Special Olympics Area 11 knows how to throw a Halloween Party! Local Special Olympics athletes worked together, under the guidance of staff and student artists from Kendall College of Art & Design, to create many works of art including a collaborative piece that was entered in ArtPrize 2012! This work demonstrates that intellectuals with disabilities have many abilities. For some, it was their first time painting, and this experience inspired them to try new things and built confidence.
The artwork created last summer was auctioned at Let’s Toga for Special Olympics party. Attendees enjoyed a live Greek band and dancing, authentic Greek food, a souvenir photo booth, live art creation, and so much more. Emcee WZZM’sJuliet Dragos, did a wonderful job talking about the cause and getting guests into the spirit of bidding. Togas were highly encouraged for the costume contest and photo booth. A live and silent auction with athlete-created artwork grouped with gift certificates to swanky local hotels and restaurants were offered up as well.
The mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for all children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Athletes are given continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness and athletic skill, demonstrate courage, experience joy, and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes, and the community.
Wendy Wassink works in a building with a huge sparkly sign out front that reads “WOW.”
It suits her.
She lives on Red Bull and once wore a giant papier-mache cardinal head. She uses the phrase “out the wazoo” in her professional bio. She’s wearing bright yellow pointy-toed high heels (outrageous shoes are her thing) that add three inches to her height and walks effortlessly in them, despite a recent knee injury that had her sprawled face down on her son’s soccer field.
The moms were invited to join the game. Naturally, she was in. Wet grass is slippery.
Wassink is the cofounder of Kantorwassink, a Grand Rapids advertising agency with a list of heavy-hitting clients and international awards, well, out the wazoo.
She and longtime best friend and ad partner Dave Kantor started the business six years ago after successful and stressful careers in the top ad firms up and down Chicago’s Michigan Avenue.
There’s no doubt you’ve seen her stuff.
She was behind such memorable campaigns as Did Somebody Say McDonald’s?, Never Miss a Genuine Opportunity for Miller Genuine Draftand the breakthrough campaign that reinvigorated Cadillac, launched the Cadillac Escalade into rap-video superstardom and left Wassink, as she likes to say, “incredibly sick and tired of Led Zeppelin.”
Effervescent and witty, Wassink has been creative since she was a kid growing up in Des Moines.
Her dad was an electrical engineer who loved to tinker. Her mom was a stay at home super mom who led everything from the PTA to Girl Scouts.
Dad was always welding something. Mom was a craft queen. Wendy soaked it all in.
As a kid she played on a softball team called the Cardinals. When they entered a float in a hometown parade, Wendy’s mom crafted 13 red papier-mache cardinal heads for the girls to wear.
“It was quite a spectacle,” Wassink recalls with a grin.
She loves spectacle.
In third grade she entered a coloring contest sponsored by Peter Pan peanut butter. Grand Prize was a family trip to Disney World.
Young Wendy went for the wow. She made copies of the page then set to work embellishing her entries with bits of tissue paper and foam. She entered five times.
“When they called my parents to tell them I won, they said I would have won first, second, third, fourth and fifth place,” she says with a laugh.
While other fourth graders saw ads and wanted stuff, Wendy was fascinated by the logos. She loved to write. She went on to major in journalism at the University of Iowa.
Part art, part writing, advertising captivates her.
“It’s conceptual, it’s strategic,” she says. “It’s like solving a puzzle, solving a big problem with creativity.
“Advertising is a funny thing,” she muses, at her glossy red conference table. “Everybody watches ads, they like a good one, but everybody thinks, ‘I can do that.’
“It’s not just about having a wacky idea,” she says. “It has to be a creative idea that moves people to do something.
“People hear our name and say, ‘Oh, that’s the crazy creative shop,’” she says. She smiles. “They don’t realize how deviously deep our work is.”
They did the ad campaign for Ferris State University — simple black lettered statements on a bright yellow background.
“Our graduation gowns come with the sleeves rolled up,” one Ferris billboard boasts. “Where are you going?” asks the side of a Ferris-festooned city bus.
“Those ads are deceptively simple, but they’ve been wickedly effective,” Wassink says. “Enrollment is way up. It’s broken through the clutter. It’s strong, it’s vibrant, it’s bold. It’s about what the university is doing for you.
“What moves us the most is if it’s really, really smart,” she says. “We can make anything look good or sound funny. These ads are changing peoples’ perception of what Ferris is.”
“We think way too much and way too deeply about every single word,” she says. “We use our street smarts, our intelligence and our guts.”
She and Dave were high fliers in Chicago. But it was wearing on them.
