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Get Your Kicks in F2H This Week! (8.12.19)

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 12th:

  • Lunch Beats in Riley Park, featuring Sheila Landis & Rick Matle, fearlessly exploring swing jazz, blues, Brazilian rhythms, funky pop and their own inventive collaborations. August 14th at noon in Riley Park.
  • Family Movie Picnic Night with How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, August 14th at 6:30 pm at downtown Farmington library.
  • Stan Barnes & Friends will jazz things up at Stars in the Park. August 15th at 7:00 pm Thursday at the Heritage Park Amphitheater.
  • The Shy cover tunes by R.E.M., The Beatles, The Smiths, Creedence Clearwater Revival, as well as perform their strong original songs with refreshing energy and enthusiasm at Rhythms in Riley Park. August 16th at 7:00 pm in Riley Park.
  • Movie Night in Riley Park with Shrek. August 16th at 9:30 pm in Riley Park.
  • Grab a movie and popcorn at the Farmington Civic Theater. This week’s schedule (Monday-Thursday) includes PavarottiThe Last Black Man in San FranciscoMen in Black: International, and The Secret Life of Pets 2.

And be sure to stop by the KickstART Farmington yard sale this week!

KickstARTing Creativity: How to Create Vibrant Public Spaces

We highlight here some great articles we’ve read this week dealing with art, creative placemaking, and building great communities. You’re sure to find some inspiration to make your life and our community even better!

  • The New Wave of Smart Cities: These new smart cities are getting communities and universities involved, alongside big companies and city authorities. This has helped shift the focus of smart-city projects onto the needs of residents.
  • The Dignity of Local Community: We make policy without asking the people most impacted by the policy…. Looking at the poor, the homeless, and saying, “Here’s a way to become more like me.” Rather than, “Maybe I could restructure society to value what you value more”.
  • How Cities Help (and Are Helped) by Bees: When it comes to bees, it is important to remember that there is a wide range of species. The native ones (often stingless), are the ones that we should be most concerned about protecting because they pollinate their surroundings the most.
  • From Pop-Up to Permanent: Through a community engagement process, the vision grew into a permanent square located at the corner of Grand River, one of downtown’s five radiating arteries, and Cass Avenue. The park serves as a gateway to downtown, and includes a circular open lawn that is the largest in downtown Detroit—giving residents and workers room to run, play, relax, and recharge.

The Creative Life in Our Cities: A Conversation with Mitchell Nobis

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 poet and writer Mitchell Nobis, recently named a finalist for the 2019 Hopper Poetry Prize.

When did you first start writing?

It started with terrible song lyrics in the margins where I was supposed to be taking notes in college. Then I took Introduction to Poetry which showed me the range of English-language poems old and new, plus an in-depth look into one poet, who, thanks to that professor, was Gary Snyder. Then I took another poetry class, this time with Walter Clark who was one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. I’ve read poetry ever since. Earlier than that, though, was my 11th-grade English class. I was the kid who read all the Whitman poems in the textbook when only section I of “Song of Myself” was assigned. I read a lot of unassigned pieces in that textbook.

Poetry was always doing something to my brain that other art forms weren’t. I’ve also always loved fiction. I appreciate but never got into sci-fi, mystery, and so on. I kind of wish I did. Enough people have waxed poetic to me about Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings that I wish I could get into it, but I guess my fantasy allotment is more than eaten up by the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and the X-Men.

Did you receive formal training in writing?

Yes and no. I taught high school English for twenty-one years, and only three years into my teaching career, I participated in the invitational summer institute of Red Cedar Writing Project, which is Michigan State University’s site of the National Writing Project. NWP is a teacher professional development organization that says to better teach writing, teachers must be writers themselves. Though this program does not focus on “formal training” in genre techniques, it does dive deep into writing as a process with a lot of focus on revision and how to turn a good idea into a publishable draft. I loved that summer institute, and I’m eternally grateful to former RCWP director Janet Swenson for inviting me back to serve in a leadership role. I spent 2002-2012 co-leading that summer institute, so not only did I get to help other teachers, but I too was writing every summer for ten years. I also led RCWP’s writer’s workshop for the past eight years. So, putting a focus on writing cruddy first drafts and turning them into decent final drafts over and over again helped me a lot. Most of my poems have five, ten, twenty, or more versions saved in my computer.

“art, when we make time for it, allows us to slow down, think, reflect, and consider our own and others’ lives.”

What does that writing process look like for you?

