Art & Music

All photos Britabrookesphoto.com, except Joe Louis Walker which is by Jane Cassisi.

The 23rd Detroit Blues Society Anti-Freeze Blues Festival featured:
The Johnny Rhoades Band, Thornetta Davis, Lurrie Bell, Brett Lucas Band, Tosha Owens, Jim McCarty & Mystery Train and Joe Louis Walker.

The 2 day festival took place at the Magic Bag and a portion of the proceeds raised funds for the Detroit Blues Society.

www.detroitbluessociety.org

By Sara E. Teller

Ferndale High School is performing its clever musical “Seussical” The Musical in March. A cast and crew entirely made up of high school and middle school students will present the family-friendly Dr. Seuss-based production,scheduled to premiere Saturday, March 18th at 7:00 P.M. and running four additional show dates on Sunday, March 19, 3:00 P.M, Friday, March 24, 7:30 P.M., Saturday, March 25, 7:30 P.M. and Sunday, March 26, 3:00 P.M.

“It takes many hands to put on a musical production and we have five shows, so we do rely on the parents of students that cast in the play as well parents of the crews and pit orchestra,” explains the play’s producer and high school parent volunteer, Judy Donlin. “Our crews are mostly students who are supervised by adult volunteers. The pit orchestra is also students. All told, there will be about 100 Ferndale students involved in the production.” Judy has been busy managing much of the leg work. “I am responsible for all the off-stage activities, such as promotion and publicity, tickets, volunteers, licensing, etc.,” she explains.

“Seussical” weaves together most of Dr. Seuss’ famous characters from at least fifteen of his best known books. Narrated by the infamous Cat in the Hat, Horton the Elephant, Gertrude McFuzz, The Grinch, Thing 1 and Thing 2, Lazy Mayzie La Bird and Little Jojo are just some of the characters set to take the stage. The Cat tells a story of how Horton the Elephant discovers the Whos, and must protect them from the naysayers and dangers, while guarding an egg abandoned by Lazy Mayzie while she is on vacation. The characters take us from the Jungle of Nook to the Circus McGerkus to the invisible world of the Whos. “The powers of friendship, loyalty, family, and community are challenged and emerge triumphant,” Judy says. “This is the first time Seussical is being performed at Ferndale High School.”

Pre-production for the musical was quite involved. “We announced the show over the summer and the students know that auditions are held in December, after the fall play,” Judy explains of the castings process.
“We have a call board and a student thespian group. We held a series of workshops (one for acting, one for singing and one for dancing), then two general auditions. From there, some students were called back for a second audition. The director, Melissa Smith, along with the Music Director, Kim Schroeder, and the Pit Conductor, Ben Moy, spent a lot of time casting the various roles. A cast list was posted and each person was asked to initial their role or roles.”

Each performance will also include a raffle available to those in attendance. “We usually do a raffle at every performance – the prize being a photo with the cast member of your choosing – in costume. Folks really get into that and this show will have some wonderful and colorful costumes. We will have about three winners per show, so lots of opportunity.”

“’Seussical’ is a great family show,” Judy says. “[The students] love the music….wide-ranging in styles, from rock ‘n roll to rap to jazz to calypso. hey are all excited about the show and are looking forward to bringing it to the Ferndale High School stage.”

Designed to be a hit with the whole family, ‘Seussical’ tickets are $10 for adults, $7 for students and seniors and children six and under are free. “It’s an hour and a half of fun and good family entertainment,” Judy says. “And we have plenty of tickets. The auditorium is very large and rarely sells out, so there is no problem getting a ticket for any of the performances. Plus, we do five shows, with two of them being afternoon matinees, and we have room for everyone.”

On opening night, March 18th, there will be an afterglow reception following the show. “Everyone is invited to stay for that,” Judy says. There will also be an on-stage ceremony honoring graduating seniors following the final performance on March 26th. “That’s always a bittersweet moment,” she adds.

