Inspiration Alcona combines natural beauty and art

In the rural district of Alcona, Inspiration Alcona provides residents with many unique art opportunities, ranging from festivals to school programs to retreats. The small nonprofit is making waves in northern Michigan’s community through engagement, contacts, events and more. Inspiration Alcona not only promotes the arts, but strives to incorporate the charm and beauty of the county’s landscape as part of its efforts. The organization is committed to “the premise that the natural beauty of the area will serve as a perfect backdrop for those who wish to engage in creative pursuits.”

Festivals, workshops and other events attract not only locals but also tourists visiting the county from all over Michigan. “We’re all for creativity,” said Will St. John, president of the Inspiration Alcona board. “The title of the website says ‘creative entertainment in the north’ and we do.”

How Inspiration Alcona started: Inspiration Alcona was born from the 2011 MSU Expansion Conference for Local Leadership. All members of the founding council were part of this conference. The program included taking over a project and completing it until implementation. Initially, the plan was to create a music festival, but this did not happen. St. John and his wife came up with a creative alternative: art retreat. “My wife is an artist and she’s been to a lot of art retreats,” he says, “so we knew how to do it, so we did it the first year.” The first event, Alcona Art Retreat, was a success, attracting 37 students. Their second effort focuses on a program to enrich primary school students in Alcona Municipal Schools. Dancing Through the Eras taught children American history through period-specific dances. Since then, the organization has continued to grow to provide more community enrichment programs in Alcona County.

Events and festivals: Many Alcona County events have Inspiration Alcona to thank for their success. The debut art retreat project paved the way for more retreats, including a retreat for writers and most recently a retreat for songwriters.

Inspiration Alcona has grown to sponsor festivals. “The [Sunrise Side] The wine and food festival came to us this year, ”says St. John. The event was originally produced by Alcona County Chamber of Commerce, but Inspiration Alcona intervened to help the July event in Harrisville. Of course, since “this is not much of a celebration of wine and food without wine”, the organization secured the appropriate license for alcohol and allowed it to be organized properly.

Inspiration Alcona will also be participating in this year’s Sunrise Side Music Festival. The festival has grown from one day to two days. The second day will be dedicated to highlighting local musicians, many of whom have been selected from the Open Microphone Night events. However, there are more festivals in Alcona County. Inspiration Alcona is also responsible for fun family outings and autumn color tours that will return in October.

achievements: Inspiration Alcona events and programs have become a source of pride for the organization and the community. The success of the arts over the last decade is one event that Will St. John is most proud of. “We usually get about 40 people from all over the state and beyond to get there every year,” he said. “We are also very proud of all our school programs,” added St. John. Alcona is an isolated district with an older population, which makes it even more important “to try to broaden the horizons for children.”

Inspiration Alcona has become a trustee of a project that has created a “pocket park” in downtown Harrisville. The park is a green area on East Main Street between the railroads and a former pharmacy. The park was completed last year. Inspiration Alpena sees the park as “a place to relax and play for all ages, a place for small music presentations and a reason for travelers to stop in Harrisville”. “It will attract people,” says St. John. “And you can see the US 23 park as you drive through the city, so we think it’s going to be a popular place.”

What resources have you used: The organization has received grants from a dozen organizations over the years. The most commonly used grants come from the Michigan Arts and Culture Council, its largest single grant each year (including money from the National Arts Fund); The Michigan Humanities Council, which helps present children’s montages at school and, sometimes, support music concerts; Public Foundation for Northeast Michigan, which has donated money to a new project several times.

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