Inspiration from one of the Lost Boys of Sudan

Community Engagement
Mokhtar Maki Mogtaba is one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. He suffered persecution and fled his homeland fearing for his life, but he says “I’m one of the lucky ones, because so many others are still suffering in Sudan.”

Still a young man, Mogtaba has experienced more cruelty and sorrow in the past six years than most people have in a lifetime.

He was a student at the University of Khartoum when the government of Sudan was overthrown and the country became engulfed in a civil war – Muslim Arabs in the north were fighting Christian, black Africans in the south. One night soldiers came and took Mogtaba’s father, part of the old government, away. He was thrown in prison and tortured. Knowing they’d be back, Mogtaba escaped alone in the middle of the night with nothing but the clothes he was wearing.

He hid during the day to avoid the soldiers and traveled at night on foot and stowed away on trains when he could.

Finally he reached Egypt where he found safety in a crowded refugee camp. He had survived, but he had lost everything – family, friends, home, and country. The only thing he had left was his dream that one day he and his family would be reunited and live in freedom in the United States and he was determined to make that dream a reality.

Nearly two years later, on February 1, 2001, Mogtaba arrived in the United States.

He was alone and had nothing, but he was thankful for the chance to build a new life in freedom. The LSF Refugee Resettlement Specialists found him a furnished apartment, enrolled him in English classes, and helped him find a job. Mogtaba worked hard, saved his money, studied English at night, and soon started classes at Hillsborough Community College. He also started a search to find his family.

When he finally learned his family was living in the refugee camp in Cairo, he began sending money to them every month. He also asked LSF to help him bring them to the U.S. In March of 2005, Amalia Rivera, LSF Resettlement Specialist, was with Mogtaba at the airport when his father and three sisters stepped off the plane. Amalia continues to work with the family in the resettlement process and they are now eagerly awaiting the day when their mother and other siblings arrive.

Mogtaba graduated from Hillsborough Community College and is now a student at the University of South Florida where he is studying to become a dentist. He still works full-time while attending classes. He is truly a shining example of what determination and hard work can accomplish.

http://www.sptimes.com/2005/04/03/Floridian/Hell_to_pay.shtml

a good first year – 2014 in review

Community Engagement

Here’s looking forward to 2015. Days 11 though 16 of 16 Days of Jackson will be coming soon, then I’ll move on to freely inspired storytelling, nature, environment, social media and futurist posts.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog, which serves as inspiration to continue.  Thank you very much to all of you who collaborated, commented and inspired the first ten days of the 16 Days of Jackson.

16 Days of Jackson

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,200 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 20 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Day 10 – Reliving 16 Days of Jackson through Vincent Price

Community Engagement

Day 10 – Reliving 16 Days of Jackson through Vincent Price

The summer of 1981: my favorite summer.

1981, so full of growing-up experiences at home, at the movies and in Westchester County, Manhattan and the Bronx.  Taylor Swift: my apologies to you.  I was wrong. 1989 was not the year.  1981 was better than 1989 and even greater than 1984 the year highlighted in America by the performances of Carl Lewis and Mary Lou Retton at the Los Angeles Summer Olympics.

But there was one summer of ’81 experience — a family legend often told by my late mother — I was meant to relive in Jackson.

On most summer evenings, I would open wide the two windows of my room in Vista, New York and watch the fireflies and listen to the crickets.  The previous Christmas I received a compact black & white television, compact enough to watch under the covers after everyone else had gone to bed.  I would stay up late to watch Reggie Jackson and the New York Yankees on WPIX, Channel 11, the same network that aired comedy classics by day and Chiller Theater horror classics by night.  Vincent Price captured my imagination that summer, joining Battle of the Network Stars CBS Team Captain Tom Selleck, Hall of Fame running back Earl Campbell (who put up a combined 1,981 yards from scrimmage with the Houston Oilers the previous season), President Ronald Reagan and the Yankees quintet of Ron Guidry, Dave Winfield, Goose Gossage, Graig Nettles and Reggie Jackson as my heroes.

Vincent Price

Mr. Price’s House of Wax was re-issued in theaters in polarized 3-D that summer and quickly became one of my favorite films of the year alongside Raiders of the Lost Ark, Chariots of Fire and For Your Eyes Only.  His remake of “Monster Mash” had turned our house into the ghoulish hot spot on Kingswood Way the previous Halloween, with eerie sounds emanating out our living room windows, over our front lawn and into the cul-de-sac shared with our neighbors.

HouseofWax3D_onesheet_1981RR_USA-1-500x746

http://www.3dfilmarchive.com/House-of-Wax

One weekday afternoon in the Summer of ’81, my mother dropped me off at New Canaan train station with a round-trip Metro North railroad ticket to Grand Central Station.  I carried a New York City map, my wallet and one dime for that solo trip to meet up with my father at his ancient antiquity gallery on Madison Avenue in Manhattan.  The train ride to Grand Central was scenic and fun.  I exited from the subterranean network of tunnels into the iconic grand room with the 4-sided clock atop the central information booth.  I ascended the west staircase, as I had done in a practice run with my dad.  I headed north on Madison Avenue and walked and walked until the intersection with 59th Street.  I looked to the left for my dad’s building but couldn’t spot it.  I looked across Madison Avenue and couldn’t find it.  I looked up the next block on both sides and still didn’t recognize it. All the buildings looked the same.  I walked down 59th Street and my heart raced. My blood pressure rose as I began to panic,  I remembered the fail safe option:  use the dime to call dad from a pay phone.  I ducked into an office building lobby and located a pay phone.

