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August 25, 2011
traverse city film festival
TRAVERSE CITY FILM FESTIVAL
VIDEO BY JEFF BURTON
THURSDAY AUGUST 25th, 2011
TRAVERSE CITY FILM FESTIVAL
VIDEO BY JEFF BURTON
THURSDAY AUGUST 25th, 2011
The effects of celebrity can be powerful. Michael Moore has used his, at times controversial, star power to pull together his Traverse City community, putting on the last seven years of Traverse City Film Festivals. Now his sights are set on a project that has the potential to renovate old movie houses into centerpieces for downtowns all across Michigan.
While at the Traverse City Film Festival, Moore received the 2011 Arts Legacy Award from ArtServe Michigan, honoring him for his arts advocacy and activism. For more details on the TCFF please visit TraverseCityFilmFest.org
THURSDAY AUGUST 24th, 2011
When the idea was raised to remove benches from Pekich Park in an attempt to combat the illegal activities often taking place in the public 'pocket park,' Grand Rapids artist and community activist, Hugo Claudin, took a stand. "I thought it was a terrible idea. How is the park supposed to be inviting to the community if we remove the benches?"
Claudin's live/work artist loft dubbed Mexicains Sans Frontieres, (translates literally to "Mexicans without Borders"), is located across the street from the park, and though he agreed that some action should be taken, he was adamant that bench removal was not the answer.
An active member and longtime resident of Avenue for the Arts, an area in downtown Grand Rapids along South Division Avenue that also encompasses the park, the painter/musician proposed a different idea. "Let's have some concerts and use the space for something else that will hopefully stop some of that bad behavior," said the artist/activist. Claudin, along with others in the community, worked together to secure grant funding and held the first concert in late July. Since then, shows have taken place every other week, and the benches won't be going anywhere.
Claudin has long been a catalyst for bringing music and other art into public spaces. He regularly hosts underground bands from all over the globe in his loft, and is a member of ArtPeers, a local nonprofit that encourages community patronage of the arts. The group holds a variety of events where exhibits and performances are held in local businesses, parking lots, and empty spaces. "I'm trying to meld the idea of being an artist and doing community-based things," he said. Originally from Mexico, Claudin migrated to the United States following the death of his father to study art at Kendall College of Art and Design. Since settling in Grand Rapids two decades ago, he has become an important link between art and the community.
Claudin provides outreach service as a natural helper for the city's Believe 2 Become Initiative, a collaborative effort of the Grand Rapids Public Schools, the Grand Rapids Student Advancement Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and the Douglas & Maria DeVos Foundation.
The aim is to close the achievement gap between inner-city students and their suburban counterparts. The project focuses on engaging community members across four different neighborhood zones in Grand Rapids. Natural helpers serve as liaisons between the community and the programs offered through LINC Community Revitalization, Inc., one of the partner organizations involved with Believe 2 Become.
"I'm kind of like a foot soldier for the operation," he explained. Foot soldier is an apt description for the artist whose work incorporates themes of revolution and 'real life superheroes'. Claudin is engaging West Michigan's Latino community, encouraging them to not let fear keep them from having active roles in their children's educations. "The Latino community is kind of naturally guarded," he said. But, he believes, as the program becomes more visible, these walls are coming down. "We're working to engage the community through a series of meetings. We want to get a dialogue going about what the obstacles are that might be keeping the children from graduating."
His current series of paintings bears the same name as his loft and deals with themes of immigration and the barriers frequently encountered by members of the Latino community. Claudin paints warrior-esque men and women, all of whom sport the traditional face-masks of the Lucha Libre wrestlers, an institution in national Mexican pop culture. Claudin describes the images as a metaphor for the unseen communities of undocumented people living in the US that go uncounted and misrepresented in the media.
Although his work with Believe 2 Become spans across the city of Grand Rapids, it is his own Heartside District, which continues to struggle to attract businesses and residents, that truly has his heart. "As a resident of this zone, of course I'm interested in the revitalization of this area. I think it will be a natural process," he said. "Nobody expected this to be revitalized overnight. We're very committed, especially the people who have been here a long time. We're almost there. It's a matter of persisting and getting the message out."
