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.   

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Politics & Government
6:04 pm
Mon September 24, 2012

With father ailing, Flint family pleas for son's release

Amir Hekmati (right) with his brother-in-law, Dr. Ramy Kurdi. The Hekmati family is pushing to bring Amir home as his father ails.
FreeAmir.org

The family of a Flint-area Marine veteran who's been jailed in Iran for more than a year, says time is running out for the family to reunite.

The Marine's father has been diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor, and wants pressure raised on the Iranian president while he’s in New York this week. 

Amir Hekmati is still being held in Iran on charges of spying for the US. Both his family and the US government say he is not a spy.

Now Amir's father, Dr. Ali Hekmati, has a brain tumor and his prognosis is grim.

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Arts & Culture
6:09 pm
Thu September 20, 2012

$40 million gift for UM School of Art and Design

Students at the University of Michigan's School of Art and Design. It will now be called the Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design.
University of Michigan

It's the largest gift in the art school's history, and believed to be one of the biggest gifts to any art school (perhaps in first place: Detroit's College for Creative Studies, with a $50 million gift from the Ford family in 2006). 

The money is coming from two donors, Penny and E Roe. Stamps (that name will sound familiar to Ann Arbor residents: they also sponsor the Stamp Lecture Series in town).

The art school will now be called the Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design.

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Arts & Culture
4:57 pm
Wed September 19, 2012

This week in Art Pod: grandmas, Grand Rapids and graffiti, oh my!

Grand Rapids teacher Jackie Ladwein and her Liberian friend of 50 years, Joseph Kpukuyou
Kate Wells

Whether it's your show tunes-belting grandma, your Grand Rapids teacher getting Liberian schools named in her honor, or busted graffiti artists using their talents for good, this week Art Pod is a leeetle obsessed with the stories YOU tell us. So check it out, and keep those stories coming. 

Law
2:37 pm
Tue September 18, 2012

Emotions still running high after Saginaw fatal police shooting

Jewel Hall, mother of Milton Hall, spoke a community forum about the fatal police shooting of her son.
Kate Wells

Justice still hasn’t been done in the case of a fatal police shooting of a mentally ill man in Saginaw this summer.

That was the message at a community forum this week, where some 200 residents came out to express frustration with local law enforcement, and with the county prosecutor for declining to press criminal charges against the officers. 

Among the mostly African American crowd at the forum, the primary question seemed to be: why was so much lethal force used on July 1st, the day Milton Hall was shot by police 11 times?

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Arts & Culture
2:13 pm
Fri September 14, 2012

50 years of friendship across continents, poverty, and war

Jackie Ladwein, age 25, on her Peace Corps assignment to Liberia
Photo courtesy of Jackie Ladwein

This next story is about an epic friendship between a white, 76-year-old Grand Rapids teacher, and the driven Liberian boy she inspired 50 years ago when she was a young Peace Corps volunteer.

Their bond has survived hunger, poverty, and a brutal civil war. And it’s created ripples across Liberia, leading to the country’s first school for social workers . Now, it’s reuniting both friends back here in Michigan.

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Arts & Culture
11:32 am
Wed September 5, 2012

Idlewild, the "Black Eden," celebrates 100 years

Bathers at Idlewild Beach in 1940
Michigan Department of Natural Resources

They called it the “Black Eden.”

From the 1920’s to 60’s, tens of thousands of African Americans poured into the resort town of Idlewild, Michigan. They came to escape steaming summers in segregated cities, and to see some of the greatest musicians of the age.

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Politics & Government
4:16 pm
Mon September 3, 2012

Biden rallies labor workers in Detroit

Biden takes the stage at Detroit's Labor Day parade
Kate Wells

Vice President Joe Biden took the spotlight at Detroit’s Labor Day parade. It's one more sign that the auto bailout is shaping up as a central theme of the Obama-Biden campaign.

Last week Republican nominee Mitt Romney asked Americans if they were better off today than four years ago. Now comes part of the Democrats’ response: you sure are if you’re an auto worker.

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Arts & Culture
5:00 pm
Fri August 31, 2012

Documentary wraps featuring Detroit plane crash survivor

screen shot WDIV

Filming has wrapped on a documentary featuring the only survivor of the 1987 plane crash near Detroit.

Twenty-five years after Northwest Flight 255 killed some 150 passengers, Cecelia Cichan is telling her story publicly for the first time.

She was just four years old when she survived the crash that killed her parents and brother. Now she and 13 other lone survivors of commercial crashes are the focus of the film entitled "Sole Survivor."

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Law
5:01 pm
Thu August 30, 2012

No answers yet in police shooting of mentally-ill man

Police officers fatally shot a mentally-ill Saginaw man
taliesin Morgue File

Two months after Saginaw police fatally shot a mentally-ill man, his family and community are still calling for answers.

On July 1st, Milton Hall was gunned down in a parking lot during a confrontation with police. It was captured on a cell phone video and made national headlines, with some media reporting the officers fired 46 times.

Hall reportedly held a knife, though the video appears to show he was several feet away when police opened fire.

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Arts & Culture
5:08 pm
Wed August 29, 2012

Rare Nazi railway car gets permanent home in Michigan museum

One of the original Nazi boxcars used to transport Jews
JoJan wiki commons

Construction starts today  on a new exhibit at Michigan's Holocaust Memorial Center. It will showcase what's likely one of the last existing Nazi railway cars.

Millions of European Jews were transported to concentration camps in these boxcars.  Allied Forces later commandeered the trains.  That's according to Stephen M. Goldman, the museum's director.

