arts and culture

Doug Coombe

Eighteen-year-old sculptor Austen Brantley makes some pretty impressive art. But don't take our word for it, check out these photos of Austen's work, at the Michigan Radio Picture Project.

Professionals in the art world agree. "It's just amazing to see the amount of talent that he has at 18 years old. He’s right up there with some of his peers that are in their 30s and 40s," says Garnette Archer, owner of Jo’s Gallery in Detroit.

Racine Boat Manufacturing Company Plant, Muskegon, MI
Flickr user Wystan/creative commons

It’s probably pretty stressful being a high school principal, for all kinds of reasons.

But Eric Alburtus, principal of Portage Central High School, spends a big chunk of his time worrying about the arts. He’s specifically worried about the kind of human beings our schools are producing, when kids must fulfill heavy requirements in math and science, yet they barely have a chance to study music, choir, theater, or the visual arts.

(For a more complete look at the state’s requirements, click here.)

Alburtus says arts classes give kids a chance to discover new worlds and different ways of thinking and creating.

His name was Noah. He was born with cerebral palsy. When he was 17, he lost his battle against infections that had ravaged his lungs.

Noah's mother, Roberta King, is from West Michigan. She has shared the story of her son's life in her new memoir He Plays A Harp.

“It’s a joy to me to bring him to people that never knew him. And I think through that I feel a little less of the loss,” King said.

The story starts with the Noah’s conscious decision to die and then walks through his parent’s journey in dealing with the loss.

“A lot of parents experience the birth of their children. And, gratefully, not a lot experience their death,” King said. “I wanted people to know what that was like to walk your child from one place to another.”

*Listen to full show above. 

Peter Wege.

"Do all the good you can for as many people as you can for as long as you can."

- Peter Melvin Wege

The Former Steelcase Inc. chairman and philanthropist Peter Wege died at his home in Grand Rapids yesterday.

He was the son of Peter Martin Wege, who founded Steelcase more than a century ago. Steelcase and rival office furniture manufacturers Haworth Inc. and Herman Miller Inc. anchored the Grand Rapids area's economy for decades.

Peter Melvin Wege created his foundation in 1967. It has given away millions, much of it in his hometown.

More about Wege from his obituary:

user blwphotography / Flickr

This week in ArtPod, we look at the "great wave" generation of young adults and children with autism. 

We spent a few days on a film set where those teens and adults are learning job skills, social interaction, and how to walk back on set after a small breakdown. 

Then we visit a children's hospital that's using art –murals, patient portraits and more – to help parents and kids navigate the stressful, chaotic experience. 

You can also check out ArtPod in iTunes.

Rebecca Wilbanks, photo and makeup credit

The“great wave” of kids with autism is growing up.

That’s what experts are calling this generation, since more than 80% of people diagnosed with full spectrum autism are under 21.

In Michigan, about 16,000 kids are eligible for special education services, according to a state report.

But when those kids grow up, the same report says, the state doesn’t have nearly enough services to help them get jobs or transition to adult lives.

That’s why one program in Rochester is giving young adults with autism the skills to get a job in an unusual way: by training them in the movie business.  

"The Jit" in action.
Detroit OG's / YouTube

It's called The Detroit Jit. It’s a dance style that started as a street dance in Detroit in the 1970s by three brothers who were known as The Jitterbugs.

And now the Jit and The Jitterbugs are the subject of a documentary that will be screened Friday at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Haleem Rasul is the founder of the dance group HardCore Detroit, and the producer of the film "The Jitterbugs: Pioneers of The Jit.”

Here's the trailer:

We welcomed Haleem Rasul to the program today, and one of the founders of The Jitterbugs, Tracy McGhee.

*Listen to the interview above.

What stories should we tell about the arts?

That's a question we sometimes ask on our Facebook page. Jason Towler suggested we profile Ypsilanti music teacher Crystal Harding and he had a good reason to suggest her.

Harding was Towler's music teacher back in 1988, when Towler was a first-grader at Erickson Elementary School.  Harding is all about having a good time through music, singing, and dancing. Here she is in action:

Harding made a big impression on the shy young man, and that's what this story is about.

GVSU play one of their "Music in Our Parks" selections.
GVSU / YouTube

After two years of planning, the New Music Ensemble at Grand Valley State University is launching a new project. It’s called “Music in Our Parks.”

The project shows us how nature and landscape affect the process of making music. Here's a video promoting their effort:

Bill Ryan is the director of Grand Valley State University’s New Music Ensemble. He was joined on our program by one of the members of the New Music Ensemble, percussionist and senior music performance major, Josh Dreyer.

