Tanglefoot 22



I do not think that when the original founding artists of the Tanglefoot building on the city’s southwest side held its first open studio public event any of them really expected that 22 events later and in 2013 they would still be celebrating this phenomena.

What is a constant in this event is the reality that no matter who is involved whether it be any of the remaining founding members like Elaine Dalcher, who has exhibited all 22 times, or its newest member Jason Villareal, the Tanglefoot Building open artists studio event is the unofficial kick off to the holiday season.

Each year people line the hallways and venture to the many studios contained within meeting the artists or navigating the new displays of art in the hopes of securing an original piece for their home or as a gift.







As one of the organizers of this event over the last decade, I have come to think on this once a year special event as a sort of homecoming for our clients and friends (and sometimes the embodiment of both) as we open our doors but also our lives to an ever eager public hoping to explore this celebration of our local art culture.

But as I surveyed the faces this year, something remarkable has emerged as I noticed more fresh faces than familiar. Over the years I have come to recognize that this steady growth in our population numbers is a good indication that the city is changing as we hear folks sharing all the time that someone new has moved into their neighborhood or have just “joined our firm.”

As the artists of Tanglefoot dined at Grand Rapids Brewing Company Sunday night after their event and as they compared notes, this observation was repeated by all. It made me smile for a host of reasons.






One, it is always good to see new faces at a legacy event such as Tanglefoot entering its third decade. It points to the fact that folks whether brand new or unfamiliar with what we have created over the years collectively are feeling confident in their own skin veering off the well-worn path to embark on whole new adventures in our city.

But with the increase in numbers comes an opportunity to share the personal stories of our local artists with a much wider audience.  And this is the power of art that finds that audience as Tanglefoot has done for decades. Finding that commonality of shared experience is what makes art so important in many of our lives.

Folks who have visited Tanglefoot over the years know very well from engaging in our space that these places are not just where art is created but place-making can take hold.




Through these connections we find those items that bind us together as a community but also a reason to feel more at home at the city we are all a part of now and through the years.  Sometimes a gallery opening is a time to discover new art and sometimes it is a place where community connections to last decades lone are unearthed making all of us feel a bit more at home with each other.

Note: Tanglefoot 22 is an annual open studio holiday event. For the 2013 event,  more than 20 artists were represented including founding artists Elaine Dalcher and Nikki Wall along with Tommy Allen, Jeff Condon, Alynn Guerra, Carlos Aceves, Jason Villareal, Steff Condon, and Gretchen Deems.

Also on display this year were visiting artists from the Dinderbeck Collective and The Happi Ness Project by Mark Rumsey (2013-14 Guest Fellow of the Allen + Pfleghaar Studio at Tanglefoot.)


Veteran on a mission: Peter Meijer on advocacy and disaster relief in a post-war world



Peter Meijer stepped out of the command center at a Hurricane Sandy disaster relief site and immediately knew why he was there.

Another volunteer, a war veteran, came up to him, tears welling up in his eyes.

“He said, ‘Man, I’ve done three tours. But this past week, I made the most impact.’

“Ten minutes later, this older lady came up to me crying,” Meijer recalls. “I asked her what was wrong. She said, ‘Thank you. Until you came, I didn’t have any hope.’ Then she gave me a hug.”

Meijer’s quiet for a minute.

His time in the U.S. Army Reserves and embedded with the Iraqi Army as a combat advisor prepared him well for the physical rigors of disaster relief.

But the tears and hugs?

“I have no script for that,” Meijer says. “You realize, everybody’s winning. It’s 100 percent good, with a capital G.”

Meijer, 25, grandson of the late Frederik Meijer, grew up with plenty of lessons about making a difference in the world.

Now he’s doing his part through two organizations, both connected to his role as a military veteran.

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Meijer is a volunteer for Team Rubicon, a nonprofit disaster response and humanitarian aid organization that organizes military veterans to respond to crises.

And he’s on the board of directors for Student Veterans of America, an advocacy and support group that eases vets from combat life to college life.

A U.S. Army veteran, joined the Army in 2006 while in college at West Point. In 2010, while a student at Columbia University, he was deployed to Baghdad where he served as a combat adviser to the Iraqi military for a year.

When deadly Hurricane Sandy hit shore in New Jersey in October 2012, Meijer and other Team Rubicon volunteers jumped in to assist.

