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February 9, 2012
aaron dworkin: changing the face of classical music
AARON DWORKIN: CHANGING THE FACE OF CLASSICAL MUSIC
VIDEO BY ELI BROWN
THURSDAY FEBRUARY 9th, 2012
AARON DWORKIN: CHANGING THE FACE OF CLASSICAL MUSIC
VIDEO BY ELI BROWN
THURSDAY FEBRUARY 9th, 2012
Violinist Aaron Dworkin grew up in a world where he was one of very few classical musicians of color. In response, he founded The Sphinx Organization 15 years ago to help overcome the cultural stereotype of classical music and to encourage the participation of Blacks and Latinos in the field. Thanks to efforts like his, orchestra halls across the country and even the world have begun to diversify. Aaron speaks with ArtServe Michigan about his incredible personal journey and the progress of his mission through Sphinx.
PHOTO PROJECT CAPTURES IMAGES, STORIES OF COMBAT VETERANS
MARY KATHERINE QUASARANO
THURSDAY FEBRUARY 9, 2012
Great photographers adeptly manipulate exterior light and shadow in order to capture the interior ‘light and shadow’ essence of their subjects. Rob Miller is a great photographer. He is also a globally-recognized expert in automotive internal/external ambient lighting and is fast-becoming a global expert on the brilliant light and deep shadow experiences of combat veterans.Beginnings
Miller’s parents were the first to recognize his gift and he credits them with providing lifelong encouragement as he pursued his art. “I started serious photography when I was twelve. I saved enough money from my paper route to buy a Minolta SLR camera and away I went. Within two months I was developing B/W film and prints. One year later I was developing color slides, film, and making 16 x 20 color prints under the stairs of my parents’ basement in Dearborn, Michigan.”
In the safety and wonder of this first dark room, Miller began to cultivate his deep connection to light and shadow.Light
His first subjects were brides and grooms and wedding festivities; portraits bathed in joy and light. He began working as an apprentice for Hudson’s O’Conner Studios at the age of 16 and by 18 he was working on his own and shooting two weddings a week.Shadow
In the third year of college he was given the opportunity to spend an entire summer with the Fire Departmentin Quincy, Massachusetts. “I documented what it was like to rescue people from horrific situations. It was pretty messy and really traumatic. That summer I came to understand how fragile and precious life is. I still have those images and sometimes look back at them and wonder how I ever did that.”Light
In this third year of college he was also being recruited by both National Geographic and Honeywell PentaxCameras. He became Honeywell Pentax’s Technical Representative in Chicago in order to combine business skills with photography. “I had one of everything they made (six cases of camera equipment), a company car, and a fist full of plane tickets everywhere in the USA. It was an awesome experience.” Miller’s work took him back to Michigan where he married his wife, and the two became a family of seven.Shadow
Miller’s father Herbert was a WWII Combat Veteran and POW (prisoner of war). “I knew he was a POW but when asked about his experiences by others or me his response was always the same, ‘Robert…it’s not important for you to know.’ My father never shared more than these words about his POW experience. I could see the sadness in his eyes every time I asked. So I just stopped asking.” Unbeknownst to Miller, his father had chronicled his POW experiencein a diary he kept hidden from the prying eyes of the Nazis. Several weeks after his father’s death, as he and his mother gathered belongings for donation, he came upon it.
“There it was wrapped like a present in brown paper−just as it was forty-nine years ago. My father told my mother he wrapped it to preserve it, but she knew my father encased it in paper to hide the horrific memories captured inside. Once wrapped and placed in his drawer he never looked at it again. His diary was filled with hopelessness and despair. I had four young children and one on the way bouncing around my house. I stashed it away until I could find the time to understand it.”Out of Shadow and into Light
Thirteen years passed and Miller processed his father’s gift through hours of interviews with his mother and twenty trips to Europe retracing his father’s journey as a 22-year old POW. The outcome was Hidden Hell: Discovering My Father's POW Diary, a book currently being developed as a screenplay. The gift of ‘light’ that came from exploring his father’s ‘shadow’ experience was the return of Rob’s passion for the storytelling art of photography.
Another gift that came from extensive European travels was selection for service as Executive Director of the Patton Foundation, a global foundation founded by Helen Patton, the granddaughter of General George S. Patton. There he partnered with Andrew Wakeford, a British director of the foundation, and together Miller & Wakeford created Portraits of Service: Looking into the Faces of Veterans, a photo book containing stories of combat veterans from around the world. “Every one of these veterans belongs to a community of veterans that extends globally. They were all in military service; they are all human beings and unique individuals. It doesn’t matter what side they were on, or whether their country was judged to be right or wrong. They all have war experiences that need to be told and understood. That’s what Portraits of Serviceis all about - stories and images.”
