Arts & Culture

Arts and culture

WASHINGTON (AP) - New census figures show the "seven-year" itch persists - couples who break up typically separate upon seven years of marriage, and divorce a year later.

The 2009 data released Wednesday also show U.S. divorces are leveling off after decades of increases. The census report found that among all race groups, women who were ever married and then divorced reached as high as 41 percent among 50- to 59-year-olds. That's down from 44 percent in 2004.

The exception was black women ages 50 to 59. Their divorce rate edged up to 48 percent.

Rose Kreider, a census demographer, says recent increases in couples cohabitating as well as rising median ages before marriage are contributing to overall declines in divorce as people wait
longer before making long-term commitments.

The University of Michigan may be among the bidders as the federal government auctions off the possessions of the man known as ‘The Unabomber’.  Ted Kaczynski earned his PhD in Mathematics from the University of Michigan. But it’s not his diploma that interests one university researcher. 

user earl53 / morgueFile

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra will announce its 2011-12 season on Friday, May 20. Most orchestras announced their seasons months ago, but the DSO had to postpone its plans because of a six-month musicians’ strike.

Drew McManus says the late announcement will likely hurt the orchestra’s revenue stream. McManus is an arts consultant in Chicago:

Dani Davis

On today's installment of Artpod, we hear how artists use their talents to raise money for a local nonprofit.

People don’t often think of “art” as a money-making endeavor, but a group in Saline, Michigan is proving otherwise. Their story is about taking little pieces of art and turning them into big money makers. And all that money is being used to help feed hungry people in Washtenaw County.

Vibrant paintings by children will hang next to artwork from professional artists at the Circle of Art silent auction on Sunday, May 15th.

Sculptor and painter Valerie Mann came up with the idea for the art show seven years ago when she was wondering how she could help people in the area who were struggling economically.

She bounced the idea off her friend Peter Bowe.

Bowe is co-owner of Saline Picture Frame Company. He says, “When you have a business in a small town there’s a lot of need people are always asking for money to sponsor an event or that sort of stuff.”

The two friends figured they knew a lot of people who made art, had a cool space (the frame store) and had the tools and materials to mat and hang works of art.

So they asked folks to donate small pieces of artwork like a sketch they’d already done, or something that wouldn’t take too much effort to produce.

In seven years, they’ve made $100,000 and all the cash has gone to Food Gatherers, a non-profit that feeds people-in-need in Washtenaw County.

user hotblack / morguefile

The Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit will perform a play this weekend to commemorate the anniversary of a student walkout at Detroit Public Schools.

david_shankbone / flickr

The CEO of the New York Times Company says the Times’ decision to charge for some online content is going much better than expected. And Janet Robinson says she thinks similar models can work for smaller newspapers, like the Detroit dailies:

"Newspapers of all sizes really have the opportunity to have some kind of paid model. And the earlier they start to explore and test and experiment, I think they’ll be pleasantly surprised in regard to what the results may be."

The New York Times uses what’s called a “metered model.” That means people can read 20 articles for free each month before they’re required to pay for unlimited access. Home delivery subscribers also have unlimited access.

Robinson says from mid-March to mid-April more than 100,000 people signed up for paid online access.

Robinson spoke to the Detroit Economic Club in Birmingham today.

What's Your Art?

May 9, 2011
HarrisinMI / Flickr

This week, What’s Working is taking a trip to Grand Rapids to focus on the “What’s Your Art?” campaign. Many of us are familiar with the annual ArtPrize event held each fall in Grand Rapids, but there are many other art events taking place in the city throughout the year. The What’s Your Art? campaign aims to raise awareness of the many arts-based events held year-round in the Grand Rapids area.

Caroline Older is the Executive Director of the Arts Council of Greater Grand Rapids, and she is overseeing the “What’s Your Art?” campaign. She says What’s Your Art is focused on supporting the culture of art in Grand Rapids more than any one specific event.

“The goal is a long-term goal, not a short-term answer. The impetus behind the What’s Your Art campaign came in the fall of 2008, when we all know the stock market tanked. It was a very tough time for lots of non-profit organizations, and the foundations in our area were looking at ways to try and help support arts organizations. And what we wanted to do was raise awareness about how incredibly rich this region is with its arts and cultural organizations. And we’re so thrilled that ArtPrize takes place, and we wanted to leverage the excitement that ArtPrize brings to the arts for the other forty-nine weeks of the year when ArtPrize isn’t taking place.”

