Kate Wells

Arts, Culture & Education Reporter/Producer

Kate Wells is an award-winning reporter covering cultural arts, education, and general news for Michigan Radio. Her work has been featured on NPR’s Morning EditionAll Things Considered, and Weekend Edition, as well as on WNYC, Harvest Public Media, KUT (Austin Public Radio) and in the Texas Tribune.

Kate got her start as an intern with New Hampshire Public Radio before heading out to the Midwest, where she covered the presidential caucuses for Iowa Public Radio and won a regional Edward R. Murrow award for investigative journalism. She joined Michigan Radio in 2012. Kate enjoys hiking, the Muppets, and cake in all forms.   

Linda Solomon / HarperCollins Publishers

Detroit lost one of its greats yesterday.

Elmore Leonard, 87, will be remembered as the writer who rehabbed the Western, wrote great bad guys, and saw his stories made into movies like "3:10 to Yuma" and "Get Shorty."

So in honor of one of America’s most prolific crime writer, we're going to take a tip from the man himself: show, don’t tell.

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

If you’re a local in Northern Michigan, especially in a tourist town, you need a few places that are all your own.

That dive bar visitors don’t know. The private beach that’s hidden away.

For Traverse City residents, one place like that is the InsideOut art gallery.

First thing you do there is get a drink at the cocktail bar.

Then, you head to the patio that has no view of the lake (which, hey, no tourists!)

Prison bars
Ken Mayer / Flickr

A new chapter in a bizarre murder case is playing out in Detroit.

Six years after four people were gunned down in a drug dealer’s home on the city’s east side, one mother maintains her son is innocent and in prison for a professional hit man’s crimes.

The hit man agrees.

Now, after five years in prison, Davontae Sanford may get another shot at justice.

The Michigan Court of Appeals today heard the case of a 14-year-old boy convicted of four murders.

The court is considering evidence that the now 20-year-old man may be innocent.

In 2007, four people were shot in a Detroit neighborhood.

Police picked up Davontae Sanford, a partially blind, developmentally-delayed 14-year-old.

They held him for questioning without a parent or attorney present.

Sanford confessed and was given decades in prison.

Then, a convicted hit man, Vincent Smothers, said he - not Sanford - committed those murders.

Peter Martorano / Flickr

Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr announced today that the city will start figuring out how much its assets are worth.

This comes as the bankrupt city is wrangling with creditors about how much of Detroit’s $11.5 billion unsecured debt will actually be repaid.

Orr also says he’s hiring Christie’s auction house to appraise the city-owned portion of the Detroit Institute of Arts’ collection.

It’s tough news to those still holding out hope that the museum will emerge unscathed from the bankruptcy process.

Wayne County / via Wayne County

It's no secret Wayne County is in rough financial shape, with an accumulated deficit nearing $200 million.

County budget officials say a financial review team that could lead to an emergency manager may not be far off.

Yet perhaps all is not lost: those same budget watchers say the county can still get back on the right track.

But their solution is about as politically popular as a property tax increase for Wayne County residents.

Because it IS a proposed property tax increase for Wayne County residents.

dr_relling / Flickr

The first human case of West Nile virus is being reported in Michigan this week.

Last year, the virus killed 17 people in this state.

Here's the good news: There has been lots of rain this year.

It turns out the kind of mosquitos that carry West Nile like dry, hot weather.

The bad news: we're not in the clear yet. August and September are the peak months for mosquitos.

It wasn't until this time last year that Michigan had its first human case in 2012.

"The fact is, we're seeing it in animals, now we're seeing it in humans,” says

Boat on Northport Bay, Lake Michigan
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

On every great vacation, there’s that moment when you think: hey, we should move here! No really, I’m serious this time!

We’ve all been there.   

Heck, northern Michigan is littered with B&Bs, cafes and art galleries run by vacationers who never left.

New ones open every summer. And every summer, some of them go bust.

So we hunted down some of the folks who are actually courageous (or crazy) enough to make the leap.

user: jodelli / Flickr

In Detroit today, firefighters and police came out to watch the first day of federal bankruptcy hearings.

They know their pensions could be on the line.

Detroit’s pension funds are $3.5 billion short, according to the emergency manager.

So pensions will likely be slashed as the city tries to dig out of debt.

But some Detroit employees are filing to block the bankruptcy.

