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The Creative Life in Our Cities: A Conversation with Matt Schellenberg

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, writer, and musician Matt Schellenberg.  

When did you first get started in the arts?

I was so young I don’t remember (two or three years old) but my mother saved a bunch of my earliest work. They were very colorful paintings full of motion and shapes. When she would ask me what the pictures were, I would almost always answer, “A broken down house.” 

I began writing in the sixth or seventh grade, mostly documenting really interesting dreams and modifying them into fantasy/science fiction short stories. During my senior year at Milford High School, I spent two semesters of independent study writing the beginning of my first novel (which I never completed, nor ever will) under the supervision of Mrs. Leppela.

My interest in music began before the 9th grade just after I became a Christian. I wrote an entire album that summer. Some of the music was obviously borrowed from the artists I was listening to but some was quite original.

… keep creating whatever it is that is in your head and heart—and never stop asking questions and observing and learning.

I began sculpting in wood (and making furniture) while in college. My first pieces were very rough totem poles as well as a keyboard stand and other objects which we used on stage with the band, Territorial Chant. That band is still together (although with different members) and performing today. (Our next concert is scheduled for Friday, January 10th at the Hot Rock Café—24300 Hoover Road, just south of 10 Mile Road.)

Did you receive formal training? 

My high school art teacher Andrea Bronson was extremely helpful. She taught me the basics of color and composition and I am eternally grateful for her guidance. 

My wife and I studied voice together at William Tyndale College (no longer in operation) in Farmington Hills, MI. I loved the small class size and all the individual attention. I learned much about singing and music composition that I had never even imagined that I could learn.

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

In 2010, I self-published my first novel, The Moon beneath the Mountains. It was somewhat of a surprise because I had given up hope of ever seeing that novel in print. I finished the first draft of that work in 1996, sent it to a literary agent who sent it to several publishing houses, and received many, many rejections. I looked into self-publishing at that time and it was too expensive. I then accepted the fact that I may never be published. Then, in 2008, a friend of mine showed me a book that she self-published. When I asked her how expensive it was, she surprised me with her answer. I looked into it myself and, after having sold more than 500 copies (and that with miserably little marketing), I am now working on a sequel.

Can you share a favorite quote about art or life?

My Busia (Polish Grandma) has always been my example (arthritic to the point of being in bed for long periods yet never complaining, always overjoyed at any of my art that I showed her). Up until she died at the ripe old age of 97 a couple of years ago, she always told me that this life is so very short. She told me countless times that she remembered like it was yesterday, how she and her sisters would pick potatoes in the field all day long and how they sang songs and laughed as they did so. “It happened so fast, Matthew!” She never preached at me or tried to give me the moral of the story. She did not have to. I soaked it all in and realized that, although all of us need some measure of security and material wealth, there is something much more important here. I have set my mind toward making the most of my relationship with God, my family, and the arts during this short time here on this earth.

What advice or suggestions do you have for younger artists?

In the early 1990s, when I was a part of the artist’s co-op named The Lawrence Street Gallery in downtown Pontiac, I had the privilege of talking with an artist named Joan Brace. She was in her 80’s at that point and had worked as an artist all her life. When I told her I was thinking about getting a master’s degree in fine art, she told me not to waste my time. She saw that I had already stumbled across a distinct style and that all I needed at that point was to work, work, work! I am grateful that she gave me that advice. I am not against education but sometimes we learn in ways other than the traditional venues. Because of her simple observations, I spent the next four or five years creating an immense amount of work and came into my own as an artist. I was never ashamed to ask questions and never stopped learning. I also learned that my first attempt at almost anything will be an exercise in learning how NOT to do it. After that lesson, I am able to make steps forward in the actual DOING of the thing.

In a nutshell, keep creating whatever it is that is in your head and heart—and never stop asking questions and observing and learning.

Learn more about Matt Schellenberg and his 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! (1.6.20)

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 January 6th:

  • Ann Arbor artist Terry Butler, who took Best in Show honors at the 2019 Art on the Grand in downtown Farmington, is featured through January 18 at the City Gallery at the Costick Center.
  • Memoirs and Stories. Join a memoir writing gathering and share your favorite memories and stories with others. January 7th, at 10:30 am at the Farmington Community Library on 12 Mile Rd.
  • Classical Lunch. KickstART Farmington & Thistle Rose Academy of Arts invite you to bring your lunch and a colleague and join us for our free Classical Lunch series, featuring violinist Joseph Gray. January 8th at noon at KickstART Gallery & Shop at 33304 Grand River Ave.
  • Elvis Presley’s Birthday Movie. See Elvis Presley in the film King Creole on January 8th at 7:30 pm at the Farmington Civic Theater.
  • Grab a movie and popcorn at the Farmington Civic Theater. This week’s schedule (Monday-Thursday) includes Richard Jewell, Harriet, and Ford V Ferrari.

