Ryan Spencer Reed Opening Reception of Shades of Grandeur

Last year during Artprize, I was running late for a meeting at the Amway Grand Plaza and decided to take a shortcut through DeVos Place. I came across Ryan Spencer Reed‘s submission and it stopped me in my tracks. There were swarms of people around him and since I had somewhere to be I quickly introduced myself, gave him my card and asked him to call me about possibly working together in the future. He did, we are and it makes me feel very fortunate to know this great talent.

Last night Grand Rapids’ creative crowd gathered at the Richard App Gallery for Ryan’s opening reception “Shades of Grandeur. The show features a compilation of 33 images taken from throughout Michigan and the entire nation — each piece created to be a chapter of a finished story.

Ryan has an innate ability to pull emotion into every frame. Tim Motley, a photographer I very much admire, said  “there is not one weak image in this collection.” about Ryan’s work. A huge compliment coming from him and as a gallery owner, curator and lover of visual images it makes me proud to hang such a powerful show.

Reed explains that the images are a product of a pilgrimage to rediscover things left behind through the dim and murky light of history. Some are filled with symbols while others are simply about conveying mood or feeling. They are an attempt to tell the story of a nation amidst the death of the American Industrial Revolution, when ambitions of empire and the specter of hubris pull at a superpower in transition – at odds with itself and gasping for compass beyond the precipice of shifting paradigm.

Ryan’s journey began documenting critical social issues when he self-financed a move to east Africa. He worked in that region and covered the Sudanese Diaspora for nearly 7 years. Ryan has entered Sudan a half dozen times in addition to covering the mass exodus of refugees to Eastern Chad and Kenya. In late summer 2004, he returned from covering the War in Darfur to produce that body of work for distribution. This work was widely exhibited in the States and abroad. The Soros Foundation’s Open Society Institute awarded him with the Documentary Photography Project’s Distribution Grant in 2006 to help this work reach additional audiences. While exhibiting and speaking internationally on the subject of Sudan, he has begun a long-term project on the hubris of power and the twilight of the American industrial revolution. A chapter of this work on Detroit is currently being distributed.

Ryan’s “Sudan: The Cost of Silence” placed in the Top 25 in 2011’s ArtPrize.

Ryan’s work will be up through April 15. Come take a look and see what story you hear and see.

To learn more about Ryan Spencer Reed, visit his website: http://www.ryanspencerreed.com/

Photography: Terry Johnston :: Story: Richard App

All things fabulous at the Cheeky Strut

Established in early 2009 by KL Christoffersen, Cheeky Strut is a high energy, cutting edge salon located in trendy downtown Grand Rapids. Renowned as one of GR’s best, Cheeky Strut has been featured in and on many local and regional publications and television programs.

Their world class stylists offer a personalized and genuinely caring experience with a focus on creating your very own cheeky strut. They provide an unconditional commitment to authentic beauty and legendary customer service. They’ve recently renovated their space adding many square feet to accomodate for new services that they provide including eyelash extensions, waxing and sugaring, spray tans, hair extensions just to name a few. They’re always on trend with the newest and best products including styling tools and nail polish. They also have a fun blog with even more tips on how to stay beautiful: Tusseled which is authored by professional stylist Kelsey Zahn.

This spring their new expansion will be available to rent for private parties. What little lady doesn’t want to have a getting pretty party with her girl friends?

They also host a lot of cool events like last weekend’s BYOB Night.

Bring Your Own Blowdryer Night was conveniently held early on a Saturday evening to be useful. A handful of women got a hands on tutorial and tips on how to style their hair.

Their next party you won’t want to miss! They are celebrating their 3 year anniversary with music, cocktails and food. Stop by so they can show you all of their awesomeness. You won’t want to miss it! Event info: https://www.facebook.com/events/186102131499478/

For more information on Cheeky Strut, visit their website: http://www.cheekystrut.com
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/CheekyStrut?sk=info

Cheeky Strut is located at 216 Grandville Avenue SW, Grand Rapids (across from Founders)
Phone: 616-272-3123


Reverend Horton Heat Plays The Intersection

As a long time fan of Reverend Horton Heat, it was no surprise that we were pretty excited about the show coming to Grand Rapids’ Intersection last night. The atmosphere in Intersection was electric, and Reverend Horton Heat never ever disappoints.

