Wolf Tree Film Festival 2022

Wolf Tree Film Festival

Wolf Tree Film Festival 2022

JANUARY 22, 2022 | 8PM


🎟 ADV. $15 | DOORS $18


In its fourth year, Wolf Tree Film Festival showcases films set in the Great Lakes region or that include themes or topics related to the region, as well as the work of filmmakers who reside in or grew up in the Great Lakes region. The Great Lakes region is defined as any state or territory that touches one of the Great Lakes (including Ontario, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York).

Submitted films should be no longer than 30 minutes, and all genres will be considered.

The festival will take place at The Franke Center for the Arts in Marshall, MI* and will include screenings of each selected film, a Q&A with select filmmakers, an awards presentation, and a filmmaker roundtable with industry professionals.

The Wolf Tree Film Festival is housed in historic Marshall, Michigan, a gorgeous small town with a vibrant artistic community. Hosted by the Franke Center for the Arts and Marshall’s Youngish Professionals Committee, the festival is held at Franke Center, originally a church built in 1921, now an arts complex that is the proud home of world-class concerts, inspiring theater, and award-winning movies.

*The festival will adhere to all public health and safety recommendations at the time of the event

Key Dates:
October 1, 2021: FilmFreeway open for submissions
Dec 12, 2021: FilmFreeway deadline for submissions
January 5, 2022: Filmmaker Notification date
January 22, 2022: Wolf Tree Film Festival at the Franke Center

For more information on submission rules and awards, please visit FilmFreeway.

Fridays at the Fountain 2021

Fridays at the Fountain 2021!

Events, Updates
Fridays at the Fountain

The Fridays at the Fountain concert series is set to return in-person at the Brooks Memorial Fountain on July 9th with local favorites, Danae & The Grind. Running every other Friday through the end of the summer, the series will feature 4 additional local musical acts including Chameleon (7/23), Rae of Light (8/6), Kjell Croce (8/20) and Mike Reed (9/3). There is no cost to attend. Please bring your own chair or blanket.

The series is brought to the community by Marshall’s Youngish Professional Committee with the help of generous sponsorships by the Marshall Community Foundation, Oaklawn Hospital and Woods Insurance, along with Choose Marshall, Black Lab Five, Graphics3, Dark Horse Brewing Co., Franke Center for the Arts, Austin Rinard – Miller Financial Services, & Copper Athletic Club.

Last summer, the series was presented entirely virtually via livestream. “We’re looking forward to being able to bring the concerts in-person again this year. As our community is emerging from being largely at home during 2020, it’s a great way to rebuild and develop connections,” says Jennifer Conley Darling, one of the event organizers. The concerts will again be live streamed so that those who can’t attend in-person can still enjoy the music.

All the concerts will take place at the Brooks Memorial Fountain and be live streamed through Choose Marshall and YPC’s Facebook at 7pm EST.

Aubrey (Thompke) Damron

Spotlight: Aubrey (Thompke) Damron


The YPC’s Spotlight Series is back, and the Youngish Professionals are honored to welcome the very talented Aubrey (Thompke) Damron to the orange chair – to share more about herself and her work in bringing the historic Wagner’s Block ballroom to life. So, without further adieu, the spotlight is on!

YPC: Hey, Aubrey! Welcome to the orange chair and thank you for your time.

Aubrey: Thanks for the invite, YPC!

YPC: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? What do you do?

Aubrey: I am a self-employed freelance artist born and raised in Marshall, MI. I studied art and psychology at both NMU and Olivet College.

YPC: Has art always been part of your DNA?

Aubrey: It has had my heart for as long as I can remember, and it was always my dream to be an artist when I grew up. I decided to go full-time with my craft just over 7 years ago, and my parents have been incredibly supportive of me pursuing my dream throughout my life. I owe them so much for encouraging me and instilling in me a strong work ethic, and it feels great to have them as my biggest fans. I do maintain a part-time job serving and bartending at Mike’s Place in Marshall, while still running my own business for my art.

