Break It Down | Make It Better 2021

For the 6th Break It Down | Make It Better, we went virtual! This year’s event kicked off on March 11th and was reinterpreted as three weekly online talks. Missed the conference? You can watch our March 11 session here.

March 11Striving and Thriving During COVID-19

A panel of regional artists and creative business owners respond to how they are innovating in the face of COVID-19.

Jennifer Bastian, Communication Madison
Brianna Lynn Hernández Baurichter, Madison-based fine artist
Eirann Betka-Pope, Funny Girls, Betka-Pope Productions

March 18Reinvigorating Local Arts Journalism

A panel discussion of local and regional arts journalists discussing strategies and successes around giving local art the attention it deserves.

Christina Nafziger, Sixty Inches From Center (Chicago)

March 25State of the Art: Grand Rapids

A panel discussion of arts leaders speaking on the current state of art affairs in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Together they will explore what is working in Grand Rapids and where artists can invest time, energy, and funds to make the city better for creatives of all stripes. Questions for the panel will be gathered from the audience during the Week 1, 2, and 3 sessions.

Steffanie Rosalez, CEO of Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities
Michele Bosak, Director of Curatorial at UICA
Adrian Butler, Grand Rapids based DJ, Designer, and Musician
Hannah Berry, Executive Director of Lions & Rabbits
Zachary Trebellas, Director of Avenue for the Arts

→ Register here

Flashback 2020

Break it Down | Make it Better 2020 was a half-day skill-building conference taking place on February 21st from 12:30–5:30 p.m. at Little Space Studio. The afternoon kicked off with a keynote panel about the state of the creative community in Grand Rapids where we discussed how we can grow stronger together.

Featuring :

Jenn Schaub (moderator): Co-director of Community Building & Engagement at Dwelling Place, Artist

Natalie Wetzel : Art Director, Artist, KCAD Professor, Co-director of The Moon

Kyd Kane : Founder and CEO of Kyd Kane Poetry

Tommy Allen: Rapid Growth Media Publisher, Artist, Longtime Community Advocate

Stephen Smith, M.ed : Owner of Muse GR, GRPS Teacher

Following the panel were two breakout discussions. These aimed to help attendees gain needed skills and knowledge, giving them the opportunity to select from roundtables, panels and workshops from the following topics:

Finding & Applying for Opportunities • Future of Creativity • Local Grant Info Session • Legal Roundtable • Marketing through Digital Tools • Glowing Up After Graduation • Teach What You Know • Authentic Community Dialogue • Collective Creativity •Making Money • Get a Second Date with a Curator

The afternoon concluded with a networking happy hour complete with hors d’oeuvres and music by DJ Joe Moon of Vinyl Fetish.

Flashback 2019

Break it Down | Make it Better 2019 was designed for you, by you. We assembled a day of captivating conversation about being a creative professional in 2019. From working with a curator, to getting paid for your work, to forming artists collectives, conversation topics have been submitted by West Michigan artists, musicians, curators, art educators, and creative professionals. The event took place on Saturday, April 6th from 9am -4pm (doors at 8:30) at 106 South Division. The day included:

  • A Keynote Panel Discussion- The Ethics Of Art Relationships Between Artists & Institutions
  • Beginner to Advanced Workshops about How to Get Paid
  • 18 Roundtable & Panel Discussions
  • 5 Clinic sessions to connect you with professional resources
  • Light breakfast and lunch from El Granjero included

Discussions Included: Whats Up With The Daac? • Making Money • Applying For Grants • Equitable Practices In Cultural Organizing • Ask a Lawyer • Should You 501(C)3? • Long Term Financial Planning • How To Work With A Curator • Advocating For Fair Pay • Curation As Activism • What To Charge • Funding The Arts Through Philanthropy • Falling Forward • F*&K The Money • Grand Rapids Public Art Approval • Ask An Accountant • Art School Alternatives • Collective Creativity • Applying For Residencies • Neighborhood Voice And Conflict • Authenticity In Marketing • Emerging Artists • Unconventional Arts Spaces • Nothing Is Original • Making The Pitch • Applying For Public Commissions • Digital Media Management – Visual Works • An Inside Look At Arts Education • Ask A Curator • Ask A Talent Booker • Ask A Designer

Break it Down | Make it Better 2019 aimed to produce educational programming, discussions and professional development opportunities for artists, musicians, and curators in our community and region. These programs were presented through an ongoing partnership with the Dwelling Place, ArtPrize, and Creative Many Michigan.

Keynote Panel: The Ethics of Art | Breaking Down the Relationship Between Artists & Institutions


Early Bird Registration: $20

Early Bird Registration Ends March 7th

Day Pass Registration is $30

Student Registration: $10

Day Of Event Registration April 6: $45 

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Flashback 2018

Break it Down | Make it Better 2018  included over 108 guests and 40 conversation facilitators for a total of 148 participants. Doors opened at 8:30 and kicked off our day with registration and breakfast, and networking. At 9am the morning panel discussion, The Civic Life of an Artist | The Creative Life of the City began in main space. The first set of discussions began at 10:30am, there were 10 discussions to choose from. Discussion formats included:

  • Workshops – Active sessions featuring participatory learning that require the engagement of attendees.
  • Roundtables – Facilitated discussions with 10-12 active participants.

  • Presentations – Knowledge sharing from experts in their fields, with time for participant questions and answers.

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From ‘Advocating for City Investment in the Arts’ to ‘Building an Arts Based Business,’ conversation topics were submitted by West Michigan artists, curators, art educators, venue coordinators and creative professionals. Locations, themes and discussion types were shared in a printed program and on door signage and volunteers were on hand to help direct participants to the correct location. There was ten minutes between each session to move to the next location. Sessions were hosted on the main floor and the lower level, which was accessible by stairs and an elevator. Lunch from Tacos El Granjero began at 11:30am and included vegetarian, vegan and meat options. Following lunch there were two more rounds of discussions. The final conversation of the day will be held in the main gallery and all attendees were invited to participate. The day concluded around 3:45 pm. Clean up took place directly after the event, volunteers helped to remove trash, break down tables and chairs, take down signage and pack up tables and chairs.

Click here to see more images from 2018’s event.