Creative natives draw their inspiration from Flint's unflagging energy.
Tracey Gilmour Whelpley
Whelpley opened the Flint Lunch Studio (flintlunchstudio.com) — an eclectic and artsy breakfast and lunch only diner — in 2001. A Flint native, Whelpley has lived on both coasts and a few places in between, but returned home to open the business because she believes that there's something special about Flint locals. A gourmet and diner hybrid, the Lunch Studio serves up exceptionally fresh food, and that fast.
Why did you choose to open The Lunch Studio in Downtown Flint?
"Flint is my home; my roots are here; I knew I could fill a niche... appeal to people like me who wanted something wholesome, fresh and fair-priced. I serve a lunch that you could eat every day and not blow your diet or your budget."
Give us an example of one of these wholesome meals.
"The Studio tuna. It's a tuna salad made with mango chutney, toasted almonds and water chestnuts. We use less mayo in our salads than most restaurants do, so it's nice and meaty."
When you have a Friday off from making mouthwatering lunches, where do you go?
"First stop is The Loft [515 Buckham Alley; 810-767-0933] for a pear martini, then either the ARTWALK [www.flintartwalk. com], or whatever event is going on. I usually stick around Downtown. My favorite place for dinner is Cork on Saginaw [www.corkonsaginaw.com]. It's a beautiful place with beautiful food and an extensive wine bar. One of my favorite meals is the small filet mignon with coffee rub, potato gratin and asparagus."
In 2009, Zimmerman founded Flint Comix and Entertainment (www.flintcomix. com), a monthly, publication that boasts a circulation of 10,000 and carries a unique blend of locally-based comic strips, editorial cartoons and comic book-style adventure stories about heroes, horror and humor.
Why a comic book-style magazine and why Flint?
"I started Flint Comix because, frankly, it's the paper I always wanted to read when I was growing up near Flint. As an art form as well as a form of entertainment, comics have always gotten the short end of the stick. We've taken this unique form of entertainment and put it front and center, getting it out beyond the standard comic retail shop audience and showing everyone that this is a viable, inexpensive form of entertainment."
If Flint was a comic book character...
"To describe it as 'blue collar' would probably conjure images of Larry The Cable Guy dimwittedness. But Flint is the real definition of the term 'blue collar' — built on muscle, sweat and ingenuity. We are workers, craftsmen and, I suppose, very restless individuals in a pure melting pot environment."
The comic strips in your magazine — apart from featuring local hero Sparks who fights crime in Flint — often feature local events. What's your favorite?
"Flint Comix puts on the annual ComixCon in downtown Flint every second Saturday in April. It's a comic book and media convention where we celebrate our paper's contributors and the anniversary of our paper's publishing."
Formerly a performing musical artist (you may have seen him in numerous Flint area productions like Jesus Christ Superstar) he combined his business know-how and fine arts training 18 years ago, becoming the President and CEO of Greater Flint Arts Council. Believing that the arts have the power to transform a city, he has advocated for increased cultural enrichment in Flint.
What is the Greater Flint Arts Council doing to transform Flint?
"The GFAC produces exhibitions like the Young Artists Today high school art competition, ARTWALK, JAZZWALK, the Flint Jazz Festival, the Tunes at Noon Festival and the Flint Festival of Quilts. We also provide resources to groups that showcase our city in a positive light to attract an audience that will spend their discretionary entertainment dollars in our community. GFAC is gaining national recognition for its local art scene and using the emerging arts to transform our community image both internally and externally."
What is Flint's art scene like?
"On June 8, we have an ARTWALK with many locations showing local art, with live music, food and drink, poetry, book signings and indie films. On June 28, we have a JAZZWALK, with live jazz in seven places."
Where do you go to let loose sans arts?
"I'm headed out the door of the Arts Council onto Saginaw Street where there's always something cool going on — Memorial Weekend through mid-October, there is a festival almost every weekend."