This photo by Vince Musi may be used with Photo Credit: Click here to download.
by Sandra Clark, Director of the Michigan Historical Center for the State of Michigan
by Amy Arnold, published by MISHDA
Because of its size, this report has been broken into multiple PDFs.
These files may also be found on the Michigan.gov site.
Internationally acclaimed photographer Vincent J. Musi, whose work is frequently seen in National Geographic Magazine, completed a two week photographic assignment for Michigan's Beachtowns Association in conjunction with the organization's efforts to gain certification of U.S. Route 31, "The West Michigan Pike", as a Michigan Heritage Route.
Musi, who is also a contributor to Time, Newsweek, Life, Fortune and The New York Times Magazine, arrived in the Beachtowns communities on July 08, 2008 and began a 15- day photographic excursion. According to Felicia Fairchild, President of Beachtowns Association and Executive Director of the Saugatuck-Douglas Visitors Bureau, "We wanted to launch this historic route in an unprecedented and powerful way. We wanted to create buzz, curiosity and excitement about this project throughout the region. But most importantly it was our objective to create an enduring photographic retrospective that would link this historic route from our past to our present and to our future." She added, "We sought out Mr. Musi because of his vast body of work and his artistic and thought-provoking style."
For more than 25 years Mr. Musi has photographed diverse subjects including Traveling Route 66, The Lewis and Clark Trail, Life Under Volcanoes, Illegal Immigration and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. His most recent story on Animal Intelligence captured the cover of the March 2008 issue of National Geographic Magazine.
Musi, considered one of the nation's finest photographic essayists, believes that pictures are meant to convey the essence of a particular subject. He has done a number of features on vanishing cultures and has a special interest in covering cultural subjects that are tied together by history. During his visit to Beachtowns he was struck by the anti big box feel of the lakeshore and the predominance of businesses owned by private individuals and sometimes owned by several generations of the same family.
He observed, "There is real treasure here in the history, people and communities that needs to be documented and preserved. I only scratched the surface." Regarding his travels along the Pike he added, "The journey is just as important as the destination and even though much of the original West Michigan Pike doesn't exist any more, the spirit and soul of what made it special still does."
This highway, also known as Blue Star Highway or the West Michigan Pike, was built between 1911 and 1922. It was the first continuous, improved road between Chicago and Mackinaw City and opened West Michigan to automobile tourism.The history and culture associated with the pike played an important roll in the development of tourism along the lakeshore.
For the past four years, the Beachtowns Association has been working on the certification process. A substantial portion of that process has been completed and the Association is in the final stages of obtaining historic certification through the Michigan Department of Transportation. The group plans to officially launch "The Pike" on July 12, 2012, exactly 100 years to the day that the original West Michigan Pike was launched. Beachtowns has been working in conjunction with the Michigan Historical Center through a $160,000 Preserve America grant, plus a $50,000 matching grant from The Michigan Council of the Arts and Cultural Affairs to meet federal and state guidelines for participation in Michigan's Heritage Route Program.
The route will extend from the Indiana border to Ludington along the Lake Michigan shoreline. In addition to presenting Beachtowns with expanded promotional opportunities, the historic designation will offer many benefits to a variety of municipalities and organizations. Historic designation does not make anything happen, but allows things to happen by qualifying the area to tap into federal and state grant opportunities such as transportation enhancement grants, private foundation grants, Michigan Department of Transportation funds and, potentially, scenic byways grants. Heritage designation does not add any layers of government, presents no additional liability issues or land use issues, however it has the great potential to attract and keep visitors coming to the area.
Mr. Musi shot 7000 images during his two-week visit. Forty exhibit-quality prints went on exhibition in museums throughout the state beginning July 8, 2008. Musi's West Michigan Pike photo excursion was made possible through grants from the Michigan Humanities Council, Holland-Zeeland Community Foundation, the Frey Foundation, the Tri-Cities Museum, The Grand Haven Community Foundation and the Muskegon Community Foundation, through the efforts of Sandra Clark Director of the Michigan Historical Department. The idea for the West Michigan Pike Heritage Route is the result of a grant from Preserve America and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs to develop a cultural tourism initiative in Southwest Michigan.