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creative:impact - Sounds And Sights Thrive In Creative Chelsea

City of Chelsea

Chelsea resident Gary Munce has held many volunteer gigs. One of his favorites is being the entertainment adviser for Chelsea Area Festivals and Events, producer of Sounds and Sights, and the Chelsea Sculpture Walk. You can hear Gary’s love for what he does and his community when he joins "creative:impact" co-hosts Deb Polich of Creative Washtenaw and WEMU’s David Fair.

Deb Polich
Deb Polich, President and CEO of Creative Washtenaw

Creative industries in Washtenaw County add hundreds of millions of dollars to the local economy.  In the weeks and months to come, 89.1 WEMU's David Fair and co-host Deb Polich, the President and CEO of Creative Washtenaw, explore the myriad of contributors that make up the creative sector in Washtenaw County.


Gary and his wife Jo Ann are longtime Chelsea residents, and their son Zack is a Chelsea High graduate. Gary is involved with several organizations in our community and appreciates having the opportunity to share in all the collective energies, intelligences and good will of these groups that help make our community the wonderful place that it is.

Gary Munce
Credit Gary Munce
Gary Munce performing at Chelsea's Sounds and Sights

A graduate of the University of Michigan, Gary pursued a career in Information Technology at Michigan. He was the manager of technology services for the Institute for Social Research and the University of Michigan Libraries.

For nearly 17 years, Gary has been involved with Chelsea Area Festivals and Events (CAFE) both as a volunteer and board member.  He has worn many hats over the years but his primary responsibility has been in the roll of entertainment coordinator for the Sounds and Sights Festival. He is a great supporter of CAFE’s mission of promoting the performing and visual arts.

Gary recently complete 4 years as President of the Board of Directors of the Chelsea Senior Center. He has helped in revamping and upgrading technology systems for the center and providing computer training and assistance for center members and the community. He has also been a leader in strategic planning for the Center was involved in a major fundraising campaign -Vital Seniors Competition, sponsored by the Ann Arbor Community Foundation to address lack of transportation for older adults in Chelsea and the surrounding townships.

Gary is also currently a trustee of the Chelsea District Library and has served as the President of the Friends of the Library. Gary has also worked with the Chelsea Public Library in establishing mentoring opportunities for local aspiring songwriters with local, professional songwriters as part of the annual Library Songfest.

Gary also enjoys volunteering on the Lyndon Broadband Project, participating in musical therapy at the hospital, announcing JV football games and playing music around town with his friends.


Chelsea Area Festivals & Events (CAFE)

CAFE News Feed

CAFE Sounds & Sights on Thursday Nights

CAFE Sculpture Walk

CAFE on Facebook

CAFE on Twitter

CAFE on Instagram


David Fair: This is 89 one WEMU, and I'd like to welcome you to creative:impact. It is our weekly look at the local creative sector. I'm David Fair, and I am with my content partner and co-host, Deb Polich. And, Deb, of course, is president and CEO of Creative Washtenaw. And welcome back, Deb.

Deb Polich: Well, David, it's always good to be with you. You know, I know the hours you work probably make it pretty difficult to attend many of the wonderful festivals and events that we have around town. Have you had a chance at all to enjoy any of the summer?

David Fair: I've made numerous round trips between my bedroom and the living room and from the living room to the kitchen and the occasional long distance journey into the basement. I live large.

Deb Polich: Oh, I wish I. I'm glad I don't have your life.

David Fair: Well, I bet our guest, Gary Munce, has been out and soaking up all the sights and sounds, particularly in Chelsea. And, Gary, welcome to creative:impact.

Gary Munce: Well, good morning, and thank you both for having me on your show this morning.

Deb Polich: For certain. So, Gary, you know, Benjamin Franklin is credited with saying, "If you want something done, ask a busy person.: I think he was speaking specifically about you. In addition to your career and being a musician, you've held a variety of volunteer leadership gigs in your community. And the short list includes the Chelsea Senior Center, the Chelsea District Library, the Lyndon Township Broadband Project, and the role we are going to dig into a little bit deeper here in a minute: Chelsea Area Festival and Events. Besides all the fame and glory that comes with volunteering, why do you volunteer?

Gary Munce: Well, I think that, you know, the thing for me is, really, when it comes down to it, the most important thing in my life is my connection with my other community members, fellow human beings. And that really is what gives me purpose and meaning in my life. So, I found ways to engage with them, as you mentioned, through various different sources in the community. And that's what I really love is being attached to and working with other people.

