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September 22, 2011
pcap: prison creative arts project
PCAP: PRISON CREATIVE ARTS PROJECT
VIDEO BY ELI BROWN
THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 22nd, 2011
PCAP: PRISON CREATIVE ARTS PROJECT
VIDEO BY ELI BROWN
THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 22nd, 2011
Meet Phillip and AyLaina. While incarcerated in Michigan they found that artistic expression was more than just a basic human right. For them, and thousands of other inmates across the state, the Prison Creative Arts Project became a life raft in a sea of inhumanity and loneliness.
NEW ZOMBIE COMEDY FILM HAS MICHIGAN 'BRAINS' BEHIND IT
THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 22nd, 2011
Lately I've been thinking: enough with the zombie movies, already. It seems like every indie movie that comes out is zombie this, and apocalypse that. I mean, I really liked Zombieland. And, of course, Shaun of the Dead and Evil Dead were both great. But enough is enough, right? I just thought we don't need any more versions of the same old stuff. It isn't possible to come up with something new, right?
I must concede that I was mistaken. Thank God Deadheads is breathing life into the genre that just won't die. I obviously have an affinity for Zombie-Comedies, considering the three movies I listed above. But not only does Deadheads appear to have come up with a creative twist on the "Zom-Com" genre, but they've thrown a little "Rom" into the mix, as well. Apparently, not all of the hearts in this movie have to be eaten.
Deadheads is the brainchild of Drew and Brett Pierce, two Michigan native brothers, who co-wrote and co-directed the movie. It's no accident that the Pierce brothers have such an attraction to this genre. Their father is Bart Pierce, who worked from their basement on the special effects for the original "Evil Dead," directed by Sam Raimi. Growing up amid the "Dead" crew put the bug in them for movie making, and in the direction they wanted, behind the camera.
The story follows two zombie slackers, Mike and his new zombie friend Brent, who find themselves surprisingly reborn from the dead, amid a disastrous zombie outbreak. However, they seem to have retained their reasoning mind, and ability to speak. After discovering an engagement ring in his coat pocket, Mike enlists his zombie pal, Brent, to embark on a quest in search of his lost love. At the beginning of the movie, Mike finds himself running from a zombie hoard, before he realizes that he is, in fact, one of them. So while he is rational, and even repulsed by the mindless pursuits of his lesser-minded peers, his body continues to rot and fall apart. Come to think of it, I know exactly how that feels… I just choose to rot at a much slower pace.
The Pierce brothers, who formed FroBro Films, cut their teeth in Michigan, making student films and low- budget (read: NO budget) independent movies and occasionally they even got their creations onto the shelf at Thomas Video, in Royal Oak. Thomas Video is a store where they both once worked, and is known for its support of the local independent film community. The Pierce brothers were instrumental in completing Dead/Undead with a budget of about a thousand dollars. That movie is now available in Thailand and Germany, according to the movie's website. Eventually, that moderate success, and their love for film work, led them to California in 2004. Since arriving in tinsel-town Drew has been working as an animator, including Futurama, while Brett is now the Production Coordinator for Ice Road Truckers.
While working various film and television jobs in LA, they religiously hammered out the script for their first budgeted feature film, Deadheads. The script, as described by their website, was "overly ambitious and epic in scope compared to most first-time director indie films. It featured elaborate action sequences, numerous special effects, over 20 locations, and a large cast. For an indie film, it was a suicide mission." After spending years in preproduction, working on financing, casting, and set design, the brothers decided in 2008 it was time to begin shooting.
A precipitating factor in that decision was the passage of the then-new Michigan Film Tax Credit, a State program to incentivize filmmakers to shoot their projects to Michigan. "The film credit actually made this movie possible," according to Brett. "Investors wouldn't have said yes without that additional incentive."
The duo came back to Michigan, and set up shop in their parents' house in Royal Oak. From that home base, they arranged for a crew. After ten weeks of shooting, and few months of post-production, they ended up with the movie they envisioned.
So what is Brett's advice for budding moviemakers? "Trust your gut; make something you want to watch." That seems to have paid off in this case. The movie has been making the rounds in numerous film festivals, and receiving multiple awards. It was awarded the 2011 Outstanding Achievement in Filmmaking award at the Newport Beach Film Festival and was the 2011 Official Selection at the FrightFest in London. There are now distribution deals in Germany and the U.K., and pending deals for France, Australia, New Zealand, and the Middle East.
