Ionia Cultural Guild brings arts and community downtown
IONIA – A new non-profit organization is focused on revitalizing downtown Ionia through arts, culture and community.
The Ionia Cultural Guild will seek to work with businesses and residents to produce events and promote local talent – with the aim of benefiting businesses, according to chairman Ally Cook.
Ally, Margot, and Ellen Cook run their own business, Cook & Co. Creamery & Confections, 409 W. Main St., in downtown Ionia. But the Cook sisters will also focus on the Ionia Cultural Guild to promote all that downtown Ionia has to offer.
“We love our business, but we love our downtown,” Ally Cook said. “We always knew downtown was where we needed to be and where we wanted to be.”
Ally Cook said Ionia Town Center has seen “incredible growth” over the past three years but believes there is room for improvement.
“We just saw a lot of missed opportunities to celebrate the arts, to celebrate our culture and our community,” she said. “We really want to prioritize and focus on our local talent, our local history and our culture. I believe that the guild, with all that we enjoy, will improve downtown and directly benefit businesses.
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After visiting bustling and bustling downtowns elsewhere, the cooks wanted more for Downtown Ionia. Their goal is to collaborate with residents and businesses to produce a variety of events to celebrate Ionia’s history, culture, arts and community.
“Business owners have a great relationship with each other,” Ally Cook said. “We have a lot of common interests. We share the same passion for downtown and we all work well together. It’s really nice.”
Ally Cook is president of the Ionia Cultural Guild, with Cameron Smith vice-president. Margot Cook is the organization’s treasurer and Mattie Hildebrandt is its secretary. The group held its first meeting on March 28 and its second on April 11.
The Ionia Cultural Guild will grow its membership over time, Ally Cook said. She wants to add residents who are invested in downtown Ionia.
The guild was inspired by the Thornapple Arts Council in Hastings, a town Ally Cook has compared to Ionia. The council has promoted local arts and talent, which is what Cook wants for Ionia.
One of the guild’s first goals has already been achieved. The band will bring the Ionia County Fall Festival back to Bertha Brock Park on Saturday, October 15. The organization also wants to have live music and entertainment in downtown Ionia this summer, Ally Cook said.
“We have a beautiful downtown,” she said. “Summer is wonderful in Michigan. We don’t get a lot of great weather in this state. We need to have more arts-based, culture-based, downtown-focused outdoor activities. I think this gives us a nice little opportunity.