YPC: Busy lady, and a strong shout out to Mike’s Place! What type of art do you primarily focus on?

Aubrey: I do a lot of commission work with a specialty in portraiture and non-traditional landscapes. My original work is typically surreal in nature and often weird, but I love the weird. For much of last year, I have been focused on work at the EastEnd Ballroom while completing some commissions.

YPC: To say we are excited to see the final product and throw an event in the ballroom is an understatement. It is SUCH an incredible space and treasure. What is your history specifically with EESG?

Aubrey: Having been a local artist for many years now, my peers and community have recognized me for the work I do and often reach out to me for things I would be a good fit for.  This led to my direct connection with Eastend. I have had work in one of the shows there and have been an assistant to Kat in the after-school art program at Harrington Elementary in Albion. My connection to the ballroom project stemmed from my working relationship and friendship with Jen Darling and Michael Peck, and them bestowing on me the chance to be a larger part of it. I appreciate them both so much for having faith in me.

YPC: How did you get involved with the ballroom project?

Aubrey: My name had been brought up to Michael Peck for a project he needed a few good artists for, and our initial introduction was all that was needed for us to know how well we would work together. The rest is history, so to speak. Amongst a few other projects I had been invited to work under him for, the ballroom has been the largest so far. I was fortunate enough to be a part of the team that made the wallpaper for the ballroom and also the team that hung the wallpaper. The work began on the foyer and, at the start, I was one of a few helping hands assisting Michael – as much of the work at that point he was doing himself. Then COVID hit and things changed dramatically. I remember the conversation he and I had about me taking over as lead on-site…my excitement for such an amazing opportunity was followed by an immediate flood of anxiousness that will never be forgotten. I knew it was my chance to leave my mark…and in my hometown no less. His encouragement that this was my time to shine still rings in my ears.

YPC: Too cool, and what an amazing mentor to have. What exactly is your role?

Aubrey: My role in the project is On-Site Lead Artist, working directly under the instruction of Michael Peck and collectively with Jen Darling and our other artists. I ensure the artistry and all of the operations run as smoothly as possible, to make Michael’s vision of the space come alive. I do the leg work for the materials and helping to plan out the order of operations. I have been fortunate enough to do some of the design work in creating such a magical space, and for an extended amount of time was the only artist working on site. I am also responsible for keeping our artists on task and that our output of work is of high quality.

(The Painting Team) Back L to R: Ray Swaney, Ashton Thompke, Jason Thompke, Heather Meyer
Front L to R: Aubrey Damron, Meagan Wildt Center on Ipad: Michael Peck

YPC: Would you be willing to tell us a bit about the rest of the ballroom team?

Aubrey: Gladly. Currently our team consists of five active artists, with four on-site and Michael being remote. My present team consists of one, Meagan Wildt, a friend and talented regional artist who also works with Eastend assisting Kat Whaley in our after-school (A.S.A.P.) class teaching kids the joys of art. Around mid-January, I brought on two friends and fellow artists, Ray Swaney and Heather Meyer, both graduates of MHS and career artists themselves. Ray is self-employed, widely skilled, and talented in various forms of art. His versatility and problem-solving skills have been quite valuable to the project. Heather balances a busy family schedule, her own work, and her contribution of talent to our project executing fantastic detail and focus.

I have also been fortunate enough to work alongside my brother, Jason Thompke, owner and operator of PLC home solutions. He is a jack of all trades and has been an incredible aid in helping me access some of the harder-to-reach areas by building platforms and setting up and moving scaffolding for me. His son Ashton also has had a small hand in the painting and is eager to learn more.

Previously, we had a contribution of work by the skilled Ryan Cook in painting the faux marble. My husband, Joshua Damron, has also assisted me in much of the technical layouts and execution of work that involved a lot of measuring and mapping out, a welcome addition of help with something that isn’t my strong suit.