ArtPod heads up north

Jul 2, 2013
Bug_girl_mi / Flickr

There’s nothing ArtPod hates more than humidity. Don’t even mention the word “frizz” right now.

And since so much of southern Michigan swings between flash flooding to feeling like a sauna, ArtPod is doing what all true Michiganders do: heading up north.

Specifically, Petoskey. And not just for the pretty bay views or the $5 kiddie-size gelato.  

Petoskey has a humming arts community in its own right, one that draws artists and art buyers from across Michigan, even out of state.

DPS

Consider this some free advertising.

Right now, Detroit Public Schools is proposing its most optimistic budget in years:

  • No teacher layoffs
  • The return of after-school programming, at least in some schools
  • Minimal increases in class sizes
  • New parenting resources
  • A little more money for instruction: about $2 million in total 

But it’s all riding on whether the district can lure 5,000 students away from competitors.

That’s a big bet to make.

User: ellenm1 / flickr

You’ll have to pay an additional $900 a year to be a Wayne State student next school year.

The university is raising tuition by 8.9%.

That’s especially tough on a student body that’s almost entirely from in-state.

And it’s a dramatic move for the school.

This year, every other public university in Michigan is playing along with a state deal: schools get access to an extra pool of state money, if they cap tuition hikes at 3.75%.

But that incentive isn’t enough to make up for deeper cuts from the state.   

Mike Duggan

Mike Duggan has dropped out of the race for Detroit mayor, a day after the Michigan Court of Appeals removed him from the ballot.

A stocky white guy from Livonia, Duggan moved his family to Detroit last year so he  could run.

But now, he'll likely be remembered as the guy who couldn't wait just two weeks.

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

For a lot of uninsured families in Michigan, this is a big week.

Lawmakers in Lansing are sloooowly moving ahead with expanding the state’s Medicaid program.

That would give another 470,000 Michiganders coverage.

So who exactly are we talking about here?

The morning I meet Jen and Todd Nagle, we have no clue the day will end with Todd being rushed to the doctor for chest pains.

It just may be the first honest campaign ad.

A tall, broad-shouldered man in a gray suit speaks directly to camera as he strides through Detroit.

Charlie Brooks is running for mayor.

And he wants to be clear: even with an emergency manager in charge, Brooks still believes the mayor's office plays a crucial role.

“I’ll take long vacations, so I can be well-rested. And each day at 4 p.m., I’ll bring tea to our [emergency manager]. Tea time!”

DIA

Ever since Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr mentioned maaaaybe putting DIA gems on the table to appease creditors, the you-know-what has hit the fan.

Selling art to pay off debt is a big museum no-no, especially for one as well-regarded as the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Why, museum supporters ask, would any rich donor ever want to give money or art to the DIA again?

What’s to guarantee their gifts won’t just be auctioned off the next time the city needs cash?

And further, if the DIA is blacklisted and other cultural icons sold off, how is a post-bankruptcy Detroit supposed to become a sustainable, cultural, people-drawing city?

 Marquette Park on Mackinac Island
user Notorious4Life / Wikimedia Commons

ArtPod is chock-full of summer awesomeness.

We’re putting our own special ArtPod spin on three big summer crowd-pleasers.

The end-of-school concerts.

The new indie movie with all the buzz.

And your own private guide to craft cocktails in Michigan.

Hey, that counts as art. Right?

Detroit Institute of Arts
Maia C/Flickr

You can almost feel the parental summer panic start to kick in. 

School is almost out.

And there are only so many times you can take the kids to the pool before you all go insane.

Those long, hot days can be especially tough for military families, who may only have one parent at home.

That's why 50 Michigan museums are opening their doors, free of charge, to active military personnel and their families this summer.

Ann Arbor Public Schools / http://www.aaps.k12.mi.us/academics/files/pre3.jpg

In case you've been living under a rock the last couple of months, many Michigan schools are in financial crisis.

It's not just separate outbreaks. It's an epidemic. Buena Vista had to shut down for two weeks when they ran out of money to pay staff. Albion is closing its high school.

About 50 districts are on the state's financial watch list (as in, watch-out-these-guys-could-go-under).

Now, Ann Arbor, the artsy cosmopolitan Disney Land of public school systems, is feeling woozy.

Yellow Wing Productions

This summer will mark 26 years since Northwest Flight 255 crashed onto the highway outside Detroit Metro Airport.

One hundred fifty-seven people were killed. The wreckage stretched across half a mile.