There is no U.S. distribution yet, but that seems likely, given the accolades being given by those still living mortals who attend film festivals. It even seems to have earned the stamp of approval from a much respected source in the industry, Michigan native Bruce Campbell, of the Evil Dead trilogy, is quoted as saying, "In a world of putrid zombie movies, Deadheads is a breath of fresh air!"
So if you want to see this movie, and you darn well should, write your congressman, petition your local theater, do whatever it takes to get this movie the broad-based attention it deserves - because finally, here's a zombie comedy with brains.
CATALOGUE OF LESSER SAINTS
THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 22nd, 2011
For most artists there is a tension between art that pays and art that demands to be seen, regardless of the paycheck, and for Saginaw artist Steven Magstadt, there is always a balance between the two. Magstadt is currently under commission by the Saginaw Community Foundation to create a one-of-a-kind, 50 square-foot tile mosaic on the subject of "community" for their new offices in the Morley Building on Tuscola. It is a custom commissioned art piece for a public space. A resourceful artist, it was Magstadt that approached the foundation with several concepts, looking for the dollars to cover material costs on a piece that he estimates will be worth $20,000 when completed. He knows that this work will lead to other commissions and larger working retainers.
Yet, at the same time Magstadt has been assembling a series of work that he is quite certain will never yield a paycheck. He calls the series Catalogue of Lesser Saints, which presents a compelling combination of Byzantine-like icon images, collage, mosaic and poetry combined in vignettes. This unique combination of words and images showcase what the artist calls some of Saginaw's lesser saints, the invisible individuals that can often be found in his fringe neighborhood in downtown Saginaw. "The Lesser Saints series began with a homeless woman named Laurie that I called Madonna," shared Magstadt. "I came to learn that she had lost her apartment during a hospitalization and in the process lost all of her identification - making it nearly impossible to get the help she needed to get back into safe and secure housing. For two years she lived on the street and would often use vacant houses in my neighborhood for shelter. At first, I was not entirely sure how to take Laurie, but when I began to truly see her, I could see the beauty in the way she lived her life. She had an amazingly positive attitude. She made a huge impression on me; this in turn helped me see more of the invisible people in my neighborhood - Saginaw's lesser saints."
[Visit from the Madonna]
she seemed lit from behind as she crossed the empty lots coming from nowhere to our house i waited for her to make a request or say something profound because everyone agrees such light only comes before something significant but we chatted instead very quietly as if it could be frightened away about how beautiful that place was in that exact moment and neither of us mentioned the possibility that the flowered suitcase and bamboo-handled carpet bag on the lawn between us contained all she had in the world
but I thought about it later that night as I leaned out the attic windows listening to her sort through the dumpsters next door for pieces of the home she had yet to find
when by morning she was gone with all her treasures leaving behind only a spotlessly tidy yard and a deep sense of wonder i suddenly understood the madonna meant to show me a complete life required very little
- steven paul magstadt
Steven Magstadt was born in Bay City but lived most of his life in Texas, Colorado, and briefly Norway. He came to Saginaw about 6 years ago to care for his grandmother, whose health was failing. "What was going to be a 6-month stopover turned into a permanent choice," said Magstadt. On living in Saginaw, Magstadt described his quality of life as "about as rich as the economy is challenged." Magstadt continued, "The cost of living is so favorable here that it makes it possible to pursue what most would describe as an artistic bohemian lifestyle. Magstadt and his partner purchased a large, older boarded-up home in Saginaw's Cathedral District for very little money. Now, the home is showing the signs of care and pride of ownership that is beginning to extend deeper into the neighborhood, and the district. Magstadt has banded with other like-minded neighbors to advocate for the community and the people who live there. His blog describes his interest in the community that is such a big part of his creative inspiration.
For the next few weeks, posts on Magstadt's blog will be coming from Greece. Magstadt is part of a group of five individuals that will be traveling as part of Rotary International's cultural exchange program. "I am so excited to be going to Greece. I get to be in a place where the presence of saints and images will be so prevalent, and I am sure that upon my return there will be a few more pieces coming for the Catalogue of Lesser Saints," said Magstadt. "Plus, I will get to visit and work for a day or two in a Greek pastry shop and a small restaurant in Athens that specializes in grilling. Besides art, one of my other passions is food. Right now I earn a paycheck to cover my expenses working in a small café. It works for me because the food preparation keeps my hands busy but my mind free to create poetry and ideas for my art compositions." Magstadt hopes to become a partner in the café or eventually open his own place.