For more information about ‘Seussical: The Musical,” please contact the Ferndale High School Performing Arts Department at 360-383-9261. Tickets can be purchased at Ferndale High School’s box office, located at 881 Pinecrest Dr., Ferndale, MI 48220.

Story By: Jaz’min Weaver
Photos by Bernie Laframboise

Creativity runs rampant in Ferndale, a city of art fairs, galleries and specialty shops…and also at the Ferndale Library, where a special book is waiting, just waiting, for you to fill its pages. One of the goals of the Ferndale Public Library Art and Exhibition Committee is to encourage our already lively appreciation of art. In 2013, committee member Linden Godlove came up with an interactive way to do just that. The Two Twenty Two Community Art Project started as a blank book, and evolved into an outlet and archive for diversity of thought and a wide array of media. This collaborative project is a unique method of interaction between members of the community. Its pages include colored pencil drawings, collage, prints, photos, poems and more.

Larger than a usual sketchbook, it evokes the feeling of being small again, when your favorite storybook filled your entire lap. The cover, designed by Patrick Dengate, is a large black and white print, simple, but elegant. A welcoming page with an enumerated list serves as an introduction to the concept of a circulating art book. It takes its name from the address of the Ferndale Public Library, 222 East Nine Mile Road.
A medley of things acted as inspiration for Two Twenty Two. Godlove states, “One: the knowledge that practically anything can be catalogued, added to the library collection, and thus, be able to be checked out – even a blank book. Two: Janice Charach Gallery in West Bloomfield had a 100 Journal Project in 2012, where artists could get a blank sketchbook and have it in their exhibition. One of my friends invited me to fill a page. Three: The PostSecret books, curated by Frank Warren, inspired the idea, as well.”

The last few pages are reserved for information about contributors, so the participating artists can leave a little information about themselves, the media they used, and how they can be contacted. It’s a shared artistic experience for neighbors and strangers, whether you’re contributing or just admiring.

When asked about the noticeable chunk of cropped pages near the center of the book, Linden replied, “The missing pages were blank. Very early on, enthusiastic artists pasted in thick collages and other dimensional art. This is wonderful, but it’s so thick that it caused stress on the binding of the book, which was causing the pages to pull from the cover. In order to make room for some of the thicker pieces of art, reams of blank pages were cut out.” This is followed up with the promise, “No existing art has been removed from the book and never will be.”

Currently, although the remaining blank pages are not sequential, there are still a few waiting to be filled. What will happen when the book is entirely full? “It was intended to be an ongoing project. The challenging element is that we would need to find a book that can be filled expansively, yet hold up to the wear and tear of being checked out repeatedly. I don’t know of what kind of sketchbook could, but I’m open to suggestions,” says the creator.

Checking out Two Twenty Two is worthwhile even if you don’t intend to write on the pages; it’s still a visual adventure, each page holding something new and different. It is a book of juxtaposition that gathers a variety of styles and thoughts, just like the city and residents of Ferndale itself.

Godlove puts it best by saying, “It’s a fantastic project because anyone who wants to can write in a library book, and their contribution becomes a part of that book that anyone can check out, as long as the book lasts. It’s an interesting archive of a brief time in our local creative history, with artists from all levels, from budding artists like my little girl nieces to established ones who have had their art published elsewhere. I’m very proud of it and glad that it continues to be discovered and contributed to over the years.”

Story by Jaz’min Weaver
Photo Of Bradley by David McNair

Bradley Wall is a local wood worker specializing in everything from headboards to cutting boards. “I enjoy working with wood for its innate beauty, and often feel silly about how excited I get about
different types of woods and designs,” Brad admits. That type of enthusiasm for the material is readily apparent in the things that he crafts.

