Posts Tagged 'Three Oaks'

Three Oaks Michigan: The small town that dreams big

Ain't no party like a Three Oaks party...

The creative spirit is alive and well in the thriving community of Three Oaks, MI. You might be surprised to discover just how alive, if its been a while since you have been there. Since the mid 90’s, the village has seen the establishment of an art house cinema, a top-notch venue for music and stage performance, a strikingly eclectic independent radio station, several thriving art galleries, a summer music in the park series, various outdoor art festivals, a monthly art walk, an annual circus nouveau side show, a non profit arts funding organization, and some truly unique antique shops. You can also find a yoga studio, a poet laureate, a farmers market, a used bookstore, and several quality cafes. Not bad for a small village with a population less than 2000. So how did it all happen in such an unlikely place? The answer is people stepping up, pooling resources, contributing talents, and patiently collaborating to have a larger impact on their community.

“There are a lot of creative people that contribute to make it all happen,” says Jon Vickers of the Vickers Theater, a beautifully restored turn of the century film house. He adds, “It’s really about the whole community coming together and contributing. I look at this as opportunity. We all have a chance to help create opportunities for others but also to enjoy them for ourselves”.

“Everyone is pretty dedicated and pitches in to make fun things happen,” says Kim Pruitt. Pruitt is a prime example of a local resident who contributes to a variety of creative projects. She is an artist, helps run WRHC radio, programmed the current Music in the Park series, and sits on the board of directors of the Harbor Arts non profit arts organization. She adds, “Because of the community feel and the wide variety of talents that we have living here, we end up collaborating on a lot of different projects together. Everything happens very organically so you feel you have a part in creating it”.

The Three Oaks arts movement has played an important cultural role as the town has morphed into a dynamic mix of big city second homeowners, fun loving tourists, long-term residents, and an ongoing influx of new people. “There is such diversity here, we have both liberals and conservatives, and can’t be pegged as one thing,” says Pruitt. “Arts and Culture bring people together though and are languages that can reach all the different communities that make up Three Oaks”. She continues, “One great thing about the WRHC radio station for example, is that it has created community where there wasn’t any and people who wouldn’t know each other or come into contact now have this great medium for networking and building relationships. After being four years on the air people look to us as a resource to send press releases and find out information about local happenings.” Vickers ads, “the whole idea of the station was to create an alternative form of media to debate issues and stimulate discussion”.

A deep appreciation of the important cultural functions of the arts seems to be both a common thread linking Three Oak’s cultural creatives as well as an expanding ethos in the town itself. “Now with Harbor Arts, Music in the Park, WRHC, and the Acorn and VickersTheaters, a structure is here to encourage artists that this is a good place to be where they can try new things” says Vickers. He continues, “For the size of our town we probably have per capita more unique things happening in the arts than anywhere in the country. I feel strongly about that. I love the fact there are interesting things to do, that we have music in the air on summer nights, and being able to turn on the radio and hear things I would never be able to hear on commercial radio”. He summarizes the spirit of the Three Oaks arts movement by saying “I like that in a small town, it is so easy to participate and you have the opportunity to make a big difference”.

The best of Three Oaks:

Film: Cinema buffs will enjoy the foreign, independent, and off beat flavor of the beautiful Vickers Theater.

Theater and music:

The Acorn Theater offers music lovers and fans of stage performance a truly beautiful place to see a wide variety of shows. There is also an open mic on Tuesday evenings and video lounge on Thursdays.


Three Oaks Art Galleries include Gallery H, Blue, and Studio B. There are also art showings at The Vickers Theater and in the Wine Shop at the Acorn. Galleries and other businesses stay open late during the summer for Art Walks that happen on third Saturdays from 5PM to 9PM.