Laura Valentine, another career artist with fantastic talent in painting, and Bonnie Peck were on deck at the start of some of the faux marble painting and ceiling work on-site, and are the other two creators (including myself and Michael) of the beautifully handmade wallpaper that hangs in the ballroom. The wallpaper was hung by Darrel and Diana Hawthorne of Dandy Improvements and me. These two individuals I think could create anything you can think of with their hands and have extensive knowledge in restoration and wallpaper hanging. It was such a treat to work with them.

I can’t say this enough. I am SO fortunate to know so many talented individuals and to work well with them. It is a joy to be surrounded by inspirational imagery and people.

YPC: What have been the most challenging, fun, and rewarding things about the project?

Aubrey: The biggest challenge has been having Michael teaching me from afar. As we know, in our current state of things, much is being done virtually. Making this happen effectively to learn technical methods, some of them being things I have never attempted before, has been at times seemingly impossible. Giving him virtual tours and daily briefings to stay abreast of the project takes time and dedication with long hours of working. But I do best under pressure, so having all of these challenges for me is welcome. I know it will all be worth it.

YPC: What an incredible experience and opportunity. Anything else you would like to share?

Aubrey: I’m excited to say it looks like we may be opening the 3rd floor to the public as early as June! In many ways, working in this space with so much turmoil going on in the world has been a welcome respite. Art has always remained my saving grace. Dedicating myself to my craft and honing in on my skills is proving to be the most rewarding time of my life, and I am forever grateful to be leaving my mark on something that I hope our community will cherish for years to come. I have put much of my heart and soul into this space and even long after my name has been forgotten, I hope my art lives on to bring others joy.

YPC: Your legacy will definitely live on, Aubrey, and we can’t wait to share the joy of taking your, Michael, and your team’s art in over and over again with our greater community. That ballroom will be a treasure for generations!

Aubrey: Thank you for sharing that, YPC, and for this opportunity to chat. It’s been great.

YPC: That it has, and thank you too!

We’ll be back soon with another edition of our Spotlight Series, but until then..

Stay safe. Stay socially distanced. Check on loved ones and neighbors. Howl at the moon often. Find new ways to support your local businesses and nonprofits. Exercise and eat healthy. Try new hobbies. Share your positive energy with as many people as possible. #BeYoungish. #Choose Marshall.

Know of someone with a unique story to share? Please let us know! Our spotlight series line-up remains strong (you guys make it easy on us), but that doesn’t mean we’re not looking for new professionals to highlight in creative ways and to bring into the YPC. So, if anyone (yourself included) comes to mind, let, us, know: theyoungishprofessionals (at) gmail (dot) com

Wolf Tree Watch on Demand

Wolf Tree Film Festival On Demand


Starting today, Sunday, January 24 through Sunday, January 31 at 11pm, The Wolf Tree Film Festival will be available to Watch On Demand. This allows you, the viewer, to watch the festival at your leisure over the course of the next week.

To purchase tickets, please visit: https://www.bingewave.com/f/wolf-tree-film-festival. Be sure to create a password at the end of your purchase which will allow you to access your tickets anytime through the Account tab once you are logged in.

If you have any questions, please email jdarling(at)frankecenterforthearts(dot)org.

Wolf Tree 2021 FAQs

Wolf Tree Film Festival FAQ’s


It’s almost Wolf Tree time YPC friends! If you have any questions regarding our 2021 virtual event, please read below:

To purchase a full festival ticket ($15) please click on the blue ‘Tickets’ button in the center of the BingeWave page. It sits between the ‘Main Website’ and ‘Support’ buttons below.

In its third year, Wolf Tree Film Festival aims to showcase short films set in the Great Lakes region or that include themes or topics related to the region, as well as the work of filmmakers who reside in or grew up in the Great Lakes region. The festival is fully virtual in 2021 and will include screenings of each selected film.

CONTENT WARNING: some films included in this festival contain mature content that may be inappropriate for young viewers and may be triggering for others. Viewer discretion is advised.