Within ten minutes I was reunited with my dad.  The tears of panic I had shed were dried up long before he and a business associate arrived.  I didn’t want to lose this independence privilege my dad had lobbied for successfully with my mom.  I couldn’t let the final step failure ruin a journey with so many other perfectly executed steps.

With his arm around my shoulder, I walked with my dad back to his office.  As we turned onto Madison Avenue I looked up, stopped and gasped.  Vincent Price was walking right towards us.  He smiled, greeted me with a “How are you young man?” and extended his hand.  I shook the hand of one of my heroes.

My memories end there.  I don’t know what we did that evening, or even the real purpose of my solo trip to Manhattan, but I like to think it involved the Russian Tea Room or the Carnegie Deli or a Yankees game in the Bronx.

Why did I relive this memory in Jackson, Michigan?

I was baptized and confirmed in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Vista, New York. The only image I have of the church today is courtesy of the controversial Blue Oyster Cult “On Your Feet” album cover.

Blue Oyster CultLast week I attended the Third Sunday of Advent service at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Jackson.  The church is celebrating its 175th year this year and nobody in town seems to know it.

20141214_131000

The St. Paul’s Women’s Guild founded the Jackson Town Hall Series in 1959.

Their first speaker, most frequent speaker and most popular speaker?

Vincent Price.

The 1959 lineup for the speaker series:

20141214_125614

Wow, what a start.  Vincent Price followed by Eleanor Roosevelt.  Price went on to speak in Jackson in 1967, 1972 and 1976.  Like many other great Jackson activities, the Jackson Town Hall Series ceased operation in 1979.  But Vincent Price had left his mark.  Several years later, he shook my hand on Madison Avenue.

How appropriate was it for Tim Burton to name the Edgar Allen Poe and Vincent Price-adoring lead character in his short film “Vincent” … Vincent Malloy? It’s a trip listening to Vincent Price narrate that classic short and say “Malloy” multiple times.

Vincent Malloy

As I researched this Day 10 of 16 Days of Jackson post, I found images of Vincent Price on View-Master reels.  Wow, I’d love to use a View-Master and look at still shots from 1960s/1970s/1980s classics.

viewmaster

Fun fact: 1.5 billion View-Master reels have been manufactured.

Day 9 – 16 Days of Jackson – Top 10 Local Food Experiences and Rebecca’s One Five One review

Community Engagement

As I approach my Jackson arrival anniversary date this spring (Earth Day 2013 was the big, memorable, cold day), I’m looking back on all the dining experiences of the past 9 months after receiving Rebecca Calkins’ 16 Days of Jackson foodie collaboration piece.

Spinach salad at Grand River Marketplace

Spinach salad at Grand River Marketplace

My Top 10 dining experiences in Jackson County

10. Schlenker’s cheeseburger for lunch (had the pleasure two times already)

9. Knight’s lunch specials (too many to list)

8. Reuben pizza at the Beach Bar on Clark Lake

7. El Mariachi burrito at Chilango’s

6. Spinach salad followed by mussels at Grand River Marketplace

5. Stuffed burger at Blue Moon Cafe

4. Muffin toast egg, swiss and bacon sandwich at BZB

3. The Dahlem veggie burger sandwich at Pickle Barrel

Two Dahlems and one Falling Waters ... delicious!

A Dahlem, a PB&J and one Falling Waters … delicious!

2. Sunday brunch at One Five One (fried chicken and waffles!)

1. Sticky burger at Night Light

My favorite neighborhood restaurant

My favorite neighborhood restaurant

My Top 9 most memorable dining moments

9.  my first Jackson Coney, prepared with beef heart.  I can’t believe I ate the whole thing and I won’t do it again.

8. every dining experience under Sue Chapel’s guidance at the Cascades Manor House.  Many lunches and several dinners have all lived up and exceeded expectations.

7. Polish breakfast at Bone Island Grill benefiting Disabilities Connections

Galumpkis & pierogies for breakfast!

Galumpkis & pierogies for breakfast!

6. Headliners fashion show and Jackson Rotary Holiday Bash at Grand River Marketplace … great fellowship, loads of delicious food and Fun!

Headliners Fashion Show benefiting Dahlem

Headliners Fashion Show benefiting Dahlem

5. Sunday brunch at One Five One benefiting Jackson Rotary.  From my loaded veggie omelette to the fried chicken and waffle, every taste was surely satisfying.

4. Soups at Blue Moon Cafe — pork, sauerkraut and bean or spinach and bacon, or any of the other signature combinations make for winter treat.

3. Soups at Night Light  — the french onion is the signature, but the other varieties prove the voters at the 1st annual Soup Bowl got it right by choosing the one and only Night Light.

