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.   

Alfred T. Palmer / U.S. Government

It looks like Rosie the Riveter's famous "We Can Do It!" line is proving true once again. 

The campaign to save part of the historic Willow Run bomber plant, where Rosie and thousands of others worked during World War II, says it believes it's raised enough money to keep it from being torn down. 

For the last year or so, the Yankee Air Museum has been trying to raise around $8 million.

That, organizers said, would be enough to buy a corner of the plant and separate it from the rest of the building, which is set to be demolished.

Kate Wells

Michigan’s Iraqi community heads to the polls this week in the first major election since U.S. troops left the country.

It’s both an ecstatic and extremely tense time.

One voting site is a big, ornate banquet hall in Dearborn, and it's packed with Christians, Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds – all Iraqis, many with kids and grandparents taking pictures of each other holding up ink-stained fingers, souvenirs from casting their ballots.

Multiple people mentioned “feeling like this is a wedding,” and several made big sacrifices in order to cast their ballots.

Bureau of Land Management

"How many of you are here to stop the drilling?" one woman asked the crowd of about 200 at a town forum in Scio Township last night.

Big applause broke out.

It was the first indication that the crowd was not going to be a friendly one for the executives from West Bay Exploration, a Traverse City-based drilling company that has asked several landowners in Scio Township to sign over leases for their mineral rights.

The town forum was billed as an opportunity to "become educated about oil and gas leasing."

user Marlith / Flickr

Saginaw is putting off a decision about whether to have a citywide ban on discrimination based 

on sexual orientation or gender identity.  

The Saginaw Council chambers were packed to capacity, according to the Associated Press. 

But the council voted not to make a decision just yet. A few members said they wanted time to talk with the city's business and religious community.

But Councilwoman Annie Boensch says she thinks churches will support it, once they understand they're exempted from the ban.

The return of Artpod!

Apr 22, 2014
Dave Trumpie

It's been a long, stupidly cold and soul-killing winter. 

Few people know that Artpod cannot survive until we've had at least three days above 70 degrees.

So it's only now that Artpod can emerge from hibernation,  much the way men's feet are unfortunately baring themselves to the world in flip flops again.  

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

At first it doesn't sound that great: 1 in 3 people who have mortgages still owe at least 25% more on their house than it's actually worth.

But a year ago, it was even worse. At that time, more than half of all Michiganders with mortgages were in that position.

user Cbl62 / Wikimedia Commons

The University of Michigan is using what it calls its own interpretations of privacy laws to keep student investigators and media from understanding why it took four years to expel Brendan Gibbons for violating the school’s sexual misconduct policy. 

The university, however, has not disclosed what those interpretations are, or if they are a written internal policy.

Unemployment line in California
Michael Raphael / Flickr

Anybody who's out of work in Michigan knows they can't get an unemployment check for as long as they used to. 

Ever since the federal government stopped offering emergency benefits extensions at the end of last year, Michiganders can get just 20 weeks of jobless benefits.

They used have up to 99 weeks, back when the recession was at its worst.

For months now, Democrats and a handful of Republicans have been trying to get those extensions up and running again. 

But some Republicans say no.

Dave Trumpie / trumpiephotography.com

Cellist Yo Yo Ma and a few other renowned artists were in Detroit this week, working with some very young musicians.

"Can we say 'Tchaikovsky'?"

"Tchaikovsky!" screamed a classroom of obedient fourth graders.  

John M. Cropper / Flickr

There’s still so much we don’t understand about war vets and PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. 

Why some experience it, but so many others don’t. 

Why one vet can have symptoms right away, while another can be fine for years.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Parents looking to adopt a child in Michigan could soon have a little less red tape to deal with. That's if Governor Snyder signs off on a package of bills the legislature just passed.  

For parents like Kimberly Naik of Holland, the adoption process started when her son was less than a year old ... and didn't finish until he was three and a half. 

FBI / Wikimedia

The Michigan Senate unanimously passed a bill Wednesday that would make it illegal to charge minors with prostitution. 

"Right now, when children who are victims of sex trafficking in Michigan are found, they’re frequently criminalized," says Bridgette Carr of the University of Michigan Human Trafficking Clinic. "We don’t have a path for them to be treated as victims of sexual abuse, rather than criminals."

Kate Wells

I like movies. You like movies.

So let’s get together, watch some new documentaries about Detroit, and then talk with the people who actually have the power to fix some of the stuff that’s wrong in this city.

That’s the idea behind the first-ever Detroit Free Press Film Fest, which kicked off last week with a line stretched for blocks around the Fillmore Theater.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Update 5:05 p.m.

In a reversal from what it signaled earlier in the day, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a temporary stay on the decision to strike down Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage. 

The court said it issued the stay to allow a "more reasoned consideration" of Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette's request for a hold on Friday's decision.

3:43 p.m.

GsGeorge / WIKIMEDIA Commons

First, there's the mystery of the disappearing kids. 

Ann Arbor's enrollment dropped by about 200 students this year. 

That's a surprise, School Board Treasurer Glenn Nelson says, because enrollment was basically stable last year. 

Administrators do know where about 50 of those kids went: the Washtenaw Intermediate School District, which offers specialized programming. 

But the other 150 students?

"I don't know," says Nelson. "And that's something I wish we knew more about." 

Ok, first, the stats. 

The bad news: the problem is rampant

For every 10,000 women on a college campus, as many as 350 could experience attempted to completed rape every school year. 

Those numbers come from the U.S. Department of Justice, in a 2005 report on what schools are doing about sexual assault on campus. 