“I’m wildly, insanely passionate about what I do,” Wassink says. “I’m kind of weirdly obsessed by it.
“But the corporate politics…” She sighs. “It lost its luster for me. I no longer had the passion for doing what I loved.”
She had been living in Grand Rapids for 14 years with her husband, Mark, an attorney. She commuted to Chicago. She and Dave had clients in Detroit.
They were drained.
“We needed to get closer to rolling up our sleeves and getting creative again,” she says.
So they had this crazy idea. They’d open up their own shop in Grand Rapids. Big city talent at Midwest prices.
Kantorwassink was named one of the 2011 “Michigan 50 Companies to Watch” by the Edward Lowe Foundation and listed on Inc. Magazine’s “5000 Fastest Growing Companies” last year.
“I have the passion back,” Wassink says happily. “I no longer get to fly first class to Europe to do glamorous shoots, but I love it again.”
What inspires all this creativity? Nacho cheese Doritos? Yoga?
At the mention of yoga, Wassink laughs her head off.
“I’m not a yoga kind of person,” she says. “I’m the original ADHD. I’m a caffeine camel. I’m always chewing gum.
“The hardest thing is turning it off,” she says. “I’m inspired by everything. I have ideas about everything.”
Wassink works a lot. Lately, she’s been putting in 80-hour weeks. But she knows how to play.
She and Mark have two sons, Henry, 10, and Theo, 7. They all love sports events and travel and eating. They have a small studio condo in Chicago and love exploring the city.
“My kids can hail cabs and eat sushi,” she says.
Henry inherited his mom’s creativity, recently winning his school’s version of ArtPrizeby creating a “psycho snow boarding bunny” out of recycled materials. (Much of it was made out of empty Red Bull cans.)
Wassink helped him hot glue it all together.
Theo, born with some developmental delays, recently made a 10-foot paper alligator with mom’s crafty help.
Theo has changed her, Wassink says.
“He wakes up with a smile on his face every day,” she says. “I have to show you a picture.”
She leaps up and clickety clacks away in her bright yellow high heels, returning with a photo of the brown-eyed cutie.
“For the first year of his life, I was scared,” she says, gazing at his photo. “I was used to solving problems, taking control of situations. This wasn’t anything I could control.
“I learned a lot about myself,” she says. “I learned what’s important. Theo is slow to do things and that’s so good for me.” She smiles. “It’s the opposite of me.
“I’ve never been one to sweat the small stuff anyway,” Wassink says, “but it’s a good reminder. He helps me see what’s great in life, because he loves everything. He’s here to help me pace myself a little, to delight in things.”
She delights in her work.
“This is our craft,” she says. “We have to love what we make. Be proud of what we make. It’s art, more than profession.”
Being a good role model feeds her, too, she says.
“I have a lot of young women working for me,” Wassink says. “I like showing them that women can be successful and speak their mind and be fun without giving up their femininity.”
Ads make some people reach for the TV remote mute button. Wassink talks of their greater power.
“We have the power to help companies be better,” she says. “The stronger we can make Ferris, the stronger West Michigan is. There’s power in that.”
She strolls past examples tacked to the walls of campaigns for children’s hospitals and arts organizations.
“What can we do to help them?” she asks. “There’s powerful good in what we do.”
We are pretty fortunate here in West Michigan to have so many incredible local food choices. Some nights it can be a tough choice, but on Thursday night there was an opportunity to sample from over 35 of the area’s best farms, restaurants, wineries, and breweries—all in one beautiful setting. Local First of West Michigan held Fork Fest 2012, sponsored by Valley City Linen, at Romence Gardens in East Grand Rapids.
The event took place in the greenhouse at Romence Gardens, and there was truly something for everyone’s taste buds. From Dancing Goat Creamery to wine from Art of the Table to delicious treats from Patricia’s Chocolates, all ages were sure to be able to find something to satisfy their hunger. There was even local music provided by the Fauxgrass Quartet, a folk and bluegrass band that has been playing venues around West Michigan since 2011.
Fork Fest is Local First of West Michigan’s most popular annual event. Long tables lined the greenhouse and it was a chance for guests to not only sample the delicious food, but meet the chefs who prepare it daily at these wonderful local establishments. The casual atmosphere was perfect for meeting up with old friends, and making new ones who share the passion for supporting local business.
Many took the chance to get their picture taken at the photo wall, some even posing with a life-size cutout of “10×10 Glen,” Local First’s mascot for their most recent initiative, the 10×10 Pledge, which asked community members to commit to shifting $10 a week from their food budget for 10 weeks to local eateries. They had over 1,000 people sign the pledge, resulting in over $100,000 being spent at locally owned restaurants.