2. The best breakfast sandwich in town, hands down:  BZB’s muffin toast egg sandwich.  I’ve tried it with pepper jack or swiss with bacon.  I’m stuck on the swiss option for now and never order anything else on their loaded menu.

1. Cascades Ice Cream Company.  A root beer float and two coneys.  And my $8.25 IOU inspiring a “How Jackson of You” speech, leading to 16 Days of Jackson and rodmalloy.com

what started it all

what started it all

Here is Rebecca’s One Five One review –

For a small to medium town, Jackson has a lot of restaurants. In fact, I’ve heard that Jackson has a very high restaurant per capita ratio. Us Jacksonians, we love to go out to eat. Jackson is a town of foodies, some blue collar steak and potatoes kinds of foodies, some gourmet filet mignon kind of foodies and sometimes both. We love our restaurants in Jackson. It’s always a hot topic when a restaurant is closing or a new restaurant is coming to town.  

Being a foodie myself I am always looking to try the newest restaurants and newest dishes. So when I was planning a celebratory dinner I had to try out one of the newer restaurants in Jackson, One Five One. In fact, I heard they had a new menu with lower prices! Bonus! Now I’ll admit I wasn’t the biggest fan of the restaurant that occupied this location before, but I must say the menu has improved significantly as One Five One. We started with appetizers of course. The first was Goat Cheese Cake, goat cheese baked in a garlic tomato sauce garnished with two black olives, creating a delicious face staring up at me. Served with toasted bread to smear the delicious combination on I was in heaven. Our second appetizer was fried asparagus and I must say I am always a big fan of taking anything healthy and making it delicious and slightly less good for you.

Beware what lurks in the bowls of 151

Beware what lurks in the bowls of 151

Mmmmm.  The magic of asparagus.  Green is good.

Mmmmm. The magic of asparagus. Green is good.

For my drink I decided I wanted to try a Dirty Martini because I have always wanted to try one and well I love olives. It was very olive-y to say the least but it was definitely a good pour and now I can check that off the bucket list.

Olive-y sensation

Olive-y sensation

For the main course I got a classic, One Five One Filet Mignon.  I got my 6 ounce filet a little red at medium and with the classic baked potato, it was perfection. For those of you that don’t want your cow still mooing my dining companions were happy with their well-done steaks as well.

A fine filet

A fine filet

On to the dessert… The flourless chocolate torte was as rich and decadent as expected served with a raspberry sauce and a dollop of whip cream. The white chocolate bread pudding was topped with a crème anglaise, or a delicious custard-y sauce, and more whip cream.

Chocolate!

Chocolate!

Bread pudding

Bread pudding

Overall One Five One is not nearly as highfalutin as you might think. The menu is as identifiable and relatable as your average steakhouse or full service chain yet fancy enough to make you feel like you are truly having a night on the town.

I did make it back for lunch and, me being me, I did order the most unique thing on the menu, duck lettuce wraps. But my more traditional dining companions were still able to find something to suit their palettes. 

There are a lot of great new restaurants around Jackson with Grand River Marketplace, Chase Bar & Grill, Chilango’s Burrito Bar and even down in Brooklyn with The Pointe and Shady’s Tap Room, great Michigan beer on tap and a really delicious Reuben sandwich on the menu.

Or new to me when I finally made a stop at South Side Deli for what claims to be the best steak hoagie in Jackson. It was amazing by the way but order ahead if you are stopping at lunchtime. It seems many more people know about this best kept secret than I thought.

So whether you are the kind of foodie with a highfalutin flourless chocolate torte kind of palette or a blue collar greasy spoon steak hoagie kind of palette or both, Jackson has something to satisfy everyone’s tastes. Go to http://www.experiencejackson.com/restaurants/ to find your new favorite Jackson restaurant.

~Rebecca Calkins

Day 8 – 16 Days of Jackson Classic Ragtime Tune Penned by 16-Year-Old Welcomes Bill Bailey to JACKSON

Community Engagement

Won’t You Come Home

by Bill Bailey

Italy is regarded for its inspiration of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts is the namesake of Henry David Thoreau’s famous novel. Jamaica is known as the birthplace of Bob Marley’s reggae music.People often associate great art with the place it was created. For me, Jackson makes me think of Hughie Cannon’s song, “(Won’t You Come Home) Bill Bailey?”

Zelda Sheldon performs the Jackson classic in Sydney, Australia on her ukulele, 9,405 miles from the song’s origin.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wp9cYvQsA2Q

Okay. This old ragtime song probably hasn’t reached Mona Lisa status and of course most people born prior to 1970 have never heard it, but it was created right here in Jackson and Jacksonians take pride in that. Believe me…I’ve heard it from time to time.

In my short tenure here I have had this song sung at me about 50,000 times. When I was growing up in Muskegon this song was sung to me any time I introduced myself to someone familiar with early 20th century jazz, but never as much as I’ve heard it from people in Jackson.

bill bailey

As it was told to me by a proud patron of the BZB Cafe on Mechanic St., who was coincidentally also named Bill,“(Won’t You Come Home) Bill Bailey?” was created in the bars of Frogtown, the area downtown near the Grand River. It was written by a 16-year-old, Detroit native Hughie Cannon, and inspired by trombonist Willard “Bill” Bailey, for whom the song got it’s title. As it goes, Cannon and Bailey frequented the taverns of old Jackson despite Mrs. Bailey’s pleas for her husband to please come home. Cannon was so inspired he produced one of the biggest ragtime hits of his time.

