THREE OAKS — The Acorn Theater unveiled its new logo, website and branding campaign during a well-attended “Meet the New Acorn” night held Saturday, Jan. 26.

Executive Director Sandra Thompson referenced comments made by singer Chely Wright, who had performed on the Acorn stage the previous evening, while describing what makes the non-profit Three Oaks theater so special.

“She stopped me and said ‘Do you feel it? Do you feel the energy? ... It’s this place, it’s the Acorn. I can feel it, the creativity and the passion that lives here and inspires all the people who are walking through these doors.’”

Thompson said Collette Kemper (an Acorn patron and founder of New Buffalo Explored) approached her in 2017 and asked her to come up with an “Acorn Wish List.”

It was decided that the number-one need was a new website and a new logo.

“So she said put together a grant request, we went and did that, submitted it, and then in early 2018 we got $25,000 from New Buffalo Explored to start this website project,” Thompson said.

She said another chance encounter that led to the “New Acorn” began when she was approached by a man named Bob Murphy (a managing partner with the Movéo Demand Generation Agency) in the fall of 2017 offering to help with branding and digital marketing.

Thompson said she wasn’t sure what it all meant until she read his personal page on the company website.

“It said Why I do what I do. And his answer was: ‘Working with companies, helping them shape their brand, and seeing what it’s like and how it comes to life really gets me jacked up.’ And I thought ‘This sounds really great!’”

In about 2016 Thompson said Kathy Stady “walked through our doors,” would go on to be instrumental in writing grants and was “the driving force basically from beginning to end of this project.”

Thompson said other recent grants have come from The Pokagon Fund and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs in conjunction with the National Endowment for the Arts.

“A lot of this is about heart, passion, vision, synchronicity, and kind of the universe and how it holds everything together,” she noted.

Acorn Board member Jennifer Shoup gave a great deal of credit to the theater’s executive director.

“We wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for all of the hard work and vision and dedication from Sandra.”

Shoup said the Acorn became a non-profit at the end of 2015.

“From where we were then to now is just amazing and it’s thanks to the artists that come here and talk about the experience that they have ... Our patrons that come back over and over again.”

Shoup also gave credit to volunteers (including Steve Wadley and Vicki King, who attended the event), the Acorn staff (Margaret Thompson,Doreen Stelton, Ann Cilla, Evan Margol) and board members.

Acorn Theater board members are: Tom Abrahamson; Beth England; Jennifer Shoup; Frank Sintich; Ron Spears; Kathy Stady; Bob Murphy; Bob Beemer; Phil Broiche; Nick Nocerino; Larry Elster; Allan Kayler; Rhona Frazin; and Sandra Thompson.

Margaret presented a plaque Sandra (her mom) that reads as follows:

“In appreciation of our Executive Director Sandra Thompson and the Board of Directors of the Acorn on the introduction of the new Acorn brand. Thank you for your dedication and passion for supporting the Acorn’s mission and continued evolution. From the Acorn Staff and Volunteers.”

Shoup introduced two “key players” in developing the new logo and website from Mavéo — David Skidmore and Angela Schmidt.

Skidmore talked about the Acorn Brand (noting that a brand is “the essence of what the main story is of an individual organization”), giving examples such as:

“The Acorn brings performers and audiences together for experiences that move and enlighten, bring joy and discovery, and create moments like no other.”

“The Acorn is intimate. It’s immediate. It’s warm and welcoming.”

“The Acorn is live events, live excellence.”

“It’s homegrown, and here to stay.”

“Three Oaks, Harbor Country. It’s about this place and these people.”

Skidmore said such sentiments are what stand behind symbols like the new logo.

Schmidt said the process of creating a new logo involved a team of designers take the feeling generated by their peers in branding and combine it with colors, typography and graphic elements while discussing what feels right.

“Does this feel like the Acorn? Is it raw? Is it organic? Is it original? Is it exciting and warm and inviting?”

After much refining Schmidt said they got to the logo that was unveiled Jan. 26.

“Coming up through the middle is a microphone, kind of key to a lot of what goes in here with these live events. The voice piece of the microphone is a microphone. We thought that was the most symbolic in that this platform really gives artists a voice. The lines coming off of the acorn demonstrate our reach, even beyond Three Oaks, out through the community even further as we continue to grow the Acorn. All of those dots surrounding the perimeter are all of you. All of the people coming together, united in a circle.”

Schmidt said the typography is modeled after the iconic sign that stands outside in front of the theater. She said the new logo will be visible at the theater, in communication materials related to the Acorn, and on the new website.

“They took the vision of branding and the logo and everything and created what now is our beautiful new website,” Thompson said of the St. Joseph-based Holt Bosse marketing agency.

Schmidt said the website is a platform that will make it easier than ever to search for events and purchase tickets from cell phones of desktop computers. Searches can be done by genre of music, by month (Thompson later noted that the website has a feature that allow visitors to hear what a future performer sounds like and to visit their website).

Schmidt then announced that “Tonight everyone here gets to take a piece of the Acorn home with them” before hats bearing the new logo were handed out to audience members.

Thompson paid tribute to the founders of the Acorn Theater, Kim Clark and David Fink, for their “vision, passion and heart” which took a vacant, raw space with holes in the roof and transformed it into something amazing.

Also recognized were sponsors such as Bob Beemer of Combined Insurance Agency, Rob Vassar of Meijer, Keith Schander of Schander remodeling for putting large ceiling fans installed in the theater, photographer Johnny Borterwagner, patrons, local businesses (Maggie Martin of Mak Salon was recognized in the audience), The New Buffalo Business Association and the Harbor Country Chamber of Commerce.

The Meet the New Acorn event began with a video narrated by Miles Nielsen:  introducing the new branding effort. The video also gave examples of some of the acts that have performed on the Acorn Theater stage including The Jeff Daniels Band, Jeff Tweedy, and Miles Nielsen and the Rusted Roots along with “undiscovered” acts such as Kennedy’s Kitchen and Anaya Jolie.

The Jan. 26 celebration included Open Mic-style performances by six acts — Emma Hamel (winner of the most recent Acorn Singer-Songwriter competition; Toona (a six-member band of middle school-age students from Niles); local pianist Travis Forker; comedian Esther Ikora; the duo of Dave & Nelz; and Patti Schaffner.

Hamel said she performed her original songs in front of a crowd for the first time at the Acorn Theater, adding that the Singer-Songwriter contest was an amazing experience.

“Open Mic here is a really special part of our mission ... We now have some of the most wonderful performers coming here on our stage,” she said.

For a listing of upcoming events at the Acorn Theater see the Community Notes column in the Community section of this website.

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