Whether or not you were able to make it out to Fork Fest, why not put it in your plans for this weekend to try a new local restaurant with your family or friends? With so many choices, you are sure to find one that you absolutely love!
Calvin College will be inaugurating its 10th president, Michael K. Le Roy, on Saturday, October 20, and in the week leading up to this event, there were celebrations occurring throughout campus. Thursday night was the reception for the Inaugural Exhibition: 90 Years of Collecting, a way for the art community at Calvin College to welcome the newest president and celebrate his arrival.
The college began its permanent collection in 1922 with “A Portrait of John Calvin,” a gift from William Monsma, who had re-created the painting originally painted by French artist Ary Scheffer. The second gift, a painting by Mathias Alten, came from the class of 1926 and is considered one of the best paintings in the entire collection.
Pieces by Rembrandt and Calder are among the 54 that are part of the exhibition, which represent the best of Calvin’s 1,500 piece permanent collection. They are all located in the Center Art Gallery on Calvin’s campus. The exhibit opened on September 4, and will be open through Saturday, the day of the inauguration. There will be pieces that remain on display in the permanent collection gallery through May 2013.
Incoming president Le Roy said, “In the process of discerning my fit for Calvin College, I was immediately drawn to Calvin’s mission of engaging all of God’s creation, particularly its intentional and exceptional inclusion of creativity and art in that engagement. It’s so fitting that this exhibition be part of this fall’s celebration and this week’s events.”
Congratulations to President Le Roy and best wishes in your new role at Calvin College. If you are interested in seeing the Inaugural Exhibition: 90 Years of Collecting, you can do so by visiting during the Center Gallery’s hours: Friday, 9:00 a.m.-9:00 p.m., and Saturday, 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. The gallery is located in Calvin College’s Covenant Fine Arts Center, 1795 Knollcrest Circle, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
On Wednesday night on the second floor of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, ladies (and quite a few gentleman, too!) lined up for the Plastic Surgery Associates’ Fall Spectacular event. This annual event is one of appreciation for their patients and a way to promote their numerous services to others in the community who may be patients in the future. There were demonstrations, product sales, treat bags with several great samples, and special bonuses for those who made an appointment for a service while they were at the event tonight.
But tonight was also a celebration of the many patients they have had over the years who have undergone breast reconstruction after breast cancer surgery. This population makes up an estimated 20-25 percent of their business, according to Drs. John Renucci, Douglas VanderWoude, and David Alfonso, three of the surgeons in the practice. The evening also included a fashion show with several great fall looks from Boutique Emmanuel, modeled by breast cancer survivors who are also patients of Plastic Surgery Associates. The show was emceed by WOODTV’s Terri DeBoer, who was filling that role for the third year in a row. The energy of the entire show was upbeat and very inspiring as these real-life survivors walked the runway. Some even had a family member with them, someone who had stood by them during their cancer struggle.
There was an estimated 600+ people at tonight’s event, and each of them had an opportunity to visit the Spa & Salon at the Amway Grand Plaza for complementary hand and neck/shoulder massages as well as get a free TRUE Makeup Color Matching by trained makeup artists. MVP Sportsplex was there to talk about personal training, and skin care specialists and vendors had plenty of products to see and try.
Plastic Surgery Associates has served the West Michigan community for over 25 years. They have a staff of around 35-40, and are located in the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, specializing in cosmetic procedures reconstructive surgery for the face, breast, and body, surgeries for men, and skincare. In addition to the Fall Spectacular, they offer smaller seminars year-round for their patients and prospective patients to learn about the various procedures and surgeries available. You can find more information about these seminars and about the practice in general at their website:http://www.psa-gr.com. Find them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/psa
Last Saturday proved to be a cold and dreary fall October day but it didn’t scare the American Heart Association away. The 2012 West Michigan Grand Rapids Heart Walk took place at Ah Nab Awen Park — a wellness event that encourages healthy lifestyle choices.
The Grand Rapids Heart Walk is an annual non-competitive walking event designed to bring public awareness to physical activity and a heart-healthy lifestyle, while raising critical dollars needed to fund the lifesaving mission of the American Heart Association. Walkers joined in to support the fight against our community’s leading cause of death; heart disease and stroke, which affects countless individuals and families. Activities included family friendly activities, a face painter and the Kid’s Zone. Dogs and strollers also joined in the walk.
