Arts & Culture

Arts and culture

"Border Crossings: Coming of Age in the Czech Resistance"

The next time you're in downtown Detroit, and you walk by the Cobo Center or the People Mover, or in Ypsilanti and you see Washtenaw Community College, or Providence Hospital in Southfield or many other buildings around Southeast Michigan — stop for a moment and remember this name: Charles Novacek.

He was born in what was then Czechoslovakia, and grew up through his country's occupation by the Nazis and then the Communists. He began training as a resistance fighter as a boy of 11, and continued the fight as he grew up. He endured prison and torture before escaping to a refugee camp and, ultimately, to a new life in Michigan.

Charles Novacek became a noted engineer in Michigan, working on many projects in the state that still stand today. And before he died in 2007, he wrote a memoir entitled "Border Crossings: Coming of Age in the Czech Resistance".

The book has now been published by Charles Novacek's wife, Sandra. We talk with Sandra about her husband's journey. 

For more information on the book, visit www.charlesnovacekbooks.com.

Listen to the full interview above.

Clark Art Photography / Grand Rapids Ballet Facebook

Chris Van Allsburg, known for his book "The Polar Express" will design the new production for the Grand Rapids Ballet, and the set will be built by designer Eugene Lee, known for his work on SNL.

More from the Grand Rapids Press:

A $2.5 million fundraising campaign, in part, is providing for the 42-year-old company's first entirely new production of "The Nutcracker" in three decades…

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.

There are not enough proverbs in the world for everything that is proverbial.

On this week’s edition of That’s What They Say, host Rina Miller and University of Michigan Professor of English Anne Curzan examine the overuse of the word proverbial.

The term proverbial first appears in the English language in 1475. At this time, a proverbial saying is a proverb itself. However, by the late 16th century, proverbial is used to describe sayings that are well-known, or merely similar to proverbs.

Nowadays, this usage continues. Curzan looked in the Corpus of Contemporary American English to find some examples.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A new Michigan law will now allow you to literally BYOB, bring your own bottle of wine to a restaurant. Chris is the Chief Restaurant Critic and Wine Writer at Hour Magazine, and he joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

user: shawncampbell / Flickr

Today is Twitter's 8th birthday.

Naturally, everyone is celebrating by participating in self-indulgent retweets of the first thing they ever said.

Here's ours from early 2009.

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." 

If something is inflammable, it is no longer entirely clear whether we can set it on fire, or we can’t.

On this week’s edition of That’s What They Say, host Rina Miller and University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan take on the prefix “in-.”

There are two types of “in-” prefixes, and although they sound the same, they have different meanings. The first “in-” means “in or into,” like the examples income and inland. The second “in-” means “not,” as in the words inedible or incomprehensible.

The term inflammable uses the “in or into” meaning of the prefix. Consequently, something that is inflammable can be put into flame.

However, the prefix has caused some confusion.

The Michigan Opera Theatre Children’s Chorus will perform Brundibar this weekend at the Detroit Opera House. The children's opera was originally performed in a concentration camp during the Holocaust. 

In the 1940s, European Jews were sent to Theresienstadt in the Czech Republic. It was a transit camp where Jews were sent before being moved to other concentration camps, including Auschwitz.

The Nazis also used Theresienstadt in their propaganda efforts.

Kate Wells

This next story might win for weirdest art mystery we've heard in a while.

For a few years, a Detroit art gallery has proudly displayed a big piece of street art.

It's widely believed to be by Banksy, the most famous, mysterious street artist working today.

But now that the gallery is trying to sell the piece, two local artists claim they are the real painters.

Lowe Campbell Ewald video. / YouTube.

The South by Southwest festival is happening right now in Austin, Texas. It's where the cutting edge of music, technology and new thinking all come together.

And that's where our next guest has been busy pitching Detroit to all those creative entrepreneurs. Earlier this week, he hosted a session called "We're Moving to Detroit, and So Should You."

