Apollo’s Song: A Young Man’s Journey In a Challenging World


Love is patient…

So reads Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. And so it is, in the converse as well with West Michigan’s Barrie family — Ian, Suzannah, Atlas, and Apollo.

The foursome are a tight knit group reinforced by their commitment to each other and to their life-affirming dedication to their youngest member, Apollo, an 11-year old clinically diagnosed as severely multiply impaired, or SXI, but who is more accurately described as a young man on an incredible life journey.

That Apollo is making this journey is a tribute to his family, and to Lincoln School where he has been a student for most of his life. Apollo and his parents were part of a group of hundreds who recently attended the annual ACT (Artists Creating Together) Day at Grand Rapids’ Lincoln School. Formerly known as VSA, or Very Special Arts Day, the program has been part of the community since 1987. It brings together nearly 1300 students from all the Kent Intermediate School District (KISD) and matches them with over 40 activities and 500 corporate and high school volunteers on the Lincoln campus.

For Apollo, the event was spot on. Mom Suzannah says “he’s in his element. He loves school. He loves being here.” Apollo confirms his mother’s assessment with a smile and laughter that transcend words.

At one time considered unlikely to walk, let alone participate in daily life, Apollo Barrie is all one would expect of any pre-teenage boy — tousled hair, jeans and sneakers, annoyed with haircuts and doctor’s visits. And while he cannot verbalize his feelings, he has no trouble demonstrating them.

Life for the Barries started out fairly typical. Ian and Suzannah have been together since 1988 and have enjoyed a strong relationship since. After marriage they welcomed their first child, a son, and gave him a name that reflected the couple’s fascination with Greek mythology: Atlas. When a second son was born 13 months later, the name bar had already been set. “We couldn’t have named him Jim, could we” Ian asks. And so, Apollo joined the family.

The Barries learned of Apollo’s condition early and made it their mission to give him as much of life as they could. It was not easy at first. Older brother Atlas, now 12, was still an infant and Apollo required nearly full-time attention.

Suzannah, a successful court reporter, retired to stay home with the boys. The family investigated a number of programs and facilities in the area but eventually chose Lincoln because, as Ian recalls, “this was the school that had the people he needed.”

One of these was Kristin Kramer who has been a part of Apollo’s life almost from the beginning and a person the Barries credit with Apollo’s continuing improvement.

It’s a success story that’s repeated often at this school that was founded over 50 years ago in a church basement by a group of parents and has grown to a multi-complex, several-acre facility that now serves close to 200 students with over 80 staffers.

Lincoln’s principal, Steve Kadau, has been involved in special education since his early days in college when he was a volunteer at a camp for special needs children. Some thirty-plus years later he is now head of an operation that he views as “a fun place to work; it’s like a big family.”

The work is steady and the performance standards, as they do for all educational programs, grow increasingly demanding. But Kadau welcomes the scrutiny: “There’s more attention being paid to accountability, achievement. it’s a great thing. You have to prove, to show student growth.”

The Lincoln student ages currently range from 6 to 26, with some students spending nearly all of their time at the school before moving on to other programs.

The curriculum is tailored to meet a range of achievement objectives, nearly all dealing with ways to engage students and move them closer to being able to care for themselves as much as possible.

In Apollo Barrie’s case, the journey began with the basics—getting Apollo to respond to outside stimuli. In time, Apollo did begin to connect with his environment. One of his favorite places at the school now is the multi-sensory room, a setting that might remind some of a late 1960s rock concert venue—flashing, colored lights, bubble lamps, an assortment of visual experiences designed to trigger a response.

The school also has a pool—another of Apollo’s favorite pastimes—where students work on strength and coordination. Apollo has gone from an infant doctors were suggesting would not be walking, to a boy who now walks quickly enough to make his own way, and who occasionally has to be tracked down.


Among Apollo’s other activities at the school are work and play with specially-designed toys and devices, an adaptive bike being one his more recent conquests. Suzannah adds that a number of the classroom affects and exercises are repeated at home to affirm Apollo’s sense of security.

As the boys have grown—Atlas is now in middle school and remains close to his younger brother—the Barries have exhaled…just a little. Suzannah, a Master Gardener and instructor of herbal science, has been able to spend more time promoting the BarrieBeau Herb Farm in Alto that she established in 1998. The Farm offers select spa products at area venues and on line (www.barriebeau.com), and Suzannah teaches classes in the use of herbs and plants in cooking and other applications. Ian continues his work as Creative Director for Cole’s Quility Foods, where he’s worked since 1995, and has received numerous design awards. And while Apollo’s needs limit the family’s ability to take long trips, the Barries manage to optimize their time together. Wolf Lake Lodge, where Apollo gets to swim, is a popular day destination.