PUBLIC ART LANDING ON DETROIT'S RIVERFRONT
THURSDAY AUGUST 24th, 2011
Say what you will about public art, as long as you say something about public art. People coming together and talking is what it's all about, according to artist and curator John Sauvé. And as installation of public works of art progress in Detroit's William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor, more talk about public art is inevitable.
In the 31-acre park along the Detroit River, between the Renaissance Center and Chene Park, a ten piece exhibition of public art is now in the works. The first piece, a work by Sauvé, was installed this July. This piece, titled Seinsfrage (literally, 'the question of being'), has been well received. It is a 12-foot tall, stainless steel structure, of a silhouette of a man with three tubes protruding from the figure.
Beginning in the Spring of 2012, more public art pieces will be installed, by nine other professional artists. The group of Detroit and New York City artists, who go by the name The 5 Collective, is dedicated to creating and promoting public art exhibits. This current project on the Detroit Riverfront is part of a larger project which encompasses ten cities. Each of the participating artists will then act as curator for the group, for their respective cities.
"This is a way to create a fun destination on the Riverfront," said Sauvé, "in an area that is relatively under-utilized." William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor, the former Tri-Centennial Park, has undergone a facelift of its own in recent years. Sauvé has overseen similar projects in other areas of Michigan, including the cities of Brighton and Birmingham. His work has also been publically displayed outside the state across several cities, including New York City and Chicago.
Sauvé, founder of the Sauvé Art Foundation, is known for using stainless steel to create monumental forms. The Seinsfrage sculpture is part of his Man in the City series. Sauvé said this piece speaks to "who you have to be, what you have to do, in order to survive." Working with his team and engineer, the artist closely supervised the installation of the unique public work. Speaking about the installation in a June press release, Park Director Luba Sitar said, "This is a spectacular addition to William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor. We are delighted to bring the work of such a preeminent American sculptor to the Detroit Riverfront. Sauvé's work has such force and such impact; I think it will be enjoyed by the community for years to come."
Sauvé recalls how this particular project came to fruition: Ms. Sitar was interested in allowing public art to be displayed within the park, and Sauvé, always on the lookout for new possibilities for his public art pieces, seized the opportunity. He and Sitar boarded the Detroit Princess, a riverboat on the Detroit River, and took a look at the view from the river. While there were scattered works visible along the Detroit shoreline, on the Canadian shore in Windsor they could see an entire park dedicated to art - which is exactly what they had in mind for Detroit.
When asked how the public reacts to such exhibits, John Sauvé was quite candid. He explained that, at first, there is usually some degree of backlash against it. However, it always leads to positive discourse, over time. The usual criticism seems to center around the funding of the project. There are some who get upset, thinking that public funds are being spent in a time when budgets are being cut. Sauvé clarified that most of the work he has done and publically displayed has been made possible through private donations. Over the long haul, Sauvé knows the public is supportive of such displays after witnessing each project become a source of pride for the community.
John Sauvé has also seen firsthand how art projects can become a source of encouragement for young artists in life. He has worked with the Boys and Girls Club of Birmingham, helping them to create public art pieces of their own. Over an eight-month period, the kids created 40 eight-foot sculptures. "Seeing their work completed, being acknowledged, showing them they can do anything if they put their mind to it, that's a transferable skill," said Sauvé.
Sauvé points to the economic benefit of public exhibits, such as the one being installed in the William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor. "It does have an economic impact on the community, and I can show that, over and over again," he said. His first public art project was for the City of Brighton, an area where the downtown shops used to close at 5pm and after which, the sidewalks were deserted. After the art pieces went on display, it appeared to provide a more interesting destination for patrons. People began to converge, if only to see what the ruckus was about. More and more shops and restaurants not only opened, but flourished. Downtown Brighton is now thriving, in part because public art helped create a more interesting downtown destination, while opening dialogue in the community at the same time.
Always looking for new ways to connect with the public and stimulate conversation about the role of art in Michigan's cities, Sauvé also hosts a cable talk show, interviewing artists and those having impact upon the artistic community. The show reaches an estimated 400,000 viewers in the Southeast Michigan viewing area. Past episodes may be viewed on his website, under the Art & Design Show tab.
