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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Joyce Koskenmaki: Retrospective opens Jan. 19 at Finlandia University Gallery

Art by Hancock Finnish American artist Joyce Koskenmaki is now on exhibit, through Feb. 18, 2017, in the Finlandia University Gallery, located in the Finnish American Heritage Center. An opening reception will be held on Thursday, Jan. 19. (Photos courtesy Finlandia University)

HANCOCK -- Finlandia University Gallery presents Joyce Koskenmaki: Retrospective, an exhibit of paintings, drawings, and mixed media work spanning Koskenmaki’s lifetime career in the arts.  Koskenmaki’s work will be on display at the Finlandia University Gallery, located in the Finnish American Heritage Center, Hancock, from Jan. 19 to Feb. 18, 2017.

An opening reception at the gallery will take place from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. TONIGHT, Thursday, Jan. 19, with an artist talk beginning at 7:15 p.m. The reception is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

Finnish American artist Joyce Koskenmaki has a special place in the hearts of Copper Country residents as an artist who has contributed greatly to the art culture of the Keweenaw. Her reverence for her Finnish heritage and its expression in her artwork, her internationally recognized art career, her teaching at Finlandia University International School of Art and Design and her dedication to the Copper Country Community Art Center are just a few activities that have left a lasting legacy for the community.

Koskenmaki moved back to the Copper Country in 1998 to teach at the International School of Art and Design at Finlandia University; however, her ties to the Upper Peninsula began in her childhood. Koskenmaki was born in Herman, Michigan, to second generation Finnish American parents. Her grandparents arrived in Michigan directly from Finland in 1904. It was her grandmother Sanna who would play a significant role in the young girl’s connection to her Finnish Heritage. She grew up hearing Finnish spoken in her grandparents' home, helping to cut rags to create traditional Finnish rag rugs and digging up potatoes on her grandparents' farm.

"Both my grandmother and my mother were very religious, although there wasn’t a church in Herman. Their spirituality was more mystical than religious. My father, on the other hand, rebelled against formal religion. He sought spirituality in the woods, where he earned a living as a trapper and guide for hunters and fisherman."

It was these early formative experiences, along with a deep devotion to nature fostered by her Upper Peninsula childhood, that would later inform her artwork.

Leaving Home, Quilt, 28" x 34" 1996, by Joyce Koskenmaki.

"My work is grounded in my background as a poor child in a Finnish immigrant community, which formed my deepest values as a person," notes Koskenmaki. "My subject matter reflects my connection to nature: water, rocks, trees, wild animals, and my concern for their preservation and safety. They also serve as metaphors for my own life and the life around me."

A compassionate impulse is at the center of Koskenmaki’s work. Her artwork acknowledges the significance of the human spirit and the natural world along with their need to be respected and nurtured.

"I think this is what Finnish people believe also: that sense of reverence for nature, the oneness of everything, the equality of people, and the mysticism -- the relation also to what’s hidden," she notes. "That’s what I want to be able to say in my work."

Koskenmaki receive a Bachelor of Arts from Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois, and a Master of Fine Arts in painting from University of Iowa. Koskenmaki’s strongest influences were the painters who taught her abstract expressionism and the process of composing, and a printmaking teacher from Argentina named Mauricio Lasansky, who taught her the importance of making art from her heart and her life.

Elegy for my Dog, Crayon on paper 28" x 28" by Joyce Koskenmaki.

Her love of learning in the arts continued as she independently researched Native American art forms including ancient petroglyphs, travelled to northern Finland to study Sami culture and visited Africa -- which resulted in a series of paintings of African animals.

"I always felt drawn to folk art, early Medieval church art, early Greek Minoan art, outsider art, the traditional art of women and also very early Chinese landscape painting," remarks Koskenmaki. "I have never been inspired by European Renaissance art and the academic process that grew out from it, maybe because the lives that created and supported that work were those of the elite and powerful, including the monarchy and the church."

Koskenmaki’s work is in the collections of the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C.; the Nelimarkka Museum in Alajärvi, Finland; and the Voyageurs National Park, among others. She was recently honored to have her work included in the collection of the American Embassy in Helsinki, Finland.

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, Thursday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m and Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. For more information, call 906-487-7500.

Inset photo: Artist Joyce Koskenmaki. (Photo courtesy Finlandia University.)

Editor's Note: See more of Joyce Koskenmaki's work on her Web site.  