As the Barries tour the ACT venue, Apollo is exposed to an endless variety of options. There are musical performances, interactive displays, painting and crafts, and a semi trailer adorned with the designs of student painters.

Apollo enjoys some dancing with Suzannah and some craft work. He also takes time to pose for a family photo, not without hamming it up a bit. “You’re a Barrie, aren’t you,” Suzannah teases as Apollo lights up for the photographer.

This was a good day for Apollo, and there are many. There are other days, the Barries agree, that are not so special; days when Apollo is unhappy and uncooperative, exhibiting a dark mood that is tough to break through.

But breaking through is they key to it all.

“Nearly every day is a surprise” Ian says.” Every day we discover something we didn’t know he could do.”

Although he’s come a long way, it is doubtful Apollo will ever be able to live independently. He is learning, however, to manage the daily tasks of living many people don’t think twice about.

It’s a deliberate process but the rewards, and the surprises, are say the Barries, worth it. It just takes patience.

After all, isn’t this what love is?


The Corporal Hoffman Series Design Project


The Corporal Hoffman Series is a project series created by [Fashion Has Heart] in conjunction with hero, U.S. MarineCorporal Josh Hoffman.

[Fashion Has Heart] is a non-partisan, non-profit organization established to utilize the powerful mediums of art, design, and fashion to support and benefit the wounded heroes who have sacrificed for the American freedoms to express oneself and create.

A sniper’s bullet in his spine left CPL Hoffman paralyzed from the neck down and unable to eat or speak. Years after his injury, he continued to battle for his life on a daily basis. After meeting CPL Hoffman at a local Veteran’s event, [FHH] knew there was something that could be done to improve this hero’s day-to-day life. Previously routined with doctor appointments and physical therapy, [FHH] began to work one-on-one with CPL Hoffman to creatively explore his life and story. Through utilizing his interests and passions both before and after the injury, CPL Hoffman and the [FHH] creative team came up graphic designs that share his inspirational story. Third-party partners enlisted their capabilities by creating products based around the resulting designs, which have since been sold around the U.S.A.

In its simplest form, The Corporal Hoffman Series pairs a hero with an established designer. The result of their collaboration (through the mediums of art, design, and/or fashion) share a story that the world needs to experience. A partner company then manufactures those designs to sell and distribute to consumers nationwide. The project’s goals are to build awareness of the heroes and their stories, benefit the hero and their family, provide a creative outlet that tends to act as a form of therapy, and to provide a new purpose in their life post their time served.

“Without their sacrifice, there is no freedom of ________.”

For the week of June 18-25, five wounded veterans will be flown in to Grand Rapids to collaborate with designers from Bates to develop everything from T-shirts to footwear. The team will develop five new boot concepts, including a specific boot concept inspired by the veteran designers and intended for limited-edition public sales. Additionally, their work will be incorporated into an entry in ArtPrize, with T-shirts available at the Wolverine Company Store.

Schedule of Events:

Tuesday, June 19

Heroes Arrive into Grand Rapids

Wednesday, June 20

Heroes tour Threadless HQ in Chicago

Thursday, June 21

Heroes work with Bates Footwear design team

Artists arrive into Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids Ballet Company benefit event (1900 hours)

Friday, June 22

Heroes + Artists collaborate GRid70

West Michigan Whitecaps baseball game (1900 hours)

Saturday, June 23

Adam Bird Photoshoot: Heroes + Artists

Heroes + Artists collaborate GRid70

Sunday, June 24

Heroes + Artists depart from Grand Rapids

*Threadless shirts and Bates footwear will be revealed and launched on the opening night of ArtPrize this September as part of a [Fashion Has Heart] official exhibit/pop-up shop.

Heroes + Designers:

Team Air Force

Hero: Tech Sergeant Israel Del Toro

Artist: Phil Jones

Team Army

Hero: Specialist Danielle Byrd

Artist: Chuck Anderson

Team Coast Guard:

Hero: Electrician’s Mate Third Class Michael Bell

Artist: Seth Herman

Team Marines

Hero: Corporal Josh Hoffman

Artist: Tyler Way

Team Navy:

Hero: HN Darrell Butler

Artist: Priscilla Wilson

*View each hero’s story and a profile for each artist on the project website: www.fashionhasheart.org/projects.


The Corporal Hoffman Series Design Project is happening with the help of these partners:

Priceline.com and Booking.com will cover travel expenses for the artists and heroes.

Threadless will produce, sell, and distribute the resulting 5 designs from each hero + designer team.

