WUOMFM

Jennifer Guerra

Reporter/Producer

Jennifer is a reporter with Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project. She previously covered arts and culture for the station, and worked as a producer for WFUV in the Bronx.

Her stories and documentaries have won numerous regional and national awards, and her work has aired on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Marketplace and Studio 360.

Jennifer graduated from the University of Michigan and received her master's in broadcast journalism from Fordham University in New York. When not working on a story, you can find Jen practicing her tap steps and hanging out with her husband and their two hilarious kids.

jennifer@michiganradio.org

Ways to Connect

Consumers Energy / Flickr/user

Consumers Energy has canceled its plans to build a coal plant near Bay City. The $2 billion plant would have created 1,800 construction jobs and 100 permanent jobs.

Jeff Holyfield, a spokesman for Consumers Energy, says there two main reasons for the cancelation:

  1. Customer demand is down "about 5 or 6 percent. Holyfield says they "don’t expect that demand to reach pre-recession marks until sometime late in 2012."
  2. Natural gas prices are cheap, which Holyfield says makes a "new coal-fired power plant less economically attractive."

Holyfield says Consumers Energy invested about $25 million in the now scrapped coal plan.

The utility will also suspend operations at seven of its smaller coal-fired units across the state by 2015, and focus on two new wind farms it’s developing: one in west Michigan's Mason County, the other in Tuscola County in the thumb.

Consumers continues its $1.6 billion investment at its five largest coal-fired units to meet environmental regulations, which Holyfield says will create about 2,000 jobs in the state.

The Ann Arbor A.V. Club has folded. The local entertainment arm of the popular satirical newspaper “The Onion” made its debut in September and employed three full time workers.

Bobby Mitchell and his company Bopper Media handled all aspects of the Ann Arbor Onion and A.V. Club franchise - from printing to distribution and ad sales. Mitchell did not want to be recorded for an interview, but he did confirm that the November 24th issue was the last one he’d be publishing. He wouldn’t say more except to say “lawyers” were involved. He also added that there's a slight possibility The Onion corporate might want to take over the Ann Arbor A.V. Club and publish it.

Curtis Sullivan was very surprised to hear the news. Sullivan co-owns the comic store Vault of Midnight in Ann Arbor. He says, unlike other free, entertainment weeklies, copies of the Onion’s used to fly off the shelves at his store:

"We almost never have leftovers of the Onion! And I hear people talking about, 'did you read The Onion?' I don’t know, you don’t really hear that as much about other things."

Sullivan himself is a huge fan of The Onion - so much so he even signed up for a full year of advertisements with the local A.V. Club, something he never does:

"I’m not very excited about print advertising as a business owner generally. When they approached us, it was like, this is great, we’ll do it! I thought it would be a perfect match."

Instead, Sullivan's Vault of Midnight ad only got to run once before the publication folded.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

The University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA) is $650,000 richer, thanks to a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Joseph Rosa, director of UMMA, calls the grant a "dream come true" because it allows the museum to shift from an "oh, if we could" mentality to one of "now we can."

Five students from Albion College believe they know how to fix the U.S. economy. The team will share their ideas tomorrow in Washington, D.C. at the national College Fed Challenge finals.

Albion will compete against the four other regional finalists: Harvard University; Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey; Lafayette College; and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

user imedagoze / Flickr

The National Endowment for the Arts recently awarded $340,000 to Michigan arts groups.

This round of grants went to support events like the International Jazz Festival in Detroit, and the Gilmore Keyboard Festival in Kalamazoo. You can see a full list here.

The advocacy group ArtServe Michigan got a $25,000 grant to create a new program to help artists navigate the law. Cezanne Charles is with ArtServe, and she says the nonprofit plans to hold workshops next year about intellectual property rights, how to start an LLC, even how to buy a building:

"In a lot of states that we’ve talked to, this is not something that artists can regularly do. But in our unique state, this is something that a lot of artists are doing and a lot of creative businesses are doing."

The Lawyers for a Creative Economy program will provide free consultations and lawyer referrals, as well as legal services to artists on a sliding scale or pro bono basis.

Photo courtesy of Michigan State University

The long-awaited Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University has officially set its opening date: April 21, 2012.

But there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done;  the Zaha Hadid-designed building is still under construction, exhibits still need to be planned, and positions need to be filled.

But Min Jung Kim, the museum's deputy director, is confident it will all be ready for the museum’s grand opening. She says the whole process of creating a museum from scratch is exciting:

morguefile user Penywise / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Nonprofits across Michigan are doing their annual end-of-year holiday push for financial donations. This will be the last time donors will be able to take advantage of a charitable tax credit.