His work is characterized by the use of one of his favorite materials, plaster lath. A lath is a thin strip of wood, usually built into a lattice and then backed with plaster, previously used to finish ceilings and interior walls. Lath in buildings has diminished since the ‘50s, and now drywall is employed in its place.
Brad’s ability to take a hidden, interior piece of architecture and make it the star of a new item is part of what makes his work so compelling. Sometimes, the wood he uses is reclaimed from crumbling buildings in Detroit. In this way, every creation is born with an inherent history connected to the area. The use of wood from Detroit is symbolic in a way; he wants to make a difference and witness the city rise, renascent with new ideas, artists, restaurants, and jobs.

“I get sad when I think of all the waste that goes into the demolition of houses. In reality, much of the wood from the houses is really high quality, and deserves to be reused.”

The benefits of reclaimed wood surpass connecting to the city, and even mere trendiness. It is actually a prime building material because it has had time to cure. The years spent adjusting to the climate have its advantages, according to Brad, “Often times it is much more stable than woods you can buy new…never mind the character you get from sitting in a house for 100+ years. The projects I’m working on aren’t exclusively reclaimed but I always strive to be inspired by the material I’m working with.”

Despite his great skill, Brad comes from a background of retail and desk jobs. He has been woodworking off and on for about five years. It started simple enough, as form of stress relief and a hobby. He started with remodeling and various other home improvement work. “I also grew up with a dad who has been a craftsman my whole life. He’s been a huge inspiration and encouragement to me. I remember him crafting canoes and sails boats by hand when I was very little. It has only been in the past couple years that I have begun to take the art form seriously for myself and allow myself to create fine furniture and art.”

When queried about what he enjoys working on, Brad answered, “Big tables are exciting because so much life happens at them.” That’s another beautiful thing about the work he does; undeniably, even the briefest of glances will reveal that it’s art, but so many of the pieces are also durable and functional. Some pieces are decorative, a pleasing combination of woods and colors in slanting patterns. Whether it is ornamental or serviceable, such solid handiwork is sure to be around for generations to come.

The end of January signified two big changes for Wall Woodworking; more openings for commissions and a move into a shop space inside the Russell Industrial Center. This move is an exciting adjustment, since Brad cites a lack of space for more projects and larger-scale ideas as one of the biggest challenges in his work.
Check out his website: www.wallwoodworking.com. Information can also be found on Wall Wood Working’s Facebook and Instagram pages about upcoming giveaways.

Wall is as kind as he is talented. “Half the reason I do what I do is to meet awesome people and partner with them in creating something beautiful. I look forward to getting to know more people in this awesome community!”

By David Wesley
Photo by Bernie Laframboise

Seven Reaume is a Detroit photographer and essayist producing top-flight work since the late 1990s. Now his artistic output has brought him local attention to the point where many Detroit-based photographers know his work as a staple of the photography scene. His photography is being exhibited at galleries and other outlets across the city and he even has a new calendar of his work out, called “The Detroit I See,” featuring stellar snapshots of the city as only Steve can produce.

Reaume sat down with Ferndale Friends for an exclusive interview about his life and career.
When did you start photographing and what perked your interest in photography?
Although my grandmother gave me my first camera when I was in grade school, I became really passionate about photography while in high school. A friend of the family gave me my first serious SRL camera for my 15th birthday, and I was hooked. I took classes on dark room techniques, composition, and art. My art eventually moved toward graphic design. Photography is a medium that I’ve always dabbled in, but didn’t get back to it again until the past few years. With the quality of phone cameras advancing, along with the advent of Instagram, I felt the desire to capture and share my surroundings.

Who are some of your influences as a photographer?
Detroit photographer Robert Guzman has inspired me the most. His photos are true works of art. He has an amazing ability to capture culture as well as structure.

What makes Detroit such a great subjectto photograph and what have you gleaned from the city since photographing it?
I’ve lived in the same area of Detroit for over two decades. Walked the same streets. I realized that I wasn’t noticing the beauty of my city, and specifically the areas that I frequent most, like I used to. It was all becoming very familiar. So, last summer I challenged myself to look at the city from different angles and perspectives. My recent show, ‘The Detroit I See’ is a selection of photographs from this project.