Bates Footwear will collaborate with each hero to design their own Bates boot.

Grand Rapids Ballet Company will host the “FREEDOM” benefit event for the heroes.


To contact [FHH] Founder, Michael Hyacinthe for additional information about this Corporal Hoffman Series Design Projectemail: michael@fashionhasheart.org

“Mr. Festival” Fred Bivins: “This is what makes life worth living — art”


There’s a giant gorilla staring at Fred Bivins from one side and a creepy creature with horns closing in from another.

Head for the flower garden, Fred! No, wait — the beach!

When you’re surrounded by 354 pieces of art, you can change your scenery with a quick dash.

Bivins, 62, is in his element amid the Festival of the Arts Regional Arts Exhibition, a part of Festival that has been in his care for 38 years.

But it’s never been quite like this — with stacks of old newspapers laying around.

The annual exhibition of cool art opened Friday in the former Grand Rapids Press headquarters on Michigan Street NW downtown. The building was purchased in January by Michigan State University for its College of Human Medicine and is mostly empty, although a smattering of employees still work there.

When Bivins started looking for venues, his usual spots — the old art museum, the new art museum — weren’t available.

Somebody mentioned the former Press building. He took a walk through, and when he got to the cavernous deserted mail room, formerly used to sort and stuff inserts in newspapers before delivery, “I said, ‘This is it!’” he recalls. “This is what I want.”

But it’s been a challenge. He had to install display walls down the middle, paint the place, rig lighting. He’s been toiling to get the space ready since the beginning of May.

Now it’s an 8,000-square-foot art gallery, in an unlikely spot.

“Isn’t it great?” Bivins beams. “It’s a cliché urban, trendy, hip industrial space that everybody loves for art these days.”

Bivins knows Festival draws people to art who might not seek it otherwise, and he loves that.

Last year, when the exhibition was at the Grand Rapids Art Museum, “the most common statement I heard was ‘This is the first time I’ve been in this building,’” he says.

What a shame, he notes.

“Once you get a roof over your head, and air and food, you’ve got sustenance,” he says. “But do you really have life? This is what makes life worth living — art.

“Oh, I guess there are other things,” he muses. “But I don’t go boating.”

He laughs. He cracks himself up a lot.

“The more people are exposed to art, the better they feel about life,” Bivins says. “Everybody who comes in here will find something they like. Everybody who comes in here will see something and get inspired. They might say, ‘I can do that.’ Everybody has it within them to be creative in some way.”

Bivins has it in a lot of ways.

He prints his own Christmas cards every year on a 1911 Chandler & Price letterpress.

He turns chunks of wood into exquisite high-end bowls that are famous. One is on the cover of a Godiva chocolate flier, filled with chocolates. Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell buys the bowls to give foreign dignitaries as gifts when he travels.

When Bivins talks about the process of making one, he’s a poet:

“Almost nothing can compare to the feeling of producing something that looks the way you want it to look,” he says. “Taking a chunk of log, putting it on the lathe and turning it into a bowl. The sound, the feel, the smell. The shavings in the air. The water coming out of the green wood.” He grins. “You get soaked.”

His artistry continues in the kitchen. Once a week he hosts a passel of friends for “spaghetti night,” but more than spaghetti happens there.

He makes vats of his special “Fredducine alfredo” to serve the crowd. Friends help him bake up chewy, crispy loaves of ciabatta bread, pizzas and calzones that go in and out of a huge commercial pizza oven he bought at an auction.

If the guests are really lucky, Bivins treats them to gooey caramel and pecan-studded rolls, affectionately called “Fred’s sweet-ass buns.”

The tables are covered with white paper, and bowls of crayons and markers are set out. Draw, please.

The camaraderie is as much sustenance to Bivins as the food. He loves people. His wife, Gina, public programs manager at the Grand Rapids Public Museum, likes to tell how everybody he meets becomes his new best friend.

It’s hard to get rid of Bivins, if you wanted to. After high school he landed a job at General Motors, then stayed there for 31 years, first in production, then as an electrician. He was a big union guy.

He’s been part of the fabric of Festival for decades. He’s worked food booths, printed Festival flags and serves on the Festival board, spending three years as its president.

He’s been emcee for opening ceremonies since 1985, each year wearing a shirt he makes out of that year’s Festival flags.

In 2008 he won the Spirit of Festival Award. In 1986 he was co-chair of the whole shebang.

This year, he loves it that his beloved art exhibition is in a sort of quirky place. He asked for bundles of newspapers to place around the room.

“I want to bring a sense of The Press into this room,” he says. The Press printed the exhibition program on newsprint for him, in broadsheet style, like a newspaper.