He prepared evacuation shelters, helped with search and rescue efforts and cleaned up debris in the battered Rockaway neighborhood in Queens.

The combination of military veterans and disaster relief makes perfect sense, Meijer says.

“When a vet comes back, he loses a sense of camaraderie,” says Meijer, who lives in Manhattan. “You have a profound emotional connection with the others you serve with. Suddenly, that’s gone, along with your sense of purpose.

“How can you find a new community to be part of that gives you a sense of purpose and community?”

Many find it through Team Rubicon.

“Your main mission is to help people — restore a sense of normalcy,” he says. “But there’s this beautiful silver lining. It also helps the vets, who often struggle with suicide, mental health issues, PTSD, issues of unemployment, how to integrate. All these difficult issues. When you try to work on them directly, you don’t make much progress. But when you’re working with other vets at a disaster, all those really difficult emotional bridges to get across fall away on their own.

“It’s the most gratifying thing.”

Meijer was in Moore, Oklahoma in May right after a deadly tornado struck, killing 23 people and injuring 377 others. Eight children died in the Plaza Towers Elementary School there.

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As he worked on cleanup, Meijer watched as one little girl collected loose roof shingles and drew rainbows on them with crayons. She gave them out to volunteers as thank yous.

Meijer found out later she had been pulled from the rubble earlier at the elementary school.

“That kind of thing,” he says, “sticks with you.”

Meijer grew up in East Grand Rapids as part of the Meijer family. His dad is Hank Meijer, co-chairman of the food retailer.

Growing up, Meijer says, “there was a very high bar.

“We learned it was good to want to do good, but that there’s a lot of goodwill out there that’s never translated into action,” he says. “What change can you actually affect?”

Some of his core beliefs come from his grandfather, Fred, he says.

“It doesn’t cost anything to care and to be a good person,” Meijer says. “And, life is too short not to have relationships with people and work together.”

There must be something to those Fred-isms, Meijer says, because he sure touched a lot of people. “The outpouring after he died was such a touching symbol of the impact you can have,” he says.

Jennifer Clipp has known Meijer since he was a freshman in high school. For 20 years she was the secretary in the guidance office at East Grand Rapids High School. The two remain good friends, and Meijer often checks in with Clipp, now retired, from his adventures.

Peter wasn’t a typical high school kid,” Clipp says. “Everybody liked him, but he wasn’t hanging out at the mall. Other things interested him. He’s an avid learner, and he wants to experience everything he’s interested in.”

And he was interested in the military.

“We had many conversations and disagreements about him going into the service,” Clipp says. “I didn’t want him to be in danger. I said, ‘Peter — why would you do this? You have your whole life to explore.’ He wanted to experience what it was about.

“Now, when you hear him speak about veterans, it’s truly heartfelt,” she says.

Meijer spelled his last name differently during high school, Clipp says, so as not to be recognized for his high profile family.

“He could easily be a very entitled young man, but he isn’t,” she says. “He’s never wanted anything given to him because of who he is. One of the reasons he chose to go to West Point was because he got in on his own, not because his father could afford to send him.

“I can’t wait to see what he does next.”

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Meanwhile, Meijer is a passionate spokesman for Student Veterans of America, a go-between, he explains, “between the college bureaucracy and the Veteran’s Administration bureaucracy.”

They help with paperwork, internships, employment opportunities and other nuts and bolts of transition.

“But there are social and emotional issues, too,” Meijer says. “These students are older than their peers, they’ve had different experiences.”

Peer support is huge, he says.

“Guys who have been there can show others what hurdles they’ve faced, so they don’t have to reinvent the wheel.”

Meijer was a student at Columbia University when he was deployed to Baghdad. When he returned, “I should have been as well prepared as anyone to make the transition,” he says. “I had already been in school. Yet it was still really difficult to adjust.

“You don’t want to be that guy in class who says, ‘Let me tell you how the world works,’” he says. “You don’t want to play the veteran card. But the reality is there’s a deep divide between the military and college campus atmosphere.

“A kid who’s just out of high school is living away from home for the first time, learning how to do his own laundry,” he says. “I’ve been shot at.”

While Meijer’s most dramatic stories of aid come from his experiences hundreds or thousands of miles away, he still has a soft spot for his own back yard.

His family has a long relationship with the Grand Rapids Community Foundation. His grandfather created a donor advised fund for his grandchildren to be part of, Meijer says, and he continues to have a say in the projects it funds.

