Saturday, November 16, 2013

A Tradition of Thanks in Downtown Petoskey

Thanksgiving comes one month before Christmas. This gives us the opportunity and a little reminder to practice giving thanks before the season of getting stuff begins. It also usually comes a little while before Chanukah for the same reason. Of course, this year Chanukah comes a bit early and starts on Thanksgiving so we might want to start practicing giving thanks a little sooner – like today.

I am thankful for all the traditions of Thanksgiving. I grew up in metro Detroit so Thanksgiving tradition meant the big Hudsons Thanksgiving Day Parade (a frozen treat I later got to share with my kids), going to the Lions game with Dad and having lots of turkey and cranberry sauce with my family. 
I have been blessed to live in Petoskey for quite a while now and I look forward to a new set of traditions. There is still a wonderful family dinner. (Vivi makes the cranberry sauce.) I spend some time thinking about my mom and dad and I still get to go to a fantastic holiday parade. Up here, the parade takes place on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. It is called the Stafford’s Downtown Petoskey Holiday Parade It starts at 10 am and it winds through our streets and our Downtown It ends at the Perry Hotel.

The Petoskey parade features the Petoskey High School Marching Band along with floats and stuff from many of our favorite local business and community groups. It could feature your group if you click here for an application.

I seem to remember that as a kid I looked forward to some rather large and happy elf showing up at the end of the parade and getting a key to the hearts of the children of Detroit from the mayor.
Fortunately the Petoskey parade is on a different day so that same elf can make it here at the end of our parade as well. Back then, we could go have a chat with Santa up on the twelfth floor of the Downtown Hudsons on Woodward Avenue. Now we can just stop by the Perry Hotel a few blocks away and thank him for all the wonderful things he will be bringing us in a month or so.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Petoskey Now A Trail Town -- It's A Big Deal

Perhaps you don't know anything about the North Country Scenic Trail. Perhaps you are not even aware that it passes right through the middle of our town. Now is a great time for that to change because our favorite Northern Michigan burg just became a Trail Town in December and there is a party to celebrate on June 1.

First things first. For those who don't know, the North Country National Scenic Trail is a B I G trail 4,600 miles big, er, long. It runs through the northern tier of states, Michigan, Minnesota,North Dakota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. (I picked alphabetical order rather than geographical because it puts us first!)

When completed the trail will be the longest continuous hiking trail in the United States.

Building and maintaining a trail that big is a B I G project. While the North Country Trail is a part of the National Park Service, most of the work and funding comes from private sources. Much of the coordination of these efforts is provided by the North Country Trail Association.

And that brings us to Petoskey's brand new designation as a North Country Trail Trail Town, and that is a really B I G deal. What is a Trail Town? The Trail association says:

A Trail Town is a community through which the North Country Trail passes that supports hikers with services, promotes the Trail to its citizens and embraces the Trail as a resource to be protected and celebrated. Trail Towns are built on a relationship between a town, the Trail and its volunteers.

Petoskey is an ideal selection for a Trail Town. We have many active volunteers to take care of and promote the trail. We have beautiful woods, rivers and Little Traverse Bay to see and enjoy. Plus we have a wonderful town for hikers to explore with great places to eat and shop, including [blush] our own Northern Michigan Artists Market. Check out the wonderful article on Petoskey on the Trail Town website.

And one more big thing. Petoskey will have a B I G party to celebrate the trail, Petoskey's designation as a Trail Town and the American Hiking Society's National Trails Day 2013. The party takes place on June 1 at the picnic shelter at the north end of the recently enhanced Bear River corridor [near Lake Street]. Festivities will include, exhibits, presentations,children's events (coordinated by the Petoskey District Library's outstanding musician and entertainment all-star, Ron Fowler, and, of course, food. in the For more details, see the AHS website or the B I G story in the Petoskey News Review.

And while you are at it, don't forget to actually get out there and explore Petoskey's own segment of the trail. It follows a part of the Little Traverse Wheelway recreation trail, runs through the Bear River corridor [shown in this photograph, Bear Creek Park Bridge, by Northern Michigan Artists Market artist Dawn Thompson and explores North Central Michigan College's natural area.

