Hancock’s master plan featuring art

kantele.com The zither-type Kantele, a popular Finnish instrument, is very similar to the Chinese guzheng.

HANCOCK — Josh Loar, director of the Keweenaw Culture Project, and the city of Hancock, want to use arts and culture to engage the city, using vacant storefronts and cultural events.

“I was talking to the mayor of the city of Hancock,” Loar said, “about just how we can use arts and culture to engage the town, and engage the space. And one of the things that I’ve heard a lot of the people in Hancock say is that they’re worried a little bit about it turning into a ghost town, with a lot of vacant storefronts.”

Loar said while there are some vacant storefronts, there are also many good businesses in the city.

“And there’s still a tax base, because there is faculty there,” he said, “but it’s not appearing to thrive, and the appearance of a ghost town can kind of make it turn into a ghost town.”

Loar came up with two ideas with which he approached the city. One idea was the Hancock Holiday Window Display Competition, which will be unveiled in December.

“The idea there is,” he said, “we want to strategically place them throughout the strip so that we get people during the holidays walking down through the businesses and visiting what’s there.”

The other idea is to showcase cultures with dissimilar similarities by raising funds to bring guest artists from around the world to the area who are representative of the cultures found here.

“We have a large Finnish population here,” Loar said, “but we also have a large Chinese population between students and faculty.”

Loar said the Finnish musical piece, the kantele, a zither-type instrument, is very similar to the Chinese guzheng.

“If you look at the two of them, they are very, very similar,” he said. “If you listen to them, they are very different, because of the way they are tuned. But in mechanics, and the way they are used, they are very similar instruments. And so, my concept is to bring to bring, say, a guzheng master and a kantele master and have them perform together, and then discuss their various traditions and instruments, and show the building of this.”

In speaking with Hancock city manager Glenn Anderson, Loar was told expanding the arts and cultures of the town is actually part of the city’s goal.

“Glenn has said, ‘this has always been in our Master Plan, but we’ve just not gotten it together; we’ve always wanted to have more arts downtown,'” Loar said, “and so I’m trying to help make that happen. But these kinds of programs, whether it’s musicians or say, a painter who’s going to make a work based on the cultures that are here, I’m working with a lot of empty space, and the city manager has agreed that they will rent, pay utilities and insurance, for us for a few months to make artist space. Whether that’s for work space, or presentation space, or whatever we end up doing, to bring more arts and culture to downtown Hancock.”