Their “country-fed punkabilly” songs are also described as psychobilly — a mixture of country, surf, punk, big band, swing, and rockabilly, all played super loud and energetically with lyrics that are often very humorous. The band has achieved success within the genre and even in mainstream America with many of their songs being featured in video games and commercials.

The Reverend Horton Heat, aka Jim Heath, is the biggest, baddest, rocker that ever piled his hair up and pounded the drinks down. Without question, for all of his crazy stints, sizzling performances and legendary musical prowess, the one thing The Rev always gets asked about is the story behind his unusual and rather clerical moniker.

The Rev’s been at this awhile. He’s got nearly 20 years in and his country-flavored punkabilly and onstage antics have brought him and his band a noticably diverse fan base and a loyal cult following.

Reverend Horton Heat is currently on tour this year. It’s definitely a great show and if you have a chance to see them live, do it. Drink lots of beer, make your hair huge and wear your earplugs! http://www.reverendhortonheat.com/tourdates.php

Website: http://www.reverendhortonheat.com/index.php
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/reverendhortonheat

West Michigan Women’s Expo!

West Michigan Women’s Expo!
DeVos Place
March 9-11, 2012
Danielle Josephine DeWitt

The West Michigan Women’s Expo celebrated its 14th year this weekend at DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids. Thousands of women came to check out this event that features hundreds of vendors including everything from fashion to health and wellness to home décor.

As I walked past the Great Lakes Pub Cruiser, the electronic palm reader, and the multitude of designer jewelry booths, I came upon the group from WGVU Engage’s Women & Girls Lead. If you have not heard of this great new initiative yet, you will soon.

Women & Girls Lead is a national initiative to empower females and encourage them to work on improving their communities, take on local and global challenges, and to be innovators in science, the arts, business, and leadership. WGVU is one of many media partners and will help by creating awareness, providing education, and developing community programs that will join women and girls together in strategic ways to develop solutions that are sustainable for future generations.

I had the opportunity to speak with the always engaging Shelley Irwin, host of The Morning Show on WGVU (which airs Monday through Friday, 9-11 a.m. on 88.5 and 95.3FM in Grand Rapids). She is the co-chair of the Women & Girls Lead initiative, and as one of West Michigan’s 50 Most Influential Women, she is a great role model for females today. She talked to me about the structure and goals of this great program.

Right now there is an Advisory Council made up of 90 community leaders from the West Michigan area, and a Steering Committee whose members serve as the “worker bees” of the group. Looking to the future, Irwin would like to see a youth advisory committee comprised of young girls who can provide input on the important issues. She said they have chosen three pillars of focus, “Leadership, Living Well, and Ending Violence.”

Shelley talked about how WGVU and other public media outlets throughout the country are able to promote Women & Girls Lead through radio and TV interviews, special films, and reaching out to girls and women in their areas to show them ways they can be part of this initiative. It is all about “girl power.” She said that one of the ultimate goals would be for Women & Girls Lead to serve as a “clearinghouse for female leadership opportunities.”

Please take some time to check out their website—http://www.wgvu.org/wgl—and “like” their Facebook page and see how you can be involved, too.

Giggle Ball. Jessica Ann Tyson’s Chocolate Extravaganza benefiting Laughfest & Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids

Giggle Ball. Jessica Ann Tyson’s Chocolate Extravaganza
benefiting Laughfest and Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids
Amway Grand Plaza :: Ambassador Ballroom
Friday, March 9, 2012

Our friend, supporter, community leader and event mogul Jessica Ann Tyson shared her 40th birthday party by throwing herself an event themed fundraiser called: “Giggle Ball – Jessica Ann’s Chocolate Themed Birthday Extravaganza,” benefiting Gilda’s Club of Grand Rapids.