The John D. Dingell VA Hospital in Detroit saw the value of Miller and Wakeford’s work and commissioned a permanent photographic exhibition of 100 veteran’s stories. “It was incredibly generous of Mr. Miller and Mr. Wakeford to donate these portraits to our medical center,” said Dr. Pamela Reeves, Director of the John D. Dingell VA Medical Center in Detroit. “We are in the process of hanging each of them in very prominent locations, so all of our Veterans and their families and our staff can enjoy the tremendous stories. We can learn so much from these individuals, and it makes us proud to serve the men and women who have served our nation.” Very soon 70 stories and portraits will be on permanent display at the VA hospital in Detroit. In May 2012 several full Portraits of Serviceexhibits will be on display in and around Normandy, France and at various D-Day locations.The Light Shines On
Nearly 10,000 baby boomers retire every day and Miller won’t be joining them anytime soon. “At 57 years old I have a mission, a focus, and I hope to live to be 100 with my wife to complete it. That’s my goal. I want to move from helping corporations become profitable to working and creating photographic exhibits and books that address events or uncover atrocities in our global world. Portraits of Service has given us the framework to make this dream a reality.” His next project with photographer/writer and partner Wakeford is in response to two agencies in India that have asked them to create exhibitions (and eventually a book) of the stories of young girls who have been exploited through human trafficking. “The stories are horrific. This is a story that needs to be told.”
No one can tell that story through light and shadow, better than Rob Miller.
FLORES DESIGN STUDIO
FEBRUARY 9, 2012
Miguel and Corina Ferreyra-Flores were high school sweethearts and while they were drawn together for many reasons, no doubt a special chemistry played a role. Years later these two seem like an unbreakable pair who finish each other’s thoughts in conversation and share the same values on a host of topics. However, it is their artistic roots and sensibilities that have created a common ground for them – one that would be the foundation for their business startup and provide fertile ground for serving clients through their branding and design firm, Flores Design Studio.
Corina simultaneously graduated high school and college at the age of 17 with an Associate’s Degree in Graphic Design from Washtenaw Community College and was recognized as a top scholar by the Ann Arbor News. After he and Corina were married, Miguel graduated from Eastern Michigan University with a Bachelors in Fine Arts and a minor in Classical Guitar. Miguel brings a background in music, film, modeling and art to his graphic design skills.
After college, both Corina and Miguel found themselves working together for an Ann Arbor-based ad agency. They had started working there as hourly employees but felt they were being pressured to accept salaried positions. After doing the math they decided that working for themselves provided a much better opportunity - the chance to meet face-to-face with clients. And, when working long hours on behalf of their clients they would be growing their own business at the same time. “At first we felt that we were kind of forced into going on our own,” said Corina. “Now, we wouldn’t have it any other way.”
In the early days of their business development the two could be found most often at a local Ann Arbor coffee shop, utilizing the free Wi-Fi, and prowling a nearby bookstore for research purposes and creative inspiration. “There was a period of about four months where we ate oatmeal once a day, and that was it,” shared Miguel. “It was feast or famine… or more famine.”
Corina’s artistic talents include a gift for illustration, which was put to good use for one of their favorite clients – Good People Popcorn. Her work can be seen on the Good People Popcorn website where kernels of popcorn take on personas according to their unique flavor. Miguel’s own musical talents with classical guitar made another client’s website, created for a musical artist Victor Marquez Barrios, a labor of love. Like most projects at Flores Design Studio, Corina and Miguel contributed on design elements for both these two branding projects.
For logo development jobs the Flores Design team each go “old school,” taking up pen and paper to quickly sketch out several design concepts. They select the best in the bunch and move to their computers to bring the designs to life. Then, they swap designs and critique, collaborate and refine the logo options. This is a real benefit to clients because they have two designers bringing twice the number of options to the table for consideration.
When designing their own logo, the couple collaborated on a design that was inspired by the headstock of a 1929 -era classical guitar crafted by Francisco Simplicio, a nod to their musical interests and Latino/a roots. Corina also plays the guitar and when the two need a break from designing they’ll pick up their guitars for a classical music duet. “We are together 24/7 and we never seem to tire of each other,” shared Miguel.