Start Date

January 23, 2021, 6:00 pm

End Date

January 23, 2021, 9:00 pm


A: Once you have purchased a ticket, a link to the festival site will be sent to the email provided at purchase.  An additional email will be sent Friday and again at 5pm on Saturday. Please check your spam and junk folders for “BingeWave” as the email will be coming from that site.


A: The event will be live streamed on the BingeWave site starting at 6pm this Saturday, January 23, 2021. This is a live screening (meaning we recommend joining at 6pm). You will be able to join late, but may miss some content.


A: Once you click on the link provided in the email from BingeWave, you can watch the event anywhere you would access the internet (laptop, phone, tablet or screencast to your TV). For best viewing, please use your WiFi and do not use the Safari browser or 3G/4G.  

If you have any other questions, please email jdarling(at)frankecenterforthearts(dot)org.

Wolf Tree - Marshall, MI

2021 Wolf Tree Film Festival Official Selections


Wolf Tree Film Festival proudly presents the 2021 Official Selections for short films (all genres) which will be virtually screened on BingeWave from 6pm – 9pm (EST), January 23rd. Support local filmmaking while enjoying an evening of cinema and entertainment for just $15 + processing fee (hosted by Lance Barber)!

For the best viewing experience on BingeWave, please do not use 3G/4G but WIFI and do not use the browser Safari.

2021 Wolf Tree Official Selections

CONTENT WARNING: Some films included in this festival contain mature content that may be inappropriate for young viewers and may be triggering for others. Viewer discretion is advised.


Written & Directed by Hugo Lacasse · Produced by Futur Media Inc.
An “Instababe” puts her physical and mental health on the line to compete against a younger, more popular rival.

Salt River Water Walk

Directed & Produced by Krista Davis & Jenny Zander
In February 2020, Sharon Day (Ojibwe) led a group of Water Walkers through the Arizona desert to walk for the Salt River. Through animation and live-shot footage, this documentary travels with the Salt River Water Walkers, describing this Indigenous-led ceremony as it creates community and builds relationships with the earth through the shared goal to care for the water.


Directed by Orlando Leroi · Produced by Marissa Duignan· Written by Malik Bibbie
After a brutal interaction with the police, a young black father’s search for freedom takes him beyond the limits of the atmosphere.

Medical Help

Directed by Lanessa Miller · Produced by Walkingstick Music LLC · Written by Dwight L. Wilcox II
An animated video illustrating the original swing jazz song Medical Help by Dwight L. Wilcox II with relevance to the era in which we are living.


Directed by Hannah Byrd · Produced by Emily ‘Mealz’ Smith, Jason Howard, Andrew Accaioli & Fatima Al Saif
A previously homeless man takes a ride through his past in order to understand the present and how it affects his future.

Bathroom Break

Directed by Simone LeClaire · Produced by Xiaolu Wang · Written by Simone LeClaire & Marina Kittaka
Mari gets more than she bargained for when she spends her night out hiding in the bathroom.

As We Are

Written & Directed by Michael R Faulkner · Produced by Robin Miller Ungar
When Evan Bertrand was diagnosed with autism at eighteen months, doctors told his mother, Andrea, to go home and mourn the loss of a “normal child.” Instead, she and her son went on to discover his gift for music together. Twenty years later, Evan and Andrea are putting on the biggest concert of his life, just as they are.

Lily in the Maze

Written & Directed by Alexandra Emmons & Andrew Juhl ·
Produced by Alexandra Emmons, Andrew Juhl & John Morrow

Will, a quiet introvert, deals with a change in his routine on the same day a woman from his past appears. His self-control is put to the test as he struggles to harness his instincts during a confrontation that ends in a surreal mirror maze.


Written & Directed by Anna Rust
A troubled woman records her journey to finding her mother after she was abandoned more than a decade ago.