“It’s a collector’s item,” Bivins says.

He should know. He has a lot of stuff. He collects bricks. He has two from virtually every building in town that’s been torn down. He’s not above climbing fences to get them.

Bivins has a love affair going with his community. He recently hosted print making workshops where guests printed brown paper lunch bags for Kids Food Basket, the nonprofit that supplies nutritious sack suppers to 4,800 kids a day who struggle with hunger. Later he hosted a fund raiser for the charity.

He spent the last eight months on a committee organizing the 150th celebration of his alma mater, Central High School, which drew 1,200 people earlier this month.

He’s been craving the moment when the art exhibition doors open and the place turns from a quiet haven of art to a bustling venue buzzing with chatter.

“Once somebody sees something that inspires them, then it’s the run for the roses,” he says. “If I can be part of something that sparks that creativity, then my life has great value.”

He knows something about the value of life.

He was rushed to the emergency room one night back in 1996 for what he figured was a gall stone, but doctors found a tumor. They thought he had pancreatic cancer. Put your affairs in order, he was told. After a complicated surgery, they discovered the tumor was benign.

Then, three years later, at age 49, Bivins had an enlarged heart and elevated pulmonary pressure. He was told he may need a heart transplant. He might live five years.

He underwent extensive testing for two years but doctors couldn’t find the cause. Ultimately they tried a new drug. It worked.

Bivins had a recent check-up with his cardiologist.

“He said the best thing he could have said,” Bivins says. “He said, ‘Looks normal to me.’”

Bivins likes to say how almost dying twice has a way of making you want to be a good person. It’s given him a kind of wisdom that can catch you by surprise. He’ll suddenly say something like this:

“You never know when the eureka moment comes, but it’s obvious later in life that you had it,” he muses. “But you might not know it till it’s gone. When was the last time your kids crawled in bed with you? You don’t know it’s the last time until it’s gone.”

After Festival, Bivins will dive into ArtPrize, curating the entries displayed at the Women’s City Club.

You just can’t escape art, can you, Fred?

Bivins grins.

“Why would you want to?”


Red Hot Chili Peppers Bring it Home


Only the Red Hot Chili Peppers could bring downtown Grand Rapids to life on our first nice holiday weekend. The restaurants were packed. The streets were buzzing with people enjoying their first summer weekend — all having a great time. Mostly though, we were excited to have one of our own, Anthony Keidis, back in Grand Rapids.

At 11 years old, Keidis moved from GR to Los Angeles with his father, Blackie Dammet where he spent his ‘tween’ years. During those years he met bassist, Michael Balzary (aka Flea) and originally formed Tony Flow and the Miraculously Majestic Masters which later changed to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The band gained their initial notoriety by playing shows nearly nude. Except for socks, of course.

Last night they didn’t disappoint. From half legged pants and shirtless bods, they are still looking good, in amazing shape — no doubt as a result of their constant jumping and moving around on stage.

RHCP‘s current members include front man Kiedis, bassist Flea, guitarist Josh Klinghoffer and drummer Detroit native, Chad Smith.

The band has had many transitions over the past 20+ years. Regardless of its members, the band’s music has remained consistently good, including their latest album, I’m with You, which is the focal point of this summer’s tour.

To be honest, I hadn’t heard anything from the new album and was pleasantly surprised. In between the nostalgic Scar Tissue and Suck My Kiss they slipped in the songs from their new album. Familiar, similar but new and fresh. I reviewed it in its entirety today and it grew on me even further.

In between one set of songs, Kedis and Flea bantered back and forth taling about Michigan cities up north. Flea mentioned meeting a young girl while walking around in Grand Rapids — “I put her on the list,” he told Keidis. Keidis even gave his mother, Peggy Idema, a shout out — “I just want to say one thing — Hi mom!”

This was the fourth show for the Peppers at Van Andel Arena.

Last month, the Red Hot Chili Peppers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Both mom and dad both attended. His mother, Peggy Idema, still lives in the area. It is rumored that he returns often to visit her. Dammett plans on releasing a biography soon documenting much of his life. More details on that to come.

RHCP will play in Michigan again on June 1st at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.

Find out more about their current tour by visiting their website: http://www.redhotchilipeppers.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChiliPeppers
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/ChiliPeppers 





Hipp, Hipp Hooray: Inspirational Ryan Hipp and his seven cats, dorkiness and cute books for kids


It makes sense that a guy who draws grilled cheese sandwich-munching monsters and giant purple octopus would have interesting names for his seven cats.

