Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"Seeing and Reading" exhibit by artist Gerard Brown opens at Finlandia Gallery

HANCOCK -- "Seeing and Reading," an exhibition of artwork by Philadelphia artist Gerard Brown is on display through Nov. 27 at the Finlandia University Gallery, located in the Finnish American Heritage Center, Hancock.

Artist Gerard Brown. (Photo © 2009 Sam Fritch and courtesy Finlandia University)

An opening reception for the artist will take place from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29, at the gallery. An artist talk will begin at 7:15 p.m. The reception is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

Brown will be exhibiting a series of gouache paintings titled "The Whiteness of the Whale," which reference Herman Melville’s 1851 novel, Moby Dick. Brown makes paintings that sit at the intersection of seeing and reading. His paintings invite viewers to examine the idea that pictures can be read.

The Whiteness of the Whale (#19. "westward...a most imperial"), 2009, gouache on paper, 30 x 22 inches. (Photo © 2009 Sam Fritch and courtesy Finlandia University)

The notion of the image as a form of text was central to much of the art making and theory of the late 20th century. By employing various writing systems (Braille and others) as building blocks of pictures, Brown invites the viewer to be a reader and the reader to be a viewer in hopes that something might be gained in the space between these parts of our selves.

"A photograph of a person or a city is one form of description, and a poem about that person or place is another," he observes, "but what happens when these two perfectly adequate forms of description are turned on one another?"

Csaszar continues, "While there are numerous ideas and intellectual responses to Brown’s work, it is on the level of direct and immediate pleasures and impressions that Brown’s surfaces are ultimately read. They can then be re-read as various suspensions and interruptions of meanings in order to make their sense more visible."

Brown received a Master of Fine Arts in Painting and Drawing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Boston University of Fine Arts. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Art at the Tyler School of Art at Temple University in Philadelphia. His work has been exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions throughout the east coast and Chicago.

Brown has also been actively involved in art criticism and arts writing and has worked for clients including the Pew Fellowships in the Arts, the Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative of the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance and the Philadelphia Department of Recreation Mural Arts Program.

Brown has been providing individual critiques to Finlandia students on campus this week through Oct. 30.

The Finlandia University Gallery is in the Finnish American Heritage Center, 435 Quincy Street, Hancock. Gallery hours are Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Wednesday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday, noon to 4 p.m.; or by appointment. Please call 906-487-7500 for more information.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hancock Council hears access, parking concerns for Arts Center project

By Michele Bourdieu

HANCOCK -- Two leaders of the design team for the Copper Country Community Arts Center's proposed green building renovation addressed the Hancock City Council at their Oct. 21 Council meeting concerning parking and / or a permanent easement for accessing the rear of the building at 126 Quincy Street in Hancock.

At the Oct. 21 Hancock City Council meeting, Cynthia Coté, Copper Country Community Arts Center director, addresses the Council concerning access for the potential green building renovation of the Center. Council members pictured are, from left, John Slivon, Ted Belej, Hancock City Manager Glenn Anderson and Mayor William Laitila. (Photos by Keweenaw Now)

Cynthia Coté, Arts Center director, asked Council members to consider the Center's need for parking and vehicle access in the city-owned area directly behind the Arts Center -- a parking lot of eight spaces now used by tenants in four apartments above the Northwoods Sporting Goods store, the Arts Center's neighbor on the east, and by employees of the state Human Services Department office, their neighbor on the west.

City Council member Richard Freeman, owner of the Northwoods Sporting Goods store and the apartments, leases four of the spaces from the City.

"I'm not in favor of deeding over the lot to the Arts Center for that project. I guess that giving anything away that the City owns right now is not in the best interest of the City," Freeman said. "Parking is at a premium. When winter comes, the eight spots in there get real tight."

Builder Dave Bach, one of the Arts Center design team's leaders, told City Council members the team needs to know what the options are before completing the design and beginning the construction.

"We don't plan on building on that property," Bach said. "What we need that piece of property for is access to the existing (Arts Center) property."

Bach noted the potential new green building design could include demolishing the back of the present building and adding both a new entrance and possibly some parking spaces at the entrance level that could be located under the second floor or exposed. The remodeling design is expected to include windows for passive solar energy conservation on the south side of the building that faces the city's parking area.

"We want to try to maintain that southern exposure, too," Bach added.

Builder Dave Bach (center, foreground) addresses the Hancock City Council concerning the potential green building design of the Community Arts Center and the need for access to the back of the building through a parking area owned by the City. Council members pictured are, from left, Richard Freeman, Lisa McKenzie and Thomas Gemignani.

He noted if the city wants to hold on to its parking lot property the Arts Center would still need a permanent easement -- a space for vehicle and ground access big enough for a UPS truck. The space could also help make the building handicap-accessible, provide for school buses bring children for activities, facilitate moving materials, etc., he explained.

"You would need at least a couple of (parking) spaces for access," City Manager Glenn Anderson said. "Whatever you do, you have to have a public hearing."

Council member Ted Belej suggested the possibility of trading two of the Arts Center's new parking spaces at the back of the building for two of the City's spaces that the Center could use for access.

"That's a good thought," Bach said.

Freeman said he could see a problem with an easement if someone parked on it.

Louisa Wills, county director of the Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS, formerly the Family Independence Agency), said she understood everyone's position and wanted to be a good neighbor but she agreed with Freeman that parking is at a premium.

"Our staff is growing," she said. "We cannot afford to give up spaces."

The Hancock office of DHS covers Houghton, Keweenaw and Baraga counties and employs a staff of more than 30 people. Some of these employees park behind the DHS building, but this is still insufficient, Wills noted.

Council member Lisa McKenzie said she couldn't see the Council doing anything official about the parking situation until the design of the building is done.