It funds restoration of a WW II glider at the Greenville Military Museum, he says, as well as restoration of the veterans memorial in downtown Grand Rapids.

The veteran experience is part of him, he says.

“You know when you’re in a foreign country at a restaurant and you realize there’s somebody else there from the same place you are?” he says. “Even if you don’t know each other, you have this immediate camaraderie.”

Same thing with veterans, he says.

“You share a lot of things that you can’t explain.”




2nd Annual Alternatives In Motion High Endurance Awards event



In October 2013, Alternatives in Motion announced the winners of the 2013 A.I.M. High Endurance Awards, recognizing the efforts of local race directors, volunteers, endurance sport clubs, sponsors and participants who set out to accomplish their goals no matter how long it takes or how far they have to go. Last week, the winners were presented with awards.

In addition to recognizing the A.I.M. High Endurance Award winners, the program featured Tom Grilk, Executive Director of the Boston Athletic Association, as the guest speaker. Grilk discussed how the endurance community has supported the Boston Marathon since its inception in 1897, and particularly in the wake of the events of April 15 as both the B.A.A. and the how the running community is looking forward to the 2014 Boston Marathon.






AIM High Endurance Award winners are as follows:

• Individual Accomplishment Award: Libby Jennings

• Inspiration Award: Rick VanBeek (Team Maddy)

• Corporate Dedication Award: Metro Health Sports Medicine

• Moving People Forward Award: Johnny Agar (Team Agar)

Award recipients were nominated by their peers and selected by the A.I.M. High Endurance Awards committee.




In addition, 55 individuals who completed the Fifth Third River Bank Run 25K, half-iron or full-iron at the Grand Rapids Triathlon or the MiTitanium, and the Metro Health Grand Rapids Marathon in 2013 will be recognized with the West Michigan Endurance Award.

“In 2012, we presented 20 people with West Michigan Endurance Awards at the inaugural A.I.M. High Endurance Awards event,” explains Matt Chapman, Interim Executive Director, Alternatives in Motion. “To see 55 athletes achieve the award this year speaks volumes about the endurance community here in West Michigan. We are honored to recognize this amazing group of individuals next Thursday.”



West Michigan Endurance Award winners are as follows:


Proceeds from the event went to Alternatives in Motion. Alternatives in Motion is a privately funded, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization with a mission to provide quality used wheelchairs, and routine wheelchair repair services, to individuals and families demonstrating financial need in order to promote healthy, independent and active lifestyles. To date, Alternatives in Motion has assisted over 1,250 people from Michigan and 21 other states. Proceeds will help provide mobility and independence to individuals and families in need by giving Alternatives in Motion the precious financial resources required to continue an unwavering commitment to keeping people mobile.

Four Colleges Commit to Grand Rapids Community College’s Challenge Scholars Program



November 8, 2013 — Aquinas College, Ferris State University, Grand Rapids Community College and Grand Valley State University have each created special scholarship packages to support Grand Rapids Community Foundation’s Challenge Scholars program. The Challenge Scholars program, which begins with sixth grade students at Harrison Park School and Westwood Middle School, is designed to help students succeed in school, maintain good grades and behavior and to eventually be accepted to college. Students that complete program requirements and graduate from Union High School will receive a last dollars scholarship from the Community Foundation. The value of the scholarship depends on which college the student chooses to attend and family income.

The scholarship packages that each of the colleges have created are set aside for Challenge Scholars students specifically and each differ slightly in their requirements and what is provided. “When Challenge Scholars launched two years ago, these four colleges became some of our strongest champions. The scholarship commitments we announce today add another element to the partnerships that are already bringing additional resources to students, parents and faculty at our three Challenge Scholars schools. Together, with Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) we are ensuring students on the West Side have the opportunity to reach their full potential as students and citizens. I’m grateful to our partners for their caring and generosity,” Diana Sieger, president of Grand Rapids Community Foundation said.

“This community is truly blessed to have well engaged, community-oriented higher education institutions like Aquinas College, Ferris State University, Grand Rapids Community College and Grand Valley State University. They have been major partners with GRPS for decades, and once again, they have stepped to the plate to support our students.






Challenge Scholars is a game changer and the momentum continues to grow thanks to partnerships like these,” Teresa Weatherall Neal, superintendent of GRPS said.

The local college presidents, whose schools are committing these scholarship packages provided these comments.

