August / Sept 2014

MOST BEAUTFUL PLACE DEPT: Is it good or bad that Michigan is finally getting national notice? A few years ago, probably to the surprise of many of us, voted Sleeping Bear Dunes the most beautiful place in America. More recently, a cell phone photo taken by a kayaker in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore won the photo contest and will appear on the National Parks Land Pass. We expect the splendors of the West to constantly be noticed, not so much those in our own backyard.

Up until recently, though, we seemed unknown as a national destination. The Great Lakes have every kind of beauty: knockout splendor like Pictured Rocks, serene beaches almost everywhere, plus cities full of art, sports, food, and shopping. Why weren’t we more popular? Maybe now we are in the beginning phases of that. Someday we may feel lucky to have known the UP in its days of wildness and sparse population.

Speaking of the UP, last week in Marquette Lake Superior was full of ice, the beach dotted with sunbathers. Not many regions offer sunbathing near icebergs in hip college towns.

ENVIRONMENTAL GADFLY DEPT: Perusing guidebooks is a good winter pastime, thumbing through them on cozy nights, planning the summer’s adventures. This winter, despite record snow and cold, we used 50 Hikes in Lower Michigan (which actually has 60) for a series of trips to our West Coast. It has no duds. (A bonus: many have microbreweries nearby, and many towns with microbreweries have independent bookstores, some more than one.)

While Ludington State Park may have ended up my favorite, Muskegon State Park, Grand Mere Dunes, Crystal Lake with its Arizona-esque moonscape/dunescape, Nordhouse Dunes, and various inland trail systems were all beautiful. We often used Ludington as a base camp, with the Badger, the car ferry that’s about to (at long last) stop dumping four daily tons of coal ash into Lake Michigan, lurking in my peripheral vision constantly, both in reality and on every wall and restaurant menu. I wrote quite a few blog posts about the Badger. The big boat is certainly beloved, given the number of images of it everywhere (black plume of smoke always visible).

Oakland County has a number of great hikes, generally little-known, which is strange given the proximity to such a large population center. Our favorites are Holly, Seven Lakes, and Proud Lake, due to their up north feel and views of water. Recently we hiked Rose Oaks County Park, just south of Holly, a park we’d never even heard of. Although some of it was rather dull, just a wide mowed path, one northern loop treated us to a hawk, an egret, a beaver lodge, and a barred owl that astounded us, flying low over our heads with that silent wing work owls have. Their feather edges are different, their flight is noiseless. My Medicine Cards book, bought at Library Books on 9 Mile, says that because of this silent flight, owls represent deception, and may indicate that someone is snookering you.

FESC DEPT: The Ferndale Environmental Sustainability Commission is working on the part of our municipal code that deals with yards. While unofficially the city encourages us to replace our grass with perennials and/or native plants, the code could be clearer. Poring over codes of other cities that have encouraged naturalizing has been fascinating. Some like Orlando have gone so far as to mandate that no more than 60 per cent of one’s property can be turf. A few issues back, I gave the results of my informal bike survey of this quadrant of Ferndale: 18 homeowners had naturalized, no grass in sight; 66 had rid themselves of half or more; and 87 had replaced large amounts of grass with other plantings.

The lawn mower lobby has been pretty successful at fighting emission controls. Running a gas mower for one hour is like driving a car for 8-11 hours (55 mph, 25 mpg). Assuming that the numbers in our quadrant hold true for Ferndale as a whole, and using one of the lower estimates of how much CO2 a gas mower emits in a season (100 lbs.), those who’ve replaced grass with alternatives have saved Ferndale 29,200 pounds of carbon. Often when Phil and I sit down to calculate the impact of mowing, or driving versus flying, or this lightbulb compared to that one, the whole time I’m thinking our calculations might prove the whole exercise pointless. Not so far, though. Remember when we figured that for the emissions of one flight to Glacier National Park, we could do 80 local hikes? The amount of carbon we save if we stop using gas mowers is also dramatic. This is a change worth making. An old-fashioned reel mower is, of course, non-polluting; an electric mower much less polluting than a gas one. And we can’t forget this: while filling mowers each year, Americans spill more gas than the Exxon Valdez did. And the 86,000 injuries a year involving gas mowers add up to $5.4 billion in medical costs.

BACKYARD HABITAT NEWS: Facebook informs us of the following: Two hours of nature sounds per day is a proven, measurable stress reducer. Didn’t we used to just call them “sounds?” Anyway, anyone waking up in my neighborhood at about 5:30 A.M. this morning might not have been so positive. Two of the angriest creatures in existence, house wrens and red squirrels, were venting their spleens, one out front, one in back. Both are adorable and crazy aggressive. Neither seemed to be experiencing a real threat; it was all Just In Case. Robins built a nest in a clematis vine, laying two eggs, then abandoning the nest. I’ve been told that this is common with robins. Hummingbirds are coming to the feeders, but as usual, if you don’t watch, you’d never know it. They are small and they are fast. Tufted titmice are still nesting, collecting fur combed off our 20-year-old cat. And those wrens are patrolling every birdhouse, but, of course, using only one.

