The Creative Life in Our Cities: A Conversation with Molly McNeece

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, illustrator, sculptor and arts educator Molly McNeece.

When did you first get started in the arts?

I first got started in the arts at a very young age. I was born and raised in Bismarck, North Dakota and my mom would have me enter art competitions locally. Being a farm girl, I was always playing outside, building and drawing. My grandparents were weavers and I thought that was so fantastic and to be an artist was the coolest thing anyone could become. I played the violin from the age of three and knew very early on that I was going to become a music teacher. Growing up to be an artist was only a dream.

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

As a freshman in high school, my family moved to Alaska. In 1994 I began attending the University of Alaska Fairbanks. There I switched my major from music education to arts education. I loved learning about the fine arts. The best part of becoming an art teacher is that you get to take classes in all of the disciplines. Drawing, painting, printing, sculpture and ceramics all became my passions but the class that helped me the most was color theory. Color theory is the vegetable of the art world. It is really good for you, and if you get good at it, it will keep your art healthy and vibrant! After two years in Fairbanks, I moved to Michigan and completed my bachelor’s in art education and my master’s in curriculum and instruction from Michigan State University.

My favorite learning experience as an artist came in 2009 when I was one of ten teachers in the country chosen for the Frank Lloyd Wright Fallingwater Teaching Residency. I spent a week at Fallingwater with some of the most inspiring artists and educators. It was there that I decided to claim being an artist. I would no longer dream of being one. I was one.

Who has been a mentor to you along the way?

As a young teacher I worked in my school district with artist Linda Buck. She is now retired and working as a full-time ceramic artist. I love her work because of the rich colors in her tiles and the beautiful and simple architectural elements in her pieces. She is a hero of mine and I wish someday to grow up to be just like her!

Another hero and close friend of mine is artist Lisa Hermann. Lisa has not only inspired me to be a better teacher, but how to also be a professional artist after a long day in the classroom. Her abstract paintings sing harmonies by themselves and I am lucky to have her guide me about showing in galleries, entering shows and guiding me along the path of being a professional artist. We often text each other to encourage creativity and tell each other to get to work in the studio!

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

I am a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, the Michigan Art Education Association, and the Northville Art House.

Can you describe something you created that’s particularly meaningful to you?

Recently this year my family in North Dakota began constructing a new family cabin on Lake Sakakawea. My grandfather Carl built the original cabin in 1967 and I spent a lot of time growing up fishing, swimming, and waterskiing with my older cousins. Above the entrance to the bedrooms was a giant taxidermied northern pike that was caught off of our dock. This fish was menacing. I spent long hours looking at its white eyes, vicious teeth, and the monstrous lure hanging from his mouth. I loved that fish.

With the new cabin in construction I completed a painting of a funky northern pike to replace the fish that disintegrated when it was taken off of the wall after 50 years. My cousins have found another of my grandfather’s lures to add to it. The cabin will be finished at the end of this summer and I love being an artist that can bridge this gap between generations, and that my northern pike will grace the cabin wall for a long time. 

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

I loved having my work in the Public Art Program at City Hall. The program is a great opportunity for artists to show their work in a beautiful public space. 

I was honored to design the poster for the 2018 Greater Farmington Film Festival. I have a series of acrylic ocean creatures and I loved the idea of a blue octopus taking over downtown Farmington!

My artwork is also a permanent feature at the Heritage Park Nature Trail. I was commissioned to create multiple paintings for the different sections of the trail. They are beautifully mounted on metal describing the trail concepts (decomposers, wildflowers, etc.) for the community. The trail is located in between the Splash Pad and the Nature Center and is a short beautiful walk for all ages. I absolutely love walking along the trail and seeing my paintings on display in the middle of nature!

Can you share a favorite quote about art or life?

“A line is a dot that went for a walk” – Paul Klee

What advice or suggestions do you have for younger artists?

Being an artist is so much fun and a lot of hard work. Take time for your artwork. Be in your studio every day and keep a working sketchbook for ideas and inspiration. I am always imagining objects and their colors to put on paper or canvas, constantly thinking about my current piece or the next five to work on in the future. Have fun with your art and love what you create!