Cannon’s song soon met notoriety as the likes of Louis Armstrong, Patsy Cline, Harry Connick Jr., and most recently Michael Buble immortalized Bailey’s wife’s wishes for her husband to be domesticated. By the 1950s Jackson residents would soon take pride in the ditty that garnered international fame and claimed their city to be the conception point of one of the world’s most famous showtunes.  

Like the Buick, Ritz Cracker, and the Republican Party, “(Won’t You Come Home) Bill Bailey?” is now known as one of Jackson’s great contributions to society. Although the song may not be as great a piece of history as the Grand Old Party or an iconic automobile, Jacksonians to this day brag about the song’s origins in their beloved city.

Of course, no one would know this better than I, Bill Bailey.  I made this city my home five months ago. While I claim  no relationship to the man for which the famous song was named, I do feel  connected to the City of Jackson because of it. I don’t believe a newcomer could ever ask for a better welcoming than to have  a personalized song begging him, “please come home.” Although this song may have been written far before my time, to me it seems very appropriate that it was written in a city so willing to accept outsiders — a special city like no other, our Jackson.

Here’s Brenda Lee’s upbeat version: :http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_TGpSotYqM

Victory Lane, between Restaurant One Five One and Bella Notte in Downtown Jackson

Victory Lane, between Restaurant One Five One and Bella Notte in Downtown Jackson

 

Bill Bailey - J.D. McDuffie #70 tribute wheel in Victory Lane

Bill Bailey – J.D. McDuffie #70 tribute wheel in Victory Lane

Think about it … a song written in Jackson has had worldwide impact spanning four generations, from Louis Armstrong to Brenda Lee to The Jetsons to The Simpsons, even The Smurfs!  A 16-year-old songwriter’s simple song will live on and continue to thrive in our continually recycled, inspiring American culture.

Day 7 – 16 Days of Jackson Armory Arts & Art 634 Communities Burst with Art and Light

Community Engagement

From Indentured Servants and Prison Laborers, to Wage Slaves and Starving Artists

by Evan Farmer 

Consider the historical record of the ghosts who live at the building on N. Mechanic Street that now houses Art 634.  Often times I’ve wondered how many poltergeists wander the old wooden floors of the back gallery, and what variety of tortured ancient souls pass between the planes of existence before me.  Their stories would lead us into the lives of men, young and old, who were bought and sold into the injustice of forced prison labor.  The brutal and cold system of corrections that was simultaneously birthed next door to the shops at the 600 block of North Mechanic produced a workforce of demented and diseased state enslaved servants who made binder twine, wagon wheels, and farm implements, among other things.

Withington Cooley Shop building, today's Art 634 in Jackson, Michigan

Withington Cooley Shop building, today’s Art 634 in Jackson, Michigan

Today, the old Michigan State Prison has been re-purposed and made into housing for creative folks of all sorts.  And there are still bars on the windows of the ground level studio spaces that have been set aside for the artists who now live in the Armory Artswalk Apartments.  Though some may be “starving artists,” none have been forced to work on the chain gang, and in place of the manufacturing companies that were right next door, a collection of arts oriented shops and studios have been born.  Art 634 has been building a new industry built on art and ingenuity, free enterprise and creativity.  In place of the opportunistic spirit of nineteenth century industrialization, a community of artistic entrepreneurs has blossomed.

Art 634 after a mid-December snowfall

Art 634 after a mid-December snowfall

Throughout the mid to late 1800s, convicts from the State Prison were employed by early Jackson manufacturers such as Pinney, Connable & Company, which later became the Withington & Cooley Company, until the 1930’s when Acme Industries moved in.  The prisoners were paid a measly wage, somewhere around thirty to fifty cents a day, and were incarcerated under the deplorable “Auburn” style prison system, where they were forced into hard labor, subjected to the ball and chain and the lash, and lived amidst generally harsh conditions in a chronically overcrowded facility.  The prison laborers received none of the wages they worked for, though the industries they worked so hard to help build, and the capitalists who established them, benefited greatly. 

In this way, the “contract” labor of our state’s first prison system effectively continued the American tradition of indentured servitude.  In all likelihood, many of those who were housed at the prison and worked in the North Mechanic Street shops, were descendants of former slaves who were born into a life of abject poverty and were nearly forced into a life of crime.  By extension, that institution has continued even to this day, through the wage slave jobs provided by modern factories, and now huge multinational corporations such as McDonald’s and Wal-Mart.  No doubt, there are numerous families who live in Jackson today who have been essentially kept imprisoned and enslaved by the legacy of slavery and prison labor, which has continued the tradition of low paying jobs that cannot provide a basic living wage for many ex-convict employees and other uneducated workers. 