DATE: January 23, 2021
TIME: 6pm – 9pm (EST)
TICKETS: https://www.bingewave.com/f/wolf-tree-film-festival
HOST: Lance Barber

Lance Barber Hosts 2021 Wolf Tree

Battle Creek’s Own Lance Barber To Host 2021 Virtual Wolf Tree

Wolf Tree Film Festival

The Franke Center for the Arts and Marshall’s Youngish Professionals invite you to the 3rd Annual Wolf Tree Film Festival on Saturday, January 23, 2021 in a virtual setting.* This year will feature one of the stars of CBS’ Young Sheldon, Battle Creek’s own, Lance Barber. Lance will emcee the event and do a private filmmaker’s roundtable with the selected filmmakers.

Special Guest: Lance Barber

Lance Barber has the skills to play a wide range of television characters having appeared in numerous shows on the small screen since 2001. An alumnus of Chicago’s Second City, Lance played the role of Paulie G on HBO’s critically acclaimed, The Comeback, which The New York Times described as “among the great villains of television comedy.”

Lance has also had recurring roles on Black-ish, Faking It, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Californication, United States of Tara, and many more. Recently, Lance appeared as Irwin in the feature film, Buster’s Mal Heart opposite Rami Malek. Barber, who was born and raised in Battle Creek, Michigan, began acting with his Pennfield High School Drama Club.

Why “Wolf Tree?” According to legend, the Wolf Tree was a lone, prominent tree that once stood in the middle of Marshall. The first settler in the area sought refuge in the heights of the tree as wolves and bears roamed the dirt lane and forest that would one day become the city’s downtown. Later, a platform was built in the large oak’s branches where it is said a sentry, seeking the faint glow of wolves’ eyes, would hunt, eager to protect the village from threats hidden in the darkness below. It is a wild history, a bold story, and a great homage to the films that will be featured at this exciting annual event.

* Wolf Tree Film Festival will be fully virtual in 2021. The festival will include screenings of each selected film and an awards presentation.

THANK YOU for Fridays at the Fountain 2020!


The Youngish Professionals Committee
Fridays at the Fountain – A YPC Concert Series

The YPC would like to thank all of our sponsors (Choose Marshall, Dark Horse Brewing Company, Almanack Digital, terraNOVA Collective, Black Lab Five, Franke Center for the Arts, and FUG), our artists, our viewers, and crew, for joining us in this year’s Fridays at the Fountain. We had an absolute blast streaming and dancing along with everyone, and hope to see everyone back at the Brooks Memorial Fountain in the near future for the continuation of our FATF concert series. We love you all!

Fridays at the Fountain Facebook Live Streams
June 19, 2020 – August 28, 2020

You can rewatch all of our FATF live streams at the links below!

Want a rad Fridays at the Fountain t-shirt? They’re just $15 and are available in sizes Adult Small – 3XL! DM us on YPC’s Facebook with your size and shipping address to help support FATF.

Until next time, be active, be engaged, #BeYoungish!

Jennifer Conley Darling

Spotlight: Jennifer Conley Darling


In a time when darkness somehow feels even darker, and positive news feels more important than ever, the YPC will be turning on all of the lights it can to help brighten your day. Our Spotlight is one of those lights, and it is a pleasure to cast its direction towards a long-time friend and founding member, Jennifer Conley Darling.

Whether it is through shining light on the youth of our community and helping them find their voice and new confidence through theater, or literally turning the lights on in a historic ballroom for the first time since 1910, her energy is undeniable. But let’s not steal the stage from her. Jennifer, without further adieu, the orange chair is yours.

YPC: Jen! It’s great to see you sitting safely in the orange chair from what appears to be your backyard!

Jen:Thanks for having me, YPC! And it’s great to see you sitting safely on the other side of this screen too!

YPC: Before we dive into your story, we’d like to let you know that we may be bouncing around a bit, because at times we have found ourselves bouncing off the walls in this new, COVID-19 world we live. It has turned so many things and so many lives upside down, and we hope this conversation helps you, us, and Marshall feel a little more right-side up.

