The collaboration will bring Michigan’s most dynamic companies, organizations, artists and entrepreneurs to Austin, Texas this March -- pushing the state’s stories into the national spotlight through official SXSW programming.

GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan (February 15, 2017) -- Michigan House, a travelling Michigan-wide collaboration spearheaded by Creative Many Michigan, today announced that it will head to Austin, Texas next month for its third iteration at the SXSW Conferences & Festivals -- this time as a presenter of official programming. Michigan House will once again bring together the state’s most dynamic organizations to create a living, breathing experience promoting Michigan’s creative industries and fueled by six panel discussions; a concert at an Austin hot spot headlined by Michigan musicians; and new partnerships, highlighting the importance of statewide collaboration. Michigan House will take residence at St. David’s Episcopal Church, in the heart of downtown Austin, from March 11-14, 2017. Find a full schedule of events at

“Michigan House convenes a cross-section of Michigan-based creative professionals on the worldwide stage that is SXSW,” says Jennifer Goulet, President and CEO of Creative Many Michigan. “Michigan’s creative industries, its heritage of vibrant culture and design, need to be a calling card. We strive all year at Creative Many to support and elevate creativity within the state. Michigan House has become one of our most effective megaphones for spreading that message.”


Michigan House brings together the state’s most forward-looking companies, organizations and artists to tell their stories under one roof -- providing an interactive platform to show entrepreneurs, thought leaders and talent from around the country what Michigan is all about. The collaboration offers a model that packages the energy and potential of Michigan, the pieces that make the state dynamic and exciting, and delivers a uniquely Michigan experience across the country -- transforming a space and allowing visitors to touch, taste and smell what is happening in Michigan.

2017 Michigan House Partners include: Acuitas, AMI Entertainment, ArtPrize, Brightly, Cat Footwear, Creative Many Michigan, Founders Brewing Company, Meijer, Michigan Film & Digital Media Office, NEI, Southwest Michigan First, Start Garden, Steelcase, and The Henry Ford.

“Michigan House is an experience of a state that's thriving in technology, design, innovation and wrestling with social issues,” noted Paul Moore, Start Garden Chief Marketing Officer. “Start Garden has been a part of it from the beginning because it's a genuine expression of where we live, which counteracts much of what's seen in national media about Michigan.”

The annual SXSW Conferences & Festivals combine everything from film and music, to technology, innovation and entrepreneurship -- shining a national spotlight on diverse voices and points of view, and offering a platform to explore new ideas. Hosting official SXSW programming is an exciting next step for Michigan House, which has evolved over the last three years from a punk rock, gorilla outfit on the fringes of the festival to being at the center of the action.


With this official status in hand, the Michigan House team built an ambitious lineup of panel discussions and invited individuals from across the state to share their stories about this multi-faceted place that defies Rust Belt expectations.

The delegation traveling to SXSW with Michigan House includes: Pamela Lewis, President of the New Economy Initiative (Detroit); Rosalynn Bliss, Mayor for the City of Grand Rapids; Mike Morin, Head of Start Garden, Director of the Seamless IoT accelerator and partner at Wakestream Ventures (Grand Rapids); Jeff DeBoer, Sundberg-Ferar & Michigan Design Council Chairman (Detroit); Leif Norland, Design Director, Whirlpool North America (Benton Harbor); and James Chapman, Serial Entrepreneur leading entrepreneurial development for Rock Ventures Detroit.

The following six panel discussions will be hosted on Saturday, March 11:

Making a Place for Equity will look at the strategies employed by Michigan’s communities to improve outcomes for segments of the population often disproportionately overlooked by traditional economic development programs -- asking the question, what lessons can be learned to build an inclusive future that encourages opportunity for all? Making a Place for Equity will feature James Chapman of Rock Ventures; April Boyle of Build Institute; Pamela Lewis of New Economy Initiative; and Rosalynn Bliss, Mayor of the City of Grand Rapids.

"The City of Grand Rapids has enjoyed an unprecedented period of growth and prosperity, yet many of our citizens struggle to find a seat at the table,” noted Mayor Bliss. “To reverse that trend, we must look beyond diversity and inclusion efforts to bring true equity to every member of this community."

Michigan Modern: Design That Shaped America will explore Michigan’s design legacy, and history as a place where creativity is celebrated and ideas are put into production. This discussion will include Amy Arnold and Brian Conway of the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office; Jeff DeBoer of Sundberg-Ferar; and Susan Skarsgard of General Motors Design.

Clogging the Drain: Creative Talent Attraction will examine the way one Midwestern community is using creativity, design and collaboration between businesses, government, educators and cultural organizations to turn its talent deficit around -- featuring Petey Stephanak of Southwest Michigan First; Leif Norland of Whirlpool; Mike Roeder of Fabri-Kal Corporation; and Bjorn Green of TowerPinkster Architects|Engineers.