The heritage of our past can be a difficult pattern to break away from.  The reverberations of historical injustices can resonate even through the present, if we are unable to reconcile and heal the collective memory we share of that oppression and pain.  Art 634 has begun the curative work of transforming this place in Jackson that was once the cold, dark heart of our city. Through drawing, painting, dance, music, and other fine arts, we can facilitate the process of healing by projecting a more positive focus of energy into the spaces we inhabit.  And hopefully the ghosts that we encounter amongst these artistic endeavors will be inspired to release that pain, and be liberated from the negative experiences that keep haunting them and continue lingering in the present.

http://www.michigan.gov/msi/0,4642,7-174-23878-65447–,00.html

http://blog.mlive.com/citpat_history/2007/10/prison_was_industrial_center.html

Mechanic Street Sign Pointing to Armory Arts Village

Mechanic Street Sign Pointing to Armory Arts Village

Armory Arts Village Began With a Flourish, Primed for a Great Future

by Rod Malloy

Armory Arts Village began as a community redevelopment project with broad local leadership support and a vision to transform National Guard Armory and historic State Prison buildings into a Village with Artswalk Apartments.  The dream became a reality in 2006 and Ann Arbor architects Quinn Evans received the 2006 Michigan State award for most innovative renovation of a historic building for the project.

http://www.quinnevans.com/portfolio/neighborhoods-communities/armory-arts-village

Quinn Evans’ website describes Armory Arts Village:

In a city long known for its blue-collar manufacturing industry and prison, QEA is playing a central role in cultural and economic revitalization. We led the adaptation of three historic prison buildings (more recently re-purposed as a National Guard Armory), to create an arts neighborhood with 62 affordable live/work lofts. In addition, the structures feature shared workspace for resident performing and visual artists, artisans and designers, including a two-story industrial arts production space, studios, as well as first-floor galleries, a coffee shop and retail space.

The coffee shop and retail space did not come to fruition and the two-story production space enjoyed a short-lived history as a spacious art gallery doubling as a special event venue.  Jackson Journeys Historic Prison Tours and Paranormal Tours also flourished during the early years of Armory Arts Village.  https://www.historicprisontours.com/
 
Armory Artswalk Apartments are well designed and beautiful.  Residents love them, including resident artists Jean Weir and Cahty Walters.
Nighttime with snow at Armory Artswalk Apartments

Nighttime with snow at Armory Artswalk Apartments

Jean Weir's creative space in her first floor loft apartment

Jean Weir’s creative space in her first floor loft apartment

Cathy Walters' artful apartment

Cathy Walters’ artful apartment

Early residents of the Armory Artswalk Apartments could pick their cell block / apartment after the December 15, 2006 grand opening. The first 22 residents were all artists including musicians, sculptors, dancers, opera performers and metal workers, including African-inspired art by a Sudanese artist.  In the beginning there was “lots of talent, a dream come true for many artists,” commented Jean Weir.
Armory Artswalk Apartment longtime residents Judy Gail Krasnow, Louis Cubille and Jean Weir in Jean's loft apartment

Armory Artswalk Apartment longtime residents Judy Gail Krasnow, Louis Cubille and Jean Weir in Jean’s loft apartment

The 62 apartment units housed 40 artists in the beginning, today among the 62 apartment residents, only 10 artists call 100 Armory Court home.  The Armory Arts Community seeks younger artists, and actively pursues opportunities to promote the community and to bring back Jackson Journey Tours and the two-story gallery space.

The Armory buildings were first renovated during World War II, were occupied during the Gulf Wars and vacated by the National Guard in 1996.  The recent renovation and preservation project involved the Artspace group in St. Paul, MN when the renovations targeted the ACME buildings further south on Mechanic Street.  Artspace inspired several art elements of the project, but exited the project when the focus turned to renovating the historic prison buildings.
 
 
First Floor Armory Artswalk Apartments

First Floor Armory Artswalk Apartments

 
Prison bars preserved at Armory Artswalk Apartments

Prison bars preserved at Armory Artswalk Apartments

Two other buildings are included in the Armory Arts Village complex.  A pink building added by the National Guard houses the local bike rehab project.  Louis Cubille started the bike repair project at Art 634 as an after school program 12 years ago.  Louis’ studio was in the current Cuppa Coffee Company location.  The other building located behind the apartments building and inside the historic prison wall is the State Prison mess hall building. In the 1970s the community rallied to protect the prison wall against forces wanting to tear it down.

State Prison Mess Hall Building

State Prison Mess Hall Building

Today, the small community of Armory artists offer art classes to adults and children. Dreams of an Academy carry on in the community.  Cathy Walters is the community promoter, despite just six months of residence.  “We’d like to build better relationships with Art 634, the Jackson Artists Alliance, and with promotion partners,” she shared.  “It became full-time work when I became disabled with fibromyalgia and polyarthroalga.  I paint because I love to.  For many of us our art is our work and our work takes a lot of our time.”  Cathy’s art includes beautiful art journals made from recycled brown paper bags.
Art journals made from recycled brown paper bags

Art journals made from recycled brown paper bags

 “I love this community.  I have met amazing people.  This group of artists have loved me and cared for me through my illness.”  — Cathy Walters
 
Armory Arts Village site plan and Artist Directory

Armory Arts Village site plan and Artist Directory

 
 
 

16 Days of Jackson – Day 6 – The Grand River, Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow…

Community Engagement

by Kenny Price

Some people in Jackson travel by the Grand River every day and never give it a thought. Other people look at the Grand River flowing through Jackson on its 220-mile journey to Lake Michigan, and see its beauty and the great asset that it is or could be.