Jen: Calls like this have definitely helped to keep me grounded. My mom, my family and my friends – we’re all trying to keep each other sane. I am reaching my arms through this screen and out to everyone who is reading this to hug you all.

YPC: Thank you for that, and great hug! Let’s start from the very beginning…what city and state did you take your first steps in?

Jen: Welp, I was born in St Petersburg, Florida and lived there until I was five years old. Then mom and I packed up and moved north to Marshall to join the family hardware business.

YPC: We love the visual of 5 year old Jennifer running through the old hardware store downtown! Is Marshall where you feel you first hit your stride?

Jen: It certainly gave me the foundation I needed, at least one that would help me even be in the ballpark of hitting a ‘stride,’ haha! But it’s more family related. My first clue as to what I could do in life came when I saw my mother on stage for the very first time. I was seven years old and she was playing Vera in a production of Mame. I saw her embody another person on stage and it was a revelation – for a seven year old anyway. From there, I knew theater was what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be for the rest of my life.

Art and theater bring two communities together

YPC: What an awesome thing to be able to share with your child! When we think about taking the stage like that, it takes an awesome level of strength and confidence to step into some else’s shoes and portray them in front of an audience.

Jen: I really never thought of it like that. Being on stage always felt like home – it was natural for me. Yes, I liked the applause, but it was more about it feeling like I was truly expressing myself. To this day, when I’m on stage, I feel more honest and more connected to my own emotions than I do in my everyday life.

YPC: What do you feel is your greatest strength and what is it rooted in?

Jen: Geez – hard question! I guess if I had to articulate my greatest strength, it would be my ability to make things happen. Growing up in a family of entrepreneurs and small business owners gave me direct insight into what it takes to get things done. I’ve never been afraid of hard work, following up, asking hard questions, nor of failing. I had an acting teacher who told me ‘you can never fail if you’ve put 110% into everything you do. There is always success in that.’

YPC: That’s a solid perspective for any chapter in life. That mindset paired with your ability to get things done must have been a game changer when you were living in NYC.

Jen: It really was. After moving to New York City at the age of 18 and graduating from an acting conservatory in Manhattan, I found myself on soap operas and doing independent films. But after a couple of years, those opportunities started becoming less and less. For most, life in New York City requires you to work more hours and more jobs just to make ends meet. I was no exception. So, I got a temp job at American Express which paid the bills and became part of the founding group of terraNOVA Collective, an arts organization that focused on creating new plays and cultivating new artists. With those two full-time jobs, I found myself excelling at both because of that ability to make things happen and not being afraid to ask questions. And I found myself incredibly fulfilled.

YPC: Two full-time jobs! What a grind.

Jen: It was, but I was loving it! In 2011, I finally took a step back and realized I had been working that grind for over a decade and said, “Well, this has to change”. In prior years, I had also been getting short-term gigs doing stage management and event planning. An opportunity to work as part-time staff at an NYC university came up and, well, I got the job. I left American Express after 14 years and started Darling & Company Theatrical and Event Management. Now, keep in mind, I was also still running terraNOVA too, so I just swapped one full time job for another, but hey, at least I was my own boss.

Private party in Connecticut with WWII theme

YPC: Ha! We love how subtly you inserted another short-term job and the creation of Darling & Company in the midst of all of that. Well done. What was working on event planning in NYC like? It must have been wild!

Jen: It was thrilling. I got to work with Fortune 500 companies, the extremely wealthy, and, even sometimes, celebrities. I was show-calling big concerts with Tony Bennett, John Mellancamp and Katy Perry, to name a few; managing all things production for large scale festivals; and putting together galas for global non-profits.

YPC: Those are some huge names and some massive events. We have to believe that carried a little bit of stress with it.

Jen: It certainly did, but I, for whatever reason, I thrive in those environments, and the fact I am calm and cool in the most stressful of situations seemed to set me apart in the industry. Next thing I knew, word of mouth had spread and I found myself working across the country doing all sorts of events!