My writing changes depending on genre. I write poetry, but I also write professional texts for teachers and a lot of fiction that I haven’t finished or polished up yet. The fiction is slowest because I prefer to do that in big chunks of time, which, as a parent of two young boys, I just don’t have. So, since becoming a parent, I’ve spent a lot more time on poetry because I can capture first drafts on the fly. I record first drafts into my phone’s voice recorder while commuting to work. I scribble first drafts in my notebook after a run. Sometimes I’ll go straight to the computer, but poetry usually starts with voice notes or lousy handwriting. Fiction and professional writing both start and end on the computer.

What advice or suggestions do you have for younger artists?

I really hope we’re defining “younger” here as “not dead yet.” By most definitions, I’m not very successful yet as an “artist.” I have over a dozen poems published, but no books of poetry or novels yet. I do have a professional text for teachers out in the world. I’m very proud of it, but it’s not the kind of writing we think of as “art,” per se. So, my advice then is to just keep at it. I love writing, so I write. It wasn’t until 5-10 years ago that I even thought about trying to get published. For the longest time, I wrote because, as one-time Detroit local John Lee Hooker put it, “it’s in him, and it’s got to come out.” I had ideas and nowhere to put them, so I wrote.

To younger artists, then, I’d say, keep at it. Write (or paint or record music or make art in whatever way puts you in the zone) because you enjoy it. I, too, wish our society valued art in a way that you could more easily earn a living from it, but that isn’t the case and rarely if ever has been. So, make art. Neil Gaiman says, “Make good art,” and that’s a great point, but the “good” part is subjective and in my experience, worrying about that kills many a potentially interesting idea. Don’t worry about “good.” Instead, I might say, “Make your art.” It’ll be different because you’re different, and that has inherent worth itself. Mind you, that’s an aspirational notion for me too as I’m trying to find a publisher for my poetry manuscript and finish a novel or two.

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

Every time I hear an empty storefront is about to come back to life, I hope and pray and dream it’ll be a bookstore and not a vape shop. I’m sure vape folks have needs too, but writing is thinking made visible, and a healthy community is rich with thinking. Sure, we have Amazon and its marvelous two-day delivery, but even now amidst the exaggerated death of print, independent bookstores are going gangbusters. Literati in Ann Arbor is successful, as is Horizon Books up in Traverse City. I’d sure like to think we have a community that could support a small, vivacious indie bookstore. Lord knows I’d spend more of my paycheck there than I should, if it existed.  

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

Art helps us think. It provides a lens for us to reflect on life, usually in ways we wouldn’t normally do in our day-to-day hustle and bustle. It also allows us to connect to others as a result, which is obviously great for a local community, but also for broader communities.

How so?

As a society, we too often lose sight of the fact that me make our world, that societies are constructed, not just random acts of nature. America is America because its founders specifically said that individuals have rights. It wasn’t the norm at the time to argue that all men are created equal with unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Frankly, it still isn’t the norm. It isn’t even accepted here yet, but art helps us think about that.

For a hundred years, we’ve had newspapers with a “business” section but no “ecosystems” section. And now we have the wealthiest country in the entire history of the human race, but we’ve destroyed the ecosystems that can support our seven billion human lives, let alone the countless nonhuman lives. Art, though, allows us to see life from other perspectives. The US tends to uphold a society that places productivity above quality of life, so art, when we make time for it, allows us to slow down, think, reflect, and consider our own and others’ lives. That cannot be overvalued. Interviews and surveys with the elderly show that they wished they had spent more time with loved ones and more time just being, you know, walking in the woods, playing a game, laughing with friends, and so on. The North American soil was transformed by Puritans and a subsequent culture that determined human value on the percentage of day spent “working” and then the profits that come from that. But that attitude has burned up the land and other resources that supported it.

We also see this in how we view human life. You can pretty much tell how much poetry or fiction someone reads based on their response to the global refugee crisis, including our own US southern border. It’s hard to have empathy without viewing the world from other points of view. Art encourages exactly that—it allows us to look at life from others’ perspectives. Had we spent more time on art over the past century—on thinking, pausing, and considering other points of view—we, simply, would not be in this boat, either ecologically or empathically. We just wouldn’t. Now, that said, we’re still humans, so had we focused on ecosystems or art instead of profits, we might now be in a different leaky boat, but it would certainly be a different boat.

Learn more about Mitchell Nobis here or follow him on twitter @MitchNobis.  

