October 27, 2011

hardcore detroit

Kresge artist fellow Haleem Rasul speaks with ArtServe Michigan about Hardcore Detroit, the dance crew and clothing label he founded and the long road travelled to reach their current success. Starting at the beginning, Haleem discusses those who have inspired him & takes us back to the birth of hip-hop and b-boy culture, breakin' / breakdancing, and "the Jit", a dance style rooted in Detroit which is now recognized across the globe.

the art and work of dreams


The Art and Work of Dreams

In A Dream Deferred, Langston Hughes proposes there are dire consequences when dreams are deferred. It follows then, that sadder still, may be the absence of a dream altogether.

The West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology (known as WMCAT and pronounced Wim-cat) is located at 98 East Fulton Street in Grand Rapids. It houses a spirited and dedicated group of educators, administrators, and community partners, and they are about the imperative business of ensuring that Grand Rapids and Kentwood high school students are provided the space within which to dream - and that these dreams are not deferred. In addition to advancing the Arts, WMCAT serves its Technology mission through its Medical Billing and Pharmacy Tech training programs for under and unemployed adults.

Dreams remain only possibilities without a working knowledge of how to bring them into reality. WMCAT is about that work, too. Through participation in real-world arts industry experiences, teens are learning about collaboration, deadlines, creativity in problem-solving and the application of skills in a real business setting. These opportunities have allowed WMCAT to further partner with local businesses, the Grand Rapids Police Department, and professional artists.

WMCAT and ArtPrize

This past summer, WMCAT students participated in three project-based learning experiences, all connected with Grand Rapids ArtPrize. Led by master artists and creative collaborators Tracy Van Duinen, Todd Osborne, Phil Schuster, and Andy Bellomo, fifteen students worked as paid apprentices on a large-scale bricolage mural (bricolage is the creation of a work from a diverse range of things that happen to be available) that now adorns the WMCAT building’s main wall. The faces of these fifteen students decorate the MetaPhorest mural. Note: WMCAT’s ‘MetaPhorest’ placed 2nd and is listed in ArtPrize’s Top Ten. Another class of students designed and printed the fabric panels of the World's Largest Beanbag Chair. A third group of students, with the support of Old Orchard CEO Mark Saur, and in collaboration with Kevin Miller (VP of Marketing) and Mike Summers (Regional Business Manager), participated in a design contest for a label to accompany a limited edition Old Orchard juice. Fifteen-year old Margaret Anisko’s winning design now adorns ‘Artistic Berry Blend’ and was sold during ArtPrize at Meijer and Spartan stores. One dollar of each bottle sold went directly to support WMCAT programs.

Dream Weavers

These group efforts, among many and varied community partnerships, shed broad light on the great work being done at WMCAT. It’s the individual stories; the shining of the spotlight on personal achievement, where the impact of what is happening at WMCAT is most deeply felt. Executive Director Luisa Schumacher offers the story of Sonya (not her real name) as one that best exemplifies the hope and motivation WMCAT works to instill in its students – as well as the hope and motivation WMCAT students regularly offer to teachers and staff.


The Art and Work of Dreams

Sonya was a Junior in high school and WMCAT student in the Summer of 2011. Through corporate partnerships WMCAT was able to offer twenty students full-ride scholarships to the Blue Lakes Fine Arts Camp. Sonya was chosen as one of these scholarship recipients. Her family, however, made the decision to return to Mexico that summer. If Sonya was to accept the scholarship, she would not only be saying goodbye to her family, but the condition her parents gave for staying in Michigan to attend Blue Lakes was marriage. The undiscovered territory calling to this courageous young woman now was not geographical in nature; it was to the land of dreams and possibilities. This brave new woman, willing to adventure in this new world, was being faced with making a decision that would forever alter the course of her life. Sonya opted to stay, got married, and one week later she arrived at Blue Lakes to live her dream. The fruits of her choice were soon tasted. She was nominated as Camper of the Year by peers and instructors, and according to Schumacher, “Sonya and her art just bloomed. To see her smile makes me cry.”