Older says that, while What’s Your Art is still in its startup phase, there have been a number of factors that have contributed to the campaign’s success thus far.

“When we started it, we were very much hoping to help organizations drive some ticket sales. And who knew at that time that websites such as Groupon or, I think it’s LivingSocial, would be developed and be so successful at marketing last-minute ticket deals. And lots of arts organizations have ended up using those.”

Although What’s Your Art is a work in progress, Older says the campaign is developing ways of measuring its success as it evolves.

“In terms of measuring the success, we’re looking at how many people we have reading our e-newsletter which is growing exponentially each month. We have Facebook followers and we’re looking at how many additional Facebook followers we get each month, and the same thing for Twitter. And then of course we’re measuring how many visitors we get to the website, but, as I said, it’s all a work in progress. We’re very excited about the support that we’ve received from the foundations in town, particularly the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, in helping us with marketing and public relations needs in regards to this effort.”

Older says technology and social networks have proven themselves as effective ways to raise awareness about the arts. But she says people sometimes underestimate the various benefits a healthy art culture can have for a local community.

Dani Davis

A new national survey shows that, despite what many may think, students who major in the arts are not destined for a life of unemployment.

The Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) surveyed more than 13,000 alumni from arts schools around the country were surveyed.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra is cutting its ticket prices for the upcoming season – in some cases more than 50% – in an attempt to get more people back to Orchestra Hall.

Paul Hogle is the DSO’s executive vice president. He says the new ticket prices will go into effect for the 2011-12 season:

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

""It must be something in the water." - Paul Tinkerhess.

Last Sunday, I walked around a neighborhood in Ann Arbor's west side and witnessed a new music phenomenon - the Water Hill Music Festival - where neighbors played music from their front porches, backyards, and garages.

The idea for the festival came from Paul Tinkerhess, a local business owner and musician.

Tinkerhess described the concept in Groundcover News:

"The concept is simple," Tinkerhess said. "On the afternoon of Sunday, May 1st, everyone in the neighborhood who either is a musician or wants to pretend to be a musician is encouraged to step out onto their front porch and play music. That's it. Or half of it. The other half is that we are inviting all the other neighbors, and the rest of the world, to wander through the neighborhood that afternoon and enjoy something like a music festival with a lot of stages."

The neighborhood in Ann Arbor's west side, dubbed "Water Hill" by Tinkerhess, if filled with musical talent.

I caught a small fraction of the festival, and made this video:

One festival attendee, Patti Smith, said the event was "Ann Arbor covered in awesome sauce."

user SCA / Flickr

We were curious in the newsroom this morning, how did we come to celebrate Cinco de Mayo? A little digging gave me the answer...

"I know I owe you money, but you're going to have to wait."

Imagine if the U.S. government declared to its debtors that it wasn't going to pay on its loans for two years.

Countries like China, Japan, and the United Kingdom probably wouldn't be too happy - they might even send warships to the U.S. coasts demanding their money.

O.k., totally far-fetched, I know. But similar events in the 1860s led to the celebration of Cinco de Mayo.

Dani Davis

The “creative process” will take center stage at a conference this week at the University of Michigan.

Theresa Reid heads up ArtsEngine at the University of Michigan, and she believes “art making” should have a higher profile at research universities:

(courtesy of Michigan State University)

Most people in the Middle East don’t seem to be angry that U-S forces killed Osama bin Laden.  Salah Hassan coordinates the Islam, Muslims and Journalism Education program  at Michigan State University. He’s watching Mid East media coverage following the death of the Al-Qaeda leader.

user Sultry / creative commons

On today's Artpod, we'll take a look at how the image of the "rich" arts patron is starting to be re-imagined, thanks in large part to the internet.

Meet the artist...

Arts Patronage 2.0

May 1, 2011
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Dave MacDonald is finishing up his doctorate in music composition at Michigan State University. When his friend asked him to compose a new piece for saxophone, MacDonald said sure, no problem. But there was one catch: he wanted to get paid. 

Arts patronage 1.0

MacDonald says getting paid would be hard for a few reasons: There's not a lot of money in classical music, and it's hard to get an arts grant if you're an unknown composer. Plus, he says, arts patrons are hard to come by: 

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

An Ann Arbor neighborhood will host a one-of-a-kind "front porch" music festival this weekend.