If you don’t know Jessica Ann, as one of GR’s hottest event planners, she always goes above board with her parties. Last night featured strolling chocolate — wayyy too much chocolate, Jessica; a cake walk, live band, our favorite Soundscaper DJ Todd Ernst, dancing, bar and a bake off of ‘whoopi pies’ in honor of comedian Whoopi Goldberg who we had shot earlier that evening. (Pics of Whoopi)

The Giggle Ball was also the first event we’ve photographed in the newly restored Ambassador Ballroom inside of the Amway Grand Plaza. Tickets cost guests $20 with 100% of the money going directly back to Gilda’s Club.

There are many events taking place during Laughfest that are fundraisers for Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids. Be sure to visit their website, designate ‘other seriously funny events’ in the event type search menu:  http://laughfestgr.org/events/

Event Photography: Tim Motley

It’s Always a Party at Ramona’s Table

In the early to mid 20th century, Ramona Park graced the shores of Reeds Lake in East Grand Rapids. An entertainment hot spot, the amusement park featured roller coasters and a theater that attracted famous Vaudeville acts and huge audiences.

Jackie Ziehm and Charlie Palm pay homage to this bygone era by operating Ramona’s Table – a farm-to-table restaurant located at 2232 Wealthy Street in East Grand Rapids. A husband-and-wife team of restaurateurs with over 15 years of experience, they researched the history of their potential restaurant location at the Grand Rapids Public Library.

“I love the name Ramona,” Jackie said. “It was historical. It was perfect.”

But how did Jackie and Charlie — two self-described “corporate rats from the automotive industry” — come to open their Gaslight Village restaurant three years ago?

Jackie said that she and her husband “traveled a lot and worked really hard” in the 1990’s. As automotive specialty chemicals salespeople, they had no background in the restaurant business — but they both loved food.

“At one point, we made a decision,” said Jackie. “If we’re working this hard, we should do something for ourselves rather than for everybody else.”

Armed with strong business acumen, a creative flair, and a love of food; the dynamic couple ventured into the restaurant business.

“We owned a chain before this, but found out pretty quickly we weren’t chain people.” said Jackie. “We didn’t agree with how they did things. We didn’t think the quality was what it needed to be. So we decided we were going to do it the way we thought it should be done.”

The location of Ramona’s Table was the couple’s dream location. They loved the East Grand Rapids community and the pedestrian traffic of Gaslight Village.

“We actually looked at this spot and it was out of our reach,” said Jackie. “When it went into foreclosure, we were able to afford it. For us, it was a dream location.”

It’s little wonder that the East Grand Rapids community has embraced Ramona’s Table since it opened. Researching a historically relevant name was only a first step for the Ziehms. Their continuing respect for the local area appears to be a common theme in the way the Ziehm’s operate their growing business.

A farm-to-table restaurant that offers catering and serves private parties, Ramona’s Table uses as much fresh, local produce as possible to create a variety of bold sandwiches, wraps, salads, appetizers, entrees, and more. The recently expanded restaurant and deli seats 52, and offers alfresco dining on the patio in the warmer months. The majority of patrons hail from East Grand Rapids, but Ramona’s Table is also becoming a destination restaurant for out-of-towners who appreciate the their local yet adventurous approach to food.

“We have a gentleman who lives in Detroit, actually, who comes to our business,” said Jackie Ziehm. “And every time he comes to this side of the state he comes in to buy carrot cake. He’s probably the person who travels the furthest.”

When it comes to engaging the palette of the local community, education is key. The couple feels passionate about broadening culinary horizons and introducing the community to different tastes and flavor profiles.

You might see unfamiliar ingredients on the restaurant menu. Wheatberry. Quinoa. Jicama. Farro. Daikon radishes. Ox tail. Endive…

“We use ingredients that many of our customers have never seen before,” said Ziehm. “And we tell them ‘taste this!’ Tell us what you think!”