Get Your Kicks in F2H This Week! (8.5.19)

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 5th:

  • Lunch Beats in Riley Park, featuring Billy Brandt, a multiple-award winning Detroit area singer songwriter whose roots, folky, psychedelic alt-country background underpins strong songwriting and an adventurous spirit. August 7th at noon in Riley Park.
  • Family Fun in Riley Park with Gemini, playing acoustic music for children and families, celebrating the fun, warmth, and humor of family life. Their recordings and concerts are filled with rousing sing-alongs, folk tales, and music from around the world. August 7th at 7:00 pm in Riley Park.
  • TBD A Cappella, a men’s a cappella group, performs at Stars in the Park. August 8th at 7:00 pm Thursday at the Heritage Park Amphitheater.
  • All About That Brass performs at the Porch Party at Governor Warner Mansion. August 8th at 7:00 pm, tickets are $5.
  • Wayback Machine takes listeners back to the music of the 60s, 70s, and 80s at Rhythms in Riley Park. August 9th at 7:00 pm in Riley Park.
  • Grab a movie and popcorn at the Farmington Civic Theater. This week’s schedule (Monday-Thursday) includes PavarottiJohn WickRocketman, Aladdin, and Avengers: Endgame.

KickstARTing Creativity: Wendell Berry on Neighborliness and Permanence

We highlight here some great articles we’ve read this week dealing with art, creative placemaking, and building great communities. You’re sure to find some inspiration to make your life and our community even better!

  • Going Home with Wendell Berry: Well, part of manners used to be to say to somebody you just met, “Where you from?” And I quit asking it, because so many people say they’re from everywhere or nowhere…. We bought this home and twelve acres in the fall of 1964…. That put our children here, and now we’ve got grandchildren who are at home here. That comes from a decision that we made to be here, and to be here permanently.
  • Was the Automotive Era a Terrible Mistake?: Sane, upstanding pedestrians didn’t murder one another as they ran errands around town. Sane, upstanding drivers did, or might at any moment, and thus required a new style of policing.
  • Too Much Parking?: MAPC counted nearly 6,000 empty parking spaces—over 41 acres of pavement— representing an estimated $94.5 million in construction costs (or about $5,000 per housing unit in the survey).
  • Why am I Scared to Ride a Bike?: And lots of these drivers are distracted. 48% of Americans talk on the phone while driving, and 14% text and read emails.

The Creative Life in Our Cities: A Conversation with Claire George

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 Claire George.

When did you first get started in the arts?

I’ve been drawing and making art for as long as I can remember. My mom being the imaginative and lovely English teacher that she is, encouraged exploring creativity in every aspect. I’ve been drawing and painting since I could pick up a pencil and as a kid I read every book I could get my hands on. Creative things were just always around.

Did you partake in formal art classes? If so, where and what did you enjoy about the experience?

I started taking formal art lessons when I was in the 5th grade and continued until I was a sophomore in high school. The following summers I enrolled in pre-college summer programs at Columbus College of Art and Design before my Junior and Senior years of high school. After graduating from Farmington High, I went to Columbus College of Art and Design on a scholarship and received my bachelor’s degree in illustration.

The majority of my classes in college were art related so I was beyond excited that I really got to focus on what I wanted to, and work on skills that I planned to use for the future. It was very nice being in an environment that nurtured my design skills.

Who has been a mentor to you along the way?

My dad has probably been one of the biggest mentors in my life. Being a retired FBI agent, he’s not much of an artist himself (though he really isn’t bad …) but he always encouraged me to be who I was and when he saw I was into art he embraced it. Honestly though, my parents were both very supportive, and even excited when I told them I wanted to go to art school. I was luckier than a lot of my friends and classmates around me.

Why is celebrating and promoting art healthy for a community?

Communities are comprised of diverse people having multiple perspectives to share. Art can share those perspectives unrestricted by language or culture, and thereby share ideas, open minds and influence communities for the better. Specifically, art is a strong form of communication because it directly affects how people feel. With only a glance, it can amuse and entertain, market a product or even make impactful political statements. Art in the community starts conversations about important current events or can simply brighten up a room. Art enriches life and generates joy as well as other emotions. A community is lessened by not having those things.

What advice or suggestions do you have for younger artists?

Just don’t quit. If an artist is better than you, it doesn’t make you any less good, and if something doesn’t come out exactly the way you planned, that’s still okay too. Good art is anything that makes you feel an emotion, so if your art connects with you or someone else in any way, it’s good art.

Learn more about Claire George and her work