My CultureSource story on U-M art students’ collaboration with photographer Nancy De Los Santos

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Photo courtesy of Nancy De Los Santos

The night before the official opening of Chicana Fotos—a new art exhibit featuring the early work of photographer/filmmaker Nancy De Los Santos at Wayne State University’s Walter P. Reuther Library—a group of University of Michigan undergrads who co-designed the exhibition were putting finishing touches on the installation, doing some last-minute problem-solving, and eating pizza.

“At one point, we were all sitting around, and I said, ‘I feel like we’ve all shrunk, and we’re now living in our model,’” said U-M student Emilie Farrugia.

That’s because for the last few months, a dozen U-M Stamps School of Art & Design students who enrolled in an Exhibition Design class taught by Hannah Smotrich and Katie Rubin have been hashing out ideas regarding which photos to showcase, and how to arrange them within the Reuther Library’s unique gallery space, so as to tell De Los Santos’ story in a cohesive way.

This involved small groups of students building detailed cardboard models, which De Los Santos—a U-M alumna herself—came to see in person, offering thoughtful feedback. She talked about the stories behind individual photos, from which the students then re-calibrated their ideas, building toward a common vision. READ THE REST HERE


My Pulp preview of a WWII play-with-music, ‘I’ll Be Seeing You’


Charles Kiley and Billee Gray in 1942

Because nearly 900 letters were exchanged between soldier-journalist Charles Kiley and his fiancee, Billee Gray, during World War II, Ann Arbor’s David Kiley has an amazing window into not only his parents’ courtship, and their lives as young adults, but also what it was like to live in that era, both on the front lines and at home.

For this reason, he collaborated with his sister (Anne Kiley) and brother-in-law (Thomas Pellechia) to edit their 2015 book, Writing the War: Chronicles of a World War II Correspondent. But because Kiley — director of communication at U-M’s Ross School of Business and publisher/editor-in-chief of the professional theater website — is passionate about theater, he soon started thinking about how to adapt the material into a stage play.

The resulting show, I’ll Be Seeing You, will have its world premiere at U-M’s Arthur Miller Theatre this weekend, with performances on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm, and Sunday at 2 pm. In the show, two actors play Charles and Billee as they write and read each other’s letters; plus, two radio singers perform music from that era, while a radio announcer — played by Kiley, who’s also making his directing debut — offers news from the front. READ THE REST HERE

My arts journalism manifesto

screen-shot-2017-02-15-at-1-26-58-pmEarlier this month, a fellowship application required me to write an essay about the “intellectual and social values that shape (my) work as a journalist,” and what resulted was a kind of personal manifesto for arts journalism. This actually turned out to be a great exercise, forcing me to articulate the value of what I do while drowning out all the voices that tell me daily that it no longer has worth.

Recently, for the first time in years, I stumbled upon the first creative work I ever published, and I was struck by how the poem laid bare the seed of my life’s work:

Kelly Girls

Musicals are like TV weddings in our house.
No one speaks. Per Mom.
She raised me right, made me a Gene
Kelly girl. None of Astaire’s austere, floating-tails
partner dancing for us. No sir.

We watch Gene’s exaggerated Irish smile for hours.
He makes garbage can lids tap shoes
and stomps puddles into foot-fountains
and teaches French children English
for a Gershwin song.

And whenever Gene stops talking and starts dancing,
Mom removes the wood oval quilt frame from her lap
(covering up her canes on the carpet)
and leans forward in the recliner.

Her intent face opens
and I hear her breathe in as though she’s been
for days.

On some level, even as a young child, I understood the visceral power of the arts. Continue reading

My Michigan Alumnus story about U-M prof’s research on positive work environments


Kim Cameron

Through his research, U-M Professor Kim Cameron has discovered the benefits of the “heliotropic” effect, wherein all living systems bend toward that which is life-giving and lean away from that which is life-depleting. It is one of the building blocks of his work.

No, Cameron is not a professor of biology. Rather, as a member of the Ross School of Business faculty, he is one of the top scholars in the organizational sciences. Cameron’s scholarship—including 15 books and involvement in more than 120 academic articles—has demonstrated that the natural law applies not only to the sun-yearning plant on the windowsill, but also to professionals in a work environment.

He argues that a humane, positive work culture that emphasizes the “deviant good,” or what’s going well, tends to perform better and be more productive than one that focuses on the “deviant bad.”

Cameron, who co-founded U-M’s Center for Positive Organizations, recently traveled to share his ideas with consultants in Japan, as well as natural gas executives in China, but he took a few minutes while abroad to answer questions about his work. READ THE REST HERE

My Pulp interview with local singer/songwriter Timothy Monger

Screen Shot 2017-02-14 at 12.20.48 PM.pngSinger/songwriter Timothy Monger‘s career may have peaked in middle school.

Despite three albums during a decade-plus run with the acclaimed folk-rock band Great Lakes Myth Society and a solo career that has also produced three records, including the new Amber Lantern, Monger said the loudest cheers he’s ever received was when his middle school band, All the Young Dudes, rocked his former elementary.

Perhaps Monger’s fans will take that as a challenge and make some noise when he celebrates the release of Amber Lantern at The Ark on Wednesday, February 8 at 8 pm. (Caleb Dillon of Starling Electric will open.) The album is slightly more rock-oriented than his past works, but Monger also made a conscious decision to set aside his guitar at times and experiment with instruments outside his wheelhouse, such as an organ, a hurdy-gurdy, and a Pocket Piano synth, which he checked out from this library’s Music Tools collection.

Monger, who grew up in Brighton and lives in Saline, recently answered questions about his new songs, crowdfunding rewards, never finishing Moby Dick, and the world’s greatest elementary school rock concert. READ THE REST HERE