I’ve also spent a lot of time photographing nightlife, and specifically clubs and DJs. The music scene in Detroit, particularly the electronic music scene, is one of the most admired in the world. I feel fortunate to be a part of it, and capture the artists, people, and clubs that make it so unique and inspiring.

What are you aims with your work and artform?
I am now experimenting with combining the two mediums that I have worked in all my life, design and photography. They have always been separated in my work. One influences the other, but I have rarely created pieces that join them together.

Story By Kevin Alan Lamb
Photo credit: Bernie Laframboise

His first public performance came in 1989, when he showcased his fancy feet to “Billy Jean” in a school talent show. He wrote his first song at 13, and over 50 since. His friends claim he’s a vampire, while his dog Lugar knows he s not. He’s produced five albums, mastered his ego, and is the first in his family to pursue and create music as a profession. His name is Kent Koller, his mentor is a Lyon, he prays at night to share a stage with Jesus, and he takes great pride in being a part of a hard-working, resilient, and diverse art and music culture built on soul and substance, over image and conformity.

What’s the last song you want to hear before you die?
Tchaikovsky – Waltz of the Flowers.

Do you believe music is medicine?
Music could be considered medicine, surely, but I would say it’s more of a therapist than a surgeon. I’ve always said that happiness is healthiness. Music and art possess the power to alter or magnify our emotions. Music that might relieve stress could certainly be used as a form of therapy. I’ve always been fascinated by the cognitive neuroscience of music, how it physically and mentally affects us. Goosebumps are an undeniable physical reaction to music, for example. Why? Mait’s best left unsolved, for the next pop-song hit would just be three minutes of auto-tuned goose-bumps.

If you could share a stage with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Jesus Christ. I’m not a religious person, but what a resume builder that would be! Also, to learn about marketing and promotion.

You’ve written that your music is your soul, can you elaborate?
My music is the expression of my existence. It is my truest form of subconscious. When I write, it’s spontaneous, and how I write is largely unexplainable. I hear things in my head, I feel things through emotion, and I guess as to what needs to happen next. Somehow from this jumbled combination of esoteric descriptors comes a song, a piece of me.

What was the first song you learned to play?
First song on guitar was Nirvana’s cover of “The Man Who Sold The World.” I didn’t know it was originally a David Bowie song.

Who played the greatest role in your development as a musician?
Undoubtedly Scott Lyon, my guitar instructor and friend. He taught me as much as possible about the guitar, without telling me how to use it. That sounds bad, but I think it’s genius. He’s great at explaining musical concepts through analogies, explaining theory without forming rules, and sharing new music with enthusiasm. I always called him a musical preacher, always excited to explore and talk about music and life. We became good friends after I formally stopped lessons, just around the age I started to play live shows and record music. He helped a lot in that stage of my career as well, recording my first two albums in his studio. One of the most intellectual and philosophical people I know.

Who are three bands you listen to frequently?
The Platters, B. B. King, Prince.

What’s your favorite album of all time?
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here.

Why is it special to be a musician living in a place like Detroit?
Detroit’s music scene is special because it is largely untapped. Detroit’s music scene is as blue-collar as the city’s history. We often have to create our own opportunities because there is nobody here to give it to us. We don’t have a true music industry, or some glamorous “Main-Street” known for its music venues. This creates a hard-working, resilient, and diverse art and music culture not based on image and conformity. I’m proud to be a part of it.

Koller makes his home north of Detroit, lives a nocturnal life, has played the guitar for over 20 years, regularly hosts an open mic, decided that brunettes not blondes have more fun, and he’s never died.