Through the Heart Walk, the organization create opportunities for people to improve their health by walking and simultaneously raising funds to help fight heart disease and stroke. Walkers organized company team as well as family and friends. Many participants are heart disease and stroke survivors; others walk in honor or memory of a friend or family member who has or had heart disease or stroke.
The driving rain and chilly temps were not enough to stop local teens and Friends of Grand Rapids Parks on Saturday—rain or shine, the trees must be planted. Each new tree planted in Riverside Park this past weekend is in honor of a donor who recently joined Grand Rapids Community Foundation’s Metz Legacy Society. The teen volunteers were members of the Community Foundation’s Youth Grant Committee.
“To join the Metz Legacy Society, a donor includes a gift to the Community Foundation in his/her estate plan,” explained Marilyn Zack, vice president of development. “As we discussed meaningful ways to recognize these donors, we thought a tree would be a perfect symbol. Like the tree, the donor’s eventual gift will grow and help the community thrive for many years to come.”
The offer to plant the trees came at the right time for Friends of Grand Rapids Parks. The organization recently launched its Urban Forest Project. One objective of the project is to grow the Grand Rapids tree canopy. “Our community set a 40% tree canopy goal, and order to reach our goal, we need to be growing a healthy urban forest,” said Steve Faber, executive director of Friends of Grand Rapids Parks. “Parks, like Riverside, are experiencing canopy loss due to Emerald Ash Borer, so grove plantings are key to maintaining our urban forest for generations to come.”
October is the opportune time for planting trees and celebrating gifts made through estate plans. October is NeighborWoods Month—a national celebration of urban forests and trees. And October 15-19 is designated National Estate Planning Awareness Week.
BY :: SPARKLY STELLAFLY
PHOTOGRAPHER :: TIM MOTLEY
At Thursday night’s Couture for a Cure, which benefited the Van Andel Institute, guests were treated to the premiere of New York designer Daniel Vosovic’s Spring and Summer 2013 collection. The Sparkly Stellafly had an opportunity to sit down with Vosovic on the eve of the show and talk to him about his journey from Grand Rapids to New York.
Daniel spent most of his childhood living in East Grand Rapids, where he biked to Breton Village Mall whenever he could. His family later moved to Lowell, and he excelled as a competitive gymnast until he retired at 18 years old. He went to college to study architecture but found the program to be much too structured and too long for his taste. So, on a whim he decided to take a sewing course. As he learned to take a piece of fabric and turn it into an article of clothing, he began to think that fashion could be a career. However, he knew that he would have to make the move from Lowell to NYC to make this happen.
So Vosovic went to New York after talking with a cousin who lived there and was attending the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT). As Daniel began his time at FIT, he found it refreshing to be surrounded by like-minded individuals. He was accepted into an Italian exchange program and moved to Florence, where his entire outlook on design and fashion was changed with just one design lesson. They were given one piece of fabric cut into a specific shape and asked to design a dress, top, skirt, or whatever they chose with just that one piece of fabric. This forced him to think outside the box and challenge the traditional “rules” of clothing design.
Daniel returned to NYC and completed the 2-year program at FIT in just one year, and four days after graduating he was auditioning for Project Runway’s second season. This was his big break. He was 24-years old and his “first job” was showing his work in front of an audience of 3 ½-4 million people who were watching the show, and the judges on the show who were very influential in the fashion industry. He was selected as first-runner-up that season, and his first runway show during New York Fashion Week was attended by Vogue, Barney’s, and Bergdorf Goodman (just to name a few). His career had gone from 0 to 60 in just a matter of what seemed like minutes, a rarity for the fashion industry.
However, when Vosovic began to think about it, he realized that he was actually becoming more famous than his clothing. He stepped back and before pushing forward and creating another new line, Daniel decided he needed to go back and work for someone, get the nitty-gritty experience he had missed by going on the reality show. So, he began working in large companies as a third assistant and smaller companies as a creative director.
All of those experiences have made him what he is today—a hard-working, in-the-trenches, leader. As I watched him backstage on Thursday evening, I saw his nervousness turn to excitement as he saw the models lined up in his designs. It was evident that he has found his true calling in life and is a real-life example of what happens when you find your passion and pursue it.
When I asked him what his goals were now, he said he would like to be the next Ralph Lauren. He wants to create an experience with his fashion, and would love fashion to lead him to other things such as film and home design. I have no doubt that he will do all of that and more, and look forward to seeing what the future brings his way.