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Rozsa welcomes Russian National Ballet Theatre Jan. 24, 25

A scene from Giselle, one of three ballet pieces that the Russian National Ballet Theatre will perform at the Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts. (Photo © Alexander Daev and courtesy Michigan Technological University)

HOUGHTON -- Michigan Technological University’s Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts presents two magical nights of incomparable Russian ballet! Direct from Moscow, the Russian National Ballet Theatre, featuring fifty of Russia’s finest dancers, will perform three timeless ballet pieces, Romeo and Juliet, and Carmen on Tuesday, Jan. 24, and Giselle, on Wednesday, Jan. 25, with shows starting at 7:30 p.m. each evening.

According to Rozsa Center Director of Programming Mary Jennings, "…the Russian National Ballet Theatre is an institution in Russian Ballet. Legendary Bolshoi principal dancer Elena Radchenko, the founder of the Russian National Ballet Theatre, has focused the company on upholding the grand, national tradition of the major Russian ballet works."

On the first of two nights, Jan. 24, they will perform the full-length Romeo and Juliet, a ballet by Sergei Prokofiev based on William Shakespeare's tragic play Romeo and Juliet. Performed in one act, this is the story of Romeo and Juliet, the quintessential star-crossed lovers. The music is composed by the incomparable Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovski, with original choreography by Marius Petipa, the "godfather of Russian ballet." In the second act they will perform Carmen, a full-length ballet also in one act: Music by Rodion Shchedrin based on the classic opera by Georges Bizet with choreography by Alberto Alonso. Carmen, a passionate, free-spirited woman, is caught in a love triangle between Don José and a bullfighter. The impetus and cause for the creation of the ballet Carmen was the cherished dream of the celebrated Russian ballerina Maya Plisetskaya to depict the highly strung and riveting character of Carmen in a ballet.

On the second evening, Jan. 25, the Russian National Ballet Theatre performs the full-length, tragic ballet Giselle, about a peasant girl who dies of a broken heart after discovering her lover is betrothed to another. Composed by Adolphe Adam, Giselle is a romantic jewel of the preeminent choreographer Marius Pepita. Giselle was first seen in Moscow in 1843, just two years after its creation in Paris and a year after it was staged in St. Petersburg. The ballet's history in Russia since that time has shown a continuous sequence of performances, with Jules Perrot -- one of the great originators of the choreography -- providing a basic text which has been illuminated by the care and genius of generations of ballerinas and producers. When Giselle was forgotten everywhere else in Europe -- it was dropped from the Paris Opera repertory in 1868 -- Russian dancers and ballet-masters preserved and honored it. The Moscow Festival Ballet's production maintains the Russian tradition of scrupulous production and loving concern for this gem of the Romantic ballet.

The Russian National Ballet Theatre was founded in Moscow during the transitional period of Perestroika in the late 1980s, when many of the great dancers and choreographers of the Soviet Union's ballet institutions were exercising their new-found creative freedom by starting new, vibrant companies dedicated to following the timeless tradition of classical Russian Ballet while invigorating this tradition as the Russians began to accept new developments in the dance from around the world. Today, the Russian National Ballet Theatre is its own institution, with over 50 dancers of singular instruction and vast experience, many of whom have been with the company since its inception.

Tickets to the ballet performances each evening are $28 for adults; $50 for Family Packs (2 adults and 2 youth each night); $45 Ballet Package (one adult for both nights); $10 for youth; and no additional cost to students with the Experience Tech Fee. To purchase tickets, please call (906) 487-2073, go online at, or visit Ticketing Operations at Michigan Tech’s Student Development Complex (SDC), 600 MacInnes Drive, in Houghton. SDC box office hours are 8 a.m. - 9 p.m. Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. - 7 p.m. Saturday, and noon - 8 p.m. on Sunday. Please note the Rozsa Box Office is closed during regular business hours and will only open two hours prior to show times.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Local residents rally on Lift Bridge in solidarity with national day of action, "Our First Stand: Save Health Care"

By Michele Bourdieu

More than 150 local supporters walk across the Portage Lift Bridge on Sunday, Jan. 15, in solidarity with a national day of action to Save Health Care. Click on photos for larger view. (Photos by Keweenaw Now unless otherwise indicated)

HOUGHTON -- The sun finally appeared with some warmer weather -- about 30 degrees F -- on Sunday, Jan. 15, well timed for the crowd of more than 150 local residents concerned about health care who marched across the Portage Lift Bridge with a variety of signs expressing support for Medicare, Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act and Planned Parenthood. The Houghton event, organized by the Houghton County Democratic Party, was one of many rallies around the country participating in a day of action, "Our First Stand: Save Health Care," called for by Democratic Congressional leaders led by Bernie Sanders.