Becky Hammond has lived in and observed Ferndale since 1986. She may be a member of the FESC by the time you read this.

One can best comprehend the kaleidoscopic rock of Duende as a journey, since you’ll just be ceaselessly searching for the perfectly proper way to sum up their sound. Keep searching.

The Ferndale foursome (Jeff Howitt — singer/guitarist, Laura Willem — drums/backing vocals, (“Jelly Roll”) Joel McCune — guitar/backing vocals and Scott Sanford — bass/backing vocals) share a slew of diverse musical tastes, embodied dynamically by the piquant variety found on their most recent album, Murder Doesn’t Hide The Truth. Whereas several local music fans felt that album could well prove to be their defining musical moment, it seems it’ll be topped, still, by the tremendously cool and confident ventures of their next LP, Mezcal, which debuted at the end of May
and is now available.

At seven years and running, Duende is the era-defying, genre-defying and category-denying soundtrack of a wild walkabout through greenrooms, basements, dim lots and loud venues that’ll assuredly entice all those still comparably reverent for the purely defiant poets of trashy garage-pop and Beat-crazed carpe-diem, and for all those equally curious about the exhilarating possibilities when you merge funk with psychedelia, surf-rock with blues, do-si-do and some rockabilly into an amped-up garage-rock boogie.

How a band can coherently translate such an eclectic mix demonstrates the range of talents and graceful balance realized by the group on their recordings, captured over at Ferndale’s Tempermill Studios, the de facto HQ for Gangplank Records. They sufficiently endeared themselves to the scene by regularly hosting monthly revues at The Loving Touch called DUENSEDAYS, a series started five years ago at the old Club Bart. Mezcal was released on May 31, with Bellyache Records providing an impressive run of vinyl, featuring artwork by Tato Caraveo, photography by Brian Roxman and a layout by Slasher Dav. (Mezcal was produced by Dave Feeny of Gangplank Records).

THE APPROACH
Laura Willem: “Many practices start with us warming up, messing around and then Jeff says ‘Hold on, let’s record that!’”

Jeff Howitt: “Originally, I’d bring in lyrics and a riff or a progression and we’d lock into simple arrangements. After a year and 20 shows with essentially two different line ups (with Laura
and I at the core), Joel then moved to Detroit in late ’07, and we started a different approach. By Florence To The Mad Man (released in late ’10,) every member (with Sanford) was in on the song.”

Scott Sanford: “We have a certain connection as musicians and as people and it allows us to work together pretty efficiently. Some parts are open ended so we never play them the same way twice. We have to pay attention to each other to see where it’s going to go.”

Joel McCune: “We became more at home with (Producer) Dave Feeny in Tempermill. We’ve evolved our recording process to allow even more freedom and spontaneity. It’s much more fun when we are done, because we never know what it will sound like until we finish.”

SONG STYLES
Sanford: “Regardless of what type of song anyone’s idea ends up becoming, we still make it sound like ‘Duende’.”

Willem: “Sometimes I think: ‘Are we all-over-the-place?’ Yes, maybe…but that’s just what we do. It’s interesting, fresh and we’re able to showcase our influences in that way.”

NEW ALBUM
Mezcal opens up with a doozy of a dance storm called “One More Time.” It’s a trippy surf-rock shuffler that documents a frenzied weekend filled with friends spinning all the hits: Thee Milkshakes, The Woggles, Heavy Trash, Sebadoh, The Halo Benders, Jack Oblivion and even fellow Ferndale outfits like The Beggars and The Oscillating Fan Club. Those all form a small fraction of their jostling influences.

EVOLUTION/JOURNEY
Howitt: “With Murder Doesn’t Hide The Truth (in ’13) we developed half the songs in studio, making our psychic and sonic decisions in the moment. We wanted something collectible, to hold in your hand, we included the lyrics for you to pore over in a playbill for a story. Mezcal (out now) is close to how fuzzy and lurching our live show is, even though we’ve mostly always record live.”

Willem: “With Joel in the band for seven years and Scott for four, yes, this feels like the band. I feel more comfortable maneuvering through shows and recordings, with the time we’ve put in. I think evolving is led by letting yourself continue to be inspired and letting that translate back to the music.”

McCune: “It’s hard to have opposing muses: a reverence for folk forms, country, rockabilly, bluegrass, jazz, blues—and I mean original, old timey blues, then for that whole ‘kill your idols’ mentality of punk, post-punk and experimental noise. I think Duende is the first band that really allows the indulgence of both sides and still makes coherent sense. Songs, evolving on the spot, it requires more trust and courage, but is also more rewarding.”

Sanford: “We all have a hand in shaping songs, and that’s what’s most rewarding for us.”