Ferris State University has been an active partner with the Grand Rapids Community Foundation in its efforts to encourage students to attend college. We are pleased to support the efforts of the Challenge Scholars program and look forward to encouraging these students not only to attend college, but to graduate,” Dr. David Eisler, president, Ferris State University said.

Dr. Steven C. Ender, president, Grand Rapids Community College said, “We know it takes a village to raise a child. The Challenge Scholars program provides the foundation for our community to work together to offer the guidance and support necessary for students to learn and grow, follow their dreams, and achieve success. Providing educational opportunities for West Michigan residents for nearly a century has given us, at GRCC, the first-hand knowledge that expanding access and support for education empowers our community’s most precious resource—its citizens.”






“I believe strongly in providing educational opportunities to our community’s young people,” Grand Valley State President Thomas J. Haas said. “The Challenge Scholars program fits in perfectly with Grand Valley’s mission to provide access to a college degree and increased opportunities. I have visited Harrison Park and sat and talked with the children. They’re remarkable, and show such promise. This program absolutely will make a difference in their lives and in the future of our community. I can’t wait to welcome some of these students to our campus.”

Dr. Juan Olivarez, president, Aquinas College said, “Aquinas College is proud to invest in the future by investing in students enrolled in the Challenge Scholars program. The families I have met at Harrison Park School are committed to their children’s education and are willing to make the necessary sacrifice to see their dream realized. Aquinas College is honored to partner with them in this dream.”

Why is the Sound of Music still so darn popular?



You’ve seen the Sound of Music a zillion times on TV. You know the story. You love the music, the characters, and the scenery. And the play was a sensation at the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre in 2007.

And now – it’s back. The Sound of Music will be playing yet again at the Civic from November 15-December 15, 2013. Book your tickets now — the Civic’s Community Relations Director Nancy Brozek told me that the show is selling out fast.





Indeed, I had to bust my way past a short line at the box office to get into the theatre’s green room on October 30 to attend the Civic’s Inside Dish event. Almost 50 years after its 1965 Academy Award win for Best Picture, the Sound of Music still seems wildly popular in Grand Rapids.

But why? What is it about this play that makes it so enduringly popular and socially relevant?

As I see it, the story centers on an artistic free spirit who saves a stuffy military widower and his seven weirdly obedient children from getting swept up in the popular social and political conventions of pre-World War II Austria. Without Maria’s intervention, the Von Trapp family was on a path to heiling Hitler until hell freezes over. Feminists will love that the hero of this story is a young woman who infiltrates a family and saves them from their overly disciplined extremism with her creative, compassionate, and loving leadership.

The director of the Civic’s upcoming production shares a different vision for the play.

“The message to take away from the show is that I hope people would value family, courage and sticking together,” said Penelope Notter, director of The Sound of Music, “This is a brave family, who would not tolerate evil and instead risked their lives to get away. It’s a pretty compelling story. And it is true.”

You can interpret this crowd-pleasing play any number of ways. The Sound of Music is a romantic love story with adorable children like Puff the Magic Dragon is a song about a cute sea-dwelling creature. You can thoroughly enjoy a family-friendly, adventurous, and musical surface. You can delight in exploring a countercultural subtext that ignores strict historical accuracy in favor of promoting liberal feminist themes.

You can even do both.

The Sound of Music is as relevant as ever in these turbulent times. Two blocks from the Civic, I walked past two young men dressed as skinheads. Dressed in black and wearing jack boots, they were talking to each other with bitter frowns on their angry faces.

As I passed, one of the young men suddenly smiled warmly and said “hello” to me. I nodded curtly and kept moving.

Maybe the Michigan Militia was out recruiting for Devil’s Night. Or maybe two clueless young men were posing for a Halloween lark. Most of the successful extremists in our midst have learned to be more covert, but these two were as big and bold as life.

I find it alarming when even faux-Nazis are courteous to me. As a child, the Illinois Nazis were almost always present in our south Chicago neighborhoods in the mid to late 1960’s. They seemed angry and hostile, until I walked by and they were all sweetness and smiles: gentlemanly, polite, and charming.

Same deal here in Michigan: early on, I met a local lady who seemed very nice and knowledgeable about the area. She invited me into her rural home. After enjoying coffee and cookies, she felt I was the kind of person who might want to see her private room that served as a shrine to Hitler.

