For Third Coast Conversation Inquiries Contact

Jennifer Rupp
Chief Impact Officer
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Third Coast Conversations: Dialogues about Water in Michigan

Announcing Third Coast Conversations Grant Recipients

The Michigan Humanities is pleased to announce the communities and organizations awarded $5,000 through the Third Coast Conversations: Dialogues about Water in Michigan program, an initiative made possible by funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Third Coast Conversation grants will support a series of statewide public conversations taking place in 18 communities through 2019 that focus on the cultural, social, historical, and environmental factors that connect Michigan’s people to their water.  The project will be led by the Michigan Humanities in collaboration with their strong network of partner organizations across the state.

The state of Michigan is often referred to as the nation’s “third coast” because it boasts the most miles of shoreline in the contiguous United States, bordering four of the five Great Lakes.  This abundance of water has allowed Michigan to be a lucrative place to do business and develop industry, including a booming tourism economy.  At the same time, access to safe, clean water has also been a scarcity.  By providing support for community conversations around topics connected to water, the goal of the project is to help more people across the state learn about issues related to water that affect their communities in the 21st century.

The following communities and organizations will hold conversations and community events around important water topics supported by the Third Coast Conversations: Dialogues about Water in Michigan program:

The program will connect community members, leaders, and organizations through literature, the arts, history, and science. The overarching goal of the project is to inspire investment in the maritime landscape and a desire to protect and preserve that landscape through multiple activities presented by the participating organizations.  These conversations could inspire both contemplation and forward action toward cultural and historical preservation, as well as a deeper respect towards the environment.  Collaborators include:  Friends of the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Art in the Loft, the Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan, Plastics FLOAT 4-H group, and the Alpena Downtown Development Authority.

Artworks and its partners will convene three meetings: two conversations and one placemaking charrette. The goal of our project is to engage our community, targeting the traditionally under-represented youth and student population, in a conversation about placemaking and stewardship of the Muskegon River.  Our project will include the historic uses, current condition, and future vision for placemaking, tourism, and stewardship of the Muskegon River.  Third Coast Conversations project will result in actionable ideas developed by citizens to help the city prioritize funding for public improvements, help the Downtown Business Association target new businesses, help the Muskegon River Watershed Assembly attract new supporters and volunteers, and develop a greater sense of our history and public responsibility toward Muskegon River stewardship.

“Invasion of The Great Lakes Project” (ITGLP) has impetus in the development of teaching and learning materials associated with the history, science, and social impact of The Great Lakes. Students, their families, and the community need to be aware of the cultural heritage of water and how it has shaped the cultural community of the Ottawa County area.  The ITGLP serves to produce a research based graphic novel and curriculum, for public school students.  The conclusion of the project will result in a staged production that features student work in the telling of the story of invasive species and The Great Lakes over the past 170 years.

The goal of WCMU Public Media’s Third Coast Conversations project is to help more people in central and northern Michigan learn about water-related issues that affect our lives today and in the future, and to engage those whose voices are seldom heard as part of the conversation. Third Coast Conversations will serve as a pilot for an on-going series of community conversations that WCMU Public Radio is considering as an addition to its ongoing community engagement and programming endeavors.

In September 2016, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History began working with the Michigan Science Center to address issues of water management in Detroit. “Sustainability Neighbors” is the title given to the project that will allow the institutions to publicly demonstrate artful green water management practices to guests, show how guests can reduce their own drainage fees, provide an educational platform for environmental stakeholders across the region, and create a model for collaboration between cultural organizations.  At the end of this project, we will have empowered residents to think about how to promote the long-term health of our natural resources and the practical needs of our water management infrastructure.

Communities First, Inc. will lead a partnership with the Michigan Environmental Council and Flint residents to plan and direct three conversations with minority and underserved residents of Flint around Michigan water and shorelines. These conversations will explore the personal connections these residents may (or may not) feel with the Third Coast, and the importance of the Michigan Coast to the entire State and its residents.