David Fair: And to follow a little further down that pathway, it's also been said it's better to give than receive. And we're certainly generous with your time and talents, there is personal reward in offering service to something greater than yourself. So what specifically do you take away from contributing in all these endeavors?

Gary Munce: Well, I really do think that none of us are really whole until we've had the opportunity to lend or give support to others. I really think that is a very special gift that we can get by giving to others is the fact that it makes ourselves feel more fulfilled and have a purpose to our lives.

Deb Polich: So, let's move on to the Chelsea Area Festival and Events, which we want to talk about, and it's known by insiders as CAFE. Give us a 60 second intro to it.

Credit Chelsea Area Festivals & Events / Facebook
Sounds & Sights on Thursday Nights

Gary Munce: A 60 second intro to CAFE. Well, CAFE has been around in one form or another for almost 20 years. We have been promoting the performance and the presentation of both visual and performing arts here in Chelsea. Our mainstays are our Thursday night concerts, which run throughout the summer. On a normal summer, we would have 11. We had about we have seven weeks this year, but we have over 40 different musical artists performing in the streets of Chelsea on Thursday nights at six thirty to eight thirty. Another key component of what we do here in Chelsea is called the Sculpture Walk. Sculpture Walk in its 12th year. And it has it has 16 different stages or locations across the town where we just display large sculptures that are made by people from Michigan and the surrounding areas for the public to enjoy. So, I think those two are the big keys just to what CAFE is all about.

David Fair: Well, in addition, Gary, to being on the board, you hold the title of CAFE's entertainment advisor. And you just mentioned there are a whole lot of bands that need to be organized, a whole walk that needs to be organized. What exactly are you charged with getting done?

Gary Munce: Well, as you all know, when you're involved with some sort of organization as a volunteer, that you wear many hats. But my primary hat is been one that I've always been focused on, and that is music and entertainment. As you know, I've been a musician around the Ann Arbor area for a long time, and now it's my opportunity to sort of be on the other side and to help musicians become engaged with our festival. So, we have, just in this shortened season that we have here in Chelsea over seven weeks, we have about 42 different musical acts that we're booking. And needless to say, we had numerous applications, probably over 200 applied for spots to perform here. So reviewing those applications, finding the right kinds of music, finding a diverse selection of music is what I've been involved with not only this season, but all throughout my association with the festival is to try to bring a wide range of music to Chelsea and to make it available for people to hear.

David Fair: And there is a method to the madness in putting together a cohesive program, isn't there?

Gary Munce: There is some method to the madness. You have to imagine that your audiences, all ages, all different sectors of our community, they all have different musical tastes, and we try to make sure there's something there for everyone.

David Fair: creative:impact continues on Eighty-Nine one WEMU. We're talking with Gary Munce, a Chelsea resident musician, community volunteer, and entertainment advisor for the Chelsea Area Festivals and Events.

Deb Polich: So, that famous Porter song, "Summertime and the Livin' is Easy." You know, our cities and towns know how to pack a lot into Michigan's beautiful, but somewhat brief summer. All of those programs that you noted that take place that CAFE does. If David was able to get that time off and being willing to leave his house and headed to Chelsea, what would he experience as a visitor as he walked around town?

Gary Munce: Well, I think Chelsea is the type of place where, you know, many times small towns like this, it's a 15 minute drive-through or just passing by. But Chelsea sets itself apart, because I think you can actually spend a day or more here in Chelsea. And there are several things that you can do. Obviously, we have some really terrific restaurants here in Chelsea with the Common Grill and the B-52 Barbecue. We have that. We have our Sculpture Walk, which is open from May to June around the year. You can go to the Jiffy Towers and get a tour of the Jiffy Mix factory. We have the Chelsea Historical Museum. Our garden club is very active. We have a lot of garden displays downtown throughout the community. I think I could go on and on, but then we just sort of a taste of some of the things that are happening here in Chelsea.

David Fair: And what was the community impact about not being able to put on those kinds of events last summer and kind of a reduced schedule this year?

