GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — At first glance, Muse GR in the city’s West Side neighborhood might look like a typical art gallery, but the mission behind it is much more. 

Muse GR was created to help people pursue their purpose and passion,” said owner Stephen Smith. He added that the idea came when he was in college. 

“I wanted to have a center where people could do music, dance, any of the arts, and go and get untraditional counseling,” Smith explained. “So, one of the different things we have is just making sure there’s always an interactive aspect going on, something that involves one of your senses, outside of the norm.”

Beyond that, Muse is also a nonprofit. One of five chosen by the Grand Rapids Safe Alliances for Everyone Task Force to receive a $10,000 grant as part of an effort to reduce violence in the city. 

“This is a perfect opportunity for a new initiative we’ve been thinking about because of the amount of success that the students had with our last initiative,” Smith said. 

Mus(ed) was a previous grant winner and used the money to launch an initiative known as the Collective. Smith said the nonprofit is focused on helping newer skilled artists get their name out there. 

“We had seven kids that came and auditioned, and they were able to create an album. Then they started having concerts all around the city.  We took them out of the state to do things involving music,” he said.

Smith said everyone quickly became a family, and the positive impact was noticeable. He added that it became an outlet for the students, some of whom were working to cope with all the violence going on in the city. 

“There were even people that directly were affected by some of the shootings that were happening, and one of the natural reactions is to want to retaliate. We were able to convince people to make music about it, about how they were feeling, and eventually. It led them to release the emotions that they had about it in a healthy way,” Smith said.

The group’s success led Smith to want to expand and reach other types of artists. This time, he’ll be focused on finding skilled photographers and videographers. 

“The way we combat crime with our initiatives is providing a safe space. There are a lot of reasons that violent crimes happen, but one of the factors is financial. That’s something that we wanted to address. The skills they’ll learn here, they’ll be able to take with them, and they’ll be able to create actual money out of the skills they’re learning. We wanted to help with goal setting and have something that you can really, really look forward to every day,” said Smith. 

Mus(ed) accepts applications for its Content Creators Club through May 1. To learn more about the nonprofit or apply for the program, visit Mus(ed)’s website