On Sunday, May 1 from 2 p.m. - 6 p.m., musicians who live in the city's Water Hill district will sit out on their front porch or lawn, and put on a show. It's called the Water Hill Music Fest, and more than 50 house in the neighborhood will participate.

Daniel E. Johnson / Creative Commons

Pure Michigan's latest ad features the city of Grand Rapids. 

The new commercial paints Grand Rapids as the state's 'go to' place for arts and culture, with lines like "where food is art, and music flows in every color imaginable; let's start living the artful life."

screen grab from YouTube video

The Thunderdrome comes to Detroit this Saturday!

It's not the post-apocalyptic competition featured in the Mel Gibson movie.

Instead of "two men enter, one man leaves" ...

It's more like "around 100 men and/or women enter, around 100 men and/or women leave... perhaps with some scrapes and bruises."

A write up on this wild, anarchic race is featured on the Changing Gears website by WBEZ's Robin Amer.

Robin writes about how the organizers unearthed an abandoned velodrome in Detroit's Dorais Park:

It was literally unearthed by one of the city’s vigilante lawn-mower gangs — people who mow the lawns at city parks because the city cannot afford to do so. The velodrome, on the city’s east side, was repaired by racing enthusiasts who cut down trees growing in its center and invested thousands of dollars of their own money and over 4,000 lbs of concrete fixing its surface. And now, it has come back to life as home to a variety of competitions.

When asked who the sanctioning body for this race is, organizer Andy Didorosi replied:

We are. We're the only sanctioning body in the world for zany two-wheeled party racing on abandoned Velodromes. :) Sanctioning bodies are silly.

Here's a video of last year's race. I like how the victor, instead of doing a lap with a checkered flag, does a lap with a torn-off portion of a Pabst Blue Ribbon box.

user Clarita / morguefile

Today's Artpod is all about nostalgia...Michigan-focused nostalgia, of course.

Rock Around the Clock

Did you know that 50 years ago this week, "Runaway" by Del Shannon was the #1 song in the U.S.? Don't worry, neither did I. But Michigan Radio's Mike Perini did! He's the station's resident music head. Turns out Del Shannon was born in Grand Rapids, and he grew up in nearby Coopersville. "Runaway" was the first rock 'n' roll song by a West Michigan-born artist to hit the top.

Mike talks to me in the first half of the podcast about some other classic rock 'n' roll songs written by Michigan artists, including the always popular "Rock Around the Clock," by Bill Haley.

Let's play ball!

A new play pays tribute to long-time Tigers baseball announcer Ernie Harwell. The play is called "Ernie" and it was written by best-selling author Mitch Albom. The play looks back at Harwell's life and includes vintage footage of the Hall of Fame announcer.

On the podcast I talk to Will David Young, the veteran Michigan actor who plays Ernie: 

user downeym / Flickr

There's been a lot of speculation over whether the television program Detroit 1-8-7 will stick around.

Melissa Burden wrote about the speculation in today's Detroit News:

A local actors union said it has confirmed with producers of "Detroit 1-8-7" that the show is leaving the Motor City for good, even if it's picked up for a second season.

An administrator for the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists Detroit chapter posted Tuesday on the group's Facebook page that the cop drama is leaving Michigan.

Joel Dinda / flickr

Ernie Harwell fans will get to relive some of the famed baseball announcer’s past in a new play called, appropriately enough, “Ernie.”

The play, which opens Thursday, Apr. 28 at the City Theatre in Detroit, was written by Mitch Albom. The story takes place on the night the beloved Tigers announcer gave his farewell speech at Comerica Park. Before his speech, he runs into a young baseball fan, who coaxes Harwell to reflect on his own life.

The play also includes vintage footage of Harwell, including some of his most famous calls.

Veteran Michigan actor Will David Young plays Ernie, which he calls "the biggest rush" he's ever experienced:

"So many people considered Ernie a grandfather figure, uncle figure, father figure. People who knew him well considered him a mentor with his gentleness, humor, humanitiy; it’s daunting playing a figure like that."

As for that famous Harwell cadence? Young says he tried to get into "that touch of Georgia twang."

Ben Alman / Flickr

Last December, there was a lot of speculation about Aretha Franklin's health after she went into a hospital for undisclosed reasons. People held a prayer vigil, and there was speculation the soul singer had cancer.

Now she's back. Last February the AP reported she had "revamped her diet, giving up her beloved chitterlings, pigs' feet and ham hocks in favor of a Whole Foods-type diet."