Bach said the design of the building will not be nearly complete until after the "charrette" -- a series of three meetings of the design team, Arts Center staff and Arts Center members. These meetings will be held Nov. 18 at the Arts Center in Hancock, Nov. 19 at the U.P. Engineers and Architects office in Houghton and Nov. 21 at the Marsin Center. Anyone interested in being on the design team needs to attend all three meetings and should contact Cynthia Coté.*

Jan Bruin-Slot asked whether the grant money for the Arts Center project was private or public funding.

Jan Bruin-Slot, a seasonal resident living in East Hancock, addresses the Council concerning the use of private or public funding for the Arts Center's potential green building project. Also pictured, at left, is Louisa Wills, county director of the Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS), serving Houghton, Keweenaw and Baraga counties. She addressed the Council concerning four parking spaces DHS leases from the City.

Bruin-Slot and his wife Becky said they did not like the idea that their property taxes might support the Arts Center project. They are seasonal residents from Petoskey who have a second home in East Hancock.

"If there's going to be a giving of land held by the community, there's a taking from the community; and I would be opposed to that as a taxpayer," Jan Bruin-Slot said.

"I'm a staunch capitalist," Becky Bruin-Slot added, "and it's not that I do not give charitably, but I want to choose my charitable giving. I expect whatever I do to be funded by me, myself and I."

City Manager Anderson confirmed the present (planning) grant is from the private Kresge Foundation (their Green Building Initiative Grant), and Coté said further funding would be raised through a capital campaign.

Anderson said later that Houghton County is one of the very few counties in Michigan that has a downtown office for the Department of Human Services.

"Parking for their employees has been critical to keeping the office located in downtown Hancock," he noted.

He also said the City could possibly lease daytime parking spaces to the Arts Center in nearby city-owned lots. Freeman's four spaces, used by his tenants, are overnight spaces; thus he does not want to give them up.

"The Council wasn't giving (the Arts Center) anything (at the meeting)," Anderson explained, "but we basically said we'd work with all three parties to try to resolve it."

Anderson said he agreed that having the Arts Center become a green building, possibly LEED-certified, would be a good model for other businesses.**

"The Arts Center has been a key part of our downtown since it came to Hancock," Anderson noted. "It's become one of our anchor establishments, so we're pleased that they are considering investing more in their building. It would be the first LEED-certified building in the City if it comes to fruition."

Art Center to hold third presentation on green building Oct. 28

The Community Arts Center recently held two public presentations with visiting speakers on the subject of green building and sustainability.***

A third meeting will be held at 7 p.m. this Wednesday, Oct. 28, in the Community Training Room 323 of the Jutila Center in Hancock. Heather McElwee, assistant director, and Chris Clarke, facilities director, of the Pittsburgh Glass Center will give a presentation on "A LEED Art Building Case Study."

MDOT traffic study for U.S. 41 in Hancock

In other business, the Hancock City Council heard a report from MDOT (Michigan Department of Transportation) on their recent computer modeling traffic study. MDOT concluded Hancock could handle the current and future traffic in the City should Hancock Street be made two-way for the U.S. 41 traffic. One result would be less traffic on Quincy Street downtown, perhaps making it more walkable.

Whether or not such a potential change in traffic would affect the Arts Center's green building plans was not discussed. The cost of such a traffic project -- $500,000 -- would be funded by MDOT, Anderson said.

Editor's Notes:

*Contact Cynthia Coté at (906) 482-2333 or visit www.coppercountryarts.com for more information.

** LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

*** See our Oct. 12 article on the first of these meetings:
"Arts Center Green Building presentation /forum sparks community discussion."

Monday, October 26, 2009

Finnish American Heritage Center to offer Finnish language classes

HANCOCK -- As part of its community outreach program, Finlandia University’s Finnish American Heritage Center (FAHC) is pleased to announce that a pair of Finnish language courses will begin in early November.

Kaisa Randolph will be teaching a continuation of her Finnish class from last spring; the course is also open to new students who have some knowledge of Finnish. That class begins at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 3, at the FAHC.

For people with no prior Finnish language skills, or for those looking to re-learn the basics of the language, Hannu Leppanen will teach a beginning Finnish language course at the FAHC. This class gets under way at 5:30 p.m on Nov. 10 at the Finnish American Heritage Center. Each class meets for about one hour per week. There will be several sessions this fall, with a break for the holidays; and then classes will resume in January and continue through April. There is a $100 charge for either class. Advance registration is appreciated.

For more information about Finnish language classes, or any other community programming at the FAHC, call (906) 487-7549.

Portage Library to present fall programs Oct. 26, Nov. 2

HOUGHTON -- The Portage Lake District Library will be hosting two fun fall events.

Michigan Tech head gardener Lynn Watson will present, "Art in the Falling of Leaves," at 6:30 p.m., tonight, Monday, Oct. 26.

She will describe how leaves grow, why they change from shades of green to the rich colors of autumn; and she will explain why they fall and the benefits to nature that fallen leaves bring. Watson will also explain how people have used leaves historically and their place in artistic expressions. She will present examples of leaf projects, and participants will take home recipe cards of how to make them.

The Michigan award-winning documentary Where do the Children Play? will be shown at 6:30 p.m., Monday, Nov. 2. The film addresses the decline of unstructured play by children -- especially in nature -- and its potential consequences.

A community discussion will follow the screening.

This program is sponsored by Michigan Tech's Western Upper Peninsula Center for Science, Mathematics and Environmental Education; the Michigan Alliance for Environmental and Outdoor Education; Get Outdoors Michigan!; the Western UP Summit Planning Committee; and the Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative.

Library programs are free and everyone is invited to attend. For more information, call the library at 482-4570 or visit www.pldl.org.