Jennifer Guerra

Reporter/Producer

Jennifer is a reporter for Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project, which looks at kids from low-income families and what it takes to get them ahead. She previously covered arts and culture for the station, and was one of the lead reporters on the award-winning education series Rebuilding Detroit Schools. Prior to working at Michigan Radio, Jennifer lived in New York where she was a producer at WFUV, an NPR station 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 M.A. in broadcast journalism from Fordham University. When she's not on the radio, she and her husband are making up lyrics to songs and singing them to their adorable baby girl.  

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Arts/Culture
5:18 pm
Fri September 30, 2011

Jack Kevorkian's paintings, memorabilia up for auction

Jack Kevorkian's painting, Nearer My God to Thee
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.

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Arts/Culture
4:53 pm
Fri September 30, 2011

Manistee's Vogue Theatre gets $100K anonymous donation

The long-shuttered Vogue Theatre was built in Manistee in 1938.
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:

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Arts/Culture
7:00 am
Fri September 30, 2011

North Woods: Old movie theaters get new lease on life

The Vista Theater "was the place to be" when it opened in Negaunee in the 1920s.
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."

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Arts/Culture
7:00 am
Thu September 29, 2011

North Woods: Calumet, a frontier community

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.

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Arts/Culture
7:00 am
Wed September 28, 2011

North Woods: Artists set up shop in Calumet

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."

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Arts/Culture
10:05 am
Tue September 27, 2011

North Woods: Music of the Copper Country

Les Ross, Sr received the Michigan Heritage Award in 2009 for his "lumberjack" style of harmonica playing.
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.

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Arts/Culture
6:00 am
Mon September 26, 2011

North Woods: An artist residency on Rabbit Island (with photos)

Rabbit Island lies about three miles east of the Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

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.

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Arts/Culture
5:00 am
Thu September 22, 2011

Ann Arbor Film Fest celebrates 50th anniversary

The 50th Ann Arbor Film Festival runs March 27 - April 1, 2012
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.

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Arts/Culture
2:54 pm
Tue September 20, 2011

MacArthur "Genius" Awards given out to 3 U of M researchers

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:

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Arts/Culture
1:57 pm
Fri September 16, 2011

Arts as economic engine: Detroit's Sugar Hill Arts District awarded $1.3M grant

The Sugar Hill Arts District will use ArtPlace funds to buy an abandoned church and turn it into a new arts venue.
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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Education
3:00 pm
Sun September 11, 2011

"Detroit College Promise" awards $500 tuition grant to students

The Detroit College Promise awards DPS seniors $500 if they attend a Michigan college or university.
Mercedes Mejia Michigan Radio

When U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited Detroit last week, he brought up the Kalamazoo Promise scholarship program. He called it the “best economic development tool” for a city, and urged Detroit to develop something similar.

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Environment
4:56 pm
Fri September 9, 2011

Grand Rapids airport proposes new plan to deal with runoff from de-icing fluid

Photo courtesy of the Gerald R Ford International Airport

Airplanes across the country use de-icing fluid, and airports have to figure out how to deal with the run-off from the fluid.

The Gerald R. Ford International Airport has come up with a $15 million plan to deal with the run-off which contains a substance called glycol. The Grand Rapids airport currently mixes glycol with storm water and dumps it into a tributary, where it breaks down and creates a bacterial slime.

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Education
3:41 pm
Thu September 8, 2011

Education Secretary Arne Duncan in Michigan, praises Detroit education efforts

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan testifying in Congress.
Ed Work Flickr

Update 3:14 p.m.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan say he "couldn’t be more hopeful" about the future of Detroit's public schools.

At today's town hall meeting at the Charles H. Wright Academy in Detroit, Duncan praised Governor Snyder and DPS Emergency Manager Roy Roberts for their commitment to education reform, and he urged everyone at the event to rally around those efforts:

"You have all the building blocks in place to do something remarkable here. Has Detroit struggled? Absolutely, no question about it. But my challenge, and the opportunity here is: Can Detroit become the fastest improving urban district in the country? And I see no reason why that can’t happen."

Duncan says he takes the work he does in Detroit "very, very seriously." He adds that if Detroit public schools haven’t improved by the time he leaves office, he’ll consider his tenure "a failure."

The Secretary also gave a shout out to the Kalamazoo Promise, the anonymously-funded program that pays for almost every Kalamazoo public school graduate to go to a state-supported college or university. Duncan said if Detroit could develop something similar it would be the "best economic development tool" for the city:

"If we could make that guarantee of not just a 2-year but a 4-year university education possible for every young man and woman who graduates from Detroit Public Schools, that would be absolutely amazing."

Governor Snyder, who was also at today's event, says the state needs to do a better job when it comes to educating Michigan’s children. "When we looked at the numbers we only have 17% of our kids college ready," says Snyder. He calls that percentage "absolutely unacceptable."

11:23 a.m.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan is visiting Michigan today as part of his "Education and the Economy" bus tour of the Midwest.