*Listen to the interview above.

Robert Turney

This is the week we say farewell to autumn and officially welcome winter. (Unofficially, we can all agree, winter has arrived early and seems to have settled right in for the duration.)

And one of the great pleasures of changing seasons here on Stateside is the chance to welcome back poet and writer Keith Taylor. Taylor coordinates the undergraduate creative writing program at the University of Michigan. But we like to think of him as our Friendly Stateside Reading Guide.

Listen to Keith’s book pics above.

Kyle Norris/Michigan Radio

Meet the Gold family. They're modern day homesteaders. 

Their goal is to live as self-sufficiently as possible on their three-acre farm in Ypsilanti. (They often say they use yesterday's knowledge combined with today's technology.)

Two years ago they started the Michigan Folk School. The school promotes traditional folk arts and the preservation of forest and farmland.

To find out why the family started the school, and why they became homesteaders in the first place, listen to this week's Environment Report, right here. / 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.

Navy Hale Keiki School / Flickr

A recent study coming out of Michigan State University reaffirms the need for one educational discipline that’s been continuously cut over the past decade — the arts.

Researchers found a startling link between taking part in arts and crafts activities as a child and patents received or businesses launched as an adult.

According to that study, which examined MSU Honors STEM students between 1990-1995, 94% of STEM graduates had musical training in their lives, compared to 34% of all adults.

Joining us is one of the authors of the study, Rex LaMore, the director of the MSU Center for Community and Economic Development. Cynthia Taggart, a professor of Music Education at Michigan State also talked to us.

Listen to the full interview above.

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

This past weekend, more than 2,000 people in Detroit attended the annual, one-night-only masquerade called Theatre Bizarre.

The event transforms the city’s Masonic Temple into a dream world of S&M, punk rock, grandmothers in leather and carnival sideshows.

This is not your five-year-old's animation.

Although you can certainly bring your five-year-old. They'll be right at home in the exhibits' dark halls lined with screen after screen after screen, like a little iPad addict's paradise.

"Watch Me Move" is, according to the Detroit Institute of  Arts, the  largest animation exhibition ever mounted.

And when you exit, you'll feel like it was both too short, and somehow way too vast to get a good grasp in just one visit.

Model D

Detroit's hip hop scene was made famous in Eminem's move "8 Mile."

You know the one -- where the white guy from the trailer park shows up the black rapper who went to Cranbrook High School?

It's a representation of the hip hop scene in Detroit in 1995.

Back then, The Shelter below St. Andrew's Hall was the spot where hip hop artists sought to make a name for themselves.

Courtesy of the West Michigan Arts and Technology Center / courtesy of WMCAT

Only a handful of public schools in Grand Rapids still offer art classes of any kind. To fill the gap, the West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology (WMCAT) offers free art education at their facility in downtown Grand Rapids.

State of Opportunity's Story Booth stopped by WMCAT this summer. The booth goes out across the state to capture stories we might not otherwise hear.

Teenagers participating in various summer art education programs shared stories about what art means to them.  

Keon Pearson and her son Keontay Seymour both came into the booth to talk to each other about how access to art education has changed Keontay and State of Opportunity's Youth Journalist Alex Wilson produced this audio postcard.

farmer64 / Morgue File

This time on ArtPod, we say a sad goodbye to one of Michigan’s best writers, and wistfully wave to a summer packed with adventures, music, and general art goodness.  

In today’s lineup:

Elmore Leonard was the freaking man

Detroit lost one of its greats yesterday. We’ve got an appreciation and a look back at the fabulous, game-changing career of the “Dickens of Detroit.”

After that, we’re going to go binge on Justified on Netflix as tribute.   

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.

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) - The Kalamazoo Institute of Arts executive director has announced his retirement after 23 years, but will remain on the job until a successor is hired.

The Kalamazoo Gazette reports that it could take up to a year to replace Jim Bridenstine. He is an art historian who earned his bachelor's degree from The College of Holy Cross in 1967 and a master's in the History of Art from George Washington University in 1975. He completed Harvard University's Institute of Arts Administration program in 1978.

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.

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.


Detroit's emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, wants to account for assets held in the Detroit Institute of Arts, which has sparked fears that part of the collection could be sold in the future.

We've posted information here, and Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek will have an update for us later today.

Update 11:34 a.m.

The DIA just put out this statement on their Facebook page:

"The DIA strongly believes that the museum and the City hold the museum’s art collection in trust for the public. The DIA manages and cares for that collection according to exacting standards required by the public trust, our profession and the Operating Agreement with the City. According to those standards, the City cannot sell art to generate funds for any purpose other than to enhance the collection. We remain confident that the City and the emergency financial manager will continue to support the museum in its compliance with those standards, and together we will continue to preserve and protect the cultural heritage of Detroit."