Photo by Bernie LaFramboise

Oak Park resident and author Soraya Biela discovered and occupied a neglected perspective in the vampire fantasy genre. Where most often the stories are overflowing with Twilight’s precocious young girls and Anne Rice’s charismatic older men, Biela’s storytelling focused on the voice of an older woman. Enter Joey Roxy; a charming woman, a radio talk show host, and a vampire.

Biela has released the first two books in the trilogy, the first entitled Velvet Heaven and the second, Velvet Hammer. The narrative is both relatable and addictive. Seductive situations and bloodthirsty intimacy can be very intriguing for readers who wanted more out of the run-of-the-mill vampire epics. Readers can feel the rush Biela gets out of peering through the consciousness of her characters, and she fashions a personal fantasy that is as enjoyable to the reader as it is to her.

Joey Roxy is completely inspired by a real-life mentor of Biela’s: a talk show host named Rollye, who spins records of obscure soul music. Biela began reaching out to Rollye first as an adoring fan, and was soon enamored by Rollye’s depth of compassion and magnetic personality.

The support Rollye gave Biela during trying times, and the admiration she felt through this relationship, nurtured the creative devotion necessary to model a character that honors their connection.

“As a thank you I wanted to write her into the novel I had going at the time,” Biela said. “But as I began to write I had 50 pages in only a month, and that were way more compelling than what I had been writing.”

As the relationship blossomed, Biela began researching her mentor’s career history. She came across an online forum where a truck driver had accused Rollye of being a vampire because her radio show employed very late hours, and her enduring youthful appearance seemed impossible without some supernatural explanation. This notion excited Biela, and after writing Rollye’s character into a story she was working on at the time, the inspiration snow-balled into the vampire character in Velvet Heaven.

“Here was this intelligent, witty, sexy woman over 60. She seemed timeless,” Biela said. “She was a perfect fit. I started to write my version of her from our conversations both on and off air. I would send her what I wrote for her approval since so much of it was her likeness.”

Biela’s interest in storytelling began as a child with wildly vivid dreams, an abundant imagination, and the drive to be a writer and a creator. As she grew into a lover of gothic literature, her trajectory into this genre seems as natural as a vampire’s thirst for blood.

“Who doesn’t want to be immortal? I’ve always been drawn to [vampires]. I never feel like we have enough time to do all we want in one lifetime. “

Biela’s books are now self-published, which gives her the freedom to maintain the storyline she is interested in telling without compromising her vision. However, Biela has big dreams. She envisions her original creation someday becoming as influential as JK Rowling’s. But for now, Biela is simply thrilled at the future prospect of the realization of her finished trilogy. Perhaps with such adult themes in the same way the wizarding world did for kids, the challenges Joey Roxy faces as an older female vampire, women of the same age can live out the fantasy.

“In book one we see Joey struggling with a human husband, continuing her already dwindling career, and just adapting to life as one of the undead at her age,” Biela said. “In book two we see more of the vampire history, as well as the lineage her husband has which is causing all kinds of problems in their marriage. We see her letting go of her human ways and really embracing the sensual monster she has become.”

Velvet Heaven and Velvet Hammer are now available on Amazon, and the third and final installment of the series still hasn’t seen the light of day. Let’s hope it doesn’t burst into flames when it does!

By Rose Carver

Charlotte Fisher’s newest book is a reminder that we all struggle, and in that reality, we are all the same.

Detroit author Charlotte Fisher is a natural-born writer. In her newest work, she pours a series of her personal experiences into a collection of short stories that reach directly into the human heart of the reader in an attempt to stimulate a powerful empathy for all people.

Hope, healing, connection and inclusion are some of the overarching themes in the book, Take a Lesbian to Lunch. The belief that we all have worth is an important point for Fisher to communicate to all of her readers.

“Through my writing, I am hoping that people begin to see the similarities among us instead of focusing on the differences,” Fisher said.

A survivor of addiction and a masters student at the University of Michigan, Fisher  downplays her projected identity in the world that makes her appear different. Her writing exemplifies what she’s learned in her 50-plus years on Earth, and she attempts to remind everyone that we all struggle in our lives, and through that connection we can realize what makes us the same.