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Economy
7:17 pm
Wed August 22, 2012

As electric bills rise, critics call for more competition

Customers bear costs from green energy projects
imma http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/219775

Maybe you've seen a note on your electric bill, saying some of your payment goes towards green energy initiatives. It's to help explain - and, just maybe, stave off frustration about - double-digit increases in the last few years.  

But green energy aside, all these rising rates have some out-of-state electric companies seeing a business opportunity. They’ve joined with several Michigan businesses to form the group Energy Choice Now, which put out a new study out this week.

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Economy
5:03 pm
Mon August 20, 2012

Help wanted: Michigan agriculture can't fill jobs

The pay is good and the industry's booming - but workers are tough to find
danielito http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/170485

It seems like agriculture in Michigan just can't catch a break. First the drought, now a growing labor shortage.

The industry is desperately seeking highly skilled workers with 4 year degrees. Think supply chain managers or grain market analysts. But these days, not enough college students are going into agriculture. 

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Arts & Culture
4:56 pm
Fri August 10, 2012

Ann Arbor may vote on a public art tax

"Untitled" is a water sculpture in front of Ann Arbor's city hall
http://www.a2gov.org/government/publicservices/Pages/aapac.aspx

A public art tax may be on the ballot in Ann Arbor this November. The millage would replace the city's current system of funding art installations.

Right now the city has something called the "Percent for Art" program. It sets aside one percent of the budget on capital projects for art installations.  But here's the thing: that art has to be directly linked to whatever project funded it. For example, a $750,000 water sculpture in front of city hall, paid for with storm water utilities.

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Sports
4:46 pm
Fri August 10, 2012

After a two year fight, Down Syndrome athlete wins right to play senior season

taylorschlades http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/602713

After more than two years of campaigning, a high-schooler with Down Syndrome will be able to play football his senior year. His family fought to create an age waiver for athletes with disabilities.  

Eric Dompierre of Ishpeming has played with his team the last three years. He's a kicker, practices twice a day, and even asked for a Bowflex for Christmas to keep training.  But now he's 19, past the state age-limit for high school athletics.

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Sports
7:09 pm
Thu August 9, 2012

Flint's favorite daughter: Claressa Shields takes gold

Shields' family and friends celebrate her victory
Kate Wells

Seventeen-year-old Claressa Shields has won the first US women’s gold medal in boxing.

And her hometown of Flint is celebrating. Residents came together to watch Claressa’s triumph in a standing-room-only bar downtown. Everyone was there, from the mayor, to families with babies strapped into high chairs.

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Sports
12:12 pm
Wed August 8, 2012

Going for the gold: Flint's Claressa Shields heads to final match

Claressa Shields
Screenshot from Video The New York Times

Flint’s Olympic female boxer Claressa Shields will fight for a gold medal.  The boxer's family and friends gathered to watch their hometown athlete in her semifinal match this morning.  

It was an all-out brawl of a fight, fast and breathless and dominated by Shields. She took down Kazakhstan’s Marina Volnova 29 to 15.

Cheers erupted from the crowd of supporters packed into a bar in downtown Flint. Marcella Adams is Shields’ mother. She says she may just pass out if her daughter wins the gold.“I might just faint! I almost fainted right here!”

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Sports
4:58 pm
Tue August 7, 2012

Fighting for football: one Down Syndrome athlete's story

jeltovski http://mrg.bz/PpvEAw

Football practice starts up at high schools across the state this week. But for one athlete's family, the biggest day of the season is tomorrow.

That's when the Michigan High School Athletic Association will decide whether Eric Dompierre can play football his senior year. Dompierre has Down Syndrome, but that hasn't kept him from playing with Ishpeming High's team the last three years. Now nineteen, Dompierre is too old to be eligible for the team.

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Law
5:31 pm
Mon August 6, 2012

Domestic partners head to court for health benefits

Peter Ways, Joe Breakey and daughter Aliza. The picture is part of a press release from the ACLU
http://www.aclumich.org/michiganfamilies ACLU

Five gay and lesbian couples head to federal court in Detroit on Tuesday. They're fighting to win back health coverage for domestic partners of public employees.

One of the couples is Peter Ways and his partner, Joe Breakey. Peter works for the Ann Arbor school district, which like other local public employers, isn't allowed to cover the domestic partners of their staff.

That's thanks to a recent state law. Proponents say the law could save the state several million dollars each year. But the ACLU says it's unconstitutional. 

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Environment & Science
2:54 pm
Fri August 3, 2012

Michigan helps NASA go to Mars: UM scientists and the "Curiosity" rover

The rover "Curiosity," aka the Mars Science Laboratory
NASA wiki commons

The search for life on Mars takes a giant leap forward this weekend, and University of Michigan scientists are part of the mission. 

By now you’ve probably heard about the unmanned rover called "Curiosity." Set to land on the red planet Sunday night, it’s NASA’s most ambitious robotic operation yet. A science lab on wheels, the rover will scour Mars for any sign the plant could support life.

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Law
6:30 pm
Thu August 2, 2012

Federal court allows Nativity scene on public highway

Example of a creche, though not the one displayed in Macomb county

A Macomb County man has the right to display a Nativity scene in a public road median. That’s according to a federal appeals court ruling. It reverses a Detroit judge’s decision.

John Satawa's family has been displaying a crèche in this busy highway median every Christmas for decades. But the county asked him to take it down when it got complaints from the Freedom from Religion Foundation.  Satawa sued, and now the federal appeals court is siding with him.

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