Because the cats are everywhere — strolling across the dining room table and launching themselves up onto the screen door — let’s deal with them first: Dexter Destro Twinkie; Princess Zelda Baby Angel; Grayson Chowder Sweetheart; Tubby Penguin Racer; Panther Cupcake Superhero; Bootsie Walnut Astronaut and Looloo.

“Shoo,” Ryan Hipp says, scooting Penguin off the table.

Is he not allowed up here?

“Oh, they’re allowed everywhere,” Hipp says cheerfully. “It’s their house. I just live here. They just keep me around to open the cans.”

Ryan Hipp is not a quiet, reclusive kind of writer/artist. He’s funny, affable, out there.

“I’m kind of a loudmouth,” he says. “People tend to know who I am pretty quickly.”

More people suddenly discovered Hipp in March when he won the Gwen Frostic Award, presented by the Michigan Reading Association for his work with literacy and children.

He doesn’t have a ton of books published. He’s not a Chris Van Allsburg sort of household name. But Hipp says the Frostic award doesn’t measure good ideas or stellar drawings.

“It’s about impacting the lives of kids,” he says. “That makes it mean even more.”

Kids know Hipp because he’s constantly in their world talking to them. He does oodles of classroom visits and workshops, sometimes talking to 500 kids at a time about reading and creativity.

“You can’t just be up in your tower producing books for a world you never see,” he says, sitting at his dining room table overlooking the Lowell woods. “Some authors and illustrators just want to make books. I feed off the excitement of the kids, the parents, the teachers.

“At first I was selfish,” he says. “I wanted to write and illustrate just because I wanted to do it. But if you’re going to survive, you have to start giving back.”

His books:

— “A Curious Glimpse of Michigan,” written by Kevin and Stephanie Kammeraad and illustrated by Hipp and Kevin Kammeraad. It’s filled with quirky facts about Michigan: A grinning cucumber tells how Michigan boasts the highest production of cukes used for pickling.

The friends followed that up with a musical version — an album of quirky songs about the Great Lakes State.

“How Much Wood Could A Woodchuck Chuck?” written by Danny Adlerman and illustrated by Hipp and several others.

I — Hipp also produced an animated promotional video for Kid’s Food Basket, which supplies nutritious sack suppers to 4,800 kids a day who struggle with hunger. Check it out at kidsfoodbasket.org. You’ve never seen a brown paper bag look so cute.

His friends tease him about his whimsical style.

“I’m a dude who likes drawing cupcakes and unicorns,” he says with a shrug.

He’s hoping for a year-end release of his next book, “Little Steps,” which he wrote and illustrated.

“It tackles the subject of life being hard, with obstacles along the way,” he says. “You have to take things one step at a time.” The main character is a caterpillar. Cue the cute.

Hipp scribbles some of his best ideas on coffee shop napkins. He thinks most people undervalue The Smurfs. He has epiphanies a lot. He believes in community, and says things like: “The best place to start your career is right outside your front door.”

Wondering about the bald head? When he started losing his hair at age 24, he shaved his head and has shaved it daily since.

“I said, ‘I’m not gonna go out like this, looking like somebody’s dad.’”

A vegetarian and animal rights activist, he was on the rescue team that tried to help a duck that walked around the Grand River with an arrow stuck through its breast.

The six paintings that hang in the cafe at the Grand Rapids Public Museum are his 2009 ArtPrize entry, based on the exhibits he loved there as a kid.

He grew up in Ada and on Grand Rapids’ West Side, the youngest of five kids who all loved books. His dad is a retired history teacher and his mom is a painter. He figures he absorbed some talent from each of them.

He wrote his first book — “The Penguin That Froze” — in first grade at Ada Elementary School. Young Authors Week thrilled him.

“I started referring to myself as “Ryan Hipp: author,” he says with a grin. “Now I go to schools and I’m the one talking to kids at Young Authors Week.

“The kids treat you like a rock star,” he says. “So it’s hard not to feel like one.”

In return, he treats them with respect.

“Kids are very discerning,” Hipp says. “They know when they’re being talked down to. So I talk to them on their level.” He smiles. “Because I’m on their level, too.”

Yeah. Let’s talk about that.

Hipp collects toys. He watches cartoons. He reads comic books.

“I’m a complete dork,” he freely admits.

He’s seen every episode of the “Twilight Zone” several times. Show him a picture of a random Star Wars character and he’ll tell you not just their name, but what system they’re from.

He gets the most obscure “Lord of the Rings” references. If you know what “BSG” means, you’re his new best friend. (It’s “Battlestar Gallactica.” I had to look it up.)

“My counselor will tell you I have Peter Pan Syndrome,” he says — a condition where guys have a hard time growing up.

But he has some advice about that.