FERNDALE
McCune: “Tempermill, Loving Touch, (Duensedays) are very important parts of what we do. Having a local forum to hone our set, and a place to rub elbows with quantities of local talents, is invaluable and a pleasure. And Dave Feeny (Tempermill) has become the essential ingredient in our records, the filet’ to our gumbo! Duende is always looking to ‘get around’ more but we are very lucky to have it so good, here in Ferndale.”

Howitt: “Duenseday’s allowed us not to treat every show as a publicity stunt with a perfectly scene-groomed line up and focus more on people who are Family or could be to us. At seven years (with Duende,) I love playing with a band that’s only been hacking away a year or so. That keeps intact, for us, the raw excitement anyone has when they make their thing public and start finding what works…outside of the basement.”

…Duende have found what works…just about anywhere. The journey continues with Mezcal.

NEXT SHOW
Duende perform at the New Way Bar on June 27th with Bay City’s YUM and The Ghost Wolves (from Austin TX). More info: https://www.facebook.com/duende.ole and http://duendetroit.bandcamp.com/

Grant Gamalski got into screen printing years ago, mostly because he was in a band. He was an artist, too, but he also needed a way to spread the word about his band (posters) and provide some merchandise at their shows (t-shirts). Screen printing fit the bill.

Gamalski, the co-owner of Progress Custom Screen Printing, nods over towards one of his most integral staffers, the impressively-bearded Sean Clancy, as he rinses off some screens in a trough-like sink in front of a brick wall emblazoned with a dazzling graffiti-styled symbol (“PROGRESS”) stretching across the entire side of the rectangular shop, acknowledging that both of them “got really into this because of being in a band.”

“Every tour with my bands,” Clancy recalls, “I’d have to have a poster made. I was just so into that culture, as a fan of gig posters, I had stacks of posters under my bed and I’d curate them all from my bands’ shows.”

“We’re generating a very tangible form of art, here,” Gamalski says. As he speaks, he’s spinning a 6-screen carousel, each with platens for a line of shirts to slip over, while screens blended with film-positives of individual bands’, companies’ or organizations’ logos/images are lowered onto them. Special discharge water-based ink is then squeegeed onto each, one color/layer at a time. He arches his back and rakes the ink-slathered squeegee down across the screen and over the shirt with both hands. It’s proving to be a quite a work-out.

“But music,” he continues, “can be a very intangible art-form. You have no way to capture that experience of music other than bringing home the poster or the t-shirt. Memories might fade, but the shirt sticks around. So this is a cool way to be part of the music industry even when you’re not playing music. It’s a cool form of art.”

Gamalski, who studied fine arts and screen printing at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, has worked at Progress for seven years, from back in its early days when the business
was based out of a house on Vester and was owned and operated by Steven McCrumb. “I met Steve through CCS, he started off printing my band’s tshirts.” Gamalski explains.

About five years ago, current co-owner Brian Larson, who has more than 10 years experience in screen printing and graphic design, joined Progress to do more of the “front end work” with customer’s orders along with some custom designing. “I kinda knew (Gamalski) a bit when I came here,” Larson recalls, “our bands had played together in high school.”

While Clancy (who primarily works on poster designs here at Progress) still records/performs and tours with Ferndale’s premier post-metal outfit Child Bite, Larson and Gamalski have transitioned from their band days and become business owners, eventually securing an agreement with McCrumb to take over the company on January 1, 2013.

“It was stressful and intense at first,” Larson recalls of those first few months. The pair had to open up an entirely new account for the business, using Gamalski’s own credit card for the first month. “But things got rolling,” Larson recalls with a smile that sends off any of those firstmonth-worries.

“After the first three months we realized that we were already way above the sales of the previous year, and that last year had been our best year (up until then)…” Gamalski said. “So, every single year, sales have gone up. I think a lot of it is Ferndale, because we have a strong artistic base in this area. Everybody seems really down for supporting local stuff.”

“We really do feel that sense of community,” Larson said. “We work with so many local businesses. We’ve done work for Western Market, Chazzano Coffee, Valentine Distillery, B-Nectar, the Ferndale Library.”

Larson and Gamalski both consider this to be a rewarding business – they can contribute to their community through promotional printing for a business, supplying copies of poster designs for a local graphic artist or squeegee-ing an awesome t-shirt for a local band’s upcoming show, while also quenching their artistic sides. Clancy goes so far as to say that this is his first job he’s found “emotionally rewarding.”

“It’s like: ‘What cool, awesome artist’s work, who’s probably also my friend, who’s poster am I going to make happen today?’” says Clancy. “Posters have really picked up lately. There was no scene for poster art here six years ago. And I feel like it’s only building here. So it’s nice to be working, printing tons of posters. We do them all by hand, too.”