The Creative Life in Our Cities: A Conversation with Kathleen Boettcher

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 Kathleen Boettcher.  

When did you first get started in the arts? 

I loved drawing from early childhood. I distinguished myself, the middle child of five, by my artwork. Art gave me a skill I could own, and it gave me a lot of satisfaction.

Did you receive formal training in art?

As a clueless freshman at WSU I was unsure about a major. I was fulfilling liberal arts requirements with a view to becoming a teacher, but I envied the fine arts students I would see on campus carrying their portfolios. I feared that majoring in fine arts might lead to a meager living. My solution, with encouragement from family, was to major in art education. Becoming an art teacher allowed me to be an artist and to earn and raise a family at the same time. It turned out to be the right choice for me.

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

When I moved into Farmington Hills, I joined Art On The Ridge, a life drawing group at Oakland Community College.  I now belong to Farmington Art Foundation, Visual Arts Association of Livonia, Detroit Society of Women Painters and Sculptors, and the Mary Step Studio.

I would suggest to young artists that they get it out, put down what they want freely and be unafraid of judgment.

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

As a result of a one woman show in Ann Arbor, I sold a piece, People of the Stone, to Dr. Diane Kirkpatrick, Professor Emerita at the University of Michigan. The mixed media painting, People of the Stone, was a culmination of an art trip with the Glasgow School of art and encompassed the history, mythology, ancient architecture, art and much more, of Scotland. Dr. Kirkpatrick developed a lecture and presentation created around my piece using People of the Stone and her knowledge and memories of life in Scotland. I was honored to be recognized by Dr. Kirkpatrick and the University Commons members. It was painful to part with my painting but an honor to have it go to such a prestigious patron.

What advice or suggestions do you have for younger artists?

I believe Picasso said he had spent his life trying to paint like a child. When I taught my elementary level students much of what they created was so free and unexpected that I envied their lack of self consciousness. I would suggest to young artists that they get it out, put down what they want freely and be unafraid of judgment. This seems to become more difficult as we grow older.

(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 Marat Paransky

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 Marat Paransky.

When did you first get started in the arts?

I began drawing when I was three or four years old, and I have never stopped.

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

I have a BFA in Drawing & Printmaking from Wayne State University, and a MFA degree in visual arts from Lesley University College of Art & Design. I enjoyed the comradery in grad school, as well as learning how to talk about my art without sounding lost.

Who has been a mentor to you along the way?

Susan Goethel Campbell, Michael E. Smith, Petrova Giberson and Michael Rakowitz. Also, my advisors in the MFA program: Hannah Barrett and Oliver Wasow.

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

Whitdel Arts.

A good art program is often a sign that other spheres of the community are healthy.

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

My two kids—it is a collaboration.

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, the Public Art Program and the Rotating Exhibits at City Hall (“Remix Eternal,” August/September 2018).

Can you share a favorite quote about art or life?

How about my favorite art joke?

A lady got her purse snatched in the street. When the police officer arrived, he began asking witnesses what the thief looked like. Picasso happened to be walking by when it happened, and he offered to make a sketch of the person, explaining that he is a famous artist. On the next day, the police arrested a bus and two washing machines.

What advice or suggestions do you have for younger artists?

Be prepared for the rejection pile to grow tall. Don’t take it to heart.

It’s all about who you know. Just about every good show came to me through friends or going to events and talking directly with people.

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

A few more venues within walking distance from each other.  One gallery downtown is an outpost, no matter how good it is. Perhaps, a film festival to coincide with visual art events?

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

Life can go on without art, but it will be a poor one, intellectually. The arts can inspire and provoke like few other things. A good art program is often a sign that other spheres of the community are healthy.

Learn more about Marat and his work 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.)

Join us for the Classical Lunch Series

KickstART Farmington & Thistle Rose Academy of Arts invite you to bring your lunch and a colleague and join us for our free Classical Lunch series in December and January at the KickstART Gallery & Shop at 33304 Grand River Ave.