Iain Lanivich is the digital creative director of Lowe Campbell Ewald, and he joins us from Austin.

Listen to the full interview above.

Heywood Banks

One of Michigan's big contributions to the world of comedy is Heywood Banks.

Whether he's playing his guitar or his trusty toaster, he's made audiences laugh all over the country.

He's appeared on A&E, MTV, and Entertainment Tonight. And he was the MC for both nights of the 2012 Ann Arbor Folk Festival.

He'll be playing at The Ark on March 15; he joined us today on Stateside.

Listen to the full interview above.

PCAP / University of Michigan

Just because you've been found guilty of a crime and sentenced to prison, doesn't mean you no longer have a voice, an opinion, something to say.

And that's why each year the Prison Creative Arts Project puts out the call to prisoners all around Michigan: Send us your poetry, your essays, your short stories.

PCAP goes through each submission and selects work to go into its annual Michigan Review of Prisoner Creative Writing.  They're about to release their sixth volume. This one is called "The Sky Is On Fire, After All."

Philip Christman edits the Review, and he's an English Department instructor at the University of Michigan. He joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above. 

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.

Everybody’s got a story.  Some are very extraordinary stories.  It might be a good for somebody to look into theirs, because a story is the shortest distance between two people.

The Living Room is our ongoing storytelling series, curated by Allison Downey.

This story is the first in our series about identity and acceptance in West Michigan’s LGBT community.

Rachel Gleason spent much of youth at her church; worshipping, studying, singing, babysitting.

The church was her life.

But that began to change when Rachel started to understand who she really was.

*Listen to Rachel’s story above.

Allison Downey curates stories for our ongoing series The Living Room. This story was produced by Zak Rosen. Support was provided by a Kalamazoo Community Foundation grant from the Fetzer Institute Fund.

The contraction of the word “of” to o’ is considered highly informal, but the phrase “o’clock” is somehow different. 

This week on That’s What They Say, host Rina Miller and University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan discuss how we talk about time.

The expression “o’clock” comes from “of clock” as in “according to the clock,” says Curzan.

It might seem like an antiquated phrase, but "o'clock" is still used quite a lot.  But, there is something else on the rise and that is the use of a.m. and p.m.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

ArtPrize, the annual art competition in Grand Rapids, will still award $560,000 this year, but professional jurors will now have a bigger say in who gets the money.

The people who visit ArtPrize and register to vote have always decided the winner. But this year there will be two top prizes, each worth $200,000. One will go to the top vote-getter. The other winner will be decided by three art jurors.

Dana Friis-Hansen heads the Grand Rapids Arts Museum. He thinks the change will attract more professional artists to ArtPrize.

Mary Keithan

As you drive along Michigan highways and roads, how much attention do you pay to barns? My next guest has discovered that those easy to overlook barns tell fascinating stories of the people and the communities that built them.

Mary Keithan took her first photograph of a barn in 1990 and that launched a nine-year push to photograph and tell the stories of barns all over Michigan.

Her photographs are now on exhibit at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum.

Mary Keithan  joined us today.

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. 

David W. Carmichael / Wikimedia Commons

Fresh off their gold-medal win in Sochi, Meryl Davis and Charlie White will ride their fame straight onto one of the most popular shows on television.

Charlie White will be paired up with professional dancer Sharna Burgess, and Meryl Davis will be paired up with dance pro Maksim Chmerkovskiy.

USA Today reports on the next "Dancing with the Stars" lineup.

Olympians Charlie White and Meryl Davis seem to have an obvious advantage. (

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

For many families, Saturdays are about visiting Eastern Market in Detroit.

A public-private partnership took over the operation of the market from the City of Detroit in 2006.  Since then, buildings have been renovated and Eastern Market's popularity has grown.

I visited the market this past weekend and took a few photos. You can click through them above.

If a "preventive" measure is the same thing as a "preventative" measure, it seems hard to justify having both words.

This week on That’s What They Say, host Rina Miller and University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan discuss words with multiple endings.