Larson studied at the Illinois Institute of Art in Chicago, eventually moving back to Pontiac where he helped operate a screen printing and graphic design collective out of his loft, while also hosting monthly concerts. “I’ve always been into making things,” Larson admits, acknowledging a certainty, above all else, that he wanted to be working in a print shop. “And, just doing things, that goes back to the loft, trying to make a DIY venue, ya know? I’ve always had a bit of an entrepreneurial spirit. I like making things happen.”

For Gamalski, at first, it was just a means to an end for his band. “But after that band hit a brick wall, I decided to just see how far we could take (Progress). I’m excited just to take this company to the next step. What’s built up our reputation is quality over quantity. We get orders from Illinois and New York, even California.”

Without their posters, their tote-bags, their hoodies and tshirts… Ferndale’s special events, their businesses, their bands (and we have many bands) would be noticeably less adorned, less
dynamic, less unique. “I mean, would you rather pay five grand for a masterpiece or 15 bucks for a sweet poster?” Gamalski asks aloud. But then, with reverence: “All these artists and institutions that I’ve looked up to for years are now coming into my shop.” More than ever, he says, he’s felt connected to the Detroit and Ferndale arts communities — all because of screen printing.

Progress Custom Screen Printing
SHOP HOURS:Monday–Friday 10am–6pm
248-982-4247 • info@printwithprogress.com
364 Hilton Road • Ferndale, Michigan 48220
www.printwithprogress.com

Tucked away off Woodward Avenue just south of 7 Mile Road, on Goldengate Street, lies a colorful, graffiti-covered little home adorned with a serpent-painted stone wall, an ample tree house, and bonfire pit, all settled seductively in the front lawn. It’s an unexpected part of Detroit to find a place like this, yet there it stands, drawing eyes like a magnet.

A bohemian-looking man puts the finishing touches on the artfully painted rock wall, while a small child twirls her hula-hoop nearby. Faint sounds of someone playing the piano come from inside the house, and an aroma of delicious home cooking wafts through the air.

I found myself here, at the collective of urban legend and local revolutionary Dr. Robert Pizzimenti (better known as “Dr. Bob”), proprietor of the Innate Healing Arts Center and Goldengate Café. Dr. Bob is a well known staple of his community, functioning as a doctor of chiropractic medicine (after 25 years of practice, Pizzimenti prefers to call himself an unwinder), holistic healer, community activist, and counterculture provocateur.

He specializes in helping individuals become agents of their own healing by emphasizing the importance of balance between the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of the self and consciousness. Over time, Dr. Bob’s place grew from a simple chiropractic office with a small kitchen featuring a raw juice bar to fully-functioning vegetarian café and healing center that offers auriculotherapy, cranio-sacral therapy, massage, reiki, yoga and meditation, as well as bulk traditional medicinal herbs and herbal remedies.

Dr. Bob tells an unlikely story of how his healing center came to fruition. He explains how he opted out of the lifestyle of suburban comfort to open his practice in a less traditional location in the midst of urban decay, homelessness, and crack addiction. “Two years out of college, I already knew I wanted a healing center. I had lived in Ferndale and Royal Oak and even sent my children to Waldorf schools, but I couldn’t afford anything on that side of 8 Mile.” Taking the less traditional path, he bought a humble dwelling on the now infamous Goldengate Street and built his healing center out of nothing.

“Community helped put this place together, I did not really have any money at the time. It was just me and the crack addicts. I felt strange putting a healing center together with crack addicts, but I had no judgments against them. I gave them money to help build this place and figured they were going to do what they would do.”

There are many abandoned homes on Goldengate street occupied by squatters, mostly artist types who have transformed this neighborhood into a counterculture paradise of sorts. Most of the homes are artfully decorated with beautiful graffiti and adorned with found objects such as glass bottles and other decorative objects reminiscent of the Heidelberg Project. One home even has a whimsical slide affixed to its rooftop. Most of the squatters have also pitched in to start a large and thriving community gardening project.

Pizzimenti owns his home on this street as well, and is slowly buying up the abandoned lots and homes adjacent to his property. He bought the lot directly behind his home and turned the wreckage into a surprisingly serene wooded area featuring a remarkable bullfrog pond. At one time Pizzimenti also had an abundance of animals that roamed free on his property including pigs, chickens, peacocks, and goats. He explains the animals were living harmoniously in the community until the city sent ten police cars to take them all away. He jokes he is “trying to start a
revolution, one chicken at a time.”

The café is delightful and offers gourmet vegetarian food. It supports local farms and has daily specialty items that are sure to delight your body and nourish your soul. It is run by one full-time employee, named Evelyn, who currently squats in one of the abandoned homes in the neighborhood with her musician husband. Suddenly finding herself homeless one day, she explains, “Someone pointed us to Dr. Bob’s house. We had never met him before. He took us in and let us put everything we own in his living room and we stayed the night. He asked if we were willing to move into an abandoned house and fix it up. We said absolutely. We cleaned it up bit by bit and come to find out; it’s a gorgeous house with beautiful hardwood floors. It’s a work in progress and we plan on purchasing it in an auction for $500.00.”