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

Farmington and Farmington Hills are communities that like the fine arts and support their artists as best they can. What is missing is a community space that can house a gallery, classes, gift shop/artist space to sell work, and for our community to gather. Other communities do this well like the Northville Art House and the Anton Art Center. There are dozens of talented artists working and living here without a community gathering place to call our own.

Why is celebrating and promoting art healthy for a community?

As a resident of Farmington Hills, I want to see the arts impact our community in a few and powerful ways. The arts create culture. A community that is full of art (music, dance, sculpture, photography, etc) is full of culture. We have a rich and diverse world population that can be seen in our restaurants, but why not in galleries, architecture, outdoor art and public murals? Businesses are stimulated by art and art organizations in communities. People of all ages and backgrounds understand the universal language of art and are drawn to create and celebrate. We must also teach our younger generations the significance and value of our arts. Strong school programs, community classes, camps and other learning opportunities will inspire children to create and grow as positive members in our society. 

On her artwork

My artwork follows a few themed paths. When I am illustrating a children’s book, I work for six to eight months using watercolor and ink on a small piece of illustration board. After the book is finished, I immediately begin to work on large canvas in acrylic. My series of funky ocean creatures lets me use color and pattern to play. When I work with authors or create commissions for projects the work is always new. Spending time learning how to paint native Michigan wildflowers or how to illustrate a weaving sheep is a great challenge and breaking away from my usual subjects keeps my work fresh.

My company, McNeece Consulting, is a collaboration with my husband Dr. Alexander McNeece. We work together creating books for communities across the country helping to close the achievement gap of early learners. Our latest book, Alexis and Anthony Go to Kindergarten was released this spring for the children of Racine Wisconsin.  I love being an artist because teaching art and creating art is the best job in the world!

Learn more about Molly McNeece and her work here.

Don’t Miss An Encore Screening of Intelligent Lives

If you missed the opportunity to see the moving documentary Intelligent Lives at the 2019 Greater Farmington Film Festival (or want to see it again) there is an encore screening this Thursday evening at 6:00 pm at the Maxfield Education Center.

This presentation is sponsored by Farmington Public Schools Special Education Department, Farmington Youth Assistance, and the Farmington Area PTA Council and includes a  community conversation with Janice Fialka, mother of Micah Fialka-Feldman, who is featured in the film.

This film is a catalyst to transform the label of intellectual disability from a life sentence of isolation into a life of possibility for the most systematically segregated people in America.

Intelligent Lives stars three pioneering young American adults with intellectual disabilities – Micah, Naieer, and Naomie – who challenge perceptions of intelligence as they navigate high school, college, and the workforce. Academy Award-winning actor and narrator Chris Cooper contextualizes the lives of these central characters through the emotional personal story of his son Jesse, as the film unpacks the shameful and ongoing track record of intelligence testing in the U.S.

 Intelligent Lives challenges what it means to be intelligent, and points to a future in which people of all abilities can fully participate in higher education, meaningful employment, and intimate relationships.

Pick up the Official Posters for the 2015 and 2014 GFFF

You can still pick up our very limited edition posters from 2015 and 2014. Both have been signed by the artists: John Martin for the 2015 GFFF poster and Mary Lou Stropoli for the 2014 GFFF poster. 

Order at the Greater Farmington Film Festival web site.

gfff poster hirez final GFFF_Poster

Did you attend the 2015 Greater Farmington Film Festival?

If so, thank you!

We want to hear from you. If you didn’t complete a festival evaluation you can do so now here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/5R3K8HD.

Thank you for helping us make the 2016 festival even better!

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10 Good Reasons to See BELLE AND SEBASTIAN at the 2015 Greater Farmington Film Festival

Belle & SebastienYes, you’ll want to see ALL the films at the 2015 Greater Farmington Film Festival but here are 10 good reasons to see Belle and Sebastian on Sunday, March 8th, at 3:00 pm at the Memorial Holocaust Center.