I am not a person who appreciates swastika shrines, Illinois Nazis, or the Michigan Militia. After all, the Nazis set fire to the lawn of my convent in 1968, so my parents would not let me attend school there, as planned.

Maybe I identify a little too closely with the Maria von Trapp character. But when it’s the late 1960’s, you’re a little girl, and Nazis set fire to the lawn of your convent — you see Maria as the hero of the story.





At the Inside Dish, I was excited to learn that director Penelope Notter made subtle yet dramatic changes to the play. After all, it’s not the 1960’s anymore. The 21st century extremists among us have learned subtler and more effective approaches to spreading hate-filled ideology. You may be sitting next to one right now, and not even know it.

“I have definitely up-played the Nazis,” said Notter. “They’ll be in the audience with you. The tension and fear of that time, I don’t want that to be missed. Because I realized years ago that 80% of the audience, that World War II is little — a couple of pages in their history book that they studied.”

According to Notter, the exceptional young cast of the play has a solid understanding of the period’s history. They watched old newsreels of the invasion of Austria. They’ve done their homework and researched the family.

The Civic, after all, isn’t merely a theatre. It’s a School of Theatre Arts that aims to educate not only its cast and volunteers, but also the community it serves. Over a hundred people — cast, orchestra, backstage staff and community volunteers — will be working every night to bring the Sound of Music to Grand Rapids.

“When we go to the concert in the show, YOU become the audience for the concert,” said Notter. “And I shouldn’t tell you all the surprises, but the Nazi flags will drop. They will march down the aisles. They will stand and watch you, to make sure you don’t do anything wrong. There’s two snipers in the bays. They will watch you, OK? Yeah. They’re there.”

Yes. Yes, they certainly are…

That’s the Sound of Music for you: bright and shiny; yet dark and disturbing. Get your tickets now, while they’re still available.

Pulso: Opening Reception



Spanning between KCAD and the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA), Pulso is rooted in an exploration of the ways in which regional boundaries affect the perception of art. While the artists involved all have ties to Latin America, this collaborative exhibition frees itself from the confines of such labels by allowing the diversity of medium and subject matter to challenge cultural preconceptions of contemporary art and strengthen the dialogue among artists, both locally and globally.

The show features 28 national and international artists. “Pulso” is an exploration of the way which regional boundaries affect the perception of art.

Artists include Sergio Gomez, of Chicago, a participant in ArtPrize 2013 at Fountain Street Church, who contributed a large-scale drawing of a U.S. $1 bill, only with the word “dollar” replaced by the Spanish word “Dolor,” which means “pain.”

Local artists include Gretchen Minnhaar, a native of Argentina, and an architect who helped design the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel; and Mandy Cano Villalobos, an assistant professor of art at Calvin College.

All of the artists have ties to Latin America. Artist Juan Angel Chavez is a native of Mexico. Artist Gabriel Villa grew up in the United States on the border between El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez.

The collaborative exhibition was organized to allow the diversity of medium and subject matter to challenge cultural preconceptions of contemporary art and strengthen the dialogue among artists, locally and globally.








The exhibition is evenly divided between Kendall College’s Woodbridge Ferris Building and the UICA‘s Gallery on Fulton.

Work by 14 artists will be on display in the Fed Galleries in the Ferris Building, the 1910 Beaux Arts building at 17 Pearl St., that originally was the U.S. Federal Courthouse and U.S. Post Office in downtown Grand Rapids.

Artist Esteban de Valle, originally from Chicago, now based in Brooklyn; and Edith García, from Los Angeles, now living in Minneapolis, will be in Grand Rapids for an Artist Talk at 7 p.m. on Nov. 20 at KCAD’s Fed Galleries.

Work by another 14 artists will be shown at Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts which opened at the corner of Fulton Street and Division Avenue in 2011.

Artist Hugo Claudin, a native of Guadalajara, Mexico, now living in Grand Rapids, will give a second Artist Talk at 7 p.m. on Nov. 27 at UICA.

For further information on lectures, workshops, demos, and other events, please visit our websites at kcad.edu/galleries and uica.org




For more information on Pulso, check out KCAD and UICA’s Pulso pages.

The Fed Gallery Hours:

Tuesday – Saturday: 10:00am – 5:00pm

Special Extended Pulso/Pulse exhibition hours:

Thursdays: 10:00am – 9:00 pm


UICA Gallery Hours:

Tuesday -Thursday: 5:00pm – 9:00pm

Friday – Saturday: 12:00pm – 9:00 pm

Sunday: 12:00pm – 7:00pm

GRCC Diversity Lecture Series looks at immigration and other key issues



Immigration, bullying and race are just three of the hot topics that will be tackled during Grand Rapids Community College’s Diversity Lecture Series.