While telling her story she served an array of delicious home cooked vegetarian food. I sampled homemade potato and leek soup, tree bean nachos, and nibbled on the most wonderful cornbread I‘ve ever had. Every Wednesday night, the community of Goldendate Street comes together and coalesces at the bonfire pit in the front lawn of the healing center for a weekly drum circle. Pizzimenti describes the event as a type of healing. He explains, “The drumbeat represents the heartbeat of the mother and people come to burn fire, light incense and sage to cleanse the space and each other. The drummers come, and the idea is we communicate non-verbally. When the drums are played, the magic happens. People come: hulahoopers,
fire-throwers, and musicians, too.”

The center conveys a blissfully creative vibe bustling with an array of interesting characters. While Dr. Bob is treating his clients in his office, Evelyn is busily cooking and serving homemade food in the kitchen, a teenage boy is plucking away at the keys on the piano in the foyer, a sizable dog sleeps lazily on the couch, while a grandmother teaches her three young granddaughters to knit at the cozy booth in the café while they wait for their food. It’s a diamond in the rough. A place, once discovered, you will not want to leave.

The Healing Arts Center is open every day at 8 A.M. until 8 P.M. Walk-ins welcome. Golden Gate Cafe is open Monday through Saturday 11 A.M. until 8 P.M. www.innatehealingartscenter.com/chiropractordetroit/. 18700 Woodward Ave; Detroit, Michigan 48203, south of Seven Mile; 313-366-2247.

Anthony Bacon certainly has an artistic name. Any relation to Francis?

“I wish I was related to either the writer or the artist.” He chuckles. “If I was, I could be creative full time.” Instead, he chooses to help tackle thoroughly modern issues. “Our world is now dominated by computers and video games, which means the need for many of our students to be creative is lost.”

Like a renaissance man, he wears many different hats while pursuing his goal of art education for everyone. A working artist (with an exhibition open now at Level One Bank on Woodward in Ferndale), he’s also an art instructor at Schoolcraft College as well as the founder of Information Plus Art, LLC, an art instruction and educational consulting company.

“Our vision is to provide consulting and instructional services, including art training, for businesses, schools, and individual families.” Bacon explained. IPA can plan anything from a one-day employee appreciation art program to a complete curriculum for an entire school district.

“Our two-person corporation has experience in education, special education and art, from grades K-12 and college. Our motto is ‘Education is a lifelong process and art creations are inspired through engagement and life’s experiences’.”

IPA is quite keen on providing art experiences to special education students. “Art programs benefit special education students by helping them to see differently and think on their own without criticism from others.” Bacon says.

As a college instructor, Bacon has seen firsthand the effects that cuts in art programs have had on new higher education students. “One of the effects on incoming students taking art classes for the first time is that they have to be taught the basics, how to think (visualization) and how to be creative.” He explains. As for those students who choose not to go on to college, Bacon argues that, while in high school, they deserve to have a choice beyond the usual STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) concept in many districts. Bacon is pleased to see that this has been modified to STEAM in some places, with the arts now included.

As an artist, Bacon isn’t content to stick with one medium, one style, or one particular theme. “I do scenery, still life, city-scapes, music-related subjects, dogs, cats, people, and superheroes.” He’s very excited about his new exhibition at Level One Bank, celebrating Detroit and Southeast Michigan. “They offer local artists a great opportunity to display their creations in an alternative setting.” Bacon says. “The staff and management are fantastic. The approval method to exhibit at the bank was not complicated and the gallery space is top-notch.” The displayed works run the length and breadth of his varied interests, reflecting the diversity of the area, and range from pencil drawings to assemblages, realistic to abstract. “It’s been an eye-opening experience.” Bacon says about the preparation of his exhibition. “I plan to do it again in 2015.”

To learn more about Information Plus Art, their philosophy, programs and full range of services, visit their website at http://ipa879.wix.com/ipaab. Reach them by phone at (313) 801-222 or e-mail them at ipa8@comcast.net.

Any parent knows how difficult it is to raise children. Parents are constantly plagued with questions — Should they breastfeed? What toys should their children play with? — and a myriad of others.

Luckily, Nature’s Playhouse makes answering these questions a little bit easier. Recently opened on Nine Mile in Downtown Ferndale, Nature’s Playhouse offers several courses designed to give parents a natural alternative to more “traditional” parenting styles. Owners Michelle McEvoy and Lisa Ball strive to educate and assist people through the journey of parenthood. Theirs is an all-natural approach to childcare, and no detail is left untouched in their pursuit of that goal.

Lisa says “Our programs are very unique in that all of our classes allow for families to bring their children with them while they learn, get fit in one of our wellness programs, or find help in one of our free support groups to guide them on their journey through parenthood.”

To create an all-natural environment, Michelle and Lisa encourage parents to play and explore with their children. The toys inside the Playhouse are all made using natural materials such as wood and cotton. Parents are also encouraged to sit close to the floor, at eye-level to the children. According to their web site, this is so that parents can see the world from their child’s perspective.