If you think about it, class is a tricky word. What does it even mean? How do you define it?

Michigan Radio reporters and producers take a look at how social class impacts our lives - from the way we plan our cities and neighborhoods, to the way we’re treated in a courtroom.

We also hear from folks around the state as they share their thoughts on class.

Part 1

This idea of class – class warfare, class resentment. It’s everywhere. And yet, how are we defining class?

Ian Tadashi Moore / Mosaic

Michigan’s economy is steadily becoming more "knowledge-based" than "factory-based." 

That means, in order to land a job and earn a decent salary, a college degree is that much more crucial. But for many lower income kids, higher ed is out of reach. But an arts group in Detroit is helping to level the playing field among teenagers...with very real results.

Using the arts as a "hook"

How does an economist define 'class'?

Nov 14, 2011
United States Census Bureau / Wikipedia

The issue of class has been in the news a lot lately. From the “Occupy Wall Street Movement” which has snowballed across the country, to “class warfare” accusations coming out of Washington, D.C.

We’ve also heard recent reports that show the nation’s middle class is shrinking while the top earners’ salaries have skyrocketed.

Over the next week and a half, Michigan Radio will explore this idea of “social class” and how it impacts our lives.

getdarwin / Flickr

The issue of class has been in the news a lot lately. From the “Occupy Wall Street Movement,” which has snowballed across the country, to accusations of “class warfare” in Washington, D.C.. We’ve also heard recent reports that show the nation’s middle class is shrinking while the top earners’ salaries have skyrocketed.

Today, Michigan Radio begins a new series The Culture of Class. Over the next week and a half, we'll explore the idea of “social class” and how it impacts our lives. But, first, we had to ask: What is class? How do you define it? We put those questions to demographer Kurt Metzger, who runs Data Driven Detroit.

Inform our coverage: What does class mean to you?

More than 20 paintings and other memorabilia by the late Jack Kevorkian are supposed to be auctioned off in New York next week.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Good news for classical music fans who live in Detroit. Detroit residents can now buy tickets to any Detroit Symphony Orchestra classical or jazz concert this season for $20.

Paul Hogle is executive vice president of the DSO. He says the new Detroit Rush Initiative is one way the orchestra can "connect more deeply" to the city. 

The Detroit Science Center was supposed to re-open Wednesday after it closed late last month due to a shortage of cash. But now it looks as though the science center will remain closed until it can drum up $5 million.

Kelly Fulford, vice-president of Marketing and Development at the Detroit Science Center, says the museum is developing a new operating plan – one that’s lean and conservative.

Dani Davis

A new form of “grass roots” arts journalism could soon be in store for Detroit.

Jennifer Conlin lives in Michigan and is one of the finalists in the Community Arts Journalism Challenge, a national competition to get more people engaged with the arts.

Her idea is called iCritic Detroit, and it would allow arts patrons to record their own reviews of an exhibit or event by hopping into a mobile video booth.

A new exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Arts looks at life in the Motor City over the past decade. 

The exhibit - Detroit Revealed - includes videos and photographs of city residents and community gardens. It also includes images of the city’s decline: abandoned buildings and empty, overgrown lots - what some call “ruin porn."

Photo courtesy of the Michigan Opera Theatre

Michigan’s ballet companies, theatres and opera houses are kicking off their 2011-12 season this fall, and it appears box office sales might be trending up.

Money
User: penywise / MorgueFile

If you’re on faculty at the University of Michigan and you have an idea for a startup company…you’re in luck. If you can get outside funding, U of M will match that funding up to $500,000.

U of M President Mary Sue Coleman says "if you can convince a venture fund to invest in you, you just automatically get an investment from us. So we’re not picking winners and losers, and that’s what I like about the program."

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

A new White House report claims President Obama’s $447 billion American Jobs Act will save or create 11,900 teaching jobs in Michigan.

According to the "Teachers Jobs At Risk" report, about 300,000 education jobs across the country have been cut since 2008, and another 280,000 teaching jobs are in jeopardy.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s new season officially starts this weekend.

DSO executive vice president Paul Hogle says ticket sales for the orchestra’s 2011-12 season are going pretty well as of right now. That's good news for an organization that lost around $1.8 million last year due to a six-month musician’s strike.

Photo courtesy of the Ariana Gallery in Royal Oak

The late Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s art work and other memorabilia will be auctioned off next month. The auction will be held at the New York Institute of Technology in Manhattan on October 27th-28th.

Photo courtesy of the Vogue Theatre

The historic Vogue Theatre in downtown Manistee is $100,000 richer today, thanks to an anonymous donor. The generous gift will go towards helping restore the long-dormant theatre.