“I just want kids to know that they really can do whatever they want to do,” he says. “They hear that all the time, I know. We always tell kids that, but our words don’t match our actions.

“I want kids to be inspired and believe in themselves,” he says. “I speak really vehemently about that.”

He’s quiet for a minute, thinking about the adults in his life who thought they gave him good advice.

He knew when he was a little kid that he wanted to be a writer. By the time he got to junior high, writing wasn’t cool for a kid to do, he says, so he switched to drawing. He drew lots of superheros.

By high school “I was a slacker,” he says. “I didn’t care about school. I wasn’t thinking about my future, my career.”

He pulled a lot of pranks, got in some trouble, had a big party when his dad was away and got kicked out of the house at age 18.

When he talked of maybe being an artist, his dad told him he better have a back-up plan.

So Hipp enrolled at Grand Rapids Community College and started studying financial planning.

“Even my friends knew that was wrong,” he says. “They said, ‘Dude — you keep your money in a plastic bag in your closet.’

“When kids get older, they’re asked to put their dreams on a shelf,” Hipp says. “I forgot I wanted to be an artist. Then one day I was sitting with my college counselor talking about my classes for the next year and he was talking about all these math classes. I said, ‘I can’t do this.’ He said, ‘You have to, for this major.’”

So Hipp walked across the street to the arts building “to find somebody who could help me start an art curriculum.”

He got a job at an advertising firm doing graphic design. Then he met author Kevin Kammeraad and started working with him on “A Curious Glimpse of Michigan.”

“It hit me,” Hipp recalls. “How did I forget how much I liked this? I realized I was meant to make stuff for kids.

“Most people aren’t doing what they really want to do, out of fear,” Hipp says. “I tell kids, ‘The ideas you have now are the best ideas you’ll ever have in your life. If you forget them, you’ll never get them back.’”

Grab a napkin and jot ‘em down.

Follow him on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ryan.hipp.is.awesome

Twitter: www.twitter.com/hipphop

Tumblr: www.hipphop.tumblr.com

Website:  www.hipphop.com // www.ryanhipp.com //



The 4th Element — Bubbles Meet the Metal

Story :: Liam on Cherry ::
Photography :: Morgan Tinney :: 

Richard App practices juxtaposition in his Cherry Street Gallery, achieving alchemy in the pairing of Roli Mancera and Rosemary Ellis for the 4th Element Show.

Richard App Gallery has three chambers. In the western space, he mounts periodic shows placing the spotlight on artists he represents. App has dedicated the space to a single artist before, lately the Detroit photographs of Ryan Spencer Reed, a singularity which makes an endorsement of career and character. The group shows speak as highly of the curated artists, making a powerful statement. In the group shows, the works become elements for curatorial alchemy.

App has a penchant for juxtaposition, placing two or more artistic forces side by side, generating contrasts and comparisons to drive a dialogue and engage viewers. For example, in May of 2011, he collaborated with journalist and author Tommy Allen to present the well received Pop! – Death Wins show, a juxtaposition of curatorial vision. The show placed the work of David Dodde and Mikey Welsh at loggerheads, their art works facing one another across the space. The show also showcased the work of Michele Bosak, Kevin Buist and Keemo, serving as catalysts for an aesthetic reaction. In September 2011, he matched Chris Protas, who paints inspired by Mercedes Matter of the New York School of Art and Sculpture, with Mikey Welsh, whose style of painting was an anguished variant of American Art Brut. App has perfected his approach of juxtaposition this May in his blending of the work of Roli Mancera and Rosemary Ellis. He has placed the sculptures of Mancera and the paintings of Rosemary Ellis in virtual alternation, creating a harmony that must be described as transcendent.

Roli Mancera and Rosemary Ellis could be described as two people who have more contrasts than comparisons between them. However, as residents of the metropolis of Grand Rapids, the two have had their careers transformed by the influence of ArtPrize, where the two have exhibited with success. One day, Ellis visited the Grand Rapid’s Children Museum and viewed the mosaic mural “Imagine That” by Tracy Van Duinen. Where one person might see irregularly shaped tesserae of ceramic, Ellis saw bubbles. By ArtPrize 2011, Ellis had developed this inspiration into a painting of bubbles. Entitled Triple Bubble, one large bubble encompassed two smaller bubbles. Ellis has continued the series for ArtPrize 2012, presenting a study of bubbles called Fractured Faces, which enters metaphysical territory, reflecting and refracting reality like the mythic, beaded tears of Shiva.