YPC: We’re still caught up on the scale of this work! How did you manage all of this?

Jen: I hired a small, but mighty staff. It’s fun to look back on now. We all worked out of my apartment in Chelsea. Some worked specifically for terraNOVA, some for Darling & Company, some worked for both. Depending on the projects, I had anywhere from 2-10 people working with me every day. Both companies were thriving.

YPC: Wild. Here comes one of those off-the-wall bounces. When did you decide to leave NYC, and where did you land?

Jen: I finally made the decision to leave in late 2015, and it was such a strange feeling. After living in the city I loved so much for over 20 years, I started getting restless. That was never the case before. I just felt like I needed a change. Life had to be simpler somewhere else, right? I had an offer to get a two year Masters degree in California and said, “I’ll come home to Marshall for awhile”. I got home and moved into the apartment in Faye Berry’s house on the hill. After being around for a few months, it became clear that Marshall was the place I was meant to be.

Group photo from summer workshops

YPC: What do you think was the root of that feeling? That hill at Faye’s house is arguably the most unique in Marshall, but we have to believe there was something more…right?

Jen: Ha, you’re right! That is a great hill! And you’re also right that it was more than that, much more. Marshall was growing and changing in a way I never thought possible. The public schools had annexed with Albion, the businesses were thriving, many of my childhood friends had moved home with their families, and my mom was here and oh, how I missed her.

YPC: This may seem like a strange one, but do you remember where you were when you realized Marshall was meant to be your home again?

Jen: Oh, I can have some fun with this one, and it only takes one word: Oklahoma. Haha! Right when I got home, I got roped into (yes, I said it!) producing the Franke Center Children’s Theater production of Oklahoma by Miss Candi Putnam and Miss Janice Darling. Well, I fell in love. I saw these young people working their butts off on stage and having so much fun. I realized the experience I’d gained in NYC was something that could benefit these students – – and turns out, I love working with kids! Shortly after, Candi Putnam announced her retirement and I knew what a beautiful program she’d built, so I partnered with Allison Ebner, who had been working with Candi for several years already. Allison and I built a bigger vision for the Children’s Theater and the Board of Directors said yes! I had my first client locally and I knew this is where I needed to be.

YPC: Both you and Allison have done a phenomenal job with taking the reins from Candi, and continuing to grow the program to provide our youth and community new cultural opportunities. That feels like a keyword for Jennifer Conley Darling: culture.

Jen: It most certainly is, and it’s wild how it has all worked out. Between The Franke and Eastend, I feel like my neverending passion for the cultural and performing arts has mixed perfectly with my experience and work ethic. I’ve never felt more fulfilled with my work.

YPC: Having partnered with Eastend for past YPC events, we know the amount of work you and your team have put into that building – a building you have some serious childhood ties to (Jennifer’s mother’s store, V&S Variety, was located there). What was that feeling like when you first walked through the building?

Jen: When Jay Larson invited me to take a tour of the building renovations, the beauty of the work being done took my breath away. Tears came to my eyes as I remembered all the time I’d spent on the upper levels pricing inventory, playing with the costumes that were stored there by Marshall Civic Players, walking through dust, dead pigeon carcesses (gross but true) and ignoring signs that said there were weight limits and not to walk on the 3rd floor. When you look at the chandeliers hanging from those magnificent ceilings and the beautiful artwork Michael Peck and his team are adorning on the walls…it’s surreal.

YPC: What a beautiful legacy to continue and to leave this community. How close is the ballroom to being completed?

Jen: Well, we’ve actually been able to make some progress during the stay at home period. We held a virtual walk through for potential contractors and received bids for the south wall extension just over a week ago. We are closer than ever to being able to break ground, build that elevator and a whole new back end of the building! We have a bit more money to raise, but the end is in sight! We’ll be making more announcements in the coming weeks, but I’m absolutely thrilled with where the project stands today!