Nature’s Playhouse was originally started by two Waldorf teachers, and the inspiration for the design of the space truly came from that philosophy. [From Wiki: The educational philosophy’s overarching goal is to develop free, morally responsible, and integrated individuals equipped with a high degree of social competence.] Michelle took over in the Spring of 2012, when the original owners were planning to close as they were moving out of state. Nature’s Playhouse had come to be a second home for her and her son, Zander, and she couldn’t stand to see it close.

Michelle and Lisa met about a year later when Lisa expressed an interest in becoming a part of the expansion of the business. They found they had a mutual desire to create a community of resources and support for new and expecting parents, based on their own needs as they had become mothers themselves. Upon examining the needs of expecting mothers and their families in nearby cities, the duo decided to move the Playhouse to Ferndale, where it now has a solid home along Nine Mile.

According to them, “There are plenty of other play spaces around that give kids a fun place to play, but there is nowhere that caters to the whole family and encourages connection and well-being on every level. That’s where Nature’s Playhouse comes in, that’s the void we fill in the community.”

Michelle and Lisa are no strangers to the world of parenthood. Lisa has a three-year old son, and Michelle is the busy mommy of two children of her own.

Michelle is a proud graduate of University of Michigan with a Bachelor in Anthropology. Michelle is also a certified elementary school teacher, certified to teach grades K-5 in both Michigan and California. Shortly before giving birth to her two children, Michelle taught both kindergarten and fifth grade.

Lisa is a graduate of the Detroit Business School and owns her own publishing house, known as William Joseph K Publications. Her publishing house currently holds six different titles that are sold worldwide. In addition to her publishing house, Lisa is also heavily involved in various community events in Clawson. Lisa also heads her own consultation firm known as My Glass is Full, and she’s the Project Coordinator for The Formation of Motherhood project, which captures the physical and emotional transformation of a woman during her pregnancy through photography.

For more information about Nature’s Playhouse and the programs they offer, Michelle and Lisa can both be reached by phone at 248-955-3219 or by email at info@naturesplayhouse.com.

If you would like to visit the Playhouse for yourself, it’s located at 318 West 9 Mile in downtown Ferndale, right next to Assaggi Bistro. Michelle and Lisa are both avid Facebook and Twitter users, so be sure to follow them there as well for information on upcoming classes and events!

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Francine Hachem is dedicated to the city that she loves. In fact, she’s so dedicated that on the morning of this interview, she dropped everything after a call from the DDA to put up posters for the National Main Streets Conference coming to the city of Ferndale the following weekend. She happily accepted, like the dedicated volunteer and neighbor she is, and the posters were hung with an enthusiasm that only comes from years of experience.

Interested in theater and performance since she could remember, Francine knew early on that it was a trade she’d like to dedicate her life to. But, unfortunately, the costs of real life prevented her from pursuing it full-time. “When I was out there looking for a job, there wasn’t any money in theater,” Francine said. “I got a job at Chrysler Financial, and dedicated myself to pursue theater and erformance in my spare time.” And pursue it she did.

She continued her education on nights and weekends, eventually earning a master certification from Will-O-Way Apprentice Theater in Bloomfield Hills. It was here that she met Sally Dubates, and together they formed West End Productions — a passion project to help produce theater locally. With countless productions and projects across the state, West End grew, and Francine relocated to the city that she thought best suited her artistic creativity: Ferndale. “Coming from Dearborn, Ferndale was certainly a different climate,” Hachem said. “Ferndale seemed to be the place to be — diverse and ‘with it’.”

Francine’s first act upon moving to the city was to attend a city council meeting with the goal of getting on the Ferndale Arts Commission. She quickly came to realize that the more you get involved in the city, the more this city gets involved in you. “Everyone is so involved in everything; everyone knows your name,” Francine said excitedly. “The more you get involved the better it is.” What was the most unique about the area, Francine said, was the supportive atmosphere found throughout.

“Everyone supports what everyone is doing and everyone embraces that someone wants to be involved. It’s an extremely supportive city and wonderfully diverse, among everything else.”

After retiring from Chrysler in 1995, Francine dedicated herself to bringing performing arts to the people full time. She currently serves as the Theater Director for Rochester Recreation, the Director of the Miss Senior Michigan Pageant, and she freelances as a director and performer throughout the state. Her career highlight has been her involvement in developing the Always Patsy Cline Show – a two-person performance that celebrates Patsy Cline as a performer and a personality. Performed with Linda Piccoli, Always Patsy Cline won the Oscar Wilde award from Between the Lines, and has been steadily playing every year since. The success that came from the recognition of Always Patsy Cline has allowed Francine to pursue more ambitious projects and reach bigger audiences. “Patsy has been the most fun, most memorable, and most professional show I’ve ever been involved with,” Francine said. “The Oscar Wilde Award gave us credibility going forward.”