Trevor is one of the students that worked on the mural project. He first heard about WMCAT through friends, and after attending a student orientation, he felt drawn to its warm and friendly atmosphere. The people and the atmosphere kept him coming back, and he’s now in his second year of WMCAT studies. “I’m allowed to be open and creative. I now see things in a different light. I have a new view to art.” When asked what he sees for himself post-WMCAT, Trevor shares, “I really want to be an architect or engineer.” Art has opened Trevor to dream big, and after meeting him, there is no doubt that his dream will become reality.


The Art and Work of Dreams

Jason participated in the Old Orchard label design project. His label contains a panoramic view of the Grand Rapids skyline, a row of orchard trees, and photos of bright beautiful fruit – all creatively and elegantly arranged. All photos were taken by Jason and his face lights up as describes the painstaking photography and Photoshop processes employed in his design. “Before WMCAT, I always drew cartoon characters, but had very little knowledge of how broad art could be.” Photography has become his passion and dream. His mother shared with Leanne Rhoads, Youth Program Director, the phenomenal impact WMCAT has had on her son – diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder. His work has merited Gold and Silver national awards from the Scholastic Art Awards, sponsored by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers. Jason shares, “My mom says my autism has become a gift. It gives me a different eye or view on the world. It’s what makes my photography special.”

What happens to a dream deferred? The financial supporters, staff, educators and community partners of WMCAT know all too well – and that’s why they never cease to be invested in and committed to their mission: Providing opportunities for people of all ages to seek, learn and grow in an environment that will inspire hope and motivate individuals to make positive social change and economic progress in their lives and community. According to Rhoads, “WMCAT exists as a point of light; it is for each student what each student needs it to be.”

No dreams deferred here.

two of a kind


Two of a Kind

Branson Brewer is a real go-getter, a young man of many talents, and he is already putting them to good use. It’s no surprise that this recent graduate of Lansing, Everett High School is already plotting his course several steps ahead, and most of it is in the creative arts. Brewer defies the stereotype of an aimless teen, not sure about a career path, that gravitates to creative pursuits because it is just fun.

Branson Brewer is fully aware of the work and determination it takes to make it in the creative industries. Why? Because since middle school Brewer has earned the money he needed to feed his interest in making music. Brewer has a music recording suite in a small bedroom in his home, and all of the equipment in it was paid for by him with money he earned. “I never earned money the usual way for a kid, like mowing lawns and shoveling snow,” said Brewer. “Kids at school always knew that I was the guy with a new money-making business angle. In middle school I figured out that all my friends wanted to download ringtones on their cell phones. I borrowed a connector cable from my Dad and downloaded ringtones for 50 cents apiece.”

Even as a toddler Branson was drawn to music. As soon as he could crawl he was climbing up on to the piano bench at his grandmother’s home to plunk at the keys. By three years old, his Grandmother had taught him Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, and by 6th grade he was playing the cello in the school orchestra. “Because grandma lived next door, that is where I would go after school, and I would always rather play at the piano or work on music than watch TV.” His aunts and uncles are musical too, so there was always some musical inspiration around. “The classical training on the cello gave me basic music skills that created a base for building my own more contemporary beats,” explained Brewer.

Two of a Kind

Once Branson received an electronic keyboard for his birthday and realized the keyboard connected to a computer, the passion for making original electronic music pieces was in full swing. His determination to learn was put to good use when he started teaching himself how to edit music with a software program he borrowed from his Dad. “I kept working at it, and working at it until I got it right – and I guess that is how I go at most new challenges,” said Brewer. “My learning style is to find the tool, and figure it out. I got this from my Dad; he is really good at fixing computers. He taught me about fixing computers enough that I could earn money fixing them too. One summer I worked at the Black Child and Family Institute repairing computers in their computer lab. I was 15.”