9:19 a.m.

Detroit is in a big financial hole, and the man in charge of righting the ship wants to know what can be sold.

Mark Stryker and John Gallagher of the Detroit Free Press report that Detroit's emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, is considering whether the DIA's art collection should be counted as assets that can be sold to pay debts:

Liquidating DIA art to pay down debt likely would be a monstrously complicated, controversial and contentious process never before tested on such as large scale and with no certain outcome. The DIA is unusual among major civic museums in that the city retains ownership of the building and collection while daily operations, including fund-raising, are overseen by a nonprofit institution.

Stryker and Gallagher report on the many hurdles facing such a sale, including ...

  • restrictions on selling off city assets in municipal bankruptcy law,
  • museum ethics and operating rules that forbid selling art,
  • opposition from patrons who donated art,
  • and major a public outcry against such a sale:

“There would be hue and cry the likes of which you’ve never heard,” said Ford Bell, president of the American Alliance of Museums in Washington, D.C. “The museum should be a rallying point for the rebirth of Detroit and not a source of funds.”

Orr spokesman Bill Nowling said there's no plan yet to sell any asset of the city, but he said all the city's assets must be accounted for.

He once was a little known folk singer who had to make ends meet working construction. But after the Academy Award winning documentary "Searching for Sugar Man," Detroit's Sixto Rodriguez has stepped out of obscurity and into the spotlight. Wayne State University bestowed Rodriguez with an honorary degree yesterday.

Judy van der Velden / Flickr

When you think of filmmaking, chances are pretty good that you think of a producer, a director and a cast chosen by that director.

But there are a couple of filmmakers in Detroit who are blowing up that traditional model of making films, and in its place have come up with something completely different.

How about 40 directors for one film? And they're spread across 23 countries on five continents?

Marty Shea is one of the Detroit-based filmmakers doing this "collaborative" movie under the name of "CollabFeature."

He joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

user Monsieur Gordon / Flickr

We’re always glad to hear from Stateside listeners, to get your ideas and suggestions for stories we should share with everyone!

So, when we got an email from Lansing musician Ben Hassenger, asking us to take a closer look at the upcoming music festival he’s hosting this Friday and Saturday, we bit!

Especially when we discovered it’s a celebration of the ukulele - called "MIGHTY UKE DAY!"

What’s not to love?!

Ben Hassenger joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Ypsilanti's Matt Jones has been writing songs and performing around Michigan for the past 15 years. The 35-year-old has been receiving more critical acclaim and has a growing fan base. His story is one of overcoming personal demons and finding salvation in the thing he loves best: making music. 

Matt Jones and Misty Lyn Bergeron performed for us in Michigan Radio's Studio East.

Check it out here:

Of the many things made in Michigan that have become part of the fabric of American culture — the auto industry, Motown — punk rock is often overlooked. In 1967, years before The Sex Pistols performed incendiary anthems, Iggy Pop and his band The Stooges created an explosive new sound in Detroit that would influence generations of musicians.

Frannie Shepherd-Bates is a Shakespeare geek. She is also executive artistic director of the Magenta Giraffe Theatre Company in Detroit.

Twice a week, Shepherd-Bates drives from metro Detroit to the Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility, which is about 10 miles south of Ann Arbor, to share her love of Shakespeare.

It was 80 years ago this week that the Detroit Institute of Arts debuted the series of frescoes by Diego Rivera titled "The Detroit Industry Murals."

The 27 panels depict workers and industry in Detroit and Michigan's innovative technology. The murals, and Diego Rivera are renowned around the world.

80 years ago was a stormy time in Detroit history. It was a troubled time for workers, and the country was in the depths of the Depression.

A demonstration by unemployed workers led to five protesters being shot to death by Dearborn Police and Ford security guards - "The Ford Massacre" occurred on March 7th, 1932.

The unveiling of the murals at the DIA sparked a huge controversy. The Detroit News called for the walls of the court to be whitewashed.

The DIA weathered the storm and eventually "Detroit Industry" not only became "accepted," but hailed around the world as a masterpiece.

Unions and labor are in the headlines today, especially with Michigan becoming a right-to-work state this Thursday.

What would Diego Rivera say about the current state of labor and industry in Michigan right now?

Graham Beale is the President of the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Graham takes us back to the very beginning, when Diego Rivera was brought to Detroit to create these murals. He talks about the uproar that occurred after the unveiling of the murals and what they mean to us today.

Listen to the full interview above.