Since moving to Ferndale, her involvement in the city itself is palpable; Francine has had a hand in flavoring virtually every event within the city in recent memory. Every summer she runs her legendary theater camp for kids age 8–15 at the Kulick Center, and volunteers at every event from Ferndale’s various art fairs to the Dream Cruise. Recently, the Downtown Development Authority named her Volunteer of the Year — a designation that is well-deserved and could seemingly be awarded to her each year. Currently, Francine is working her trademark magic in collaboration with Jay Kaplan to bring a new event to the city: Salon Sunday. This jazz performance and celebration is tentatively scheduled to take place on the third Sunday in August at the Boston Tea Room. Bringing a diverse lineup of entertainment and performance to the city is just part of Francine’s M.O. No matter what she’s working on, she always brings with her two things unmatched by anyone else in the city: her experience and her passion. “I’m a passionate person,” she said.

“My best friend is the city of Ferndale and my passion is theater. I try to focus on those two things, and when I do it makes life so much more fun.”

When asked about what keeps her motivated to stay so involved, her answer was simple, and that of someone who’s figured out her purpose. “It’s what I do,” she said matter-of-factly. “People need to entertain and need to be entertained. The Arts Commission kind of went defunct there for a while and now we’re working on bringing the performing arts back to Ferndale.”

Whether it’s as involved as directing and starring in another performance of Always Patsy Cline or it’s as simple as hanging posters for an upcoming event to benefit the city, Ferndale truly does have a best friend in Francine Hachem. And it’s clear, according to Francine, that the feeling is mutual. “Like a lot of us, I feel that Ferndale is my best friend,” she said. “We never have to look for something to do, it’s all right here.”

“Our city screams ‘art’,” says Meg, giving the Senior Report in the online Ferndale Friends. True? If so, the Ferndale Arts & Cultural Commission offers a means for voices to be heard and artistic talent to strut its stuff.

On tap for sure: Two summer evenings of music in the park. Probably coming in the Fall: A murder mystery. A longer term possibility: Big band or orchestra concerts, or both. What else? It depends on what residents say they want to see or hear, what they will show up for and support. It also depends on finding those with a flair or aptitude for singing, dancing, designing, composing or otherwise able to put on an exhibit or show.

The Ferndale Arts & Cultural Commission originated at the turn of this century. It languished over the past few years; the rumor is that there was too little direction and interest, not enough volunteers. The Commission was revived in January of this year; various Ferndale residents attribute this to a belief in the possibilities of an eclectic and artistic community, along with urgings of Councilman Dan Martin, Francine Hachem and others.

Five appointments were made to the Board of the Commission: Francine Hachem, Jeannie Davis, Sherry Kruzman-Martin, Joanne Wilcock and Mark Burton. They all are volunteering their time and services. The Commission meets every second Monday at the Kulick Center, and the public is welcome to attend and give input.

The Commission’s goals encompass promotion of all of the arts, including the visual, dramatic, musical and storytelling. However; “we want to give Ferndale residents what they want,” says Mark Burton, one of the new appointees to the Board. “A LOT depends on feedback,” he notes.

In that regard, the Commission has a survey on its Facebook page. There are boxes that can be checked in connection with artistic interests, along with room to comment and elaborate on ideas and suggestions for happenings and events.

So far, Music in the Park is one event that many have wanted back. It’s returning on July 18th and August 27th; both concerts to be held at the Kulick Center (for an indoor option should the weather be bad), and scheduled from 6:00 P.M. until 9:00 P.M. The Commission expects to pay local groups to perform, and will have food available. Burton plans to put together promotional materials,like posters and flyers, with Sherry Kruzman-Martin, another member of the Board. Both have a background in visual arts, Mark as a painter and framer of art, Sherry as a photographer. The necessary monies are anticipated to come from the Community Foundation upon approval of the Board’s budget in the grant application.

Much or most of the funds for other Commission shows or events will also be dependent on community demand and budget approval by the Community Foundation. Volunteer talent and service is also a major factor. For example, big band or orchestra performances would entail, at the minimum, volunteer time by musicians, active or retired, and perhaps band members in high school or college.

The Commission does not have its own bank account but monies can be donated specifically for its purposes and channeled through the Community Foundation for its use.

A fundraiser is scheduled for Saturday, June 14 at Dino’s from 3:00 to 6:00 P.M. Snacks and finger foods will be available. It’s also an opportunity to meet all of the Board members, as well as provide input about future cultural and artistic showings or events.

At, and partnering with the Ferndale Public Library, the Commission expects to put on a murder mystery this Fall. Participants will be assigned characters, with suspense and surprise to be expected. “This is something where we’re trying to see the reaction,” says Mr. Burton, “as with other programs and events, turnout and response will determine if we have it again or regularly.”