“The various perspectives we present in our Diversity Lecture Series is another way to strengthen our students understanding of local and global issues,” said Christina Arnold, director of the Woodrick Diversity Learning Center, which organizes the lectures. “We are fortunate to have renowned experts willing to share their experiences with our students and community.”

“Our students who attend DLS presentations benefit from the inspiration and excitement they offer,” said Nora Neill, an assistant professor at GRCC. “Even if they don’t always agree with the speaker, the DLS is about getting us all to think. The series reminds us how big our world is and how much there is to learn, to respond to and to contribute.”

Neill makes it a point to work the lecture series’ topics and speakers into her English courses. In previous years, her classes have studied books by Kambri Crews and Jeannette Walls and were then able to hear and see the authors in person at the lectures.

“It is a special experience, and they share their awe after seeing an informed person present with personality and skill at their college as a part of their education,” Neill said of her students. “In class after one presentation, I watched as a quiet, shy student told his classmates about what it means to be an introvert — lessons he learned from Susan Cain. Not only did this topic become his research essay subject, but it expanded his understanding of himself and the world we live in.”

The free lectures begin at 7 p.m. at Fountain Street Church, 24 Fountain St. NE, and are ASL interpreted. GRCC encourages the entire campus community to participate in its programs and activities. If you anticipate a need for an accommodation or have questions about accessibility, please call Disability Support Services at (616) 234-4140 in advance of your visit or program participation.

On-campus parking is available for $3 (with a discount pass).





The 2013-2013 Diversity Lecture Series lineup:

“Immigration: Not Legal, Not Leaving” on Oct. 2. A journalist for more than a decade, Jose Antonio Vargas learned his green card was a fake at age 16. His journalism career flourished, yet his fear of deportation never ceased. Vargas eventually exposed his story in an essay, “My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant,” for New York Times Magazine. Today, he runs Define American, a nonprofit organization that seeks to elevate the conversation around immigration.

“Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy” on Oct. 23. Emily Bazelon is a senior editor at Slate and a New York Times Magazine contributing writer. Her investigative journalism, compelling storytelling and extensive legal knowledge make her a leading authority on bullying in the cyber age. Her book, Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy, has won widespread acclaim.

“Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s” on Nov. 13. John Elder Robison grew up with Asperger’s syndrome when few knew what to make of it. With no idea how to pass for normal — and undiagnosed until the age of 40 — he nevertheless lived a full life. Robison offers a darkly humorous glimpse of Asperger’s as a difference, not a disability. In his memoir, Robison recounts his idiosyncratic life with details of overcoming enormous odds: from an antisocial child to a successful father now running a multimillion-dollar car specialty shop and his own photography business. He is now an adjunct professor at Elms College in Massachusetts and is involved in autism research at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre.

“Youth Revolt: The Future of the Middle East” on Feb. 12. Author and commentator Reza Aslan addresses the topics of Islam, the Middle East and Muslim Americans with authority, wit and optimism. He speaks for a young generation of Muslims — socially conscious, politically active and technologically savvy. Author of No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, Aslan reveals the nature of these historic societal changes. He unravels the complexities of the new Middle East and shows us what the future holds for this oft-misunderstood part of the world. He is president and CEO of Aslan Media Inc.


“Eavesdropping on America’s Conversation on Race” on March 12. Michele Norris is currently a host and special correspondent for NPR. She relates how she intended to write a book about America’s hidden conversations about race — but discovered that much had been hidden from her by her family. Her parents kept their stories of racial injustice and pain to themselves because they wanted their children to soar. She found that her father had been shot in the leg after returning from WWII service by white police officers. Her mother had worked for years as an itinerant “Aunt Jemima,” traveling to small towns demonstrating pancake mixes. Norris suggests that silence has had some rewards and many costs. She seeks to uncover and encourage real conversation around family and race.

Grand Rapids Community College, established in 1914, offers opportunities for more than 30,000 students annually in degree courses, certification and training programs, workshops and personal enrichment classes. GRCC holds classes on the downtown Grand Rapids campus as well as several locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties.

