Museums & Collections

Detroit Design Festival ~ September 21-28, 2011

ddfDetroit Design Festival on FacebookThe inaugural Detroit Design Festival (DDF) starts tomorrow (Wednesday, Sep 21) with a kickoff party from 6-9 PM at New Center Park. DDF is a “crowd-sourced design festival” developed to showcase the talents and abilities Detroit’s creative community.

Over the eight days and nights of DDF—September 21 through September 28—a variety of Design Happenings will take place across at venues across the city of Detroit. The types of happenings will include studio tours, panels and roundtable discussions, fashion shows, and art battles to name a few.

Detroit Creative Corridor Center established the Detroit Design Festival to connect creative practitioners with one another, expose them to new markets and consumers, and of course put on display the creative talent that will help Detroit become a global center of creative innovation.

Art battles??!! Maybe someone can tell us what those are!

The site lists 85 Happenings, all “unfolded” in their blog. Competitions, presentations, panels, roundtables & lectures (Leon Krier next Tuesday sounds great), performances, benefits (25 chefs!), fashion shows, film screenings, cocktail receptions/dinners/parties, tours of all kinds, of art exhibits like Bordertown (cities and borders), Mind the Gap (public design ideas competition for Detroit’s in-between spaces), Woodward Windows (empty storefront windows as galleries) – so many events of so many types at so many venues that it feels like Detroit may be generating some of the same energy that Grand Rapids will be for ArtPrize. Anyone think that the rest of Michigan should jump on board next year and celebrate the positive in all our communities?

Anyway, here’s the video from and we hope you get a chance to check out (and report on) some of the fun of DDF:

DDF - Fathead from Charlie Kelly on Vimeo.

ArtPrize 2011 in Grand Rapids

The Eyes Have It by pairadocs
The Eyes Have It by pairadocs

Our favorite Michigan art event, ArtPrize, kicks off its third year in Grand Rapids this Wednesday. ArtPrize runs September 21 – October 9, 2011. It’s billed as a radically open art competition that is open to any artist in the world who can find space and it is one of the most dynamic expressions of art in the world.

In their excellent ArtPrize 2011 Guide, mLive reports:

The first ArtPrize drew an estimated 200,000 people to downtown Grand Rapids, more than 37,000 of whom cast more than 334,000 votes in the exhibition with work by 1,262 artists. ArtPrize 2010 drew as many as 400,000 people who voted 465,000 times for 1,713 works of art.

…Some 1,582 works of art go on display in 163 venues downtown plus Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park a few miles away.

ArtPrize 2011 poster by Square One Design

ArtPrize 2011 poster by Square One Design

Click through for some cool stories on 2011 such as news that Facebook creative director Ji Lee is entering for 2011 and a feature on 2011 ArtPrize venues.

The heart of ArtPrize is the public vote, and you can pre-register right now at FYI, if voting is the heart, than the lungs of ArtPrize are participation and presence, and to activate your account, you have to go to Grand Rapids (which explains the phenomenal support that GR businesses and organizations provide the event).

ArtPrize on FacebookSome great places to go for ArtPrize media include the ArtPrize Tumblr, the ArtPrize Facebook, ArtPrize Twitter and #ArtPrize on Twitter,  and the  ArtPrize YouTube.

Speaking of YouTube, a few cool videos we found include a check-in at yesterday’s ArtPrize artist reception at the B.O.B., an analysis of the public’s vote (and taste in art), a tour of ArtPrize neighborhoods, a look at the new ArtPrize HUB, and the cost of ArtPrize to artists. Below is the featured video from ArtPrize’s channel, a look at 2010 from Brian Kelly. Hopefully Brian will be kicking out more great videos this year! we hope all you photographers will post your ArtPrize photos in the Absolute Michigan pool on Flickr!

Five Things You Need to Know Heatwave Edition: Beat the Heat in Michigan

5thingsBefore we suggest a few ways to beat the heat, we’ll set the mood with Motown’s own Martha Reeves & the Vandellas who started at the Motown office in Detroit as William Stevenson’s secretary and was also charged with supervising Stevie Wonder during office hours and singing occasional backing vocals. Berry Gordy was impressed with her talent, and within a short time Martha And The Vandellas were one of Motown’s most successful recording outfits and charting with hits like “Nowhere To Run”, “Dancing In The Street” and “Heatwave”. Lots more at her site, and Wikipedia.