The last Ice Age ended 13,000 years ago leaving behind the rivers and lakes of Michigan.  Before the 1800s, Indians and a few stray Frenchmen were the only people to roam the land we now call Michigan.  The Potawatomie Indians lived in the southwest part of Michigan and called the Grand River “Washtenong-sepe”.  After the War of 1812 the new “Northwest Passage” of the United States was opening for settlers.  Michigan was a territory with thoughts of becoming a state. A New Yorker Horace Blackman heard there was free land west of Ann Arbor soon to be opened for settlers.  On June 29, 1829, he along with Alex Laverty and guide Pe-wy-tum traveled to an area where twelve Indian trails crossed the Grand River.  A marker at Jackson Street and Trail Street marks the spot where Blackman wanted to homestead.

Horace Blackman Historical Marker

Horace Blackman Historical Marker

Between 1829 and 1900, Jackson became a major industrial city and a major railroad hub. Commercial buildings and industries were built along and over the Grand River.  All of the waste and trash of this “Civilization” was dumped into the Grand River. Businesses believed that the trash and waste they dumped into the river would not be in Jackson long, that it would simply and easily just float on down the river.  By the 1890s citizens of Jackson started complaining about how filthy and smelly the river was.  The citizens started demanding that something be done to clean the river and to take away the awful smell.

The old Grand River pre-Cap, Downtown Jackson

The old Grand River pre-Cap, Downtown Jackson

Around 1910, a study was undertaken to solve the problems with the Grand River. In 1914 a plan was developed to get the filthy and stinky water out of Jackson quicker, to appease the citizens.  The plan was to take the oxbows out of the river from North Street to Berry Road. The study believed making that section of river a straight channel would get the dirty river out of Jackson quicker and make everyone happier.  So between 1914 and 1920 all of the river oxbows from North Street and Berry Road were taken out. The river was straight as an arrow thru that stretch, but the water in the downtown Jackson area still stunk, and was a dirty filthy looking mess.

Nobody was happy, not the citizens, not the government, not the businesses, and especially not the visitors to Jackson. A new study was commissioned and another new plan was developed in 1925.  If nothing would get the dirty, filthy, stinking water out of Jackson, well then maybe the solution was to just cover up the river with concrete.  If nobody saw the dirty filthy river then the problem would be solved.  There was only one problem with the new plan.  How would it be financed?  In 1925 the government of Jackson did not have the money to cover the Grand River.  It was not until 1936 that money was found.  In stepped President Roosevelt and the Federal government to save the day.  President Roosevelt and the Works Progress Administration (W.P.A.) had money and they wanted to put Americans to work during the Great Depression.  So the federal government built “The Cap” to cover the river.

The Cap

The Cap

“The Cap” was 2,580-feet long, starting north of Liberty Street (behind now DPW on Water Street) to just south of Louis Glick (where the Toy House is located).  A ten-foot wide and five-feet deep concrete channel was made for the river to flow. Then the area was concreted over to completely hide the river during normal flow times.  The only time the river was visible was during flood times.  The public was appeased; they did not see the filthy river and many families in the Jackson area made money during the Great Depression.

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In 1977, the Clean Water Act was enacted and businesses and governments were forced to clean up the river, creeks, and waterways of the United States.  Businesses and Governments in Jackson County were forced to start cleaning the Grand River.  Since 1977 the Grand River has become a lot cleaner. The river today is not as clean as it was before 1829, but the bottom can now be seen and fish are now swimming in the river again. Local business and local governments have made great strides in getting the river cleaner and keeping it clean.

Grand View downtown I

Grand View Downtown I

G.R.E.A.T (the Grand River Environmental Action Team) was founded in 1991 to protect and promote the Grand River.  Since 1991, G.R.E.A.T. has had an annual clean-up of the river.  Almost everything imaginable has been pulled out of the river.  The last five years, G.R.E.A.T has been helped by the J.R.O.T.C. at the Career Center.  A record number of 137 people came out in 2013 to clean the Grand River. G.R.E.A.T. along with its board, members, and friends will continue to clean the river, trying to make it a great asset to the citizens of Jackson County.

Grand View Downtown II

Grand View Downtown II

16 Days of Jackson – Local Artist Creates New Wave of Inspiring Recycled Art – Day 5

Community Engagement

[This post includes collaboration from local Jackson writer, Ann Green.  Ann’s piece on Jackson artist Steampunk Eddie appears after the Little Acorns art image. Thank you, Ann.  Thank you, Eddie.]

Jackson’s artistic talent ranges far and wide throughout Jackson County.  With less than a year’s exposure, I have been amazed and impressed with local art — local scenic photographs of autumn leaves on glorious trees or majestic sunsets over Clark or Vandercook Lake; talented painters mixing realism with surrealism; young artists creating mixed media masterpieces in Dahlem’s Little Acorns program.

