Tomorrow, Sabo PR will be hitting send on the call-to-art press release for LTAC 2017 – which officially makes this one of the most highly anticipated days of my year.
Now in its eighth year, the Legacy Trust Award Collection is a statewide art competition that provides a path to ArtPrize for adult artists with disabilities. We are guided by a volunteer board of a dozen passionate volunteers who share a vision to ensure ArtPrize is open and accessible to all artists.
Tomorrow we will also be mailing posters that were beautifully designed by our friends at Kantorwassink to hundreds of art galleries, centers for independent living, past entrants and other fans, encouraging people to submit their drawings, paintings, sculptures, photographs, collages – you name it, we want it.
Once the art is received and catalogued, we then plan the exhibition and spend a glorious morning hanging the show. We gather at the Grand Rapids Art Museum each May for a private celebration where we welcome artists and their families, along with community leaders, disability advocates, government officials and other friends and supporters. Tommy Fitzgerald and the magicians at Kitchen Sage create a feast for the eyes and the palate each and every year.
The public is invited to see and vote for the art, casting their ballots for three favorites. We also have online voting so that artists and their fans who can’t physically travel to Grand Rapids can still make their voices heard. The wonderful people at Andrews Hooper Pavlik will tally the ballots so we can announce four winners. Unlike that other awards show, our accounting team has yet to make an error.
My crew steps back in to help with promotion, gathering the stories behind both the art and the artists with an eye to creating press releases, artists’ statements, voting cards and an online presence designed to showcase their talents. Eddie Tadlock and the team at DeVos Place welcome us each year, finding great spots for the LTAC artists in this high-traffic venue.
And then comes The Show: ArtPrize itself, that glorious, wonderful, all-encompassing fever dream that sweeps through Grand Rapids every fall, double-dog-daring you not to look, marvel, gawk, rubberneck – or at least glance.
A tremendous amount of time and energy are spent each spring preparing for the competition, which is volunteer-powered. None of it would be possible, though, without the team at Legacy Trust – indeed, LTAC would not exist without Legacy Trust. Both the company and the competition were launched by Bill Walker, a man I have been honored to call client and friend for more than a dozen years.
The genesis of both organizations comes from Bill’s DNA. He launched Legacy Trust in 2004 as a wealth management firm designed to provide exceptional investment counsel AND stellar customer service, the latter often the missing factor in the equation. Bill launched LTAC in 2010, the year after ArtPrize came into existence, as a way for artists with disabilities to participate meaningfully in the event.
In both cases, Bill recognized the opportunity to improve on the status quo by carving out a unique space where people – and their talents, families and hopes – are paramount. Both organizations are guided by that focus to this day.
As a sister to a brother with disabilities, I grew up hearing a constant stream of nos: No, you can’t go there; no, you can’t do that; no, it’s too complicated and time-consuming to include you. LTAC and its firm commitment to yes resonates we me. Our mantra is: Yes, please come in; yes, you are welcome here; yes, whatever we can do, consider it done.
The team at Legacy Trust powers the whole engine that is LTAC. Randii Smith serves as the ringmaster, gracefully accepting, cataloguing and safekeeping art, answering questions from artists and their families, and a million other details that make LTAC possible. She’s supported by her colleague, Danielle Stratton, and the wonderful volunteer efforts of Cheryl Warner and, this year, our intern, Breann Fuller.
She’s also supported by Brian Balke, who provides guidance as a board member – and muscle as the head of our logistics team, ensuring load-in and load-out run smoothly and that all the art is safe and accounted for. During that one week in May, the entire Legacy team lends a hand.
We support a lot of nonprofits in West Michigan, and my team and I attend a lot of fundraisers, galas and events to support their good work. But LTAC is the single best thing I do every year – bar none.
Case in point: Last year, I was talking with an LTAC artist who is a regular in the show as the event was wrapping up. She’s always one of the first to arrive and the last to leave each year. A commemorative photo from TapSnap in one hand and a signature Fitzgerald cupcake in the other, she was grinning from ear to ear.
“Did you have a good time tonight?” I asked.
“Oh yes,” she said. “It was the best night of my life.”
Sixty-one days and counting until the next LTAC celebration on May 22.