GRCC International Guitar Series presents Laurence Juber



A two-time Grammy winner kicked off Grand Rapids Community College’s 2013-14 International Guitar Series next month.

GRCC has been organizing the series of guitar performances for more than two decades.

“The GRCC International Guitar Series presents outstanding guitar performances by seasoned veterans as well as today’s rising stars in the international guitar performance world,” said music professor Brian Morris.

“Each year, the series features concerts by distinguished touring guitarists — including the yearly winner of the Guitar Foundation of America’s International Solo Competition, winners of other guitar competitions such as the U.S. National Fingerstyle Competition and Guitar Player Magazine’s Guitar Superstar Competition, as well as other internationally acclaimed performers and recording artists.”

On Thursday, Oct. 3, two-time Grammy Winner Laurence Juber, lead guitarist for Paul McCartney’s Wings (with whom he earned a Grammy), world-renowned virtuoso, composer and arranger played in Grand Rapids. Mr. Juber fuses folk, jazz and pop styles to create a multifaceted performance. He can be heard on recordings from artists as diverse as Dan Hicks & the Hot Licks, Seal, and Barry Manilow, plus he is featured on the soundtracks to hundreds of TV shows such as “Home Improvement” and on movies that include “Dirty Dancing” and “Pocahontas.” His music also is featured in the Ken Burns’ documentary “The Tenth Inning.”







Thursday, Nov. 7, at 7:30 p.m. — The Cavatina Duo consists of flutist Eugenia Moliner from Spain and guitarist Denis Azabagic from Bosnia. Their repertoire includes music from the Baroque, Classical, Romantic and contemporary periods. They have electrified audiences at Ravinia in Chicago, the Aix-en-Provence Summer Festival in France, and National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing, China, among many others.

Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, at 7:30 p.m. — Gideon Whitehead, a GRCC alumnus, has earned prizes at the 2011 James Stroud Guitar Competition and at the 2010 and 2011 University of Louisville International Guitar Competition. During the 2012-13 concert season, he appeared in collaboration with world-renowned violinist and Philadelphia Orchestra concertmaster David Kim. Mr. Whitehead is committed to serving the community through his music and often performs for residents at retirement living centers and nursing homes and to kids at schools.

Thursday, March 20, at 7:30 p.m. — Born in Baku, Azerbaijan, Rovshan Mamedkuliev won the 2012 Guitar Foundation of America’s International Concert Artist Competition and has been a top prizewinner in numerous competitions in Europe, as well.

“I am grateful for the honor to help present these awesome concerts and workshops for our students, faculty and community members,” Morris said.

All concerts will be held in the Recital Hall (room 200) of the Grand Rapids Community College Music Center at Ransom Avenue and Lyon Street. Admission is $15 for adults and $10 for students and seniors. Parking is available in the GRCC student parking ramp for $1 with a guest parking voucher sold at the door. Call 234-3940 for further information or email bmorris@grcc.edu.

Individuals who anticipate needing disability related accommodations, auxiliary aids, or who have questions about physical access are encouraged to call GRCC Disability Support Services at (616) 234-4140 in advance of the event.

Grand Rapids Community College, established in 1914, offers opportunities for more than 30,000 students annually in degree courses, certification and training programs, workshops and personal enrichment classes. GRCC holds classes on the downtown Grand Rapids campus as well as several locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties.

Captains and angels: How myTeam Triumph is changing the face of the marathon



When Matt Smith was 11 and hit the road for his first-ever marathon, all he cared about was going fast.

“That was the best,” he says.

But now that he’s almost 17, Matt, who has cerebral palsy, has a new wisdom that values more than speed.

“The people I meet — that’s the best part,” Matt says. “I have some great relationships. I still love the racing part. But it’s expanded into so much more.”

Matt is a veteran of myTeam Triumph, an athletic ride-along program created for children, teens and adults with disabilities who would normally not be able to take part in the challenge of a triathlon or a road race.






They sit in a sleek, sling-like chair on sport wheels while runners take turns pushing them through the race.

By the time he raced in the Metro Health Grand Rapids Marathon last Sunday, Matt had logged more than 20 races and become sort of a celebrity.

“He knows more people than my husband and I do,” says Matt’s mom, Anne Smith.

“We’re trying to change peoples’ lives, one step at a time,” says Terence Reuben, president and executive director of myTeam Triumph West Michigan.