By senior year in high school, Branson had joined a group of friends to form a music group called Skyline, the group creates musical events and performances employing all of the talents of the members, Branson mostly supplies “the beats” while the other guys rap over the music he produces. Out of Skyline a new talent and interest emerged for Branson – graphic arts. It was Branson that figured out how to use graphic design programs to create logos, logo-wear and cover art for the CD the group produced and sold. Next, the group is planning on releasing a music video.

This past summer, Branson Brewer had an internship at the Arts Council of Greater Lansing. Branson said it was a real learning experience. “I learned responsibility for showing up on time and being part of a team. I learned about working in an office and how to be organized with my work. I learned networking – I saw a lot of people networking. It made me realize that networking gets you farther. I learned to be focused, and that prepared me for a good start at Lansing Community College. I learned about designing for the business of art and my graphic design skills improved."

Before his experience with the Arts Council, Branson was thinking about pursuing an associate’s degree at Lansing Community College. Now he is planning on pursuing both his music and graphic art and is taking the coursework necessary to transfer for an advanced degree at MSU.

Two of a Kind

Chris Newman is a senior at Okemos High School. Like Branson Brewer, his formal music education also began at a very early age. “I was in a young kid’s preschool music class at Michigan State University and by second grade I asked for piano lessons,” said Newman. But, it is hard to overlook the fact that Chris’ Mom is Sunny Wilkinson a jazz singer, performer, music teacher and lyricist and his Dad, Ron Newman, is a music arranger, composer, music theory teacher and piano player that often accompanies his wife Sunny. Clearly, his parents have had a profound effect on Chris Newman’s musical trajectory.

Chris says he composed his first original piece in third grade. Dad helped notate. The piece was called Exciting Birthday Party. “That piece was chosen to be played at statewide music convention, the Michigan Music Teachers convention. There was a concert that featured new works from kids around the state,” said Newman.

Chris continued to study music composition with his Dad. In 6th grade he picked up the French horn, an instrument he says he still loves to play.

Tackling music theory is like learning a new language – not just in how you hear it, but how you read it and write it. For Chris, studying music theory, started with piano. He learned some rudimentary skills in middle school. Chris describes music theory as the skills you need to annotate what you want to hear in your composition ...language. “It helps me be accurate in writing down what I am hearing in my head, music theory also helps me understand the historical context of a particular piece of music,” shared Newman. This thirst for understanding is probably why, just for fun, Newman has taken on the Rolling Stone Magazine anthology of the top 500 albums from 1950 - 2003. “I listen to one or two albums a day and then grade them according to my personal taste. There is a lot of pop music that really has very little to offer, but there are also some incredible works that are a real inspiration. This project changes my idea about things… it has an effect on my creativity,” said Newman.

Newman has written everything from full symphony pieces to solo pieces. He reports that sometimes the solo pieces may be more complex.

In his school Chris has made a place for himself that accommodates his love of music, literature and art. He is such an avid listener of all types of music that he understands and appreciates current pop music and can find common ground with most of his classmates. He has taken his interest in the arts a step further by creating an event in his home that showcases the talent of many of his peers. “It’s called Imploding Plastic Inevitable - a spin-off of the Andy Warhol light show music event called Exploding Plastic InevitablezZ. It is a way to share my music, and pieces of art from my friends like pottery, paintings, other musical performances, videos and poetry. There is room for about 30 people to come to the event. The first one was a success; we will see how the next one goes.”

Two of a Kind

Chris Newman is like most kids his age. He has responsibilities at home for which he gets a weekly allowance of $10, and then mows the lawn for extra pocket money. Where he differs – he uses his musical gifts by offering music lessons to students for another $30 per week. Academics in his senior year include a review class in math (he confessed some challenges in understanding the theory of algebra) and some elective class time that gives him the time to work on his music portfolio for college admission. He is looking at music programs at Michigan State University, University of Michigan, Indiana University (IU’s Jacob School of Music is one of the largest music schools in the country) and Eastman School of Music in New York. “I also have a couple of performances scheduled for my compositions this year.” There is a Brass Fanfare for a Okemos-Haslett-East Lansing Schools event; a senior concerto, solo with an ensemble, scheduled for a May performance; and he is currently writing a piece for consideration by the Lansing Symphony.

