduring objective of the Arts Council.

As the organization grew, the board of directors’ envisioned a fine arts gallery where Michigan artists could sell and display their art. The dream became reality in 1999, with the opening of the White River Gallery. The progressive, cooperative gallery was a visible reminder of the breadth of programs provided by the Council. The Gallery still remains a vibrant showcase for original, unique local artwork.

The Council turned next to creating an arts education center to provide instruction to local students from artists, poets, writers, dancers, musicians, and dramatists. The Nuveen Community Center for the Arts was formed in 2002 and is funded by a continuing grant from the Nuveen Benevolent Trust, a private foundation of the Nuveen family. The family spent many summers in the White Lake community and wanted to help create a rich environment for arts education, where those who want to learn can be nurtured and inspired.

In 2005, to celebrate the 20thanniversary, and with an eye toward the 25thyear, the Art Walk sculpture project was begun.  The Art Walk’s goal was to install sculptures along the local portion of the Hart-Montague-White Lake Pathway bike trail. By August 2007, six sculptures were installed along the pathway and in 2010, the ACWL’s signature piece, Sailboat – Trees, was placed in Covell Park. To date, there are 14 installations and the project continues. Take a walk or a ride along the trail and enjoy the art along the way!

By 2006, the ACWL Board realized that performance art was missing from its menu of artistic options. The Music and Performing Arts branch of the Council was the result of a partnership with a newly forming Chamber Music.  By the time it was six months old this branch had provided eight well-attended public performances and continued to grow, offering a variety of musical enjoyment opportunities to the public!  In 2010, this branch created the Whitehall Sesquicentennial Brass Ensemble in celebration of Whitehall’s 150thanniversary. The White Lake Chamber Music Festival was a dream come true, offering 10 days of concerts and workshops each August. The Music branch formed its own non-profit organization in 2017 and continues to bring lovely music to our community.

From toddlers to seniors, vacationers to long-time residents, this area has been blessed by art developed with local character and global skill. We enjoy the talents of world-class artists, musicians, and writers embraced by a community that nurtures art, culture, and creativity.

Support for the Arts Council comes mainly from membership dues, sponsors, and donors. In addition, the grassroots efforts of members and area business owners who understand the economic value of a broad ranging arts program, are critical. Grants from local foundations, corporations, and state arts organizations have provided funds for special projects through the years and help round out the budget. The activities provided or supported by the Arts Council have a clear, positive, impact on the local economy and a successful tourism industry, also attracting new residents and businesses.

In 2018, the Council changed its name and mission to illustrate the organization’s commitment of providing relevant programs, events, and education.  Working to inspire the White Lake Community through accessible and engaging opportunities in the arts, the ACWL - Nuveen Center looks forward to providing new and exciting arts-based activities in the future. We hope you’ll join us!

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