Gary Munce: Well, I would say that it was definitely an absence for all of us not to have these places together as a community. It was a difficult decision to make not to do that, but it was the right decision for all of us, for our safety and well-being. And now, as we've come back with this shortened season of, you know, just seven weeks, the turnout and then Thursday nights have been really active downtown. People are really enjoying it. And I think it's a demonstration that people really were just waiting for the opportunity to come out again and to see their friends and neighbors in the streets.

Deb Polich: So what's the mix between residents and visitors? You know, Ann Arbor residents are said to say that they either love to stay in town or leave during Art Fair. What about the community impact and Chelsea's residents? Are they are they right there with you?

Gary Munce: Oh, yes. The Chelsea residents are definitely highly involved. I will say that, you know, the attendance at our events really, though, there are a lot of visitors from outside of Chelsea. I would say probably about 50/50 would be the split, I would imagine, from Chelsea and from surrounding communities. But the Chelsea community is a terrific supporter of these events. Not only do they turn out, but we are very fortunate to have a number--an unimaginable number--of local sponsors and community members that will donate money to the performances and to the art that we put out in Chelsea. So, they are very much engaged in what we're doing here.

David Fair: Once again, creative:impact continues on Eighty-Nine one WEMU. And we're talking with Gary Munce. He is a Chelsea resident, community volunteer, and serves as entertainment advisor for the Chelsea Area Festivals and Events.

Deb Polich: So, Gary, let's jump back to second role as talent advisor. What has been one of your favorite artists gets, or maybe one that was a real bust? We've all had both over the years.

Gary Munce: Oh, well, I think that, you know, I've had the accidentals here. Whitey Morgan, 50 AMP Fuze, Creole de Norde. Just to mention a few.

David Fair: You're not messing around.

Gary Munce: No, you know, I think musicians like to be here in Chelsea to perform. I would say that, you know, being a musician and inviting others to play in Chelsea, I think, is--it gives me kind of a head start because I understand a little bit more about the mentality and the needs of the musicians and making them feel at home and making them feel welcome and telling them about what their role really is and in making these other things free here in Chelsea. I mean, a lot of the performers, we pay all of the performers, but we do have a large fundraising event, usually in latter July, which we bypassed this year. But that large event will pay for nearly 50 percent of the money that we pay to performers throughout the rest of the year. So, the performers are very engaged, and they admire what we're doing here at Chelsea.

David Fair: For the public at large outside of the Chelsea area, I think many think of the arts and cultural scene there as the Purple Rose Theater. However, you're pointing out that there is a robust arts and cultural community that continues to expand year by year. What would you say to those who really only have that one kind of myopic perspective?

Gary Munce: Well, I appreciate you bringing up the Purple Rose. There's no question that that's a cornerstone of what we do here in Chelsea, and we're very fortunate to have it here. I would just say this. I would encourage them to just make the effort to come to Chelsea for the day or to come on a Thursday evening and to just see what Chelsea is like and what it has to offer. Just come and visit Chelsea firsthand. You also can get a flavor from looking at, you know, Chelsea Mich dot com or Chelsea Festivals dot com and see what's going on in terms of entertainment and arts in the community. So, I think a visit to Chelsea is something that would be a good entree into learning more about what we're doing.

David Fair: Well, we promise to put all of that information and all of the Chelsea Area Festivals and Events information, and make it available to listeners on our Web site as well.

Deb Polich: So, Gary, thank you so much for spending a little time with us and doing everything you do for your community.

Gary Munce: Well, I want to thank you all. And, of course, we are very fortunate to have the support of creative arts and all that you've done to help our events in Chelsea. So, we appreciate that and all of the other work you've done during the last year to support artists who have not been able to get out and do their normal course of work. We thank you for that as well.

David Fair: That is Gary Munce.

Deb Polich: You're so welcome.

David Fair: Chelsea resident community volunteer musician, entertainment advisor for the Chelsea Area Festivals and Events. You can find out more about CAFE and the Sights and Sounds schedule for the rest of the summer at WEMU dot org. Deb Polich is president and CEO of Creative Washtenaw and my co-host. And we'll see you next week.

Deb Polich: Absolutely. With another creative Washtenaw guest.

David Fair: I'm David Fair, and this is your community NPR Station, Eighty-Nine one WEMU FM and WEMU HD, one Ypsilanti.

Credit City of Chelsea / chelseamich.com
Chelsea Sculpture Walk display


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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu

Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
Polich hosts the weekly segment creative:impact, which features creative people, jobs and businesses in the greater Ann Arbor area.
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