WRHC Radio: Boasting a roster of 45 DJ’s, countless original shows, and a volunteer army, WRHC is an astonishingly eclectic source of music, news, and information. Original shows run the gambit from comedy, classical, talk, rare groove, news, jazz, experimental, spoken word, rock, bluegrass, alternative, oldies, and more. Listeners outside broadcast range can stream WRHC online at

Harbor Arts: Three Oaks only 501(C)(3) arts funding organization, Harbor Arts has sponsored a wide variety of local arts festivals including Opera at the Acorn, Shakespeare in the Park, The Festival of Lights, The Sounds of Silents Film Festival which combined live music with silent film, Commit Art, and Music in the Park. It is also the parent organization responsible for creating WRHC.

Music in the Park: From June 13th to September 5th there is free music in Dewey Cannon Park in downtown Three Oaks on Saturday nights. Check the Harbor Arts web site for scheduled performers.

Antiquing: Antique enthusiasts will find lots to love in Three Oaks. Eclectic shops like Ipso Facto, Springdale, and Opulence Antiques are destinations unto themselves.

David Fink and Kim Clark, the creative visionaries behind Three Oaks’ Acorn Theater.



          Kim Clark and David Fink are men of big dreams and even bigger actions. As the heart, soul, and creative minds behind the Acorn Theater they have been a big part of Three Oaks’ burgeoning arts renaissance. In its 5 years of existence the Acorn has quickly established itself as one of the most unique and innovative performance venues in the region. The dynamic duo has used the venue to push the creative and cultural envelopes of the small town consistently. “All creativity requires some kind of risk,” says Clark, the theater’s artistic director and co-owner. The former head of writing for Second City goes on to say “We try to be a hothouse for creative and new works at the Acorn and we try to bring a big world to a small town.” His business partner and the theater’s producer, David Fink, chimes in “People don’t expect to find this kind of big city culture in the middle of a corn field.”

            Since opening in 2003, Three Oaks’ Acorn Theater has brought an incredible range of diverse performances to the Michiana region. “We try to vary what we do so people can come over and over and not get bored,” says Fink. He is not exaggerating either. To date the venue has hosted jazz, folk, blues, rock, and world music concerts, vaudeville style performance artists, cabaret acts, plays, art showings, opera, and participatory theme based dance parties. Additionally, the venue hosts acting and art classes, a comedy camp for kids, a Thursday night video lounge, and has a well stocked bar and in house wine shop. It is more than just these happenings at the Acorn that makes it so special. Fink and Clark put an incredible amount of thought, time, intention, and money into both the rehab of the building and the design and construction of the theater.

            “We wanted to create a sanctuary for the arts, a place where artists of all kinds would have a unique platform to express ideas to an appreciative audience,” says Clark. It was this intention that led them to install performance friendly quiet air conditioning and silent heating. The acoustic design was also given careful consideration. These and countless other details helped give the Acorn a unique ambience that several performers consider among the best in the country. “Many of our performers tell us this is their favorite place to play,” says Fink. “Now it is to the point where people like Jefferson Starship are contacting us to play here.” It is easy to see why. The Acorn Theater is unpretentious yet classy. It is spacious yet intimate. Few people would have had the creative vision to see how an old dilapidated featherbone factory could be transformed into such a warm and inviting space. Clark and Fink had that vision, as well as the patience, passion, and dedication to back it up. Now the Acorn has a carefully cultivated and inspiring ambience that has endeared it to both performers and audience alike.

            “The great thing is the relationship we have cultivated with our audience,” says Fink. “They really trust us and might come see things they would not normally see just because they know we book good stuff.” He adds “ We also get thank you gifts and postcards at the theater from people who regularly come here.” “I think this theater fills a big space for a lot of people” explains Clark. The heartfelt appreciation of the Acorn audience is just one of many things that makes running the theater so rewarding for the two owners. When asked the best part of running the Acorn, Clark says “getting to know so many smart, interesting, and fun people”. Indeed the pair seem quite happy with the love, energy, time, and capital they have so heavily invested into the Acorn. Fink concludes “We feel lucky. We have front row seats to the best show ever, and it never stops.”