So you see, it really is a B I G deal that Petoskey is a Trail Town on the North Country Scenic trail. We know our town is a special place. Now even more people will discover and explore the area we know and love -- and we can get out there and join them!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Petoskey Public Art Plan Update

NEWS FLASH -- At Tuesday night's meeting the Petoskey Downtown Management Board rejected my Public Art Plan proposal. They intend to go ahead and develop a plan but prefer a consultant driven process with public input being collected by the consultant. I favor a process driven by public input and community participation with a consultant providing assistance.

DMB members expressed concerns about open public input, stating they were worried (1)the public would be disappointed if the proposals they made were not ultimately adopted and (2) members of the public would become bored and disinterested after working for an extended time on a committee to develop a plan.

To see media coverage of the meeting, click here for the Petoskey News Review article and here for the Interlochen Public Radio story.

Watch this space for further developments.

Last month I made a proposal to Petoskey's Downtown Management Board (DMB)to gather public input and support and develop a public art plan for Downtown Petoskey. The proposal and its background are discussed here in a previous blog post.

Interlochen Public Radio has been covering the issue and its latest report is linked here.

At its April meeting the DMB discussed the proposal. Several concerns were raised. The primary reservation was that some members were concerned about my proposal's focus on gathering public input and generating public support. The proposal calls for public meetings and the creation of a working group to collect and develop suggestions for creating a plan that particularly suits Downtown Petoskey. It provides for the possible hiring of an expert later in the process to help formulate the plan based on community input and the work of the citizens work group. The draft plan would then be brought back to the public for comment before completion and then submitted to the DMB for approval.

Some DMB members though it might be better to skip the initial public input process and begin by hiring an expert to develop a plan and bring it directly to the DMB. The DMB decided to consider the proposal further, along with some other alternatives at its May meeting.

In the meantime I have given the DMB a short statement of my extensive community leadership and project development experience. No one else has come forward with any proposal for how to proceed.

The May meeting is set for tonight, May 21st at 7:00 pm at City Hall and is open to the public. A copy of the agenda and the member's packet are available here.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Petoskey's Downtown Trolly will be Truckin' Again

The Downtown Trolly got a test last summer. Evidently it passed and it is graduating to become a permanent attraction and means of transportation in Petoskey this summer starting on Friday, June 14.

Last summer during the experiment, the trolly ran various routes and a very informal schedule. That all changes this summer. The trolley will run on a regular, published schedule on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through August. If it turns out to be the success everyone anticipates, look for it to continue gracing our streets into the fall.


The Trolly will leave the Stafford's Perry Hotel at a quarter past the hour. It will follow its route to the waterfront, Magnus Park, Bay View,and through Downtown. It will stop at Bay View, the Marina, the Gazebo on Lake Street, the Crooked Tree Arts Center and Magnus Park. The route and stops will be displayed on posters around Downtown and on the Downtown shopping map.


Now for the best part. Your ride on the Downtown Petoskey Trolly is totally free! The cost is covered by the Downtown Management Board and by advertisements on the trolly paid for by various Downtown businesses, including the Northern Michigan Artists Market.

Our Downtown Trolly was the idea last year of Craig Bell, owner of Ciao Bella! Garden and Home Gallery. He researched successful downtown trollys in other resort towns around the country and made a spectacular presentation to the Downtown Management Board which approved the concept and conducted last year's test. Thank you Craig!

When you visit Petoskey this summer, please enjoy riding the trolly, either as a beautiful tour of our area or as a convenient and scenic way of traveling between Downtown, the Marina, Magnus Park and Bay View. This summer, the Petoskey Downtown Trolley's bell rings for you!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Our Tree Update

A week or so ago, I posted a story about the new tree the City of Petoskey planted in front of our art gallery. I thanked the City and Mother Nature (for the gentle rain that started soon after the City planted the tree).

Now I am pleased to report that our new tree is starting to bud so the City and Ma Nature seem to be doing a good job so far.

Just thought you might like to know.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Fire the Security Guards and Hire Art Teachers

Finally somebody got it right!