“The fact that I am gay doesn’t make me unique,” Fisher said. “The larger part of me—my pain, my challenges, my fears—connect me to every other person on the planet who has felt the same way. Sharing our emotions connects us with each other. It’s what brings us together to heal and move forward.”

Sharing her story is her contribution to the emotional ether, and her vulnerability is potent. She is unapologetic about her past, and reminds us through her writing that compassion is the highest form of consciousness. She hopes her writing gives others the courage to claim their own truth.
“In some way, we’ve all been the lesbian, or the fat girl, or the weakling or the guy who can’t read or the guy who cheated on his wife, or the wife who’s been cheated on,” Fisher said. “It’s almost impossible to judge others when you see yourself in them. I’ve been judged, and I’ve also judged others harshly. Today I try to see ‘me’ in everyone I meet, and offer them compassion. When how we look at the world changes, what we see changes as well.”

Writing is a natural process for Fisher, as she’s been doing it since she was in the seventh grade. She exudes devotion for the process of moving thoughts and feelings into words and stories. Not only does she try to reach others through her writing, but she also finds the outlet she needs to work through the issues that she struggles with in her own life.

“If I kept all of my pain and self-hatred and shame inside of me, I would have likely killed myself with my addiction,” Fisher said (she’s been sober since 2004). “Because I’ve shared my stories, I’ve learned two important things: Most of what I thought about myself wasn’t true. I actually do have value. I do have purpose. I am loveable and strong and important. [And second] I’m not alone. Other people have had the thoughts and experiences. Through my writing, I believe I’m helping others to recognize that they are also not alone, that there’s hope, and that we all have the courage to make our lives fabulous.“

To learn more about Fisher, get in contact with her, or to order her newest book, go to lesbianlunch.com.

By Sherrad Glosson
Photos by Bernie Laframboise

Christine Kole, now one year into retirement from the Ferndale School District, is living her days in the bliss of enjoying her four grandchildren, and caring for her husband and family. She moved to Ferndale at age 19, and has spent her entire adult life here, enjoying the diversity, the friendly residents and the quaint old home. Christine stated, “The city of Ferndale was very different in a way. The architecture, and the way the community is involved with each other is very appealing.”

Her daughter attended the FACE Preschool in the old St. James school building, and Christine was so impressed that she applied for a job there. Her college courses were concentrated in child development and she loved children, so it was a good fit. Christine made her transition from school to school, including evening child care at Ferndale High, Clinton Center, Roosevelt, Wilson, Coolidge Intermediate, and JFK Academy.

During those years, Christine had her third child late in life, just when her husband was diagnosed with a serious illness, so she took a break from teaching. Later, she returned to what she had been doing for years, in the school system. It didn’t stop there! She wanted to be more involved in the city she adored so much so she became a community activist and a big Ferndale supporter. She reached out and volunteered with the senior program at the Senior Nutrition Site, taught Stretch & Tone classes through Ferndale Adult Education for ten years, got involved in local cable TV, doing commercials. She also ran the “Kiddie Kapers” at the Ferndale Recreation Department (writing and narration), produced a commercial for the Ferndale Concert
series, co-produced, wrote and narrated an award-winning cable overview of the Ferndale preschool program in the mid- ‘90s. A parishioner at St. James for many years, she wrote bulletin articles, sang solo (professionally) and in choirs, did publicity and led home based “Renew” Bible study.

Throughout her professional singing career, she’s had opportunities to perform in coffee houses as a teen, sung in bands, in duos, weddings, parties, for the Ferndale seniors, at the 75th Anniversary celebration and at many metro Detroit area churches.

What a pleasant circumstance to have such a motivated and willing person with so much passion and joy being a helping help and community activist in the city of Ferndale. Christine McCabe Kole is our friendly neighbor of Ferndale.