Superman by sullivan06
Superman by sullivan06

OK, so jumping out of your chair at work and dancing? That’s not gonna help.

1. The office does offer a strategy though. With highs today in most of Michigan into the upper 90s and a chance of topping 100 on Thursday, air conditioners are one of your best friends. FOX-17 offers some tips for maximizing their effectiveness including drawing the blinds so they don’t have to work as hard. If your workplace has A/C, today is probably a good day to work late.

2. Fortunately, Michigan has its own A/C in the form of 300+ named rivers, over 11,000 lakes (take THAT Minnesota) and the big ones: Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie and the best lake for a day like today, mighty (cold) Lake Superior. The water temperature in Superior by Marquette today is in the 60s – maybe it’s time for a trip to the U.P.! Even if you can’t make it, Michigan boasts tons of parks with water access, so cut out to the beach or float down a river today. Sunscreen is of course, a must.

Smile + Flow by Ralph Krawczyk Jr
Smile + Flow by Ralph Krawczyk Jr

3. Speaking of water, the Freep reminds us to drink lots of water in a cool feature that includes photos of how some Metro Detroiters are beating the heat. Water can get a little old after the 10th glass, so try one of my favorites – make a batch of lemonade and add some Michigan tart cherry concentrate for a tart & refreshing drink!

4. Have you felt guilty for not taking advantage of Michigan’s incredible variety of museums & libraries? This week is a perfect time to take some time to explore with family & friends. Pure Michigan has a nice list of Michigan museums and you can get lots more art museums and historical museums & libraries from Absolute Michigan!

5. At the end of the day, it’s almost impossible to avoid the heat on a day like today. A good piece of advice is remember February and revel in it!

Let us know other ideas to beat the heat in Michigan in the comments, and if anyone out there has a heat-beating product, tell us about it below.  If you want, email me and we’ll give it away to our email list!

Maker Faire Detroit ~ July 30 & 31

Motor City becomes Maker City with over 300 exhibiting makers, demonstrations, hands-on workshops, music & vendors. From robotics, electronics, and rockets to food and fashion finds – if it’s made, there’s a good chance it’ll be at Maker Faire Detroit. The 2 day event takes place Saturday & Sunday July 30 & 31 at the The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn. It’s an interactive and family-friendly showcase of creativity and cool technology that takes the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) mindset to the next level. Enter the giveaway below and read on for lots more about this amazing event!

Our tickets were won by Dana Forrester – Owner of Lucky Monkey Tattoo in Ann Arbor, Michigan and Partner with On the Rocks Detroit – Boutique PR, marketing and event company. She writes:

We are fortunate to have cool festivals practically every weekend of the Spring/Summer/Fall in Michigan! In Metro Detroit – I am a fan of Dally in the Alley, Arts, Beats and Eats, Concert of Colors, Piratepalooza and the Michigan Renaissance Festival! I am hoping the Fourth Street Festival will make a comeback as well. There’s just too many to pick a favorite – as they each showcase a different personality of our great state!

Maker Faire Detroit 2010 by OnInnovation
Maker Faire Detroit 2010 by OnInnovation

Absolute Michigan had the chance to talk with a few of the makers who will be at the event and Marc Gruether, Chief Curator of The Henry Ford about Maker Faire. Marc told us that a few years ago, Dale Dougherty of MAKE Magazine was looking to grow the movement and Maker Faire. He turned his eyes to the Midwest and was struck by Detroit’s unique assets. Through a Twitter post, they heard Dale was visiting and invited him to tour of the Henry Ford. Dale said. “Wouldn’t it be kind of cool if Maker Faire could happen here?” and the rest is history.

While many folks might think that a partnership between an entity like the Henry Ford that is all about the past and Maker Faire, a celebration of maker culture that is very much rooted in the here & now is incongruous, Marc explained:

“Make Magazine and Maker Faire are optimistic and venturesome and very much about the present. If you’re a museum professional, you understand that while your resources are from the past, these artifacts have power and relevancy in the here and now. At the Henry Ford we have phenomenal materials that can inform the present, and I think that the combination of Maker Faire Detroit and the museum create an environment where ideas can collide and churn and everything leverages everything else. It’s a solid whole.