Whether it's creating an interesting destination, stirring dialogue, encouraging young people, or boosting economic growth, thanks to the creativity and dedication of proud Michigan citizens like John Sauvé, the Riverfront public art project inside William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor is gearing up to be a bold step forward for the state's largest city.
MOLLY AND BRIAN AND ALL THAT JAZZ - THE MICHIGAN JAZZ TRAIL FESTIVAL
MARY KATHERINE QUASARANO
THURSDAY AUGUST 24th, 2011
Why does it seem that artistic landscapes always appear greener in another state? That's the question Molly McFadden asked herself in an 'ah-hah!' moment in New York City several years ago. She had traveled back to NYC from Midland with a group of Bay Area musicians to play a few gigs at some of her old haunts. Friends and associates marveled at the 'incredible level of play' of those in her company from Michigan. "I was sitting in the club in the afterglow of a performance, and this thought just hit me: You don't have to be in NYC to realize your artistic dreams! There are talented and gifted people all around and you can't stop the creative process. Nurture your art where you're at." That conceptual moment led to the birth, several years later, of the very first Michigan Jazz Trail Festival. The vision for this event is being nurtured by Molly and Brian McFadden and it's impossible to separate the story of the Michigan Jazz Trail Festival from their journey as artists and entrepreneurs.
The McFadden's came to Midland in the late 90's, via New York City, having enjoyed success as a singer and actor (Molly) and playwright (Brian). An entrepreneurial business venture led them to Midland (Molly refers to this as heading west) and once they arrived, they discovered, "Midland loves the arts! We were embraced by a strong art community, and we love our life here."
Creativity never stops flowing, and both Molly and Brian went with the flow. Brian wrote Soaring, a musical celebrating the 100th year of the Wright Brothers' flight. Soaring debuted in Midland in 2003. In the meantime, Molly began selling breads and coffees at the farmer's market all because their daughter Kate wanted to sell lemonade - and a few short years later Molly's Bistro was born. The restaurant brought Molly back to jazz singing for an audience, and the Bistro fast became a showcase for jazz on the weekends, drawing talented musicians from across the Bay Area.
To celebrate her return to singing, and to showcase the talented musicians she was working with, Molly took her musical troupe to play some club dates in New York City. The rest, as they say, is becoming Michigan musical history. "I came home and knew that I had to find a way to highlight the incredible musicians and singers from all across the area. I asked myself, what would happen if we began tapping into the amazing resource of musicians right here in Michigan?" Molly began working with the Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance to musically pull three cities together (Bay City, Midland, and Saginaw). To uncover talent she asked this simple question: "Where's your gold?" Much to her delight she found that her westward journey had led to a veritable gold mine of musical gifts and in 2010 the first Michigan Jazz Trail Festival was held. It was successful and the commitment was made to make it an annual event.
On a beautiful weekend in late June 2011, the second Michigan Jazz Trail Festival was held. It began with Blues on the Bay in Bay City on Friday, moved to Jazz at theTridge in Midland on Saturday, and concluded on Sunday with Heart and Soul at the Temple Theatre in Saginaw. McFadden said one of the highlights of the 2011 Michigan Jazz Trail Festival was having local high school students perform and work with the professionals. "Renowned jazz guitarist and singer John Pizzarelli was astounded by the young talent we have in the area," McFadden said. "He said the students have such a high level of knowledge and sophistication." More than 110 high school students performed throughout the weekend.
Molly and Brian see the Michigan Jazz Trail Festival becoming one stop along a great winding trail of music festivals throughout Michigan. "We could plot a trail through the mitten with the International Jazz Festival in Detroit as our final musical destination." As successful entrepreneurs, the McFadden's are well aware of the great economic impact the Festival had on the region.
In the Ken Burns film Jazz, Wynton Marsalis offers, "The real power of jazz is that a group of people can come together and create improvised art and negotiate their agendas... and that negotiation is the art."
That's also a great description of Molly and Brian McFadden and the Michigan Jazz Trail Festival.
Bookmark michiganjazztrail.org to stay apprised of 2012 Festival news and stop by Molly's Bistro anytime to say hello to Molly and Brian.