Wednesday, May 19, 2010

"Stories from the Woods" opens at Carnegie Museum

Panel introducing the "Stories from the Woods" exhibit at the Carnegie Museum. (Photo © 2010 Kate Flynn)

By Kate Flynn*

HOUGHTON -- The Thimbleberry Band, led by Oren Tikkanen, performed at an opening reception for the Carnegie Museum exhibit "Stories from the Woods" last Friday, May 14. The exhibit, on loan from the Beaumier Heritage Center at Northern Michigan University and curated by Daniel Truckey, explores the long and rich history of storytelling in the Upper Peninsula. It will eventually travel to every county in the U.P.

Oren Tikkanen, who offered both music and storytelling at the opening reception of "Stories from the Woods," is featured in the Carnegie Museum exhibit with photos of his musical performances. (Photo © 2010 Kate Flynn)

Beginning with the oral history traditions of the Anishinabeg and Ojibwa tribes and carrying through to present-day raconteurs such as Tikkanen himself, the multimedia exhibit features audio and video clips of storytellers and historians.

The exhibit display calls Tikkanen "a fixture at most of the Finnish cultural and musical events throughout the U.P."

Tikkanen explained that the present-day incarnation of the Thimbleberry Band -- which features Libby Meyer on fiddle, Dave Bezotte on keyboard, Coleman Segal on mandolin and Tikkanen himself on a variety of instruments -- is a "motley crew" of musicians that have been playing together for the past three or four years, although the band itself has been around since 1978.

Tikkanen, who has been telling stories since he was five years old and playing the guitar since 14, plays in no less than four area bands. He described the Friday performance of the Thimbleberry Band as a "Copper Country ethnic celebration," incorporating traditional Slovenian, Irish, French Canadian and Cornish pieces and intertwining storytelling and oral history with the musical performances.

"It was great," said community member Keren Tischler of the performance. "I’m interested in Keweenaw history, and I think that storytelling is an amazing way of learning about our history. And I love this building," she said of the Carnegie Museum.

Other well-known U.P. figures are also documented in the exhibit, such as Richard Dorson, the author of Bloodstoppers and Bearwalkers, a compilation of Native American, European and Canadian folktales of the area.

The exhibit will be on display through June 29.

The Carnegie Museum is in the former Portage Lake District Library building at 105 Huron street. Museum hours are Tuesday, noon to 7 p.m.; Thursday, noon to 5 p.m.; Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. Admission is free.

* Editor's Note: Guest reporter Kate Flynn, a student at Beloit College, is doing an internship in journalistic writing for Keweenaw Now.

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