Last year I was watching some of the younger makers and the conversations that were taking place between them and around the works of some of the great makers from the past like Thomas Edison and the Wright brothers.

Dale’s notion was not to import an event from somewhere else. Maker Faire Detroit is a user generated event. The participants are the content are important to our region due to the particular sense of adventure that’s in our museum and in the factories, tool and die shops and garages of the area. This event pulls innovators out of their garages to share their work with the public in a highly interactive fashion.”

Maker Faire by Maia C
Maker Faire by Maia C

Matt Gryczan is a maker from Grand Rapids who will be introducing Space Age Building Blocks – wooden blocks that when stacked create an arch like the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Matt told us, “I was an early subscriber to MAKE magazine, and I read with a lot of envy a few years ago about what makers were going at the Bay Area Maker Faire near San Mateo, Calif. It was ‘art festival meets science fair’ only the demonstrators just did the cool part of the project and chucked the boring cardboard displays. I couldn’t believe the opportunity that we had when MAKE launched a Maker Faire in Detroit. We really know how to invent in Michigan and the Midwest, and I’d say this fair does more to spark interest in science and technology in youngsters and adults than a truck full of textbooks.”

Fellow maker Nicholas Britsky of i3 Detroit agreed, adding “This event is a great opportunity for Detroit for a number of reasons. The first is recognizing Detroit as a center of innovation and creativity both currently and in the past. The second is it gives a typically underground or very under reported group of individuals a chance to show off their projects to the public. Finally, it inspires kids to start building and hacking at home and showing them that it is possible to remix normally household supplies and hardware store buys to make cool new things.”

Ouch, watch who's hand you burn with that by jadonk
Ouch, watch who’s hand you burn with that by jadonk

Nicholas is taking three projects to Maker Faire. One of the coolest are and invention called Monster Shoes that allow kids to strap a contraption on their feed and leave tracks around Maker Faire in the shape of monster foot prints.

Marc concluded, “It’s like any event, and in some sense the same as being an entrepreneur. You do all your planning but these things have a life of their own. What emerges is a powerful thing.”

Make Magazine has a neat post from last year titled Making Detroit: Changing the Story that is well worth a read. Many more in their “Making Detroit” section! You can see tons of cool videos on the Maker Faire Detroit web site. We’ll leave you with a great video from Leo LaPorte of TWit Live.

5×5 Night in Grand Rapids

5 ideas, 5 minutes each, 5 slides each, 5 judges, 5,000 dollars

5×5 Night is a monthly event in Grand Rapids that allows 5 people to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges who decide how to award $5,000 on the last Tuesday night of every month. The third 5×5 happens tomorrow night at the Grand Rapids Ballet with an afterglow at Founders Brewery. Tomorrow night’s presenters and topics sound pretty interesting:

  • Bruce Burgess – Mull-it-Over
  • Mick Hanna – Easy Crutch
  • Phil Lund – The Mars Plan
  • William Stewart – Compression Beehive Frame
  • Charlie Wollborg – Face-to-Face > Pixel-to-Pixel

Michigan Radio has a cool interview with Rick DeVos and Bill Holsinger Robinson of Pomegranate Studios about 5×5 Night. Learn more at and Pomegranate Studios.

Last month AJ Paschka got all five votes and $5000 for his very cool Weather Collage idea, but we’ll feature Landon Bartley’s more locally focused call for a Grand Rapids Sister City Window Webcam Project. You can check out all the pitches on the 5×5 channel.

Photo: Prepping for the first 5×5 Night at the GRAM by

ArtPrize Artist registration opens … and a great video!

ArtPrize - Vision by David Spriggs by Canon Screwdriver (gary syrba)
ArtPrize – Vision by David Spriggs
by Canon Screwdriver (gary syrba)

ArtPrize (Sep 21 – Oct 9, 2011) is a radically different art competition that gives away huge cash prizes, $250,000 to the winner and nearly a half a million dollars total and it’s all decided by a public vote! Venue registration has closed and now from April 18 – June 16th, artists can register to participate.

mLive reports that ArtPrize 2010 featured 1,713 artists from 44 U.S. states and 21 countries. Follow that link for a look at what some folks who are returning are thinking about including news that:

Members of the ArtPrize 2010 team that created “SteamPig” are looking at creating an ArtPrize 2011 entry involving a sculpture of a troll near the Blue Bridge downtown over the Grand River.