But recycled art has a special place in my love for art.  Especially recycled metals art.  In Tampa, FL and Fairfield, CA, I have benefited from the work of talented artists Steven Taylor and Phillip Glashoff.  Gilbert R. an artist in Vacaville, CA has created some of the most incredible recycled art I have ever seen, I’ll never forget the person or his art.

Steampunk Eddie and his Clock at Grand River Marketplace

Steampunk Eddie and his Clock at Grand River Marketplace

 

Little Acorns fall harvest art

Little Acorns fall harvest art

Ann Green’s Steampunk Eddie story

Ed Thayer, the artist known as Steampunk Eddie, creates 3-D artwork that is mostly from recycled parts, often whimsical, and always functional. One of his larger and more public art works is the vintage-looking clock on display at the Grand River Marketplace. Called “A Matter of Time,” it features a large clock face resting on a base that is copper-covered and clear-coated with various decorative pieces.  The clock hands which swing wildly and a steadily-moving pendulum are powered by a microwave motor and a rotisserie motor.

The Steampunk aesthetic has been around for a while but right now it is hot. It’s an artistic style that brings together fashions and technology of the 19th century Victorian era. For Ed, it’s an art form that is interesting and fun, that creates something cool or functional out of junk, that is usable, and that you can’t help but look at. That’s the wow factor he always goes for.

Ed gathers gears, motors, metal and wood scraps, discarded things. Then he lets them speak to him until he gets an idea and starts assembling. He says an artwork seems to come together by itself. He looks at a piece of what we might call junk, sees something cool in it that sparks an idea and one thing leads to another. He says, “It’s kind of crazy, but it’s cool.” He doesn’t usually end up creating what he first envisioned and that’s part of the fun.

 

Creating a Steampunk masterpiece

Creating a Steampunk masterpiece

Steampunk art is relatively new for Ed. He had a long and successful career as an airbrush artist. You’d recognize his work when you see the flameouts alongside the tow trucks from Phelps or Jimmy’s. He’s worked for Ted Nugent and Roger Penske and even airbrushed the tour bus for the cast of Jersey Shore.  But when he discovered Steampunk a year ago, it combined all the skills he had into one art. He says, “This is so me. I can weld. I’m mechanically-inclined. I worked on custom-built cars. I was always an artist.” Now he’s the godfather of Steampunk in the area. And he adds, “The best is yet to come.” Find Steampunk Eddie on Facebook.

Clock art construction

Clock art construction

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Steampunk Eddie and his Clock work at Grand River Marketplace

 

16 Days of Jackson Day Four – Jackson Pastor Planted Seeds for Nelson Mandela’s Life of Influential Peacemaking

Community Engagement

Nelson Mandela forged peace and renewal in a divided nation, breaking down racial walls and healing his homeland.  Four generations of Jacksonians watched from afar, Builders, Boomers, Gen Xers and Gen Yers, each with their own take on this wonderful man’s life and influence.  Builders laid the groundwork by serving in WWII, Korea, even Vietnam.  Their civic clubs helped strengthen international peacekeeping endeavors and their ideas created NATO, the United Nations and numerous NGOs.  Boomers opened the doors wide with domestic cultural reforms and breakthroughs, passing the torch to Gen Xers who had their worldviews built around the true heroes of our world, most notably Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa and Madiba (Nelson Mandela’s intimate family name).

That brings us to Gen Yers and Millennials, the Facebook and Twitter generation that killed MySpace and gravitated en masse to post tributes to Mandela this past week.  They loved the abundant joy exhibited at Mandela’s funeral.  They celebrated when President Obama shook hands with Cuba’s President Raul Castro and dreamed of a future defined by peace.

But a century before Kennedy’s assassination, a century before the loss of Martin Luther King, Jr., a century before the walls came down in Berlin — a simple man, a Jackson pastor by the name of Jabez Fox, showed cultural reform courage 100 years before his time.  His activism laid the seeds for the elimination of racial persecution, breakthrough prison reform and exemplary conviction rooted in spiritual understanding similar to Martin Luther centuries earlier.

The Hart Brothers profiled Reverend Jabez Fox in their Burgh strip which appears here:

Jackson Pastor Jabez Fox learns of Jackson's prison practices and racial profiling.

Jackson Pastor Jabez Fox learns of Jackson’s prison practices and racial profiling.

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 Madiba & Jabez Fox – Hope for the Future, Inspired by Two Heroes Centuries Apart

All week this week, I have tried to understand my two personal interactions with Bishop Desmond Tutu.  I’ve composed a short poem and twice delivered a Mandela tribute speech. Here is my Jackson Rotary Holiday Fun Bash speech:

For me, Rotary International stands for peace and prosperity.  Peace because of Rotary international endeavors bringing together leaders to forge peace, a great success that has continued for generations. Prosperity because of opportunities given to young people, millions delivered from the threat of polio, thousands who have gone to college or experienced other cultures through Rotary Exchange.

I’m grateful today for the life and inspiration of Nelson Mandela.

