In 1976 a new thing happened in Lowell. Artrain stopped, and Lowell has not been the same since!
Artrain had begun in 1971, a mobile art museum, taking art around the country for eleven months out of the year. It was started as a program of the Michigan Council for the Arts, by Council Director E. Ray Scott and Michigan First Lady Mrs. Helen Milliken. In 1976 the tour only stopped in nine communities in Michigan and Lowell was one of them.
Artrain stopped on the side tracks at the south end of Monroe Street, one block south of City Hall, for four days. Helen Milliken herself opened the doors the first day. Artrain’s theme that year was “A Celebration of the Creative American Spirit.” Rail cars contained art, and seventeen local artists were asked to demonstrate their art in the studio car.
Demonstrations included pottery, weaving, glass art, painting, jewelry making and chair caning. School children came on field trips and the public was able to come free of charge. Encouraging performing arts, a concert was held one evening during the Artrain stop.
The aim of Artrain was to create a project that would be an exhibition in itself and give lasting benefits to the host communities. That certainly happened in Lowell, as the Lowell Area Arts Council began from the excitement and funds from this event. Lowell Area Arts Council incorporated in 1977.
Called LowellArts today, the initial projects included community beautification, gallery exhibitions of local and regional artists, and theater productions. Through a gift from the King Milling Company and King Doyle, LowellArts was able to have gallery space, classroom space and offices on South Hudson, just southeast of the main intersection in town.
In 1978 LowellArts began managing the Fallasburg Fall Festival for the Arts, which has been gaining in popularity ever since.
The Artrain, which consisted of 3 passenger cars, one baggage car and one caboose, came to Lowell several times after that including in 1979, 1986, 1990, and 2005. The Lowell Area Arts Council requested volunteers from other local organizations to help provide docents to conduct the many visitors through the Artrain’s galleries. In 1990, 66 local people volunteered to be guides.
Starting with the planning of Artrain’s visit and through the years, LowellArts has depended upon and appreciated their volunteers. The ‘Arty’ award, their highest award, is one way this is expressed. One recipient and volunteer who worked to bring Artrain, was George Dey. He said what he liked about the LowellArts was that it was for everyone. Everybody was welcome to share the experience and to get involved. Early recipients of the Arty award were: George and Dode Dey, Jim and Cheryl Blodgett, Linda Daugherty, Chris Hodges, Lori Ingraham, Peggy Idema, Jan Johnson, Brian Doyle, John Harper, Kathie Quada, Chris and Jill VanAntwerp, Sandy Bartlett and Gil Wise, all giving tremendous contributions to the arts.
As the Artrain included the performing arts, LowellArts excels in the performing arts. From community theater, the Lowell Showboat Sizzlin’ Summer Concert Series, live music at the Fallasburg Fall Festival, and year round musical performances, LowellArts continues to bring support to the community and artists as well.
In 2015 LowellArts purchased two adjoining buildings at Main and Broadway and began the ‘Moving to Main’ capital campaign. In November of 2016 the move was made and now 223 West Main Street is the home of LowellArts.