“We have some concepts for a large, mythical troll to be placed under the Blue Bridge, reaching up to the side with headlights for eyes and grass, trees and moss covering the piece,” said team member Thomas Birks.

They add that it looks like there might be a couple more venues in 2011 and that 55 of them are new venues.

It you’re looking for help funding a project, check out the ArtPrize Assistance page.

Here’s a great video from Brian Kelly Photography.

ArtPrize 2010 Retrospective from Paul Moore on Vimeo.

Seeking Michigan: “…To His Country and His Flag”

Seeking MichiganBy Matt VanAcker, courtesy Seeking Michigan and the Archives of Michigan. The goal of Seeking Michigan is simple: to connect you to the stories of this great state. Visit them regularly for a dynamic & evolving look at Michigan’s cultural heritage.

Come see Plowshares into Swords – a special exhibit recognizing the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War. Plowshares into Swords opens April 12, 2011 at the Michigan Historical Center. A special Plowshares into Swords: Grand Opening event will occur on Saturday, April 16.

A photo of Charles Foster

A photo of Charles Foster

Charles T. Foster

In 1861, Charles T. Foster was a young clerk in Turner’s Dry Goods Store in North Lansing. His younger brother, Seymour, later described him as being about five feet ten inches in height, with a light complexion, big blue eyes and a high forehead. Charles also wore a very becoming young mustache. A member of the church choir, he was deemed “a fine singer.” He had a genial disposition and an agreeable manner and was a great comfort to his mother.

Lansing’s First Volunteer

Charles had attended a mass rally at the old capitol in Lansing, on April 13, 1861. It was the day after the attack on Fort Sumter. Cheer after cheer filled the air in the packed hall, greeting fiery speeches by Lansing’s leading civic leaders—Daniel Case, Judge Tenney, Judge Longyear and others. Excitement rose to a fever pitch when Judge Tenney announced that a roll had been prepared. Volunteers could thus come forward and sign up to fight for the Union. A sudden hush fell. Not a soul moved. Seymour, who had not been able to get into the packed hall and had climbed up and perched in one of the windows, saw that someone was working his way to the head of the crowd. He couldn’t see who it was. Then Judge Tenney’s voice rang out: “Charles T. Foster tenders his services and his life—if need be—to his country and his flag.” Charles had just become the Lansing area’s first volunteer. A great cheer went up and others shouldered forward. Allen Shattuck became the second Lansing man to volunteer, and he was soon followed by twenty-nine others. Although Lansing was Michigan’s capital city, it was not then large enough to field its own regiment. Charles and his Lansing comrades made their way to Grand Rapids, where they joined the Third Michigan Volunteer Infantry Regiment. They became that regiment’s “Company G.”

Flag Bearer

Charles Foster fought with the Third for the first year of the war. He was engaged in the first Battle of Bull Run (July 21, 1861) and the siege of Yorktown (April 4-May 4, 1862). Then, at the battle of Williamsburg in May of 1862, Charles volunteered to carry the flag (The regular color sergeant was unable to do so.). The next day, he wrote to his mother:

“When the Major called for volunteers and none of the sergeants seeming to want to take the responsible and dangerous position, I felt it to be my duty to do so, for someone must do it, and if none would volunteer a detail would have to be made, and the lot might fall on one who had a wife and children at home and could not be spared, whereas I was single and free, and would not be missed if I was killed.”

Charles’s brother Seymour recalled that Charles never knew the grief that his letter – and particularly his statement that he would not be missed – caused their mother.

“Don’t let the colors go down!”

A few weeks later – at the Battle of Fair Oaks on May 29, 1862 – Charles was again called upon to carry the flag. He did so through charge after charge. Then, suddenly, a minie ball pierced his neck. As he fell, he drove the flag staff into the ground and called out, “Don’t let the colors go down!”

In his memoirs, Ezra Ransome – a member of the Third and a friend of Charles – remembered that moment:

“I rescued the colors from capture. The bearer had when shot fell on his back and threw both arms in a death grip around the flag just as our line had fallen back a little, which left the colors between the rebs and us. I rushed for the flag, pulled it from the arms of the Sergeant, fell flat and so dragged myself back to our men.”