I’m grateful today for the legacy carried on by my friend and hero, Bishop Desmond Tutu.

I’m grateful today for four years of a top-rated liberal arts education, thanks to Rotary.

I’m grateful today for friends and fellowship, fun and laughs, the kind that only our Club provides.

Jackson is the greatest community in the world.

Look around you.  Look at the people, the leaders who have served this community so well, so faithfully and passionately for decades.  Look at the entrepreneurial spirit present in each and every detail of this beautiful restaurant and brewery, Grand River Marketplace.

Tonight, we’re here to celebrate Rotary and have fun with one another.

I encourage you all to mingle, greet guests and enjoy the musical experience that is Steve Trosin.

Before I turn it over to Steve I wanted to share this 16 Days of Jackson Rotary Holiday Fun Bash poem with you:

Here we are, years later

Another Christmas season,

snowflakes floating gently down to our city streets

What could be better

Nothing could be better than what we have here

Smiles, Laughter, Friends and Festive Libations

Here we are, years later

Another Christmas season,

We catch a glimpse of hope and feel the cool breeze of peace

What could be better

Nothing could be better than what we have here

Memories of Lou Reed’s velvety voice

Memories of Nelson Mandela’s courageous smile

Many people who heard the speech asked me:  “who’s Lou Reed?”

I couldn’t believe the question, since Reed’s band the Velvet Underground is recognized as one of the greatest of a generation.  Rolling Stone considers the “Velvet Underground” album with the Andy Warhol banana album cover art as the #13 greatest album of all time.  http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/500-greatest-albums-of-all-time-20120531/the-velvet-underground-and-nico-the-velvet-underground-20120524

Since this is the 16 Days of Jackson, here’s the link to the #16 greatest album of all time on the Rolling Stone list, Bob Dylan’s “Blood on the Tracks”  http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/500-greatest-albums-of-all-time-20120531/bob-dylan-blood-on-the-tracks-20120524

Lou Reed also joined Emily Haines and her band Metric for the duet “The Wanderlust” on Metric’s latest album Synthetica.  Reed joined Metric onstage to perform the song in this video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7gg2LbHAco

Two Canadian bands — both among my current favorites — commented on Reed’s passing in this article:

http://globalnews.ca/news/929266/canadian-bands-metric-cowboy-junkies-react-to-death-of-lou-reed/

With all those tributes to Reed, I’ll close this post as I closed my Mandela speeches; with a quote from Bishop Desmond Tutu, whom I met at a church service in Connecticut as a teenager and then again at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco 18 months ago.

“Like a most precious diamond honed deep beneath the surface of the earth,

the Madiba who emerged from prison in January 1990 was virtually flawless.”

16 Days of Jackson Day Three – Summer Night Tree: Beauty at Night, Dark Knight by Day

Community Engagement

On this third day of 16 Days of Jackson, the focus turns to a multi-million-dollar piece of art prominently displayed in downtown Jackson:  Louise Nevelson’s Summer Night Tree dedicated in the spring of 1978.  On the night of December 4, 2013 a cool evening air called me to take a walk in downtown Jackson after my first visit to Nostalgia Ink.  https://www.facebook.com/NOS.Ink

I felt a cleansing and healing taking place inside of me as I took deep breaths of the beautiful night air.  Early in my walk, I stumbled upon Summer Night Tree.  At first glance, my breath was taken away.  Where was the black exploding chicken I was used to seeing in daylight?  In front of me was a majestic, multi-faceted gigantic wonder with iridescent silver tones caused by its spotlights.  I slowly circled the Summer Night Tree, soaking in each angle and coming to full realization for the first time why Louise named it the “night” tree.  It springs to life at night.  I was blown away.

The hook

The hook

The Steps

The Steps

Thunderbird

Thunderbird

Thunderbird close-up

Thunderbird close-up

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Looking at these images today, I realize they don’t do the masterpiece justice.  I remember taking each image clearly, as I savored the refreshing air and wondered at the scope and beauty of the sculpture.  My Toastmaster friend Grant Bauman researched and published this excellent piece on Summer Night Tree:

SummerNightTree

http://blog.mlive.com/bradosphere/2011/08/brad_flory_column_summer_night.html

Fellow Exchange Club member, the Honorable Richard LaFlamme reminded me of a favorite Seinfeld episode when I shared my evening Summer Night Tree experience with him.  The legendary “Festivus” episode included the “two faced” Gwen, Jerry’s girlfriend who looked great in full lighting but scary in poor lighting, somewhat like my day/night experiences with Summer Night Tree. The episode entitled “The Strike” was the tenth episode of the final season of Seinfeld.  The two-faced girlfriend segments are here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TFeUrC2gR30

The Festivus segments are here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8g4Ztf7hIM

Two memorable Seinfeld story lines, all in one big episode.

Special thanks to Grant for his collaboration on this Day Three post and for Judge LaFlamme’s inspiration.

Summer Night Tree during the day

Day time

Day time

artnet Galleries: Maquette for Summer-Night Tree by Louise Nevelson from Hollis Taggart Galleries

Louise Nevelson, Maquette for Summer-Night Tree