On Thursday night, fashion took center stage on the Medical Mile, as over 400 people arrived at the Van Andel Institute for the seventh annual Couture for a Cure. The first floor of this world-class research facility was transformed into a scene from New York Fashion Week for this event, which raised thousands of dollars to support the life-changing scientific research that takes place in the floors above. After a reception that included a wide variety of hors d’ouevres and cocktails, the crowd moved to the seats along the runway for a fashion show put on by Leigh’s at Breton Village mall, and which featured the spring 2013 line by Daniel Vosovic, the NYC designer who was born and raised right here in West Michigan.
But this event did not just happen overnight. It was a year in the making. Planning began just days after the 2011 event, and a key player in the execution of the annual event since its inception in 2006 has been Patrick Plank, Creative Director and Director of Visual Merchandising for Leigh’s. His position covers a wide scope of work, from creating window displays for the store to spending time in New York City on buying trips for clients. He was the perfect person to talk to in West Michigan about orchestrating a large fashion show, and I was grateful to have the opportunity to spend some time watching him in action and hearing about how he got to where he is today.
I arrived at Leigh’s on the eve of Couture for a Cure, and walked back to see Patrick, who was wrapping up a day of model fittings. He told me there would be 16 models, each showing four different looks—Bond Bombshells, a tribute to the 50th anniversary of James Bond; Colorful Characters, because “color is big this year” according to Plank; Rock-Her, some rock-and-roll styles; and After Hours Diva, which would showcase this season’s evening wear looks. I watched as he put together just the right looks for each model and made sure that each look was complimented by the right shoes, bag, and accessories. There was energy in the fitting area that could not be missed, and Plank never slowed down. As I spoke with him I could see the wheels turning in his head, thinking about what else he could do to make the event even more special.
Born and raised in Grand Rapids, Patrick Plank once had aspirations of becoming an elementary school teacher. While in high school, he had his first experiences in retail at North Kent Mall, which gave him the experience he needed to get a job at Jacobson’s in 1992, while taking classes at Grand Rapids Community College and Kendall College of Art and Design. For three years he worked in sales, starting in the boys clothing department, then men’s clothing, and then the women’s shoe department. It was around that time he began to use his art background and helped to create displays in the store, eventually earning him the title of Visual Merchandise Manager, a position he held until Jacobson’s closed its doors.
After Jacobson’s closed, Plank took initiative and the experience he had acquired and started his own company, P2 Merchandise Presentations. His clients included Leigh’s and Fitzgerald’s Men’s Store in Breton Village Mall, as well as Woodland Mall and Wolverine Worldwide. In 2005, Larry Leigh asked Patrick to come on board full-time. Seven years later, he still loves his work as much as he did when he began, and is very excited about the increased interest in fashion in West Michigan. Couture for a Cure began as a small fashion show in Leigh’s and last night filled the Van Andel Institute venue to its capacity. Plank said he sees that this area has, “an increased awareness of fashion” and that people are “treating the event like a fashion event and truly dressing for the event.”
Couture for a Cure has become just that—a fashion event. And much of that has to do with the vision of Patrick Plank. From creating a longer runway and having more models on that runway than ever before, to creating a truly theatrical experience with amazing lighting, music, and even props for the Bond Bombshell segment, the entire show was a work of art.
Thursday night, I arrived and was able to see in real-life what I had heard about the night before. But in real-life, it was so much better. I watched Patrick in action throughout the evening, before the show began, making sure that everything surrounding the show was picture perfect—looking through each look on the racks backstage, making sure the lighting was just right, and checking in on all of the models in hair and makeup. He not only selects the clothing, he manages the staff, works with the production company, and finalizes the music for the show. With all of these responsibilities, I was amazed at how calm and collected he seemed…ready for anything.
Watching a fashion show from alongside the runway is a completely different experience than what is seen backstage. Thursday night’s show required each girl to have four or five looks, depending on whether they were part of the Daniel Vosovic show. They had all of about 2 minutes in between each look to change into their next outfit, line up, and have Patrick take one last careful look at them before they start to walk the runway again. Last minute adjustments are made, such as adding a brooch, clipping a piece of clothing with a binder clip to make it tighter, or helping a model get into her impossibly high heels and ready to walk the runway.
As the last girl came off the stage after the finale, I saw Patrick have a deep sigh of relief and a smile on his face, as I’m sure he knew that once again, he had just created something incredible. The applause and cheers from the audience was proof of that. He had created just the experience that he wanted it to be for everyone there.
When I asked Patrick what he would be doing after the night was over, he said he would relax, take some time for himself, and then begin preparing for the 2013 Couture for a Cure.
If you are looking for the latest in today’s fashion trends, stop into Leigh’s and see all of the wonderful things they have to offer. And to see all of the wonderful work that is happening at the Van Andel Institute, check out their website at www.vai.org.