Beth McCarthy, a member of the Capital Campaign to restore the Vogue Theatre, released a statement this afternoon:

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

We wrap up our Stories from the North Woods series with a look at how cities and towns from Detroit to Marquette are bringing new life to their old movie palaces. 

The Vista Theater as community theater

When the Vista Theater opened in Negaunee in the 1920s, the Upper Peninsula town was booming. Alfred Keefer says the Vista "was the theater to be at, and they would fill this house up on movie nights."

All this week, we're bringing you stories from the North Woods. Yesterday, we visited the town of Calumet in the western tip of the U.P., where copper was once king.

As we reported, the town is experiencing a kind of resurgence:

Tom Tikkanen runs the Main Street Program, a nonprofit focused on redeveloping Calumet. His group did a study a couple years ago to figure out what’s driving the town’s relatively recent upswing. The answer? Culture economic development.

"It starts with our artists," explains Tikkanen. "It’s a natural development that’s taking place. The more art that’s displayed and that’s created here, the more that attracts other artists."

Tikkanen also described the town as a "frontier community" that's redefining itself. We conclude our stories on Calumet with a look at what happens when new folks move in to an old town.

Meet Calumet's newest residents

Stephanie Swartzendruber is one of the bartenders at Shute's Bar in downtown Calumet. Outside, the bar looks like your typical dive bar. Inside, it's beautiful. Nearly everything is original from the 1890s: the rich, dark wood bar, the 1895 liquor license, the beautiful, Tiffany-like stained glass canopy above the bar.

Swartzendruber moved to Calumet last November, and she’s says the town is on the verge:

"I feel like it’s coming back! We have cute little coffee shops and art galleries and awesome bars like [Shute's] in a place where you can buy a house for under $20,000," says Swartzendruber.

As part of our series, Stories from the North Woods, we head to Calumet in the Keweenaw Peninsula. The town has been struggling to re-discover itself ever since the area's copper boom died out more than 50 years ago.

The town that time forgot

Artist Ed Gray remembers when the last mine closed in Calumet in the late 1960s:

"A lot of people moved to Detroit, a lot of people moved to various areas where there was employment. The town wasn’t really a ghost town, I wouldn’t say, but...it stood still."

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

The folklorist Alan Lomax spent nearly two months in the Upper Peninsula in 1938, recording the music of the north woods. He recorded lots of bawdy lumberjack tunes, Finnish songs and polkas. In a note to the Library of Congress, Lomax said "there was material enough in the region for years of work."

Today, most of that music has been lost to history. But Leslie (Les) Ross, Sr still plays it. Born in 1923 in Eben Junction, Ross is one of the last harmonica players in the country to play in the "lumberjack style."

As part of my Stories from the North Woods series, I sat down with Les Ross and percussionist Randy Seppola. With Ross on harmonica and Seppala on bones and spoons, they played me a number of old-timey tunes, and Ross talked about his days in Eben Junction and, of course, the harmonica.

Earlier this summer we told you about a remote island in Lake Superior called Rabbit Island:

New Yorker Rob Gorski saw the 91-acre island listed for sale on Craiglist. At first, he was skeptical. But after talking it over with his brother, both of whom are Michigan natives, they bought the island for less than $150,000.

The land, known as Rabbit Island, is about a half hour boat ride from the Keweenaw Peninsula.

Gorski says the plan is to preserve the island as is, and build only a small, green cabin where future artists can stay.

"We’d like to be able to send an artist, maybe two, out to the island to practice their creative process within an entirely isolated environment. We think it’d be a very remote experience, it’d be very difficult in some ways, but I think the end result could be very interesting."

As part of my series, Stories from the North Woods, I took the 3.5-mile boat ride from Rabbit Bay to Rabbit Island to see how the residency is coming along.

User mconnors / MorgueFile

The experimental and sometimes controversial Ann Arbor Film Festival turns 50 next year, but festival organizers aren’t waiting until then to celebrate.

They’ve put together a five-part retrospective series, the first of which screens tonight. The retrospective series will lead up to the actual festival, which runs March 27 - April 1, 2012.

The MacArthur Fellowship was given to 22 people this year, including three who teach at the University of Michigan. The 2011 Fellows run the gamut - from science to journalism to the arts.

Here's a list of the U of M winners:

Photo courtesy of ArtPlace

The burgeoning Sugar Hill Arts District along Woodward Avenue in Detroit will soon see an influx of cash.

The National Endowment for the Arts has teamed up with several other federal agencies, foundations and corporations to create ArtPlace, an initiative to fund art projects nationwide in an effort to help revitalize cities.

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