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3 Things: Martine MacDonald

All this year, Michigan Radio has been asking people from across the state for their 3 ideas for how we can improve things in Michigan. The series is called 3 Things and today, we heard from Martine MacDonald, she's an award-winning artist based in Southeastern Michigan.

To start, MacDonald encourages Michigan residents to make commitments to their communities. Rather than limiting the idea of community to geographically bound areas, MacDonald considers all communal relationships as forms of community, beginning with the family. On her trip from Detroit to Toledo, MacDonald met with many people who had deep relationships with where they lived and where they came from based on family history.

MacDonald says that having a connection to a physical location or to a place in time allows people to feel a sense of belonging. “If you feel a part of something, you’re going to care more than if you feel more transient,” says MacDonald, “Whether you feel transient where you live or your feel transient where you fall in history, you’re not going to have that commitment to wanting to invest yourself and your energies into a place.”

For her second idea, MacDonald urges everyone to develop a passion. On her trip, MacDonald says she met people with various passions and witnessed the positive impact that pursuing those passions had on their lives.

At Fort Wayne, MacDonald met with volunteers who were fixing up the historic fort because they shared a passion in its history. “They’ve turned their passion into making a difference,” says MacDonald, adding that if you develop a passion and pursue it, “you’ll become excited about what you do, you’ll talk to people about what you do, and they become excited, too.”

MacDonald’s final idea is to promote communication through the creative process. On her trip to Toledo, MacDonald and her group of artists invited local residents to an art show featuring art inspired by the communities they travelled through.

At one point, a woman approached a painting done by MacDonald and proceeded to tell her a story about the location featured in the work and what the painting was communicating. MacDonald says that while the woman interpreted the painting in a way that wasn’t intended, the fact that she had a connection to the piece is what’s important. “What I discovered is that if you leave your creative endeavors out there, people bring their stories,” says MacDonald.

Communicating through the creative process could help the state because, in its simplest form, creating art is a way to give back to your community, says MacDonald. Whether it’s a painting, a poem, or a song, by creating art a person can give something to their community that has an untold value. Beyond simply contributing to the artistic culture of a community, MacDonald says that creating art invites dialogue. “Maybe that’s what it is in the end, is that you’re inviting dialogue with people, and by acknowledging your creativity, inviting them to bring their stories,” says MacDonald, “Maybe dialogue is the best thing we can do for the state, and getting us to the next stage, whatever that is.”

You can hear the full interview here. Interview transcript by Eliot Johnson.

Zoe Clark is Michigan Public's Political Director. In this role, Clark guides coverage of the state Capitol, elections, and policy debates.