For years public schools have been cutting art programs to save struggling schools. Now folks are calling for more guards and more guns to protect children in school. This has been bothering me for quite a while on a visceral level and I have been looking for a way to explain it in words. To me there is something about schools (creativity, freedom, experimentation) and something about guards and guns (repression, control, rigidity) that is essentially incompatible. That is why an article in The Daily Nightly on NBC was such an enjoyable and enlightening break from the dominant news stream of the last month (and years).

According to the article, the new principal at Orchard Gardens, a public school in Roxbury, Massachusetts, got rid of the security guards and reinvested all the money used for security infrastructure into the arts. What a concept! It reminds me a little about the old saying about the schools getting all the money they need and the Army having to hold bake sales.

And this was no ordinary school. It was started as a dream school founded in the arts in 2003. It had art studios, a dance room and a theater with cushy seating. But the dreams failed right from the beginning:

Instead the dance studio was used for storage and the orchestra's were locked up and barely touched. The school was plagued with violence and disorder from the start, and by 2010 it was rank (sic) in the bottom five of all public schools in the state of Massachusetts.
Then the school brought in its sixth principal in seven years, Andrew Bott.

I know this sounds like some starry-eyed utopian fantasy movie but firing the guards and hiring art teachers really changed the place. The article describes the amazing transformation:

But now, three years later, the school is almost unrecognizable. Brightly colored paintings, essays of achievement and moivational posters line the halls. The dance studio has been resurrected, along with the band room, and the artists' studio.

The end result? Orchard Gardens has one of the fastest student improvement rates statewide. And the students, once described as loud and unrully, have found their focus.

Be sure to read the article. It has wonderful quotes from students and teachers and a fascinating list of posted comments.

A related item -- last night on All In With Chris Hayes on MSNBC, I watched a story about this 16 year old,

Kiera Wilmot, until recently a student at Bartow High School in Bartow, Florida,who put a mixture of toilet bowl cleaner and aluminum foil in a small, plastic water bottle as part of an apparent amateur science project. The mixture expanded and blew the top off the bottle. [Here is one of many YouTube examples of similar exploits.] No property was damaged and no one was injured.

Ms. Wilmot had consistently good grades and no prior criminal record. She was expelled, charged with a felony and will be tried as an adult. This incredible response to a minor incident resulted from a zero tolerance policy and the presence of police in the school.

As Chris Hayes pointed out:

Nonetheless, recently a handful of public figures have called for even more of a police presence in America’s public schools. In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre demanded “armed police officers in every school in this nation.”

Which approach makes more sense for our students, Wayne LaPierre's or Andrew Bott's?

So artists and art enthusiasts, don't despair, don't give up. We will change the world!

The players tried to take the field -- The marching band refused to yield -- Don McClean, Bye, Bye, Miss American Pie

Monday, April 29, 2013

Thank you Petoskey for Our New Tree!

When the City of Petoskey rebuilt Mitchell Street in front of the Northern Michigan Artists Market and, OK all of our neighbors as well, they planted some nice trees in the middle of the sidewalk. Something went wrong and the trees all died. Last year the City replanted some of the trees but municipal budgets being what they are, the folks on our end of the block had to wait.

Today the waiting is over. People from the nursery were out all day today digging, putting in new dirt and doing all the other things necessary for planting a tree. And now, at the end of the day, we have our own brand new tree.

Mother Nature is now making her contribution right on time with a nice gentle rain.

Here is the result:

[Please notice that there is no snow in this photo!] Stop by and visit our new tree and while you are in the neighborhood, come inside the gallery and check out the art.

The Mighty Puddingstone Gets its Own Special Weekend

Summer time in Northern Michigan means one thing - festivals. OK, it also means fudge, great sunsets and, in some places, black flies, but you've got to admit, we have festivals for everything. (Check out my prior post on Calumet's PastyFest.) So I guess it was just a matter of time before we got a festival for the exalted Puddingstone.

August 9-11 the Cheboygan County History Center is presenting its first ever Puddingstone Festival.

Never heard of puddingstones? Where have you been, hiding under a rock?

