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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.)

The Creative Life in Our Cities: A Conversation with Daniel Peyton

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 and author Daniel Peyton

When did you first get started in the arts?

I began writing in the fourth grade. I was challenged to write each day by my teacher, and I fell in love with creating. I never stopped. I was first published in 2008 and that is the year I count as my true start as a published author.

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

All of my writing really is close to my heart. I guess I would like to mention two books in particular. The Winter Wizard Chronicles is a special story to me. I wrote that as a gift for some friends. They are blogtalk radio hosts who wanted to be featured in a book somehow. I wrote them as characters into the story and threw myself in there for fun. The story really took off and contained a lot of elements from older stories that I wrote when I was younger. I felt really connected to the story and the characters in a unique way. The second book would be my most recently published, Remnant. Writing this book came about through a long-time desire of mine. I wanted to write a Science Fiction book that was also Christian Fiction. It took a long time to write and even longer to find a publisher who even understood that kind of mixed genre. Getting it out there was a wonderful blessing and I am already seeing a lot of people love the unique story.

artists give a reason for society to exist

Has your work appeared in any city programs or events?

I have been featured in a lot of news stories and such. However, my other forms of art have been featured in various ways. My art is currently being used for an online game called Heroes Rising. I am also a proficient embroiderer in several different styles, and my embroidery has been featured at fairs and at Farragut Town Hall in Tennessee.

Can you share a favorite quote about art or life?

“I write for the same reason I breathe – because if I didn’t, I would die.”― Isaac Asimov

What advice or suggestions do you have for younger artists?

Art should not be competitive. Speaking as an author, there are far more insatiable readers out there than the authors to feed the appetites. We do not need to fight for customers, we are not each other’s enemies, we are on this road together and there is plenty of room. Don’t worry about fighting, just create.

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

There is an old fable which I will paraphrase here. A warrior traveled with an artist as his guardian on a long journey. On the way another warrior from a rival family approached and attempted to kill the artist. The guardian stepped in and both warriors mortally wounded each other. The enemy asked the guardian, “Why give your life for this artist, where is his honor and glory?” The guardian answered, “Warriors fight so society can exist, artists give a reason for society to exist.” Art, in its many forms, gives us beauty and culture. If God has a reason to give us such beauty, why should we not celebrate it through art?

Learn more about Daniel Peyton 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.)

The Creative Life in Our Cities: A Conversation with Antonio Macioce

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 Antonio (Tony) Macioce.

When did you first get started in the arts?

As a child, my passion for soccer exceeded all others. However, growing up in the land of Michelangelo and DaVinci, I also developed a love of art. I was born in Alvito, Italy, a small town about 90 miles southeast of Rome. But when I left for America, my interest in art stayed behind in Italy. 

It was not until my senior year at the University of Notre Dame that art held a place in my heart once again. In a move that perplexed many of my classmates and professors, as well as my family, I switched my major from chemical engineering to fine arts. It was not a rational decision. 

I think, as graduation approached, I listened to my heart which told me that a life spent as an engineer would make me extremely unhappy. I opted instead for advertising design. 

After graduation, the long and difficult road to a career in advertising began. That career proved to be a long, exciting, creative, and ultimately, extremely satisfying one. I worked with many creative, wild, eccentric and wonderful people, most of whom had learned the value of making decisions that were not always rational. 

Painting, for me, has not been a career. It is a wonderful hobby. My advertising career spanned over thirty years and as that career moved toward its end, I returned to fine arts where it all began.

Painting has given me a way to continue my love for the creative process and an amazing way to pass my leisure days. There is no pressure to paint for profit but only for the pleasure of doing it. 

To my great satisfaction, I have been fortunate that some galleries and customers have found my work appealing. 

In life, we often miss the obvious. The signs directing me to a career in art were there at a very early age. Yet, when I moved to America, I ignored them for several years. The journey back to my childhood passion has been a long one, sometimes demanding, but always satisfying.

In addition to a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from the University of Notre Dame, my education also includes several fine arts courses at Wayne State University and advertising courses at the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit. Also, I have had many drawing and painting courses at BBAC (Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center). Any time spent with fine arts is enjoyable. In addition, there is great satisfaction painting with other artists, having your work critiqued by others, and learning from seeing the work of other artists.

Who has been a mentor to you along the way?

I have not really had a mentor. A relative in my hometown of Alvito, who did ink drawings and oil paintings, inspired me to start drawing when I was six or seven years old.

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

I am a member of the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center .

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

My painting of the Coliseum and a section of my Italian hometown, even though they are more realistic than the way I love to paint, represent an important essence of who I am and where my life began.