Steven Magstadt is currently applying for a grant from various foundations, in the hopes of claiming funds to support his creative process. He believes he qualifies for programs that provide a year-long living stipend for working artists. With several commissions to his name and more on the way plus a growing Catalogue of Lesser Saints he is proving that the balance between paid works of art and unpaid works.
SUBAN NUR COOLEY
THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 22nd, 2011
With a deep love for typography and an appreciation for the versatility and fast-drying nature of spray paint, it's no surprise that Lansing-based artist, Sam deBourbon, is most known for his graffiti artwork. But how exactly was he placed on the city's creative map in the first place?
Three years ago, deBourbon was caught doing something illegal under a bridge - creating urban graffiti art. The officer reprimanded him and deBourbon thought he was off the hook until he received a letter from the county courthouse in the mail. "That's when things got really real. I got caught beneath a bridge in Meridian Township, which ironically got torn down and rebuilt the summer of my case. Kind of funny- you get caught for vandalizing something that's getting torn down. I'm just glad I got the diversion program before it got cut. I got lucky."
The diversion program enabled deBourbon as a first time offender to pay his dues through 40 hours of community service. With a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids, it only made sense to him that he pay his debt using his artistic skill sets. "I started asking people to sign-off on my community service in return for a free mural. A few days later, after contacting Joe Manzella (then Manager of Regional programs for Leap,Inc.) the Deluxe Inn Graffiti event got planned. Eric Schertzing of the Ingham County Land Bank was generous enough to donate the site for everyone to paint."
So in essence, deBourbon's brush with the law helped bring to life one of Lansing's most impactful urban art endeavors in recent history. Not only did the project have an on-going positive effect on Lansing's REO Town district - spawning other graffiti inspired projects which benefitted the area aesthetically with more murals, and monetarily by funding local organizations - but deBourbon also found work and recognition through the project.
It was, for the most part, a totally community-driven event. People came from all walks of life to join in and paint. "After that event, the publicity alone helped me stay financially afloat while I was unemployed. Now, it's nice to have an evening after work to go out and paint, and sometimes get paid. Double-win," states deBourbon.
Although the overall experience was beneficial and positive to the region on a large scale, deBourbon doesn't make light of the act he committed. "There's the risk you take when you commit to spraying your art on property that is not legally yours to use. I am grateful for the program that made the Deluxe Inn Graffiti Event possible."
The world may be their canvas but in 2011 street artists like Sam deBourbon are well aware of the legal consequences and the line that gets crossed when applying their art to the property of others without permission. On the other hand, deBourbon feels that when skilled artists are encouraged to put their work on the city's walls, it leaves less room or 'urban canvas' for other obscene and/or gang-related style graffiti to sprout up on. "Murals can prevent criminal vandalism if they look cool enough."
And what's his take on the type of graffiti that more people would consider true vandalism of property versus the kind now being recognized as art? DeBourbon reminds us, "Art is incredibly subjective. Look at Duchamp's "In Advance of a Broken Arm."- it's a flippin' rusty shovel. And, it's in a museum! People get mad at that for what it is. If I'm thinking something sucks painting-wise, it's more along the lines of the process, craftsmanship, and finished product."
The graffiti and urban art subculture can sometimes leave a bad taste in the mouths of both the public as well as those in the fine art world, but what deBourbon constructs can only be called art. He discovered his love for graffiti after a trip in 2003 with the Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp. "I was able to travel through France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. Europe is notorious for being completely covered in graffiti, and it showed," says deBourbon. "I got to see a lot of cool things and places that made me think "This is cool and looks fun, I want to try this." And so, he did.
But deBourbon isn't only gifted artistically, his passions are diverse. In fact, before transferring to Kendall, he spent two years at Western Connecticut State University because the school offered both a music and meteorology (hence the passion for storm-chasing) program. The reason he transferred out: they were against him taking more math classes as a music major.
So, deBourbon pursues his first love - art, but still has his hands in the music and science worlds. "I do storm chase when granted the opportunity," deBourbon laughs. "I like doing a lot of things just to keep my brain working. I still play music, with the Lansing Concert Band. I do web design during the day, and I paint graffiti as a therapeutic activity."
Artistic talents aside, Michigan is lucky to have the likes of Sam deBourbon, a multi-layered individual with such diverse abilities who is now using them for the betterment of his community. Because Lansing was willing to work with Sam the Vandal and allow him to use his creative skills to repay his community service, the city is now reaping the benefits of having Sam the Creative Professional/Community Graffiti Artist not to mention Sam the Resident/Taxpayer on speed-dial, beautifying different areas of the city (with permission AND pay!).