From here the conversation went to the inevitable ‘hopes and dreams’ question. Newman’s response, “…What I am looking for is to be able to add to and help steer music and music appreciation. It would be nice to be a composer and live off of just composing.” Newman then conducted an impromptu performance sample session, one – an unnamed work in progress, and another - a completed symphony inspired a novella by Ayn Rand - Anthem.

When you meet exceptional young adults like Branson and Chris you can’t help but wonder what influences were most important in their life. Branson was quick to point out that it was his family that nurtured his talents. “ It was my grandma that started me on music, my Dad teaches me creativity and resourcefulness and it is my Mom that keeps me grounded and makes sure I am making my grades.” The benefit of being from a musical family certainly doesn’t escape Chris but he was also quick to point out that he owns his talents and dreams. “I have given my parents no room to give me their dreams, mine are big enough” quipped Newman.

On a serious note, Newman did go on to talk about the benefit of being in a school system and community that values the arts. “Art is such a big thing in a community. Here in Okemos we have 20,000 people and I believe that all of those 20,000 are doing something creative. Creativity fosters so many good things for a community…there is no negative effect of creativity on a community. I feel sorry for some of those schools that don’t have access to the arts…it is like they haven’t been invited to the party.”

If you just compare Branson and Chris by their zip codes and school systems they might seem worlds apart. Both schools have an emphasis on the arts, Everett, an inner city school is the Lansing School system magnet school for the arts and Okemos High School, a suburban school, has earned national recognition for its focus on advanced placement academics, and has a robust arts program. But clearly for these two teens it’s more than school and the influence of family, but their own determination which ultimately fuels their passion – in this they are two of a kind.

'art coast of michigan' leverages identity to promote tourism



After observing the wild success of Grand Rapid's ArtPrize for the past two years, nearby beach towns, Saugatuck and Douglas jumped into the mix this year with a community entry created by 24 local artists with the backing and support of a host of local organizations.

The result is Re-View Saugatuck Douglas; a 15 foot by 10 foot mixed media piece, painted by 24 artists on 24 separate 30 by 30 inch canvases. The canvases were designed to line up together and form one large painting. It is not just a work of art; it is also a bridge from Grand Rapids to the beach towns of Saugatuck and Douglas. Working on the project united 24 artists and a host of organizations including the Saugatuck Center for the Arts, the cities of Saugatuck and Douglas, and the Saugatuck Convention and Visitors Bureau.

During ArtPrize 2011, the vibrant 24-by-10 foot painting hung in a prime spot -in the first floor lobby of The B.O.B (20 Monroe Ave. NW). - a popular entertainment and dining establishment in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids.

The brainchild of this unique ArtPrize collaboration is Ryan Kilpatrick, economic development director for the City of Douglas.

"With 24 galleries located in Saugatuck and Douglas, we've been branding ourselves as the Art Coast of Michigan, so it only makes sense to build a bridge to ArtPrize - a huge art event that takes place 45 minutes from us," explains Kilpatrick.


The Art Coast of Michigan branding appears to be working on a national level, recently catching the attention of the New York Time's travel section in an article focused on the region.

"Douglas and Saugatuck invested in ArtPrize to begin branding our region with the Grand Rapids art community," explains Kilpatrick. "We hope to increase awareness among the more than 500,000 ArtPrize visitors. We wanted to let them know that our two towns collectively have more than 20 art galleries open year round- all only a short drive from Grand Rapids."

Separated by the Kalamazoo River, the art-themed beach towns of Saugatuck and Douglas are located along the Lake Michigan coast. Coming from his office in Douglas, Kilpatrick stepped across that river to Saugatuck, to deliver his idea to Kristen Armstrong, executive director of the Saugatuck Center for the Arts.