The Discover Center Great Lakes (DCGL) plans to hold a series of Third Coast Conversations in Traverse City. The first conversation will be a half-day gathering with a meal, and will include community thought leaders in the areas of arts and humanities, business and economics, environmental stewardship, and outdoor recreation, who will be specifically chosen for their diverse points of view and their interest in water.  Special effort will be made to include historically underrepresented members of the community.  The general public will be invited through a public relations campaign.  The events will be free of charge and open to the public.

The project will develop a “storyscape” about the history of water in Jackson and the surrounding area. “Storyscape” is a term coined by Ned Kaufman in his Place, Race, and Story: Essays on the Past and Future of Historic Preservation where he emphasizes the importance of making connections between people’s memories and everyday landscapes.  Ella Sharp Museum will facilitate the collection of stories and memories related to water in the Jackson area and develop a community-based exhibit that will be hosted in the gallery.

The goal of the project is to help Flint residents initiate healing, elevate their voices and concerns, create a vision for water and neighborhood improvements that can be accomplished in conjunction with infrastructure improvement projects. Freshwater Future, working in conjunction with local partners, will host three to four neighborhood visioning sessions to involve residents.  Key partners include Genesee County Hispanic and Latino Collaborative and Flint Development Center (to engage with families with youth).

Champions Owning Detroit’s Environment (CODE)-Green-is a Youth focused effort of Green Door Initiative. The project’s main focus is to encourage the development of leadership among high school age individuals interested in having a positive impact on the local environment.  CODE will collaborate with multiple youth serving organizations focused on environmental issues in Detroit, including the Youth Energy Squad and We The People.  Together, these organizations will convene a series of four water-related discussions throughout the city to inform and develop a process of engagement among high school age leaders.  A council comprised of young Detroiters and their mentors will sponsor conversations among their peers with an aim to bolster their voice in the discourse around water access.

This project will involve convening meetings in the upper (Albion) and lower (Allegan) sections of the Kalamazoo River Watershed to bring stakeholders and residents together to discuss our aquatic resources and the Kalamazoo River. These Third Coast Conversations will be designed to meet a number of goals and engage a number of different watershed stakeholders.

The goal of this project proposed by the KBIC Natural Resources Department is to enhance Indigenous sovereignty, identity, and healing of water-rich homelands through open dialogue and various platforms of multimedia. The target audience are members of the KBIC and surrounding non-tribal communities.  This project will both enhance existing projects within the NRD and foster new dialogues to broaden understanding around water issues.

The overarching goal of this project is to locate the Grand River and its tributaries as a significant driver of West Michigan’s growth and shaping communities’ diversity in the region. A secondary goal is to consider the environmental realities shaping the health of the Grand River and how this impacts communities’ relationship with local waterways.  The two conversations will promote a greater understanding of individual communities along the river.  Project leaders will work with members of our Advisory Council who include representatives from organizations whose constituencies include areas touched by the Grand River.

Michigan League of Conservation Voters Education Fund (MLCVEF) will meaningfully engage and partner with communities in Michigan through two different events-in Ypsilanti and Northern Michigan-that will help educate community members on a range of water-related issues. These conversation events will be conducted in close partnership with individuals and groups in local communities and will see to elevate new and diverse voices.  Several humanities these will run through all the events, but each event will focus on one theme in particular.

This project intends to focus on tourism and Sense of Place. The team intends to utilize networking as well as a World Café Community Engagement Process to ensure substantive conversations occur leading to collaborations between Northern Michigan University, academic programs and students, business leaders in the Marquette and Munising areas and community residents.  Such conversations are intended to support a sense of ownership; understanding of the power of sustainability; willingness to explore opportunities related to ecotourism and appropriate use of local resources; and facilitation of on-going efforts to guide these stakeholders toward a sustainable future.

Water/Ways Exhibit  and Third Coast Conversation Participants