Miguel and Corina have plans for Flores Design Studio to be a family business. This past year, they moved back to Lansing, Miguel’s hometown, and have brought younger brother, Elias Ferreyra-Flores into the business to assist with web coding and development. A plus for the business and the family, as the couple’s mentoring of young Elias keeps him out of trouble and focused on his schoolwork.
Combining their artistic talents and interests with their passion for branding, design and marketing has proven to be a winning combination for this duo. Flores Design Studio is located in a live/work loft space near downtown Lansing, and the Ferreyra-Flores’ have occupied a nearby coffee shop and bookstore to feed their creative engines. They are looking forward to opening up their own office space in the region to attract new Lansing area projects to add to their existing list of Southeast Michigan clients.
FINDING ART AND SOUL IN MICHIGAN
THURSDAY FEBRUARY 9, 2012
THURSDAY FEBRUARY 9, 2012
Painter Susan Van Sant is a long way from her birthplace, but definitely feels like she’s found “home.” Born and raised on a corn and soybean farm in Iowa, Van Sant has put down roots and is thriving in the urban core of Grand Rapids.
She describes her childhood living in a small community, going to Christian schools and living thirteen miles from the nearest city, Pella (population 9,832). Her three older brothers were all out of the house by the time she was in grade school. “I spent a lot of time alone.” Her house was situated on a dead-end street. She remembers making the long walk from her house to the end of the road where there was a bridge. “I spent hours sitting on it, just tossing stones into the river. A lot of my drawing comes from that experience of aloneness.”
It was a pre-school teacher who encouraged Van Sant’s mother to nurture her daughter’s art skills. But what that teacher recognized as raw talent with pencils and crayons would not blossom until that little girl arrived, years later, in the Great Lakes State.
In 1993, after graduating in a class of only 70 students (60 of whom she had been in school with since kindergarten), her parents gave her a choice –go to Calvin College in Grand Rapids or Dordt College in Northeast Iowa. Van Sant decided to head to Michigan.
And her first thoughts when she landed here? “The snow scared me! I had never seen so much snow. But I was so amazed by the beaches. In Iowa, they have to ship sand in to make a beach. When some friends first took me to Grand Haven, I just assumed they had shipped all the sand in.”
At Calvin, Van Sant tried graphic design, but working with type felt tedious. She took an art drawing class, but was turned off by the “very technical” teaching. She finally landed on printmaking for a major. Picking up her first paint brush was still several years off.
“When I graduated from college the idea of art and career still didn’t go hand-in-hand for me.” She worked various retail jobs. “Some of my best friends are the people I met when I worked at Frames Unlimited.”
Then Van Sant started doing ‘pet portraiture.’ “I ultimately did pretty well and even got a commission from a Shiba Inu dog group to paint one of the breeds for the Japanese government.” The pet portraiture became a jumping off point for Van Sant’s journey in art.
“When I first started painting I was doing some pretty dark work” said Van Sant. “Aunia Kahn became my mentor.” Kahn, who was born in Michigan and now lives in St. Louis, was very supportive of Van Sant’s art. “I pretty much followed in her footsteps.”
“I don’t really know where I’m going when I start a painting,” said Van Sant. “I’m just the vehicle. My paintings look at things that shouldn’t go together, but yet they do. Like a butterfly next to a skull. A lot of my work looks at good and evil, light and dark and the blur between the two.” Her work has been featured in several local and national shows in Detroit, Baltimore, St. Louis and ArtPrize 2011 in Grand Rapids.
Van Sant also brings her art to other venues. She has done all the artwork for the first two albums of Grand Rapids-based Holloway, a progressive metal band. In fact, she was in the recording studio when she gave this interview, listening to the lyrics of Holloway’s soon-to-be released album. “This album tells a story. Listening to it helps me get the feel for the artwork.”
She is also marketing a line of perfumes called Entity. “Scents are like colors to me. It’s like painting with my nose.”
“I’m at the beginning stages of flourishing,” said Van Sant. “Grand Rapids has only recently begun to expand its arts. ArtPrize is helping to put Grand Rapids on the map. We’re getting lots more galleries. I feel like I’m at the beginning of something great. It’s like I’m waiting to see where the city takes me.”
“My heart belongs in Michigan. The lakes, the skies, the change of seasons, it feeds me and it feeds my art. Being in Michigan means there are a lot more opportunities to come.”