Innovation in Cultural Tourism will delve into how the state of Michigan has turned to the creative industries and heritage to attract visitors from around the world, featuring Christian Overland of The Henry Ford; Jennifer Goulet of Creative Many Michigan; Jenell Leonard of Michigan Film and Digital Media Office; and Jori Bennett of ArtPrize.

The Creative Difference: Teaching Innovation will take a look at organizations seeking to teach creativity and examine how collaboration with Michigan’s creative industries has helped them prepare students for a world that requires problem solvers and innovators -- featuring Ron Kitchens of Southwest Michigan First; Lucie Howell of The Henry Ford; Seth Bernard of Earthwork Music; and Daniel Williams of West Michigan Center for Art + Technology.

Why the Rustbelt? IoT in the Midwest will explore the ways in which the Midwest’s heritage and infrastructure present a unique opportunity within an ever more connected world -- transporting attendees into the world of self-driving cars and smart cities, and revealing how the forgotten “Rust Belt” could hold the key. This discussion will include Hannah Murray Naltner of Steelcase; Mike Morin of Seamless; Chris Thomas of Fontinalis Partners LLC; and Matthew Johnson-Roberson of the University of Michigan.

In addition, Christian Gaines -- executive director of ArtPrize, a Michigan House partner -- will participate in Exploring the Impacts of Creative Urban Interventions at 3:30pm on March 11 at the Austin Convention Center. The panel is part of the SXSW official panel lineup and participants will also include Heather Deal of the City of Vancouver; Kim Cook of Burning Man; and Amahl Hazelton of Moment Factory. The discussion will explore the role of art in human experience, and how design interventions, immersive art experiences, and community-based art collectives are transforming our cities.


The annual SXSW Music Festival is one of the largest, most influential music industry events -- drawing musicians from all over the country and around the world to the Live Music Capital of the World. Artists at all points in their careers -- from the up-and-coming to the legendary -- perform in traditional and unconventional spaces throughout the city over the course of seven days, gaining unparalleled exposure and reaching new audiences.

Musicians heading to Austin from Michigan will find a home-away-from-home at Michigan House, including a healthy dose of midwestern hospitality, with food and drink imported from Michigan, and a space to relax and network.

On March 14, Local Spins will host a Michigan Music Meetup. All Michigan musicians are encouraged to head to Austin hot spot, Stay Gold, from 3-5 p.m. CST for a discussion around the music scene in the mitten state -- where it is now, and where it is going. Connect with Local Spins for more details.

Later that evening, five bands -- selected from an open call to Michigan musicians -- will each lend their unique sound and style to the Michigan House Music Showcase and Founders Tap Takeover at Stay Gold. The featured bands include:

“Michigan House has created an unparalleled opportunity for Michigan musicians to showcase their art for audiences inside and outside the state, helping elevate their game and allowing them to be viewed as vital components in vibrant communities that help attract and retain creative talent,” said John Sinkevics, publisher, “Through its pop-up venues and commitment to spotlighting talent statewide, Michigan House has carved out a unique space for artists bred in the Great Lakes State.”

Prior to heading to Austin, these five bands will each step into the Stone House Recording studio in Grand Rapids, Michigan to professionally record a track for the ArtPrize Nine competition.

“ArtPrize attracts artists working in all mediums from everywhere in the world, including musicians,” noted Christian Gaines, ArtPrize executive director. “We love that our partnership with Michigan House leads to deepened connections with musicians across our state, as well as new relationships with artists and creative minds drawn to SXSW each year.”

Partners and guests are welcome to stop by Michigan House during the quiet moments between scheduled programming, when there is ample opportunity to make connections, foster productive relationships, and learn something new.

“The ideas that are hatched in these down times in some ways hold the most value for me, and I know others participating in Michigan House feel the same,” noted Ted Velie of Middle West, the experience design firm that helps bring Michigan House to life.

“At the New Economy Initiative, we are working to make southeast Michigan a more prosperous region by building a network of support for entrepreneurs,” said SXSW panelist Pam Lewis, director of the New Economy Initiative in Detroit, a Michigan House partner. “Placing opportunity, equity and inclusion at the forefront of conversations about entrepreneurship is critical to this mission. We’re excited to have this conversation with peers from around the state and country on the national stage of the SXSW festival, and it is having access to a venue like Michigan House that makes this possible.”

Michigan House will take over the 700 Trinity entrance to St. David’s Episcopal Church in Austin, Texas from March 11-14, 2017. For a complete schedule of events, visit or download a PDF here.

By Jaenell Woods on