Trained at the University of Michigan, Ellis paints in the classical style and also paints botanical scenes that remind one of the British age of discovery, images that could be printed by copper plate. The bubble series presents a new phase in Ellis’s artistic development, which go beyond M. C. Escher, who captured reflections in his self-portraits in spheres. Ellis does capture the bubble blower and photographer in one of her sphere paintings; however, the series is a vision quest to explore the spectrum of bubble phenomena. One anticipates a physics professor purchasing these bubble paintings to study what Ellis has intuitively documented with her vision.

In one of the coincidences that become common when millions arrive in a city during a fall event dedicated to art exhibition, Rosemary Ellis followed her visit to Duinen’s “Imagine That” with dinner at Little Mexico Cafe and beheld the recently executed murals of Roli Mancera, inspired by Mayan and Aztec history. Born northwest of Mexico City in Celaya, Mexico, Roli Mancera has become an elder of the Grand Rapids Latin community, a man about to begin his thirties. Recently, in February 2012, the Little Mexico Cafe on Plainfield celebrated two years in operations after returning to business, rebuilding after a fire. On a program with university professors who guide the region’s Latin community, Mancera discussed the Aztec and Mayan history he researched in preparation of the murals. His art consistently has embodied moral values, such as when he addressed the role of the Latin father, any father, in his work, “The Experience of My Life”, celebrating his wife’s recent pregnancy with statues of her progressing gestation. This work, celebrating the watchful father amazed by the miracle of life, exhibited at ArtPrize 2011 at DeVos Place, on the Sky-Walk.

Mancera sculpts his 4th Element constructions from simple strips of metal, sliced by fire hot enough to melt steel and polished, building vertical compositions, compositions that suggest the cascades of a mountain waterfall. This series manifested itself during the Co-Inspiration Exhibition organized by Square Peg Events for Summer 2011 at the Holland Area Arts Council. While that show was completing, Mancera was already installing his next sculptures at the Holland space, joining twelve Latin artists of Michigan in a show titled Herencia, or in English, Heritage.

Mancera has learned that water is the 4th Element of ancient Mexican culture. Mancera’s sculptures shimmer in the sunlight, appearing to flow like water, halted in progress, about to flow again. The bubble paintings of Rosemary Ellis depict the brief tensegrity of soap and water, airborne, creating an optical spectacle, ambient sunlight sent on an altered path. The 4th Element influences a second element, the element of light. The quality of the sunlight in Richard App’s spaces is excellent; Rosemary Ellis often paints in the window. The angular sculptures of Mancera compliment the round orbs of Ellis in an infinity of ways. A physicist could point out the underlying hexagons of Ellis’ soap bubbles.

The 4th Element show will be on display until June 12th, 2012. App has placed the work of Sheryl Budnik and Nancy Yerkes on display in his eastern space, which means his mind has already gone to work on their artistic chemistry.



Arts in Ada 2012

Story :: The Sparkly Stellafly ::
Photography :: Morgan Tinney

Summer is here, and art fair season is upon us in West Michigan, and on Saturday hundreds ventured out to the historical area of Ada Township on what was a magnificent day of weather for Arts in Ada. Over 70 artists had their work available for purchase along a shady Bronson Street. There were paintings, handmade pieces of jewelry and other accessories, and many other mediums represented. Performance artists including students from the Ada Dance Academy and the Living Light Dance Academy, Thieves Like Us, singer Arica Jackson, and jazz trio Juice of One Lime all took the stage throughout the morning and afternoon.

One of the artists I visited with was caricaturist Louise Bauer. I had met her last year at this same event when she did a beautiful drawing of my niece who was six months old at the time. So this year I was hoping she would be there again and brought my niece back with me for an updated picture. I was happy to see that she was, and had her draw another picture of Brynn, which turned out beautiful. Even though Brynn could hardly sit still for more than a couple minutes at a time, Louise was able to perfectly capture her personality.

The Arts in Ada event is hosted by the Ada Arts Council, a nonprofit community group working to provide an atmosphere of art and culture for this and future generations. In addition to the event today, the group is also active in acquiring and ensuring the upkeep and repair of art for the Ada Sculpture Trail, and promoting the fine arts to those who live in Ada.

Find them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ada-Arts-Council/106703572693181
Website: http://www.adaarts.org

Humane Society of West Michigan presents K-9 Cabaret

Story :: The Sparkly Stellafly ::
Photography: Katy Batdorff 

Centennial Country Club was the spot to be on Thursday night whether you had two legs or four (well, the Grand Rapids Black Bear was not on the list), as the Humane Society of West Michigan (HSWM) hosted the first-ever K-9 Cabaret. This year’s event celebrated the Grand Rapids Police Department’s K-9 Unit and we were happy to actually get to meet the newly retired German Shepard, Liam. There were four food stations by West Michigan Caterer. DJ Colin Clive played fun music. Culver’s was serving up free ice cream and their two different types of auctions. Over $25,000 was raised — when we heard last.