“We really do want feedback from the public,” emphasizes Mark. Want a poetry slam, folk singing, a showing of local painters or photographers? Are you willing to contribute your artistic talent? Let the Ferndale Arts and Cultural Commission know: Take the survey on their Facebook page, or write something on its wall; attend the fundraiser in June or come to one of the Board meetings. Give voice to your thoughts and opinions that scream art.

Ferndale Arts and Cultural Commission: contact on their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Ferndaleartsculturalcommission<

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The FESC’s early years were filled with the usual trial and flounder experiences, including “gimmicks” like the monthly Green Tip and Green Tuesdays events that have since been abandoned. Today, the FESC is situated as a prominent adviser to City Council,
utilizing a new operational model to more effectively meet the needs of city-wide planning and development efforts. According to current chair, Mark VanDyke, “the Commission is working more closely with City Council and spending less of its time on attention-grabbers to draw people in.”

The eight-member FESC is further tasked with investigating the city’s approach to green initiatives, as well as issues related to solid waste and recycling, alternative energy and energy reduction, carbon output, pollution, and water quality. One of its annual tasks is a presentation to the Council on environmental concerns for their consideration. Currently, the Commission is investigating a lawn ordinance, looking at all the angles of this potentially new regulation for the city.

During our conversation, Mark mentioned, to my surprise, that Ferndale does not rank very high compared to other communities on recycling; the list of reasons why folks do not recycle is long and predictable. However, a truly simple and enormous motivation to recycle is this: the City pays for garbage disposal but makes money on its recycling. Garbage is a cost; recycling is revenue. I don’t know how attractive the revenue projection has to be to ignite an educational campaign around recycling, but a savvy city like Ferndale is definitely primed for it.

Though recycling is but one part of the FESC’s advisory scope, for many people, it’s probably the most approachable of the various concerns probed by the Commission. Our region’s recycling hub is located in the Southeastern Oakland County Resource Recovery Authority, or SOCRRA. There you will find the usual information on handling yard waste and bulky items, but also how to safely dispose of electronics, paint, aerosol cans, batteries, compact florescent light bulbs, and other hazardous household waste. SOCRRA also offers educational workshops, tours, a monthly newsletter and a practical website that promotes recycling of all sorts and for every readiness level.

The eight members of the FESC are volunteers with varied experiences in the environmental sector as well as other industries such as business, education and politics. Their cross disciplinary awareness helps to ensure that all concerns receive an objective and feasible response. Though they are appointed by the Mayor, they remain volunteers and bring their professional expertise to city planning conversations as invested residents of our fabulous city. According to member, Melanie Piana, “a citizen advisory group is important to help guide the city on policy and issues that residents and businesses care about in the community. Commission members bring new ideas, perform research and provide guidance.”

The FESC meets on the first Monday of every month at the Ferndale public library. Meeting notices are posted by the City Manager’s office and all are welcomed, as the FESC is “open to hearing the voices and input of all our neighbors,” said Mark, but please notify the City Manager’s office if you want to be on the agenda.

After seeing his mom struggle with vision loss, Brian Lane vowed to help others who were suffering through the same situation. Brian says that “Seeing my mom being scared of the world and scared to take on the world, I wanted to do something about it”.

So he and his brother, Terry, started Fifty-Two 4 Mom, a 501(c)3 organization that helps to increase awareness and raise money for research and treatments of optic nerve disorders and other causes of vision loss that affect millions worldwide like ischemic optic neuropathy, glaucomatous optic nerve disease, toxic optic nerve disease and Heber’s hereditary optic neuropathy.

The members of this organization are doing great things in the community, including racing for cures and other charitable events that they sponsor. Their goal is to raise a million dollars through participation in races across the country. The team participated in the Boston Marathon in April 2014, where Brian guided his visually impaired partner, Rachel, to the goal.

Brian said that the thing that he loves most about what he does is “being able to actually help the visually impaired community”.

Fifty-Two 4 Mom has several upcoming events that are open to the public. Brian and the team will be hosting the “Jump for Charity” event at Chene Park in Detroit on July 12. Participants will have an opportunity to safely jump off a platform from as low as ten feet to as high as forty feet. The jump is for anyone who would like to participate. “It’s going to be a really exciting event for all those involved,” said Brian. A Girl’s Scout troop will be helping at this event, along with others to assist in donation efforts.

Other events include charity poker games and appearances at local colleges. They will also be participating in several races like the T-Rex triathlon which will take place in Flint, Michigan, and the New York Marathon later this year in New York City. Brian will be guiding his partner along with the rest of the Fifty-Two 4 Mom family.

You can find more information about current and upcoming events on their web site, fiftytwo4mom.org. There you can read Brian’s mom’s story, plus find lots of information about optic nerve disorders (ONDs), links to informational sites and other resources. “Mom’s Story” is also posted, and it helps to give readers a more thorough look at why they got started at FiftyTwo4Mom and what they are about in general. You can contact them online or by phone at 517-420-2198 if you would like to make donations, or if you would like to participate in any of their events.