The festival's website states that the Pudding Stone is a

unique, highly collectible stone conglomerate. It was named so by the British on St. Joseph’s Island in the St. Mary’s river in the 1700’s because of its resemblance to their native boiled suet pudding. It is found in only a few states, Ontario and England! In fact it is the official State Stone of Massachusetts. Cheboygan County just happens to be blessed with a vast number of them, ranging in size from tiny pebbles to huge boulders.
I guess they should know, its their festival.

[For a little more history and puddingstone lore, see what the folks on Drummond Island have to say.]

The festival should be a great rock'em sock 'em event, complete with exhibitors, puddingstone judging, a Stones Rock concert, the Stone Soup story dramatized by local youth and a Straits area geocaching event.

Can't wait for the festival? We have a great selection of puddingstones and puddingstone art items at the Northern Michigan Artists Market in beautiful Downtown Petoskey.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Lets Create a Public Art Plan for Downtown Petoskey

[Yeah that's right. I am back after a long hiatus}

I think it is about time Downtown Petoskey, Michigan, developed a public art plan and, as a big fan of our Downtown and our local artists as an artist myself and as part owner of the Northern Michigan Artists Market, I have decided to do something about it.


Petoskey is a great art town and Northern Michigan is a fantastic art region. For a town its size, there are quite a few art galleries in addition to the Northern Michigan Artists Market. We have several wonderful events that focus on art including the annual Gallery Walk. And, of course, lots of artists live here and in the surrounding woods and villages. In fact, Smithsonian Magazine recently selected Petoskey as the #6 best small town in the US to visit, largely based on our galleries, arts and culture.

Many of the activities and events in our Downtown, as well as our downtown parking and sidewalk snow removal, are financed an run through our Downtown Management Board (DMB). It is funded primarily through an assessment on Downtown businesses and on Downtown parking revenues. In 2007, the DMB adopted a Downtown Blueprint containing an aggressive set of planning and development objectives and projects for Downtown Petoskey. The vast majority of these goals have actually been achieved. However, nothing has been done about one of my favorite ideas -- the creation of a public art placement plan.

The Blueprint was revisited in 2012. The commitment to establish a public art plan was reestablished in the new Downtown Petoskey 2013-2017 Strategic Plan. Neither the current strategic plan nor the earlier one provided much detail concerning the nature or scope of the desired plan. At the DMB meeting where the new strategic plan was adopted, I submitted a proposed amendment to the plan providing more specific detail about a procedure for the creation of an art plan and possible aspects of the mission of that plan. The Board decided not to accept the proposed amendment at that time but suggested that it would consider beginning a planning process in the near future.

We already have some public art in Downtown Petoskey -- some murals painted on exterior building walls, some statues (including the one pictured above of Chief Petoskey dressed for the Northern Michigan winter), etc. and for a short time we even had a place for independent, creative graffiti art (see picture below)featured here in a previous post. But there is no plan for encouraging, creating and placing more creative works of art, particularly by local artists, around our Downtown to take advantage of the artistic character of the area and improve the esthetic and artistic atmosphere of the community.

I recently decided to see what I could do to get the process started. I have drafted a proposal outlining a public process for the creation of a public art plan and presented it to the DMB at its April 2013 meeting for review and comment. They were supportive of the general concept but had some reservations and want to consider some alternatives. Generally, they seem a bit anxious about my plan to have open meetings to gather broad, grassroots community input and support. Some want to rely more heavily on the advice of a paid consultant. Some of them would like a more formal role for the Crooked Tree Art Center. I am working on some revisions to my proposal that will preserve the importance of broad community input while answering some of their concerns. They will take up the issue again at their May meeting.

If you are interested in developing a community based process for developing an art plan for Downtown Petoskey, I would like to hear from you. I encourage you to attend the May DMB meeting to hear what they have to say and to lend your support for a publicly discussed and developed plan that will serve the interests of the people of Petoskey and the surrounding area. We particularly need input from other local artists.

I will continue to update the progress of this proposal here on the Northern Michigan Art Blog. For now, please leave a comment if you are interested in the project or if you have any ideas. Please call me at the Northern Michigan Artists Market: (231) 487-0000 (Join us and get involved in this exciting new project for Downtown Petoskey!