YPC: We are rooting for you and the Eastend team, because this is going to be yet another incredible treasure that draws people to Marshall.

Jen: It really will be! While the future remains uncertain with COVID-19, we see a future where the ballroom is being used for events every weekend, pulling new visitors into town for events and celebrations, and helping to ensure our downtown remains vibrant.

Marshall Home Tour Chairs all YPC members

YPC: Picturing a post COVID-19 celebration in such a beautiful, historic space feels real good right now.

Jen: That it does.

YPC: Alright, let’s shake things up a little bit. Are you ready? Good. Freddie Mercury or Elton John?

Jen: Oh, Freddie Mercury all the way!

YPC: Favorite movie?

Jen: Silence of the Lambs – terrifying.

YPC: Greatest mentor?

Jen: My mom. Not only because she has taught me the power of unconditional love, but also because I watched her start and run Darling & Daughter Variety. I saw her take the risk to be a business owner, and all that goes into it. Whenever a stressful situation arose, she was always calm and cool. I knew these traits were special, even as a child, and I still emulate them to this day.

YPC: Whoa, perfect.

Jen: That’s Janice for you.

YPC: Aside from cranking some Freddie Mercury, what is one thing that has brought you comfort and hope during these crazy, uncertain times?

Jen: The youth of our community. With our 9th-12th graders no longer able to take to the stage for our spring production of Clue at The Franke, we’ve now pivoted and gotten permission from the publishers to do this as a live stream event! We’ll be rehearsing through Zoom, recording and editing it, then presenting three performances as a live feed on June 4, and 5 and 6. Fingers crossed the students enjoy it and the audiences tune in to find out WhoDunnit!

YPC: Fun! And thank you and everyone associated with pulling this off. Our kids need it, our community needs it. The show must go on!

Jen: Amen!

YPC: Jen, once again, it has been a pleasure to share this time with you and some more of your story with our audience. You are wonderful, and thank you for sharing your light with us. If you don’t mind, we’d like to play a song and slowly fade it out into the night. Does that sound good?

Jen: YPC, thank you for spotlighting me. I love this community and I love being part of the YPC crew.

YPC: Alright! Take it away, Freddie!

Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” begins to play,
an awkward Zoom hug is exchanged,
and a good laugh is had by all.

Jennifer Conley Darling is the President of Darling & Company, whose clients include The Franke Center (Director of Children’s Theater & Arts Education), Eastend Studio & Gallery (Executive Director), and Youngish Professionals Committee (Vice President and founding member). She is also the Executive Director of terraNOVA Collective.

We’ll be back soon with another edition of our Spotlight Series, but until then..

Stay safe. Stay socially distanced. Check on loved ones and neighbors. Howl at the moon often. Find new ways to support your local businesses and nonprofits. Exercise and eat healthy. Try new hobbies. Share your positive energy with as many people as possible. #BeYoungish. #Choose Marshall.

2020 Wolf Tree Film Festival Official Selections

Wolf Tree Film Festival

The Wolf Tree Film Festival is proud to present the 2020 Official Selections in short films, premiering January 25th at The Franke Center For The Arts. Wolf Tree Official Selections will be screening from 8:00pm – 11:00pm, with a pre-show mixer beginning at 7:00pm.

There will also be a special festival screening of the feature length horror film, Celebrity Crush, with director and star Oliver Robins (Poltergeist) onsite for autographs and photos. (Courtesy of Kyyba Films) The film will be shown at 2:00pm on January 25th at The Franke Center for the Arts, and ticket price for the festival includes both this film and the evening short film screenings.

Special Guest: Oliver Robins
Autograph: $20.00
Your Signed Item: $20.00
Selfie: $10.00

Special Guest: Sebastian Twardosz | Film industry pro Sebastian Twardosz will lead discussions for the evening and will be present to talk with filmmakers during the festival’s networking mixer.

Don’t miss out on the Wolf Tree Film Festival magic happening in Marshall, Michigan this January. Join us by getting your tickets at the button below!