"We are two little towns with a rich cultural fabric and a 100-year history of being art communities," says Armstrong. "Ryan's idea hit the sweet spot of intersecting art and economic development. By creating an association with ArtPrize, we could remind the art lovers in this region they can come to our community to celebrate art all year long."

The next step for Kilpatrick and Armstrong was taking their idea to some of the area’s artists, who enthusiastically embraced the concept of entering a community-driven collaborative piece in ArtPrize. Saugatuck artist Max Matteson took charge as project coordinator and helped define the project by suggesting the format of a group painting with each artist creating one section.

"We had no problem finding artists to participate," says Matteson, noting that the group included both professional artists as well as amateurs. "We chose people who loved to paint."

Max Matteson also came up with the idea of the recreating William Olendorf's 1939 painting, entitled Ox-Bow. A Chicago advertising man, turned successful painter, Olendorf passed through Saugatuck as an ad man for Better Homes and Gardens magazine. Olendorf's painting depicts a scene of artists painting in the natural light along the Kalamazoo River - the very river that flows between the towns of Saugatuck and Douglas.


"What is so wonderful about the choice of that iconic painting is it depicts a group of art students from Ox-Bow School of Arts, painting along the Kalamazoo River right here in Saugatuck," says Armstrong. "You can still go to that exact spot at Mount Baldhead and see it hasn't changed much at all," she adds.

Olendorf based his 1939 painting on a photograph snapped by one of the first Life Magazine photographers, Wallace Kirkland in 1934. Working from a photograph, Olendorf used lush, intense, rich color to recreate the scene from Kirkland's black and white photograph taken in Saugatuck.

Each of the 24 artists selected for the ArtPrize entry were encouraged to use his or her media of choice. The artists drew a number from a hat to learn what piece of the picture they would paint and were given three instructions from project leader, Max Matteson:

"We said keep it two dimensional, match the colors as closely as you can and match the grid as perfectly as you can so it all fits together."

Securing a prime location at ArtPrize is the dream of each of the 1500 entrants. Ryan Kilpatrick says the coveted location at the B.O.B - which is the heart of the Grand Rapids entertainment district - was pure serendipity.

In Grand Rapids on a scouting trip, Kilpatrick was searching for a venue for the collaborative piece of art. A chance meeting with a friend on the street lead to an introduction to Dan Gilmore, of the Gilmore Group, the company which owns a group of west Michigan restaurants including The B.O.B.. "When they heard what we were doing, they offered us the space on a large wall of their first floor lobby," explains Kilpatrick.


Standing close to the painting, it's clearly a collection of 24 small canvases, hung together to form a painted quilt. When you stand back; however, the gridlines fade and you see a vibrant, colorful depiction of artists with their easels, painting on a bright summer day along the sun-splashed Kalamazoo River.

The residents and businesses of Saugatuck and Douglas rallied around the community ArtPrize entry. Over the late summer, special viewings were organized and one Douglas restaurant, Zing, organized a dinner and event - offering a shuttle service to ArtPrize. The local newspaper, the Allegan News, printed a special ArtPrize edition. An area communications group, Greetology, built a website, www.saugatuckdouglasart.com, which shared information about the collaborative project and invited guests to local galleries, restaurants, shops and inns.

Felicia Fairchild, executive director of the Saugatuck Douglas Convention and Visitors Bureau calls the ArtPrize entry ‘brilliant.’ "We've been branding our area as the Art Coast for 22 years now. ArtPrize has an audience of half a million. We would love to have those ArtPrize visitors decide to pay us a visit."

The painting can now be viewed at the Saginaw Center for the Arts and according to Kristin Armstrong looks amazing. "It is getting lots of compliments from the community. In fact, we're contemplating keeping it at the SCA although that was not our original intent ... but it does look very good in the lobby," says executive Armstrong.

As for the possibility Saugatuck and Douglas will come together again for an ArtPrize entry in 2012, Armstrong had this to say: "The artists are already talking about next year."