She's getting ready to release a new album and is planning a hometown concert.

From the Associated Press:

Almost five months after undergoing serious surgery, hall of fame singer Aretha Franklin is coming out with a new album and has scheduled a hometown concert.

The 69-year-old Queen of Soul will play DTE Energy Music Theatre on Aug. 25. It's in Clarkston, north of her native Detroit.

And Franklin's new CD, "Aretha: A Woman Falling Out of Love," will be released in Wal-Mart stores on Tuesday.

The music legend underwent surgery in early December in Detroit for an undisclosed ailment. Since then, she's lost more than 80 pounds. Franklin says the weight loss was because of a change in diet and exercise.

She canceled several performances last year because of illness, but her show at DTE is one of a handful she has booked for this spring and summer.

courtesy of the artist

They're not calling it Honk Core... yet.

Saxophonist Colin Stetson, originally from Ann Arbor, has worked with Tom Waits, David Byrne, Sinead O'Connor, Arcade Fire, and TV on the Radio.

And sometimes he plays on a really, really, really big saxophone.

Stetson's bass saxophone, pictured above (and featured in the video below) is an impressive instrument.

And the sound, which NPR describes as "a massive oil tanker listing into jagged rock," is remarkable.

Drawing Detroit

Apr 24, 2011

An artist in Detroit is expanding his project that highlights different city neighborhoods.  Several years ago Ben Bunk moved to Detroit for an artist residency at the 555 Gallery. 

He would ride his bike on a seven mile commute from the Eastern Market area to a studio near the abandoned Michigan Central Station. His bike rides inspired doodles which eventually lead to a series of black and white drawings of neighborhood buildings.

Bunk says it’s fun to draw Detroit, and describes his drawing style as relatively simple.

“It’s realistic in the sense that it has perspective that’s correct, and all the windows are there but the lines are crooked. I would say it’s kind of childish and it’s funny. The buildings are kind of crooked and they talk to each other in how they’re bent.”

Bunk won a mini-grant from a local event known as SOUP and used the money to self-publish a post-card sized book of his drawings. Bunk is now working on professionally publishing a second edition.

Daniel E. Johnson / Creative Commons

Registration opened this week for artists who want to take part in ArtPrize 2011. The winner of the yearly art competition is decided by the voting public who visit the event in downtown Grand Rapids.

Courtesy of Barbara Wilson

Barbara Wilson and Jose (Joe) Meza live in Dexter, Michigan and they own a successful auto repair business in Ann Arbor.

Joe was born in Ecuador. After 40 years of living in Michigan, he and his wife Barbara went back to Ecuador a few years ago.

Barbara says Joe fell in love with his home country, so they decided to build a small house in Mindo, Ecuador.

What they didn’t expect was that they would become craft chocolate makers, forging connections from Ecuador to Michigan, one chocolate bar at a time.

Harry Stewart looks around the slowly filling ballroom in an Orlando, Fla., hotel and brightens.

"I haven't seen some of these guys in over 66 years," he says. "Some I haven't seen since I entered the service, and others since I left at the end of the war. This is very exciting."

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

The musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra have agreed to return to work after a six-month strike.

They ratified the $34.3 million, three-year contract this afternoon. The deal includes an initial 25% pay cut for the musicians the first year. Starting musicians used to earn $104, 650 their first year; they'll earn $79,000 under the new contract.

There’s an additional $2 million pot of money which management will use to pay musicians for optional community outreach work and educational programs that include teaching, coaching and chamber music.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Cliff Bell’s is one of the oldest Jazz clubs in the city - a little history from Cliff Bell's website:

Through the 30's 40's and 50's Cliff Bell's and the Town Pump Tavern anchored two ends of what was Detroit's busiest night crawl with clubs, pubs and Burlesques dotting Park Avenue. During the 70's and 80's the Club operated under a series of other names. Many remember The Winery, La Cave, or AJ's on the Park.

In 1985 the famous club closed and remained empty until in late 2005.

Like a lot of places in Detroit, it was left empty for a long time. The plaster cracked, the ceiling leaked, but that all changed in 2005 when Paul Howard and Scott Lowell began the renovation of the shuttered club.

In this video, the owner of the building that houses Cliff Bell's talks about the restoration of the club.

This video was shot by Lindsey Smith, and produced by Juan Freitez.

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