The Creative Life in Our Cities: A Conversation with Linda Pelowski

We have many talented artists and creatives living and working in our Farmington/Farmington Hills community and our weekly interview series, sponsored by City Life Realty, will introduce you to some of them.

Today we feature artist Linda Pelowski.

When did you first get started in the arts?

I enjoyed drawing from when I was very young. I would get a stack of loose-leaf paper and sit at the kitchen table and draw cartoons, animals, comic strip characters for hours and hours. In high school I would take all the art classes I could, and then in community college I would take many art classes along with some business courses. My parents encouraged me to take business courses knowing I could make more of a career with that than art, so I did. After community college, I transferred my credits to Wayne State University knowing they had a program in Industrial Design and could make a good career from that.  I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in fine art, with a concentration in Industrial Design. After college, I started my industrial design career with a local design firm where I would design kitchen appliances and graphics. During this time, I took many classes at the Center for Creative Studies to further my talents in other fields.

Then I moved my career path into architectural interiors, designing interior and exterior retail markets. After I got married, I quit my job and worked for myself, freelancing in this field for twenty years doing graphic design and fine art perspective renderings for many design companies around the Metro Detroit area. I also painted murals for many years, residential and commercial.

I now work as a full time Artist, painting plein air, studio work and commissions, while still taking classes. I love learning and improving while having fun.

You have to put in the hours and time to grow as an artist. It doesn’t come overnight.

Who has been a mentor to you along the way?

I really didn’t have any one to help me along the way, I had to make many hard decisions on my own and make mistakes to learn the hard way of making a success of my career. I had the love of drawing and painting to drive me in the direction I was heading and it sure did pay off.  I had the luxury of coming and going on my own and make my own hours while raising my son.

Are you a member of any local or regional arts groups?

Yes, I am a member of the Farmington Art Foundation, Village Fine Art Association of Milford, Great Lakes Pastel Society, Michigan Plein Air Painters and the Great Lakes Plein Air Painters Association.

Can you describe something you’ve created that is particularly meaningful to you?

I really don’t have one thing that I have done that is meaningful, all my work that I do has a special

feel to me. I love painting outdoors, photos are good when you can’t paint outside, but you get a wonderful light that you wouldn’t get from photos.

Can you share a favorite quote about art or life?

Well, there is one that I have to mention.  It is by Edgar Degas: “Painting is easy when you don’t know how, but very difficult when you do.”

Very True!

And one by Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Every artist was first an amateur.”

What advice or suggestions do you have for younger artists?

If they have a desire, then create! Always know, you have to put in the hours and time to grow as an artist. It doesn’t come overnight.

Learn more about Linda and her work.

(Are you an artist or creative living in Farmington/Hills? We’d like to feature you and your work here, too. Download our questionnaire and return it to info@kickstartfarmington.org.)

The Creative Life in Our Cities: A Conversation with Joe LaRussa

We have many talented artists and creatives living and working in our Farmington/Farmington Hills community and our weekly interview series, sponsored by City Life Realty, will introduce you to some of them.

Today we feature musician and saxophonist Joe LaRussa.

When did you first get started in music? 

I started playing the saxophone when I was 9 years old. I started on a school-issued horn and my parents bought me my own alto sax when I got to 6th grade. I still play on that horn today. 

Did you receive formal musical training?

The only instruction I received was in high school. I’ve been fortunate to share the stage with some great musicians and attend festivals all over the world that include opportunities to clinic with these players. I find it’s a lot like playing sports with others who are better than you. That makes you want to play up to their level and work as hard as you can to do that.

Art generates pride in a community. It’s worthy of investment, promotion, and celebration!

Can you describe something you’ve created that is particularly meaningful to you? 

I’ve always been more of an ensemble player, leaving the solo work to my lead players since they have more formal music education and, in many cases, play professionally. This past summer, however, I had the chance to take a solo on “Whisper Not”, a tune written and performed by Benny Golson. We played the Jazz a Juan Festival in Antibes, France, along with some other community concerts on the French Riviera, and I got to solo for these large audiences, and I was really proud to be able to hang with the cats in my group. They were all very encouraging and gave me great tips for soloing on that chart, all the while urging me to explore my own ideas for the music. It was awesome!

What advice or suggestions do you have for younger artists? 

Be persistent. Show up. Work hard. Have fun. Just doing these things has gotten me to some of the most prestigious stages in the world, and into the orbit of some of the best talent there is.   

Why is celebrating and promoting art healthy for a local community? 

Art gives life context and gives substance to the abstract. In many ways, art can be the first impression a community can have on visitors. It also engages residents in ways that business and government simply can’t. Local communities with vibrant art scenes are livelier, and art naturally attracts people to it. Art generates pride in a community. It’s worthy of investment, promotion, and celebration!

