Artworks to honor Batdorffs for supporting community

Long-time supporters of the arts, Jack and Susan Batdorff recently decided to pay off the mortgage for the building owned by Artworks in downtown Big Rapids. Jack said he wanted the organization to be able to operate in the community without worrying about making the payments so that they could continue to bring the arts to area residents. (Pioneer photo/Taylor Fussman)

BIG RAPIDS — From an affordable grocery store to an auto repair shop, a pharmacy to a family-friendly restaurant, there are a few elements every small town needs to survive.

Jack Batdorff

Jack Batdorff believes one of these essential elements is a local arts and culture center.

For this reason, Batdorff and his wife, Susan, decided to make a significant contribution toward supporting local artists and their endeavors by paying off the mortgage for the building owned by Artworks in downtown Big Rapids.

“We wanted Artworks to be able to operate without worrying about the payments,” he said. “That way they can put that money aside for projects to expand the operation and serve the needs of the community.”

Artworks Executive Director Lynne Scheible said Batdorff has been involved with the organization almost since the beginning, and has always been a passionate supporter of arts and cultural programming.

“He believes in the mission and importance of having a community art center,” she said.

When the Batdorffs told Scheible they would be paying off the mortgage for the building, she said it felt like a dream come true.

“For Artworks, the impact is monumental. We will always have some building costs, but in the long term it will help with programming,” Scheible said. “We will be able to offer so much more to the community because of this.”

To show their immense gratitude to the Batdorffs for their donation, the Artworks board agreed to officially rename the Painted Turtle Gallery after the couple.

Area residents are invited to a gallery dedication and renaming ceremony for The Batdorff Gallery from 5 to 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 13, at Artworks.

“We wanted to have a special celebration and recognition of this gift,” Scheible said.

Community members are invited to a gallery dedication and renaming ceremony for The Batdorff Gallery from 5 to 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 13, at Artworks. The organization is renaming the gallery following a significant contribution from Jack and Susan Batdorff. (Pioneer photo/Taylor Fussman)

She noted Batdorff was not expecting the gallery to be renamed when they made the decision to pay off the mortgage.

“I didn’t do it for the name. I did it because I believe in what they are doing at Artworks,” he said.

Batdorff, the previous owner of the Pioneer Group in Big Rapids, has a long history of contributing to local organizations and charities.

Jim Crees, editor of the Pioneer newspaper and friend of the Batdorffs, said the couple has always felt a responsibility to support and maintain the community.

“Jack and Susan never did what they did in order to get a pat on the back or a hearty handshake,” Crees said. “They did what they did, they do what they do, and they give what they give because it’s the right thing to do.”

Scheible added the gift from the Batdorffs means the world to the artists and people in the area who have worked hard to keep Artworks running.

“Jack and Susan have not only made a difference for today, but for forever,” Scheible said.

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Posted by Taylor Fussman

Taylor is the cops and courts reporter for the Pioneer and Herald Review newspapers. She can be reached at (231) 592-8362 or by email at tfussman@pioneergroup.com.

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