Health care supporters walk across the Portage Lift Bridge on Sunday, Jan. 15, many displaying signs to express their concerns about potential Republican threats to privatize, eliminate or de-fund Medicare, Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Planned Parenthood. Click on YouTube icon for larger picture. (Video by Keweenaw Now)

Valorie Troesch of Houghton, one of the organizers of the Houghton event and an active member of the Houghton County Democratic Party, said she was really pleased with the large turnout.

"It shows how much people in the community care about health care issues," Troesch said. "It's not just the Affordable Care Act. It's Medicare, Medicaid and Planned Parenthood."

Troesch noted 99 percent of Planned Parenthood's funding goes to pay for health care for poor women.

Valorie Troesch, one of the organizers of Houghton's day of action to Save Health Care, displays a sign reminding concerned citizens to call newly elected First District U.S. Congressman Jack Bergman (R) and Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan to let them know Medicare should not be privatized or de-funded.

"The big point I want to make is our job isn't done with this rally," Troesch added. "It's just beginning. The most important thing people need to do is to contact their representative in Congress, in particular Bergman and Ryan. People have to inundate their offices with phone calls."*

Troesch said it's important to make these calls to Congressmen, who think about their chances of re-election, to communicate the message that large numbers of people want to save public health care.

Janeen Stephenson of Houghton said she would like to participate in a march like this every weekend.

Janeen Stephenson, left, and Keren Tischler pause for a photo on the Portage Lift Bridge during Sunday's Save Health Care rally.

"I don't want to see the Affordable Care Act gutted," Stephenson said. "I'd like to see our country invest more resources in health care for all."

Stephenson said she believes we all have a responsibility to act on this issue.

"My heart is broken because people will die if they start gutting this," Stephenson added.

Hilary Virtanen, Finlandia University professor of Finnish Studies, said she was concerned about Congress taking away or de-funding existing health care programs without letting the public know the plan for what they'll do next to replace them.

Hilary Virtanen, Finlandia University professor of Finnish Studies, right, and Keith Troesch, husband of organizer Valorie Troesch of Houghton, display their signs near the Lift Bridge during the Save Health Care rally.

A large banner announced the concerns of Moyle construction employees, who recently went on strike in 2016 to convince the company to offer health care. The company then offered individual health care plans, but the present policy is not for families.

A group of employees and former employees of Moyle Construction Co. display a large banner expressing their need for family health care.

"We're hoping for family health care in the future," said Troy Haapala, a former Moyle construction employee.

Bill Wanhala, a Moyle employee who participated in the strike, said he was called back to work for two weeks and then laid off.

Also helping carry the banner was visitor Clark Palmer of Bemidji, Minn., who was supporting the Moyle employees.

Among the younger participants in the rally were Daphne Maki and Mya Johnson, juniors at Houghton High School. Wearing pink hats, they said they learned about the event from Daphne's Mom, Katie Maki of Houghton. They also hope to accompany her to the Women's March in Washington, DC, on Jan. 21.

Daphne Maki, left, and Mya Johnson, Houghton High School juniors, said they learned about the Save Health Care rally from Daphne's Mom, Katie Maki, of Houghton. Both are hoping to accompany Katie to the Women's March in Washington, DC, on Jan. 21, 2017.

Katie Maki told Keweenaw Now she marched in the bridge rally on Sunday because she believes health care is a human right.

"We should all have access to great care no matter our finances nor pre-existing conditions," Katie said. "The Republicans have not come up with any replacement for the ACA. The ACA needs improvements and is not perfect, but going backwards only hurts everyone."

Katie Maki took this photo of Daphne, right, and Mya, who carries a sign with statistics on how much health care Planned Parenthood provides each year. (Photo © and courtesy Katie Maki)

David Hall and his wife, Dana Van Kooy, of Houghton said they were very impressed with the great turnout at the bridge march on Sunday.

"It is obviously important to a lot of people in this area that we need to preserve the Affordable Health Care Act," Hall said. "We cannot return to the time when millions of Americans were uninsurable due to preexisting conditions and when women paid higher premiums, just because of their gender. The Affordable Care Act has allowed millions of us to have health insurance, regardless of income, and has saved families from bankruptcy due to high health care costs. Our freshman Congressman Jack Bergman seems to be out of touch with the needs of our community. He has voted to kill affordable health insurance, and we need to let him know we are displeased. Access to affordable health insurance and health care is a human right. Health insurance should be universal. A healthy community is a vibrant community."

More photos ...
Displaying their signs on the bridge are, from left, Miguel Levy and Anita Levy of Chassell and Lois Jambekar of Houghton.

From left, Michigan Tech Professor Sarah Green, Jill Burkland of Houghton and Becky Darling of Chassell soak up the sunshine while walking across the Lift Bridge for Health Care.