“It’s providing them an opportunity to be part of events that we runners take for granted,” Reuben says. “So they can feel the buzz, the excitement, when they get up early to pick up their race packets. They’re treated like athletes, just like everybody else.”

Just like everybody else. That’s part of the appeal for Matt, who used to watch through his living room window while the neighborhood kids played outside.

“I was really searching for something to do — I was bored,” says Matt, a junior at Forest Hills Northern High School.

Now he participates in a few races each year, whizzing along in a road-hugging “stroller,” pushed by volunteer athletes.

“When Matt was first approached about doing this, the other boys his age were getting into sports, and he was having a hard time coming to terms with his cerebral palsy,” says Matt’s mom, Anne, who with husband Mike have four children. “Now, it’s a huge social thing for him. He used to love whoever could take him through the race the fastest. Now, he wants the race to last as long as possible so he can spend more time with the people pushing.”

An Ironman came up with the idea.


Reuben, 46, a physical therapist and director of sports medicine at Metro Health Sports Medicine, was training for an Ironman event in 2007 when the idea for myTeam Triumph first surfaced.

“I was 40, trying to show that I could still do this,” he says. “It was a self-centered goal.”

But once he was at the event, he saw people using it as a platform for good. Fundraising. Raising awareness. It hit him hard — this wasn’t all about him.

“I went home inspired,” Reuben says. What could he do in Grand Rapids to bring more heart to his races?

Reuben met with a few friends at a coffee shop and they talked of seeing the occasional runner pushing a family member with a disability in a stroller chair meant for racing.

“But not everybody in a wheelchair has a family member who’s an athlete,” he says.







myTeam Triumph started taking shape. They decided to call the person in the chair the “captain.”

“We wanted the race to be about them,” Reuben says. “They were in charge. We wanted them to feel like rock stars.”

They would call the runners who pushed the captains “angels.”

“They’re in the background,” he says, “but this couldn’t happen without them.”

They would match three angels to a captain, they decided, to lessen the fatigue and allow more people to be involved.

“They could take turns pushing,” Reuben says. “Maybe one person can’t run a 26 mile marathon. But as a team, you can.”

Their first year of four races went so well they decided to create a West Michigan chapter, in hopes the nonprofit would go national.

Today there are 25 chapters in 19 states and Canada.

“We’ve been in Runners World and on NBC,’” Reuben says proudly. “But a lot of people don’t realize it all started right here in Grand Rapids.”

The first year, the West Michigan group involved eight or 10 captains and a handful of angels. This year will involve close to 60 captains, Reuben says, and 200 angels.







When you think about it, he says, it’s not surprising the mission has caught on.

“It’s good for the captains, the angels, the other racers, the families,” Reuben says. “There’s this whole buzz surrounding all of them, a buzz of something less selfish.

“People get very caught up in themselves,” he says. “They’re often too busy to pay attention to the good around them. We want to influence the next generation. A lot of young athletes are just focused on winning races. We want them to aspire to more.”

Last year Reuben ran the entire Grand Rapids Marathon pushing Matt. He picked him up every Saturday morning and every Tuesday afternoon so they could train together.

“When I race as an individual, and cross the finish line, I say ‘I did it,’” Reuben says. “When I race as an angel, I say, ‘We made this happen. Captain Matt has completed the race.’

“If Captain Matt is in the chair, everybody’s yelling, ‘Go, Captain Matt!’ Nobody’s yelling ‘Go, Terence!’” Reuben says.

He loves that. So does Matt.

“This has changed me so much, the way I look at things,” Matt says. “I never say, ‘Poor me — I have this disability.’ I cheer on the people who are worse off than me.”

Ask Matt to describe the feeling of a race day and he says he can’t really put it into words.

But then he does. Perfectly.

“I get up early, and there’s definitely adrenaline going,” Matt says. “Once I hear the horn that starts the race, I think, ‘All right — it’s time to go.’ Then, it’s just amazing. I think, ‘I’m doing this!’ Yeah, I need some help to do it, from some really great people.

“But I’m doing it.”


For more information on myTeam Triumph West Michigan, including how to sign up as a captain or angel, visit mttwestmichigan.org. Also, be sure to check them out on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/MyTeam-Triumph-West-Michigan-Chapter

In addition to captains and angels, the organization needs volunteers to help at events, donors to contribute financially and sponsors willing to support the mission with $5,000 or more. A goal for 2014: spreading the word about the organization to the African American and Latino communities.