1.   Belle and Sebastian‘s director, Nicolas Vanier, is a French adventurist, writer and wildlife documentary director whose past experience includes filming in some of the coldest parts of the world: the Yukon in Canada and Siberia. The film Belle and Sebastian, with its panoramic vistas of mountain ranges and sweeping landscapes, definitely shows off Vanier’s penchant for the outdoors. Eric Guichard, the film’s cinematographer, has won a Cesar Award for Best Cinematography and a European Film Award for Best Cinematographer.

2.   Love to travel? This adventure film will get your travel juices flowing. Who wouldn’t love to visit the lovely French Alps in person? From the very first scene, you will marvel at the majestic scenery presented in spectacular color.

3.   If you love dogs or are thinking about adding a dog to your family, you can check out the great Pyrenean Mountain Dog breed featured in this film. One look at the majestic Belle in all her glory, you just might end up wanting one of these big dogs for your very own!

4.   Rekindle your love of foreign films. European films have a different look and feel than American films. Belle and Sebastian is in French, with English sub-titles.

5.   Simply put, this is a feel-good family-friendly movie about the unbreakable friendship between a boy and his dog. It doesn’t get any better than this.

6.   Are you a WWII history buff? The film is set in 1943, and France is under occupation by Germany. Some residents of the small village are helping Jewish refugees cross through the mountains over the border into neutral Switzerland.

7.   Did we mention the awesome scenery in this film yet? The snowy French Alps in the Haute-Maurienne-Vanoiseare region of France along the the French/Swiss border are prominently featured. This film was shot in beautiful 35mm, lending itself well to the outdoor scenery.

8. The Holocaust Memorial Center is a nationally renowned  museum whose mission is to to remember those who perished and survived the Holocaust and to set forth the lessons of the Holocaust as a model for teaching ethical conduct and responsible decision-making. Take some time to arrive before the film starts and attend the 1:00 pm tour, lasting about 1.5 hours, and often concluded with a presentation by a Holocaust survivor.

9. Tcheky Karyo is one of France’s most popular actors, and an adorable Félix Bossuet in the role of Sebastian is a must-see. Karyo plays César, Sebastian’s prickly, yet compassionate adopted grandfather. Both will reprise their roles in “Belle et Sebastien, l’aventure continue,” coming out this year.

10. This film is director Vanier’s adaptation of a well-known French children’s story, Belle et Sébastien, written by French actress/author Cécile Aubry in the early 1960s. In addition to this film, it was recreated as a live-action television series in France, a Japanese anime series in the 1980s and a Scottish pop music group takes it’s name after the beloved characters. Aubry’s son, actor Mehdi El Glaoui, who starred in the live-action series as a boy, appears in this version as André.

Check out the trailer below and purchase your tickets at the Farmington Civic Theater, Costick Center, or online at the festival web site.

10 Good Reasons to See FED UP at the 2015 Greater Farmington Film Festival

Fed-Up-PosterYes, you’ll want to see ALL the films at the 2015 Greater Farmington Film Festival but here are 10 good reasons to see Fed Up on Saturday, March 7th, at 7:00 pm at the Farmington Civic Theater.

1. Discover for yourself why The Wrap said Fed Up “Unearths the dirty secret of the American food industry.”

2. Hear journalist and author Katie Couric narrate the film. Couric, who has been interested in health and nutrition news since her coverage of the topic on the Today Show, is also a producer of the film.

3. Learn why USA Today called Fed Up “The movie that will change the way people think about eating.”

4. Listen to former President Bill Clinton discuss the long-term health damages Americans are facing with too much sugar intake.

5. Learn why you don’t see daily value percentages for sugar listed on federally mandated nutrition labels.

6. Listen to Michael Pollan, a well-respected journalist and author known for such books as In Defense of Food, talk about how preparing your own meals helps you avoid the health hazards of too much sugar.

8. See the movie that was nominated for a Grand Jury prize at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.

9. Learn why Mark Bittman, a well-known food author and journalist for the New York Times, compares the behavior of junk food companies to that of tobacco companies thirty years ago.

10. Be inspired to learn more about what goes into the food you consume and how you can make healthier decisions.

Check out the trailer below and purchase your tickets at the Farmington Civic Theater, Costick Center, or online at the festival web site.