Libby Meyer, Michigan Tech music professor, holds a sign that acknowledges Bernie Sanders as the leader of Sunday's Save Health Care rallies across the country. Behind her is her husband, Evan McDonald, Keweenaw Land Trust executive director.

Rally participants display "Honk 4 Health Care" signs inviting passing motorists to sound their horns in support, which many did. (Photo © and courtesy Katie Maki)

More participants with their signs line the length of the Lift Bridge. (Photo © and courtesy Katie Maki)

Joan Chadde, director of Michigan Tech's Center for Science and Environmental Outreach, waves while crossing the bridge with the crowd of health care supporters.

After walking across the bridge from Houghton to Hancock, the marchers stood peacefully along the bridge displaying their signs and then returned to Houghton. 

For background on the Jan. 15 day of action to Save Health Care, click here.

*Editor's Note: Call House Speaker Paul Ryan at  (202) 225-3031. Call U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman at (202) 225-4735.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Battle Heats Up Over Enbridge Pipelines in the North

John Bolenbaugh, Enbridge whistleblower, speaks to a full house at the Black Cat Café in Ashland, Wis., Jan. 9, 2017. (Photo © and courtesy David Joe Bates)

By Barbara With*
Posted Jan. 12, 2017, on Wisconsin Citizens Media Cooperative
Reprinted here in part with permission

ASHLAND, Wis. -- Enbridge whistleblower John Bolenbaugh recently made a series of appearances around Lake Superior, speaking about his experiences with an Enbridge oil spill in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in 2010.

Bolenbaugh’s truth-telling forced Enbridge to re-clean several dozen areas that had been approved as 100 percent clean by Enbridge, the EPA and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. His exposure forced Enbridge to re-clean the cover-up areas and re-dredge the river at an estimated cost of $600 million.

Bolenbaugh traveled through the Chequamegon Bay region for three days, bringing his message to packed houses. From the Bad River Lodge and Casino Conference Center, to Blue Wave and Black Cat in Ashland, through Washburn, Bayfield, and Red Cliff, people crowded into venues to hear his first-hand account of the Enbridge oil spill that happened in his back yard, and his efforts to bring it to light.

Bolenbaugh brought the documentary videos he made during the oil spill in Kalamazoo showing the oil company not just covering up the damage from the spill, but harassing him as he attempted to bring the truth to light. He stressed to audiences that all pipelines leak, no matter what the oil companies say, and that the oil running through the pipelines is being shipped overseas and is not for domestic use. ... CLICK HERE to read the rest of this article and see a video interview with John Bolenbaugh.
See also: "Bad River Band Denies Renewal of Enbridge Line 5 Grant of Easement," posted Jan. 5, 2017, on Wisconsin Citizens Media Cooperative.

* Author Barbara With is a citizen journalist from La Pointe, Wis.

2017 Green Film Series begins Jan. 19 at Michigan Tech

HOUGHTON -- The 2017 Green Film Series begins this Thursday, Jan. 19, with two films: After Coal (60 minutes) and Half Life (12 minutes). The films in the series will be shown at 7 p.m. in G002 Hesterberg Hall in Michigan Tech's Forestry Building. A facilitator will lead a discussion after the films -- usually until 8:30 p.m.

After Coal profiles individuals building a new future in the coalfields of central Appalachia and Wales. Welsh coalfields were shut down in the 1980s, eliminating more than 20,000 jobs while Appalachian coalfields lost 20,000+ mining jobs from 1994 -2014. Both regions have survived disasters associated with mining production and waste disposal, and each has explored strategies for remembering the past while looking to the future. What lessons does this film have for us today?

The second film, Half Life: America's Last Uranium Mill, describes the Ute tribe's concern that toxic and radioactive contamination from the White Mesa Mill in SE Utah threatens their water supply and way of life. Why is this a common outcome of so many mines and/or mineral processing facilities? How can we change the ending?

The films are free and open to all, with a suggested $3 donation. Enjoy coffee and dessert after the film(s).

Coming films in this series include the following:

Feb. 16 -- Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story (75 minutes)
March 2 -- Death by Design: The Dirty Story of Our Digital Addiction (73 minutes)
March 23 -- Last Call at the Oasis (105 Minutes) -- Part of World Water Day
April 13 -- City of Trees (76 minutes)
May 18 -- The Messenger (99 minutes) -- Based on the award-winning book Silence of the Songbirds, by Stutchbury.

Click here for details on these films.

The Green Film Series is cosponsored by Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative, Michigan Tech Great Lakes Research Center, Keweenaw Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, and Keweenaw Land Trust.