Only one person survived: a four-year-old girl with brown eyes, a chipped tooth, and purple nail polish.

Her name is Cecelia Cichan, and this week, she’s breaking her long public silence about the crash.

tvol / www.flickr.com

“Huh.”

That is a completely understandable reaction the first time people see the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit’s new exhibit. It’s called “Mobile Homestead.”

The "work of art" is a mobile house, a suburban-looking, one-story, white ranch house. It's the kind of house they've seen a million times before.

So why is the modern art world, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal breathlessly declaring this house one of the most significant, world-renowned pieces of 2013?

Jessica Stilger / Berkley High School communications

When older generations die, there’s always the fear that we’ll lose their stories.

But in metro Detroit’s Jewish community, they’re trying to keep history alive…through music.

And they’re doing it thanks to Anne Frank, her chestnut tree, and a stressed-out high school orchestra in metro Detroit.

Specifically, the Berkley High School orchestra.

Monni Must / Monni Must

This week, ArtPod is aaaall about the ladies.

You name ‘em, we’ve got them: Michigan photographers, amateur actresses, adventure authors ... the works.

What unites them? They all seek a change.

First up, two moms who found each other in the neonatal intensive care unit. 

Sara Joy was about to lose her infant son. Monni Must was volunteering her talents as a family photographer, coming in to take a final family portrait for Sara and her son. What they didn’t know is how those photos would help them both heal.

Monni Must / naturallymonni.com

Parents love pictures of their baby. That’s why we don’t complain, at least not to their faces, when they take over Facebook and fill up our email.

But when your baby’s life is cut short, those photographs can take on a whole new significance.

 This is the story of two moms, and how these final family portraits are helping them heal after the loss of a child.

Official Portrait

The president of the University of Michigan is stepping down.

Mary Sue Coleman officially announced her retirement today: 

The University of Michigan deserves the best in a leader, and I want to give the Board ample time to select the next president. I am committed to working with the Board members to ensure a smooth leadership transition.

University of Michign-Flint News Service / http://www.umflint.edu/news/university-news/retired-professors-gift-will-help-launch-um-flints-first-all-student-orchestra/

There's a new orchestra starting up in Flint.

For decades, the University of Michigan-Flint has been trying to get an all-student orchestra together.

It shelved the idea back in the 1990s due to lack of interest.

This year, a new student string ensemble is up and running. And that got the music department thinking, maybe this was their year.

That's when emeritus professor Walker Fesmire showed up. He's giving the music department a $100,000 gift.

So this fall, the school’s first-ever all-student orchestra will perform an original piece in his honor.

Official Congressional Portrait / michigan.gov

Edited to correct the name of Stephen Bassett, executive director of Paradigm Research Group and organizer of the Citizen Hearing on Disclosure.  

There's a new twist in the Greek tragedy that is the Kilpatrick family's money woes.

Former Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, mother of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, will get $20,000 to conduct a hearing into ... alien conspiracies.

The goal of these hearings is ambitious: get the federal government to admit that aliens exist.

That they've contacted humans.

And that for decades, the government has been covering this up.

Now let's be very clear, this is NOT actually a congressional hearing. It's all being put on by a group of alien conspiracy theorists calling themselves the Citizens Hearing on Disclosure.

They're shelling out $20,000 to each of the five former members of Congress who've agreed to come to Washington, DC for this panel.

via city of Romulus

This is not a great week for Romulus Mayor Alan Lambert.

State police are investigating him for public corruption and raided his home last month.

So far he's refusing to step down, even after the city council asked him to resign last night.

Michigan Radio / Michigan Radio

This week, ArtPod is inspired by the massive chocolate Easter bunnies we’ve been inhaling for days now.

So to welcome Spring (hey, it’s 50 degrees!) we’re doing a bigger edition of ArtPod, squeezing in two very different  Michigan’s artists and culture-makers.

First, we start off with a full-cast radio performance of the play “RUST.”

DPS emergency financial manager Roy Roberts says without Proposal S, the district would be severely crippled.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Updated at 4:16 pm:

Roy Roberts has been waiting for this day for months. 

Michigan’s new emergency manager law takes effect today. And that means Roberts just got a lot more powerful.

He's the emergency manager for Detroit's public school system.

But for months, he’s been locked in a power struggle with the elected DPS school board.

That’s because nobody really knew how things were supposed to work, or who was running what, during the tumultuous period between the old EM law getting overturned, and the new EM law taking effect.

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