the cultureworks story
CultureWorks Transformative Arts + Design Academy was conceived by a group of individuals from Engedi Church who were passionate about creating a community center for diverse individuals to come together to find hope and inspiration. Led by Pastor Brian Aulick, this core group recognized the transformative nature of the arts and their innate ability to open up a world where anything is possible.
In researching the benefit of arts education, they discovered that arts education levels the playing field across socio-economic boundaries by improving student retention, reducing the achievement gap, and nurturing the imagination. In short, it was obvious that art education is a vehicle for justice. This group saw a void in the Holland community for an arts organization specifically committed to under-resourced youth. Entire segments of the population who would most benefit from the arts were not being reached. In Holland, MI, a hub of innovative design and manufacturing and home to furniture design giants like Herman Miller and Haworth, it was especially apparent that there was a gap between industry and education that cultivates creative thinking and experimentation, specifically for those from low-income backgrounds.
Compelled by an internal faith that was grounded in the conviction that we are called to not only love our neighbors but to see them thrive, this core group founded CultureWorks Institute for Creative Arts in 2011.
With the investment of key donors, the generous support of a construction company, and dozens of volunteers, an abandoned unemployment office was transformed into state-of-the-art studios, digital media lab, and gallery space. While, Engedi Church remains a vital institutional partner, CultureWorks functions as a separate entity, and its programs are not church-related or religious in content.
Fostering creative-thinking skills, collaboration, and fearless exploration in an accessible and encouraging environment are paramount to what we do. Our after-school art and design classes for middle and high school students remain heart of our programming. Since opening our doors in 2011, we have served over 3,500 students. In 2016-2017, we served 154 students in our after-school programs and 1,007 total students, majority low-income.
In an effort to extend the experimental, communal nature of our youth programs to the wider community, we have launched several adults programs, like MixThink, a tag-team speaker series on disparate topics and Dish:Dish, an artist-run community potluck and discussion group. Our gallery also serves as a vital extension of our educational programming, bringing in artists from around the country to collaborate with and respond to student work, the educational environment, and our local community.
 “The Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth,” National Endowment for the Arts, 2012.