Leonardo da Vinci once said that one never recovers from one’s own childhood.

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

Yes. My paintings have been in the Public Art Program at City Hall.

Can you share a favorite quote about art or life?

The majority of my paintings are from my imagination. My approach to color is instinctive rather than predetermined. After three years majoring in Chemical Engineering, I switched to Advertising and Design. Therefore, I want painting to be anything but an exact science. It’s more enjoyable to be surprised by what an empty canvas has been transformed into when the brush stops. One of my favorite quotes is from Picasso, “I don’t know in advance what I am going to put on canvas any more than I decide beforehand what colors I am going to use.”

What advice or suggestions do you have for younger artists?

My advice would be that whether your painting style is impressionistic, expressionistic, abstract or photo realism, you must enjoy it and feel a tremendous satisfaction when you put down your brushes. It shouldn’t feel like work, rather, it should feel like a moment of pleasure.

Learn more about Tony Macioce and his 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.)

The Creative Life in Our Cities: A Conversation with Joni Hubred

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 writer and journalist Joni Hubred, founder of Farmington Voice.

(c) Dane Gussin

When did you first start writing?

I am a lifelong storyteller, starting with “Show & Tell” in kindergarten. But I began making my living as a writer in 1985, when I was hired as a reporter for the Kanabec County Times in Mora, Minnesota. I had no degree, no real experience beyond my high school newspaper. They hired me based on a writing sample. 

Did you receive formal training in writing?

I’ve received no formal training in either creative writing or journalism. I have taken a number of online courses (including a fantastic MasterClass with James Patterson) and conference workshops.

Who has been a mentor to you along the way?

The newspaper editors who whacked away at my copy and shaped stories more valuable to the reader have always been generous and encouraging. Sadly, they’re a dying breed.

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

Farmington Voice, my local news website (farmingtonvoice.com), is a proud member of the Farmington Community Arts Council.

Without any regard for race, creed, color, or socio-economic status, art connects and inspires us. We need that more than ever today.

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

My first completed novel, Above the Fold, will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s a “cozy” mystery that I began writing more than twenty years ago. When I finally signed with an agent, I was over the moon – until she returned the original manuscript, clipped to a list of 48 publishers who had rejected it. I stuck the whole package in a drawer and didn’t look at it again until I learned several years ago about National Novel Writing Month. In November of 2015, I picked up the bones of that first novel, changed everything from the title to the name of my heroine, and finished Above the Fold in thirty days. After several editing rounds, I published it myself.

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

It has not. But I’m hatching a plan to put together a “local authors” booth for Art on the Grand.

Can you share a favorite quote about art or life?

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

What advice or suggestions do you have for younger artists?

Don’t let anyone discourage you from pursuing your dreams. I’ve never met an artist who didn’t face some sort of challenge, whether it’s a boring job, an unsupportive family, illness, financial hardship. I work part-time as a cheesemonger to support my writing habit – and I’m lactose intolerant. Love it all. Use it all. You’ll find your way.

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

Not much at all, really, we are blessed. I would like to see more public art and more events like the Thistle Rose Shakespeare performance in Riley Park. I also see an information gap, which Farmington Voice helps bridge with our new arts calendar and an increased focus on arts-related stories.

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

Without any regard for race, creed, color, or socio-economic status, art connects and inspires us. We need that more than ever today.

Learn more about Joni Hubred and her work here and 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.)

Get Your Kicks in F2H This Week! (8.26.19)

There’s always a lot of great arts and cultural events in the Farmington/Hills community and this week is no exception.

Here are KickstART farmington’s recommendations for the week of August 26th:

  • Enjoy the fiber art of Muriel Jacobs in an exhibition titled Threads of a Life –My Story, at the City Gallery at the Costick Center through September 6th, open weekdays.
  • The artwork of Cindy Carleton, a contemporary painter who pays homage to the outdoors and Michigan’s natural resources, will be exhibited through October 11 at the City Gallery located inside Farmington Hills City Hall near the Council Chambers at 31555 W. Eleven Mile Road. The Rotating Exhibits Gallery is open to the public Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • Community Sings with Matt Watroba, an evening of song where people of all abilities, ages, cultures, and musical interests are invited to sing-along, bring a song to share, or just listen and enjoy a powerful experience that nurtures body and soul and strengthens the community. August 27th, at 7:00 pm at the Farmington Community Library on 12 Mile Rd.
  • Grab a movie and popcorn at the Farmington Civic Theater. This week’s schedule (Monday-Thursday) includes Yesterday, Stuber, and The Secret Life of Pets 2.