If those stats bear out, then at a school the size of the University of Michigan, as many as 490 women will experience attempted or completed rape every school year.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Almost a year after Grand Rapids was slammed by major flooding, the Red Cross is rallying West Michigan aid groups in case this spring’s snowmelt leads to another big flood.  

Chip Kragt, of the Red Cross in Michigan, says the organization is getting updates from the National Weather Service.    

Rick Lieder

A homeless navy veteran died in Ann Arbor last October.

No family members came forward to claim his body.

So for five months, the veteran’s body lay in the morgue.

Now, finally, thanks to a few friends who refused to give up, Lawrence Tucker’s body was laid to rest last week at the Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly, Michigan.

Ann Arbor Public Art Commission / City of Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor's city council is sending almost $100,000 of public art money back to city services. 

Last year, they pulled the plug on a controversial plan called "Percent for Art." 

For five years, it set aside money from some new city construction projects and put it towards art installations.  

Now, council members are sending the leftover money back to city services, to pay for things like roads and sewers.  

They will hold onto enough money to wrap up a few art projects, and they're asking for a new plan for future public art. 

kakisky / http://www.morguefile.com/creative/kakisky

Nobody gets into politics or education with the dream of taking arts education away from children.

We get it. There is no evil bad guy out there, stroking his evil bad guy beard and cackling as he watches the arts being slowly siphoned away from kids in struggling schools.

But those cuts are happening, thanks to dwindling budgets and less time for anything that isn’t test prep.

And the usual hand wringing just isn’t going to cut it.

That’s why arts advocates are trying some new tactics to sell you, me, lawmakers and educators on arts education.

user Cbl62 / Wikimedia Commons

If school administrators know, or should know, about a sexual assault involving students, they have to act fast – and they have to "address" the "effects" of the assault. 

That's according to federal law, under Title IX.

But neither the University of Michigan, nor Michigan State University, handled sexual assaults the right way, according to complaints sent to the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights.

Peter Martorano / Flickr

Life for a startup company is tough.

But life for a startup in Detroit may be getting a little easier.

Coworking spaces are sprouting up around the city. They've become increasingly popular across the country in the wake of the recession, according to this video from office furniture company Turnstone: 

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

The University of Michigan has a race problem.

“Open it up! Or we’ll shut it down!” chanted half a dozen black students at the Board of Regents meeting yesterday.

Their frustrations are getting national attention. 

The Black Student union has led protests on campus and online.

Their #BBUM Twitter campaign (Being Black at U of M) has gone viral. 

They’re fed up, they say, by a school that boasts about a diverse community, yet where just roughly 5% of some 28,000 undergraduate students are black.

Melanie Kruvelis / Michigan Radio

By now you've hopefully recovered from your Valentine's weekend.

Maybe you spent it with a hot date, or just curled up in pajamas binge-watching "House of Cards."

In Detroit, you could have checked out an art show about love and heartbreak. It's made up entirely of people's breakup emails, sext messages, tween diary entries, and love letters.

And if that sounds cringe-worthy, you're right.

Anonymous submissions, from prison letters to breakup emails 

Navy Hale Keiki School / flickr.com

Last year, Lansing public school officials laid off all their elementary art and music teachers.

The move got national attention from outraged educators and arts groups.

Now, almost a year after the layoffs were announced, Lansing students and teachers are getting used to the new normal.

Susan K. Campbell

If you’re walking around Ann Arbor or Detroit these days, you should know:  a total stranger may come up and ask to take your picture.

They’ll snap a few shots. Maybe ask how your day is going.

Then they’ll post it all on Facebook. And hundreds, possibly even thousands of people will see it.

That’s because two photographers – one in each city – are building a growing fan base around these daily street photos.

DIA

This next story is a call to anybody with $170 million to spare.

And a major fondness for art.

By now, you’ve heard about the group of philanthropists who’ve raised $330 million to strike a “grand bargain” with Detroit’s creditors.

Their goal is to raise half a billion dollars to save city-owned art at the Detroit Institute of Arts from being sold off in the city’s bankruptcy.

But that grand bargain may still require a small miracle.

Fair or not, bankruptcy pitting art against pensioners

cdc.gov / cdc.gov

A laid-off public school teacher, an evicted retiree, and a man who says he'll sleep on a park bench because he’s too drunk to pass the shelter’s Breathalyzer test tonight.  

The people at a daytime warming center in downtown Ann Arbor run the gamut. 

There's the guy with weathered skin and stained teeth who says he's been sober more than a month now.

Sherman Stennis says he lost his job at his uncle's scrapyard when it went out of business.

Rebecca Guerriero / Michigan Radio

This next story seems right for this time of year.

A children's choir is in Michigan this month ... from South Africa.

They're from the outskirts of Durban, a beautiful port city that also has one of the worst AIDS epidemics in the world.

Many of the kids in the choir are orphans. Several have HIV themselves.

It's their first time in the U.S., and they're traveling around the state all this month to raise money for friends and family back home.

http://www.michiganopera.org/leadership/david-dichiera/ / Michigan Opera Theatre

The man who helped turn the Michigan Opera Theatre into one of Detroit's most prestigious arts centers, is stepping aside as general director after 42 years.

David DiChiera is an institution in Detroit: he started the Opera in 1971 and he's been running it ever since.

And it's thanks to his fundraising efforts that Detroit even still HAS an Opera, given how hard the recession hit the arts.

Now DiChiera is 78, has prostate cancer, and is bringing in a new president and  CEO to run the financial side.

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