You can find Joe on Instagram at @jlarussa1.

(Are you an artist or creative living in Farmington/Hills? We’d like to feature you and your work here, too. Download our questionnaire and return it to info@kickstartfarmington.org.)

The Creative Life in Our Cities: A Conversation with Rachael L. Rose

We have many talented artists and creatives living and working in our Farmington/Farmington Hills community and our weekly interview series, sponsored by City Life Realty, will introduce you to some of them.

Today we feature singer and pianist, and the Artistic Director at Thistle Rose Academy of Arts, Rachael L. Rose.

When did you first get started in the arts?

I started piano lessons when I was very young, four years old!  I didn’t start voice training until I was a young adult, but I was already an excellent pianist and accompanist by sixth or seventh grade.

Did you receive formal training in music?

I have a non-traditional education path in voice, which I consider to be my primary instrument now. I have, however, studied formally with teachers from Wayne State University, Westminster Choir College, Rider College, and University of Michigan. I’m currently applying to the Fitzmaurice Voice Certification Program out of New York as well.

We live life publicly so that others might learn and feel and create and celebrate.

Who has been a mentor to you along the way?

Oh my. So many people have mentored me. Both my biological parents were accomplished musicians, my mom is a phenomenal pianist and accompanist and my dad was a professional singer and actor. They were both music teachers, so I come by it honestly. But so many other people have been mentors to me: Dr. Richard Householder, Professor Emeritus, University of Windsor; Carolyn Grimes; Dr. Jerry Blackstone, Professor Emeritus, University of Michigan; Danielle M. Wright; Brad Lieto; Michael Barnes, Jill Dion, Freda Herseth and all of my students mentor me in often unexpected ways; and so very many more.  I am inspired by so many musicians, artists, and humans…not necessarily all musicians or voice practitioners!

Are you a member of any local or regional arts groups?

I am a member of ACDA, the American Choral Directors Association, as well as VASTA, the Voice and Speech Trainers Association.

Can you describe something you’ve created that is particularly meaningful to you?

Our arts organization, Thistle Rose Academy of Arts (TRAA), though it hasn’t been only me who created it; I dreamed it. So many people in the community and in my life have helped me to realize that dream. It’s more than just a place to put on shows and concerts, it’s a place of learning. It’s a place of creativity. It’s a place of dreaming. It’s a place where we dream big and even if whatever we’re working on is big and challenging, we all come together and uplift one another, the members, and the community around us. It’s such an inspiration to get to work with all the people associated with and part of TRAA and to see how it’s growing.

Has your work appeared in any city programs or events, such as the Public Art Program at City Hall or Art on the Grand?

Most recently, through an amazingly awesome partnership with KickstART Farmington, we were able to do Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” right in Riley Park in Farmington! So exciting! We perform concerts and shows where the public is able to buy tickets or attend, but Much Ado was down front and center in Farmington. What a joy!

Can you share a favorite quote about art or life?

I have a lot of them really, but I’m not sure to whom I can attribute them all.  I think that one of them for me is “ANYone can sing!”.  I made it up based off one of my favorite animated films, Ratatouille, where a common rat is a chef and his mentor/idol has a motto of “Anyone can cook!” 

My other favorite quote is that “I live life in technicolor”.  I got that one from my mom who says my dreams are so big they scare her and with me, nothing is ever dull … that I live life in technicolor. 

What advice or suggestions do you have for younger artists?

Don’t give up on your artistic dreams. If you have a passion for it, nurture it. Find a way to make it part of your life. I know when I am not singing, and performing, and teaching, and conducting … I feel less than. Not fulfilled and not truly grounded. Do not let ANYONE tell you you can’t be an artist (in any genre) and do not let anyone steal your dreams. Make it yours and find a way.  Where there’s a will, there’s a way. There will always be more money … there WON’T always be more life or time.

What do you think is missing from the arts community in Farmington/Hills?

Collaboration. Plain and simple. There are so many of us who are amazing artists but there’s a sense of competition or turf guarding. Frankly, all ships rise with the tide. Let’s work together to make a vibrant arts scene right here in Farmington/Hills!

Why is celebrating and promoting art healthy for a local community?

It builds community. It is the essence of celebrating the beauty right in our own midst. We create deeper relationships with one another and give an intensity or “technicolor” if you will to the community. We provoke thought. We raise awareness. We give back. We help one another. If we can’t find family and friends within our own community, to whom will we turn when we really need our neighbors and community? We help people process grief. We bring to light issues that might otherwise remain hidden. We live life publicly so that others might learn and feel and create and celebrate.

Learn more about Rachael Rose and Thistle Rose Academy of Art here.

(Are you an artist or creative living in Farmington/Hills? We’d like to feature you and your work here, too. Download our questionnaire and return it to info@kickstartfarmington.org.)