GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A new exhibit is opening at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum on Friday. America at the Crossroads will take visitors through the history of the guitar in our country, which includes some strong ties to right here in West Michigan.
"From the Spanish invasion to the present moment, looking at guitars and the role that guitars played in shaping the nation," says Dr. Mirelle Luecke, curator for the museum.
That history will be told through 40 different instruments for visitors to check out. On par with the rest of the museum, it'll even tie in with President Ford's term in the '70s.
"The 1970s was also a really important decade in music history, with things from pop music to disco to punk rock to hip hop," says Dr. Luecke. "So there's a lot of connections between the two."
Even more local ties will also be on display. One of the world's most famous guitar companies, Gibson, was founded in Kalamazoo in 1902.
"One of the guitars we have here is actually from Kalamazoo," says Dr. Luecke. "And so I think people in West Michigan will see a lot of connections with Gibson guitars."
But West Michigan's rich guitar history expands far beyond Gibson.
You wouldn't have guitars without guitar builders. Just south of Big Rapids, Galloup Guitars trains its techniques to students from all over the world.
"We invented things that they want to know," says Bryan Galloup, owner of the school. "If you want to be a relevant school, invent the future."
The school teaches students to hand build their own unique guitars. The sound is fine tuned through materials picked specifically for Galloup's products.
"I fly to Italy and spend generally a week every two years and hand select my woods in Milan," says Galloup.
Students also have access to cutting edge technology in a facility Galloup says is the only one of its kind in the world.
"This piece of machinery is what's known as a PLEK, it's actually kind of important," says Galloup. "It just, incredibly well, levels the frets."
All to create the best product possible.
"It has to be a world class instrument or then you're just banging out guitar-like objects," says Galloup.
He's excited for the Ford Museum's exhibit to come to West Michigan, and showcase the reason he believes his school thrives.
"West Michigan does support the arts," says Galloup. "It just was born to be here."
America at the Crossroads opens Friday, January 27, and lasts through May 28.
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