The HSWM has been serving the area for almost 125 years, working to fulfill its mission to “promote the humane treatment and responsible care of animals in West Michigan through education, example, placement and protection.” Events such as the K-9 Cabaret not only help financially support this organization, but bring together animal lovers in support of what the HSWM has accomplished, and what it has the potential to do in the future.

Event co-chairs Dr. Richard Siegle of the Cascade Hospital for Animals and stellafly’s own Laura Caprara were there to welcome all of those who attended and thanked them for their support of the Humane Society. In case you didn’t know, Laura is a big fan of the canines, and is a proud mom to four Bernese Mountain Dogs. She and Dr. Siegle were the perfect hosts for the evening.

The guests of honor for the evening were the members of the K-9 Unit of the Grand Rapids Police Department. They received an award from the Humane Society and Mayor George Heartwell was there to make an official proclamation, thanking them for their service to the community. It was very fitting that the HSWM honor the four-legged friends who are doing good things in the area, and the K-9 Unit is helping with everything from helping to find missing people to assisting with drug detection.

Those in attendance also heard from Judge Sara Smolenski (who, as usual, had the crowd laughing) and just outside the clubhouse were members of the Daredevil Circus Company. Amy Hofacker, owner of Funamals, was also present to paint portraits of pets on the spot. Her custom watercolor paintings of animals are the perfect keepsakes for anyone with a fur kid.

There were two auctions—the traditional Silent Auction and a Chinese Auction, which is a combination of a raffle and an auction. Bidders purchase tickets and for each ticket they place in the jar next to the item they would like, it increases the odds that theirs will be chosen. Prizes included an autographed Matthew Stafford NFL jersey, a Coach® purse, and the opportunity to “Be a Reporter for a Day” at Fox 17.

It was a beautiful evening celebrating the Humane Society of West Michigan—an organization that is making sure all of our fur kids have great lives. Thank you to all those who were there and to all those who give of their time, talent, and treasure to help all the animals in West Michigan.

Check out the Humane Society of West Michigan’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/hswestmi
Website: http://www.hswestmi.org/

AK Rikks has been listening for 25 years

Story :: Stellafly ::
Photography: Katy Batdorff 

A.K. Rikk’s, a local men’s and women’s luxury boutique, is celebrating its 25th year of operation in 2012. Throughout the years they have grown from a small men’s suiting store to the place to shop for men’s and women’s designer brands in Grand Rapids. According to the staff at A.K. Rikk’s, this growth was made possible by listening to their customers and not settling for anything. With this same mindset they found the need to build the largest clothing retail store in West Michigan since the era of Rogers and Jacobson’s.

The new location will be at 6303 28th Street in Cascade, Michigan, which in the past held the Nextel offices and Wolverine headquarters. A.K. Rikk’s wanted to find an existing building in which they could transform into a dream store for their clients. In construction the building was expanded to a total of 28,000 square feet and added many special touches. Some of these features will be noticed right when you walk in but others come alive once the story is told. The new space gives homage to where A.K. Rikk’s started by having a haberdashery-styled suit room and will also feature private personal shopping areas, a gift/lifestyle area and both men’s and women’s shoe salons.

The need for more space came out of the store’s movement into women’s wear, which at first started small with only a couple categories. “The response blew our expectations away!” said A.K. Rikk’s Director of Women’s/Buyer Emily Lewakowski, “The constant demand from our customers for more contemporary, luxury brands and categories allowed us to continue to bring in more of what this area was lacking. I think one of the keys to our success has been our ability to work closely and develop good relationships with our vendors, and to apply what we learn in the showrooms and from designers, to what our customer is asking for.” In addition to their longstanding reputation in luxury menswear, it is safe to say that A.K. Rikk’s is now a major player in women’s and it only took them a short four years to do so.

Not only does this new building allow them to house more merchandise, it also gives them the ability to work better on projects for their community. For example, Fashion’s Night Out Grand Rapids, which is a one night shopping event that promotes local retailer. The group at A.K. Rikk’s and its owner are not the type that stands still, they see the possibility in Grand Rapids to become a fashion city and are ready to do their part in making that idea come true. One step will be announced this Fall according to President Jim Murray. Murray remarks, “The A.K. Rikk’s team is passionate about educating their customers and we will be taking it one step further soon.”

We wish them best of luck and thank them for their continuous efforts in attracting and retaining retail and fashion talent in Grand Rapids.

Be sure to check them out on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/akrikks
Website: http://www.akrikks.com