This memorial marker lies at Mount Hope Cemetery in Lansing, Michigan (As noted on the marker inscription, Foster himself is buried at Seven Pines National Cemetery in Virginia)

This memorial marker lies at Mount Hope Cemetery in Lansing, Michigan (As noted on the marker inscription, Foster himself is buried at Seven Pines National Cemetery in Virginia)

Charles was buried near the scene of the battle but for many years his grave was lost. His family finally located and marked it, He is buried at Seven Pines National Cemetery in Virginia. The marker for grave number 152 reads:

In Memory of Charles T. Foster
January 16, 1839–May 31, 1862
Buried at Seven Pines National Cemetery, VA
Flagbearer Third Mich. Vol. Inf.

After the war, at the suggestion of Allan Shattuck, Lansing’s Grand Army of the Republic post was named after Charles T. Foster, the first Lansing man to enlist and the first to fall.

Michigan History, September 1951. “The Letters of Theodore Foster.”

Michigan In The War by John Robertson, Michigan Adjutant General

ArtPrize 2011 ~ September 21 through October 9, 2011

Cavalry by pairadocs
Cavalry by pairadocs

ArtPrize, the radically open, radically cool art competition that awards the world’s largest art prize has issued their call for ArtPrize 2011 artists. The wildly successful event will return to Grand Rapids September 21 through October 9, 2011. ArtPrize has no formal jury, curator or judge, allowing the public to choose the winners.

ArtPrize 2010 presented the work of over 1,700 artists, tallied 465,000 votes and awarded almost $500,000. It’s one of the most amazing events in Michigan and the nation, and Absolute Michigan will once again report on ArtPrize and also provide in-depth features and interviews leading up to the event. You can see coverage from past years including ArtPrize 2010 winner Chris LaPorte of Grand Rapids at

Artist will want to note that Venue Registration opens Monday, March 14 and closes Thursday April 14 while Artist Registration is Monday, April 18 through Thursday, June 16. From May 31 to June 30, artists and venues will connect. ArtPrize Executive Director Bill Holsinger-Robinson says:

“A lot of the most memorable work in the event is created for a specific space. Artists will know all the venues available as they register. The vast majority of artists who did not secure a venue in 2010 were the ones who signed up at the last minute. Register early!”

Here’s a great video overview of ArtPrize that lets you know more about the incredible impact and reach of this event. Many more from ArtPrizeGR on YouTube!

The Water Semester at University of Michigan

“Water is the most critical resource issue of our lifetime and our children’s lifetime. The health of our waters is the principal measure of how we live on the land.”
~ Luna Leopold

Huron River by Ann279
Huron River by Ann279

Our friends over at the Great Lakes Echo tipped us off to an interesting thing that the University of Michigan is doing. It’s called The Water Semester. The semester celebrates water in all forms through courses, public lectures, exhibitions, performances, and explores water from diverse perspectives, including water in art (and music!), water in literature, the role of water in shaping human history, the origins and physics of water on Earth and beyond, and exploration of the global water crisis and water sustainability on local, regional, and global scales.

There will be a keynote “The World is Blue” on January 26th by TED Prize winner, National Geographic Explorer & Oceanographer Sylvia Earle. Earle is the founder of Mission Blue and you can see her amazing and sobering TED presentation below.

Other highlights include a Water Careers Fair on February 16, showings of movies including michigan produced FLOW: For Love of Water (Jan 27), a lecture on Art and the Environment with philosopher David Abram and dance educator Jennifer Monson (Mar 19), workshops on a variety of topics including Photographing Water, a Science Café regarding Water, Oil, and Energy at Conor O’Neill’s Traditional Irish Pub (Feb 9) and family events including a Water Discovery Day (Mar 25).

Amazing kudos to the U of M for developing the The Water Semester. Click over for much, much more including how you can take steps to make a difference in one of the most important issues of our time. to cover the ArtPrize Winners Announcment party


In a matter of hours, we find out which artist from ArtPrize’s Top 10 walks away $250,000 richer, and winner of ArtPrize 2010, a 19-day event that has transformed Grand Rapids into an art-lover’s paradise. Did you see the splash of coverage on the “Today” show today? How cool.

Join us tonight as we cover every moment of tonight’s big announcement, live.

It all starts at 5:20PM 10/7/2010… Tune in, it should be really cool!!!