They shared their enthusiasm for the future of the business.

“We really want to have a garden and do it as a community outreach with the school. We can’t say we have all the details worked out, but it’s certainly something we’d like to do.”

Further, Ramona’s Table plans to offer a more upscale meal delivery program. Customers can call ahead to get a baked from scratch meal. Home cooked meals-to-go include favorites like braised short ribs, pot roasts, and lasagnas.

They recently hired creative local food phenom Aaron Burrows as their head chef. Locally, Burrows has developed a following among those devoted to creativity, sustainability, and locavorism. They found Burrows through a FarmLink inquiry — they wanted to find a chef who felt passionate about sourcing local food — including protein and produce.

Burrows was the man. Formerly with Salt of the Earth in Fennville and Graydon’s Crossing in Grand Rapids, Burrows brings his passion for sustainable living to Ramona’s Table. He readily admits that he is “stoked” about local gardening, composting, and keeping revenue in the local community. He hopes to share his knowledge with elementary school children.

“Just talking about this stuff gives me goosebumps,” he said.

Burrows acknowledges that his bosses are great about creative collaboration in the kitchen. “The meals to go thing? Yeah, that’s going to be all my stuff on there.”

And catering?

“We just did a party for 200 at the Grand Rapids Art Museum. We did endive salad spears as one of cold appetizers,” Burrows said. Lamb pops, butternut squash ravioli, chipotle BBQ meat balls, and red grapes wrapped in goat cheese and crushed pistachios were just some of the other delectable menu items at the event.

Ramona’s Table also recently catered the Grand Opening for M-Live‘s new offices.

While the restaurant is come-as-you-are casual, the catering and food choices are uniquely sumptuous. If you eat with your eyes before you bring the food to your lips, the cozy ambiance and remarkable creativity displayed at Ramona’s Table will win you over with its simple elegance and passion for boldly adventurous local food choices.

Ramona’s Table is open Monday – Saturday from 8 AM – 8 PM.

Be sure to visit Ramona’s Table’s website: http://www.ramonastable.com

For daily specials and to up-t0-date news, LIKE Ramona’s Table’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/RamonasTable

Contributing writer: Laura Bergells
Contributing photographers: Tim Motley/Katy Batdorff
Video: Michael Cook


Kindergarten Here I Come!

Grand Rapids Public Museum
March 7, 2012
Contributing Writer: Danielle Josephine DeWitt

Members of the Grand Rapids Public Schools Class of 2025 had a “night at the museum” on Wednesday to learn about what next year would bring when they walk into their first day of school. It was the annual “Kindergarten Here I Come!” event hosted by GRPS at the Grand Rapids Public Museum to familiarize parents of incoming kindergartners with the options and amenities available to their children as they begin their first year of school. There were 27 schools and more than a dozen services represented throughout the three floors of the Van Andel Museum Center, with principals, teachers, and program directors ready to meet parents and their kids.

As I talked to the many teachers and administrators who were there, it didn’t take me long to see that kindergarten has changed since 1981, the year I started my school years. Gone are the days of cookies, milk, and naptime. As standards have been raised, so has the level of academic rigor experienced by kindergarteners today. One of the first people I met was Judy Brown, Kindergarten teacher at East Leonard Elementary. She talked about the balance that teachers must find so that they are teaching all of the required material and make sure that the kids do not become discouraged or feel overwhelmed.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Academy which places an emphasis on the character traits of leaders in its curriculum. They have partnerships with First United Methodist Church and several other family foundations and local companies, who help the school to provide extensive tutoring in reading and math and help opportunities for their students such as community outings to local museums and cultural attractions. They also have in-house health services provided by the Kent School Services Network which helps ensure that their students remain physically, emotionally, and socially ready to learn.