This morning he made a stop in Detroit where he joined Governor Rick Snyder, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, and DPS emergency manager Roy Roberts to discuss the status of Detroit Public Schools.

The bus left Detroit and headed for Ann Arbor. Right now, he's participating in a panel discussion at the University of Michigan.  Michigan Radio's Jennifer Guerra is covering that and will have more for us later.

In Detroit this morning, Duncan told a crowd at the Charles H. Wright Academy of Arts and Science that he takes the progress of Detroit Public Schools personally. Duncan called the district "ground zero" in education reform two years ago. From the Detroit Free Press:

He said that if DPS does not see significant improvements during his tenure in office, he will consider it a personal failure.

“I take the work here very, very personally,” Duncan said.

Since Duncan’s visit in 2009, the district has implemented a five-year academic plan and the graduation rate has grown to 62%, up by about 4%.

The Education Secretary's visit comes a day after the Detroit Public Schools had 55 percent of enrolled students show up for the first day of classes, as Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reported.

Duncan said the success of the Detroit Public School system is tied to the overall success of the state. From MLive:

"Just as you can't have a great state without having a great city of Detroit, you cannot revitalize the city of Detroit without a great public education system. Those two things are inextricably linked."

Duncan praised the leadership of Governor Snyder, Detroit Mayor Bing, and DPS emergency manager Roy Roberts for their "alignment of courage" to turn the Detroit school system around.

After the panel discussion in Ann Arbor, Duncan is off to Indiana. Here's a Google Map of Duncan's bus tour:

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Economy
6:00 am
Tue September 6, 2011

Cash incentives have "absorbed" a lot of housing stock in midtown Detroit

Detroit skyline
user Bernt Rostad Flickr

Three Detroit businesses earlier this year began to offer up to $25,000 to encourage their employees to buy a place to live in Midtown Detroit. But the "Live Midtown" incentives have created a new kind of housing crisis in the city: a housing shortage. 

Austin Black is a realtor with City Living Detroit in midtown. He says in 2007 - 2008, the area was flush with unsold units. But he says now many of his clients have become frustrated looking for housing in the area.

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Education
4:00 pm
Mon September 5, 2011

U.S. Sec of Education Duncan to visit Detroit on Thursday

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will make an appearance in Detroit this week, just days after a visit from President Obama. It's part of a three-day “Education and the Economy” tour Secretary Duncan is taking through the Midwest.

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Arts/Culture
3:00 pm
Sun September 4, 2011

"Arc of Justice" chosen for statewide reading program

User ppdigital MorgueFile

High school students from Detroit to Marquette will be participating in this year’s Great Michigan Read, a free, statewide book club put on by the Michigan Humanities Council.

This year’s book is "Arc of Justice" by Kevin Boyle. It’s a true story about an African American physician in the 1920s that moves to an all-white neighborhood in Detroit and defends his family’s right to live there.

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Arts/Culture
11:46 am
Wed August 31, 2011

Artpod: The power of comics

Working a six-panel story
Kyle Norris

On today's podcast, we hear about a group of Michigan cartoonists who think comics can be an educational and valuable tool for kids.

As Michigan Radio's Kyle Norris explains, cartoonist Jerzy Drozd has picked 21 rural and urban towns in Michigan where he knows people are having a tough time making ends meet. Drozd has been visiting those towns and offering comic-drawing workshops, free of charge, to the kids in those areas. 

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Arts/Culture
11:05 am
Tue August 30, 2011

Books-a-Million to expand to Traverse City and 13 other locations

Books-a-Million looks to expand to Michigan and other states.
Photo courtesy of Books-a-Million

Update 9:30 a.m

Books-a-Million received the green light from a judge to take over 14 former Borders stores, including one in Traverse City. Publishers Weekly has the details on the deal:

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Arts/Culture
4:00 pm
Sun August 21, 2011

Detroit Institute of Arts uses restricted funds to cover operating costs

The famous Rivera Court inside the Detroit Institute of Arts
Photo Courtesy of the D.I.A.

The Detroit Institute of Arts is struggling to raise money in this tough economy. It doesn’t help that Detroit is still reeling from the recession, and a quarter of its tax base, which helps fund the museum, has fled the city over the past decade.

To help relieve a little pressure, DIA director Graham Beal asked permission to take money from funds dedicated solely to acquisitions, and temporarily use it to cover operating costs. In his monthly newsletter, Beal explained it like this:

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Arts/Culture
10:40 am
Thu August 18, 2011

Artpod: Murals brighten streets, bring pride to Detroit neighborhood

A group of people gather outside Chazz Miller's art studio in Old Redford, a neighborhood in Detroit
Emily Fox Michigan Radio

On today's podcast, we hear how an artist in Detroit wants to bring color to the city with his brush strokes.

Artists in Seattle and Philadelphia who have been painting large murals on abandoned buildings in an effort to revitalize neighborhoods. Philadelphia for example, has around two-thousand murals to help brighten the city.

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