In this case of preventive and preventative, preventive is used more often.  So is the shorter ending always more common?

“If we look at the ‘ive’ ending as in preventive, versus the ‘ative’ ending as in preventative, it’s not always the case that the shorter one wins,” Curzan argues.  

When looking at the terms exploitative and exploitive, Curzan found that the “ative” ending is four times more common than the “ive” ending.  Nevertheless, both of these terms are in dictionaries, making either usage correct.

The Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama inspired by American History is given once a year to a new play or musical that uses the power of theater to explore this country's past, and to engage audiences in a deeper understanding of history and in meaningful conversations about current issues.

This year, that prize goes to Dominique Morisseau's "Detroit 67." a Detroit native, Morisseau is a playwright, poet, and actress. 


Doug Kline / Flickr

Attention “Breaking Bad” fans (read: almost everyone): Bryan Cranston’s latest role has a Michigan twist. 

Cranston, the 57-year-old star of “Breaking Bad” and of course, “Malcolm in the Middle,” signed on for the lead role in the new movie, “Holland, Michigan.”

Academy Award-winning director Errol Morris is expected to direct the film, a thriller centered on a family from – you guessed it – Holland.

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.

One of the most painful and divisive times in Michigan's history were the five days in July 1967 known as "the Detroit riots,"  which left 43 people dead, nearly 1,200 hurt, more than 2,000 buildings destroyed and more than 7,200 people arrested.

One of the most infamous events of those five days came just after midnight on July 25, 1967. The riots were at their peak when Detroit police and National Guard troops swept into the Algiers Motel, searching for snipers.

Two hours later, police left the Algiers. They had found no snipers. But they left behind them the bodies of three black youths.

The Algiers Motel incident is the subject of a play by Detroit native Mercilee Jenkins: "Spirit of Detroit," a play about the '67  riot/rebellion."

It will soon be presented at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. Bob Smith of the Museum, and the director of the play, Kate Mendeloff, who is a theatre professor and director from the University of Michigan Residential College, joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

www.DSO.org

DETROIT – Director Steven Spielberg and composer John Williams will join the Detroit Symphony Orchestra for a special benefit concert on June 14.

Williams will conduct the DSO as it performs selections from some of his most popular scores, including "Star Wars," "Harry Potter," "Jaws," "E.T.," "Indiana Jones," "Schindler's List" and more.

Spielberg will join Williams to host the second half of the evening. He'll present selections from his decades-long artistic collaboration with Williams, including selected film clips projected on an oversized screen above the orchestra.

Tickets will be available starting April 14 for the concert, which will benefit the Detroit Symphony. Both Spielberg and Williams are donating their services for the event.

Williams last conducted the DSO in 2008.

The culture and ideas that surround issues of kids and well-being are just as important to the public discussion as the daily realities. Head over to State of Opportunity for a review of Short Term 12, a feature film about at-risk kids in a care home and the adults that try to teach them how to cope. It's just out on DVD, at your public library, Netflix, etc.

Archeologists studying a wooden beam pulled from northern Lake Michigan this summer can't say whether it is a piece of the first European ship to sail the upper Great Lakes or a post from an old fishing net. The group managing the project is close to issuing a report to the state archeologist, but it won’t reach any firm conclusion.

Read on to discover the evidence that points to each conclusion.

Mercedes Mejia/Michigan Radio

What do Olympic ice dancers who train in Michigan have to do with Michael Lee?

He's a professional mime and physical acting coach. Lee has worked with 10 of the 24 figure skating ice dance teams at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. That includes Michigan natives Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who won a gold medal this year. Lee also works with Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada, who won silver. 

“These are professional skaters," said Lee. "They move beautifully, but at the beginning they don’t move as if they are performing, and that’s what I’m about."

Lee helps the skaters become performers by teaching them how to animate their bodies. He himself learned miming from the late Marcel Marceau, an acclaimed French mime. 

To learn more about Lee click here.

Watch as Lee explains the physical acting techniques he shows the ice dancers.

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