Another school represented was the Grand Rapids Child Discovery Center, where teachers use principles of the Reggio Emilia Approach in their curriculum. The basic idea of this approach is that to observe what children know, are curious about, and what challenges them. There are ten principles, a few of which are The Image of the Child; Teachers as Partners; Collaboration and Interaction; and The Role of Parents. Teacher Sana Amash told me about the non-traditional classrooms—teachers partner with students to develop projects, shared workspaces replace individual desks, and teachers work in pairs.

The final program I visited with was Baby Scholars, which is a program of Believe to Become. Baby Scholars provides free help and educational support for children 5 months to 5 years old who meet certain geographic criteria and who plan to send their child to GRPS. It begins with home coaching for babies 5 to 19 months, provides workshops for parents and their children from 20-3 months, and then offers a 12-week curriculum for preschoolers between the ages of 3-5 years old. The primary goal of Baby Scholars is to prepare each child for kindergarten. This program is collaboration between Believe to Become, Arbor Circle, Early Neighborhood Learning Collaborative, LINC Community Revitalization, Inc., Strong Beginnings and Spectrum Health.

Grand Rapids Public Schools is doing a lot of great work for all of their students, and I look forward to seeing what this class of 2025 brings to the world. Even if you do not live in GR, check out their programs and see if there is anything you can do to support these schools.

To learn more about the Grand Rapids Public Schools: http://www.grps.k12.mi.us

Be sure to LIKE the GRPS on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GRPublicSchools

Miss America visits Grand Rapids Montessori Academy

West Michigan Woman Magazine, lifestyle magazine, brought Miss America 2012, Laura Kaeppeler, to Grand Rapids. Miss America spoke yesterday, March 6, during an assembly at the Grand Rapids Montessori. She later joined the YMCA ‘LOOP Afterschool’ program afterward at the school.

Miss America 2012, Laura Kaeppeler, is spending her year of service touring the country encouraging young people to pursue a college education, and share her passion for the arts and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.

The YMCA ‘LOOP Afterschool’ program at Grand Rapids Montessori Academy is a K-8 program funded by 21st CCLC. It is a partnership between the Grand Rapids Public School District and the YMCA. The program has been using Kidzmath and Kidzscience curriculum and running a Lego® engineering club.

The Miss America Organization (MAO) efforts mirror the national momentum to teach STEM curricula outside tradition school settings, targeting female students who are currently under-represented in STEM professions.

“Our hope is to help shift girls’ attitudes about STEM and boost the percentage of women employed in STEM-related industries. It’s not just the right thing to do, but is also the smart thing to do for America’s future and our economy,” Kaeppeler said.

To learn more about Miss America Organization (MAO), visit their website: http://www.missamerica.org/

To learn more about Grand Rapids Montessori Academy, visit their website: http://www.montessorigr.org/


Butterflies are Blooming at Frederik Meijer Gardens

Each year Meijer Gardens holds their most popular annual exhibition and the largest temporary tropical butterfly exhibit in the nation. From March 1–April 30, visitors can escape the Michigan winter and visit the temporary home of more than 6,000 tropical butterflies which fly free in the 15,000-square-foot Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory.

Their are more than 40 different species from the Far East, Africa and Central America. Each week hundreds of chrysalises arrive at Meijer Gardens and are sorted, inspected, labeled and pinned inside a sealed Butterfly Bungalow. The chrysalises are then placed in a special emergence area of the Bungalow where visitors can witness through a window their magical transformation into butterflies.

Once they are ready to be released into the conservatory, the butterflies are placed on plants where they acclimate to the environment and gain strength before taking to the air. It’s a wonderful place for photos and just one of the opportunities for visitors to observe the butterflies up-close and personal. Throughout the tropical environment, butterflies can be viewed drinking nectar from the flowering plants and feeding stations, lighting on the odd nose or shoulder, and congregating along the stream beds, as well as in flight all around.

During the exhibition, the Lena Meijer Children’s Garden offers special activities. Additionally, interactive displays are featured throughout.

Be sure to visit Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park on the web: http://www.meijergardens.org/

Like the on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MeijerGardens

Photography: Terry Johnston