Art & Music

By: Ingrid Sjostrand

WE’RE JUST HUGE FANS OF MUSIC, ART AND DETROIT, and we’re trying to capture and document an exciting time in our local culture scene,” says Kristi Billings, videographer and editor, describing The Milo Show – a collaborative project between her, host Jeff Milo and sound engineer Chad Stocker.

The Milo Show is a monthly talk show exploring Metro-Detroit’s music scene through interviews and performances by local artists at changing venues. Milo is no stranger to the music industry; he has over 13 years of experience as a freelance music reporter, working for the Metro Times, the Detroit Free Press and, of course, Ferndale Friends. So, when friend, and lead singer of rock quintet The High Strung, Josh Malerman suggested Milo star in his own TV show, it seemed right.

“The concept was initially: Let’s have Jeff just do what he’s always been doing – documenting local culture and conducting dialogues with local artists –only now, on camera,” Milo explains. “But it became an opportunity to provide a panoramic view of Detroit’s arts community…”
Malerman originally planned to produce the project, having just completed his own feature film, but was called to a book tour for his debut novel Bird Box. This is when Billings stepped in, despite having little experience with video editing.

“I purchased some editing software, received some helpful tips from friends, and managed to put together a not-too-shabby first episode,” she says. “Everyone was so pleased with the result it was de-cided I would take over the filming/editing reigns full time.”

The first episode, released in September 2015, was filmed at Berkley Music and featured Kriss Gaynes, Junglefowl, Robert St. Mary and Eleanora as guests. By episode four, Stocker joined as their sound engineer and, as of May 2017, they have produced 18 episodes.

Episodes are approximately 30 minutes and re-leased on the first of the month. The trio has mastered filming the whole show in one day, followed by two weeks for Stocker to mix audio and the rest of the month for Billings to create the final product.

“The tapings are relatively quick considering, for example, Episode 17 had two interviews in two lo-cations, and 3 musical performances each on the stage at Ant Hall. We completed all the staging, tap-ing, and tear down, in about six hours,” Stocker says.

One challenging aspect of filming can be the unique locations and trying to highlight so much of the city.
“One time we filmed in a space that was almost the size of a bedroom – and we still fit six or seven people in there, plus a drum kit!” Milo exclaims. “The bigger goal is to start emphasizing that this is a pop-up talk show, that is traveling around the city each month, collaborating with different venues, so by watching a season of episodes – you still get to see a lot of the city.”

When it comes to choosing artists and guests, Milo says there are no limits. They have had artists from every genre except country, which he says will likely be featured in the next few months.
“Just seeking out people I know will provide an enticing and thought-provoking conversation, as well as call out bands that I see have new albums or singles being released in the near future,” he says. “I’ve also spoken with bloggers, archivists, fashion designers.

Plans for the show are endless, says Milo, maybe even crowd-funding campaigns or increasing the number of episodes per month.

“We want to venture into bolder, stranger, more elegant, more unconventional venues. We want Jack White to come on our show for a chat!” he says.

“We want to do experimental things, like interview in moving cars. We want to try anything, really.”
This is with the caveat that all three agree on the direction of the show. As a resounding theme among the trio, they truly enjoyed working together and creating the Milo Show.

“I get to collaborate with two optimistic, intelligent, and creative people in Kristi and Jeff,” Stocker raves.
“Honestly – I love that I get to work with my friends. I love that we interview interesting people doing interesting things to make this city shine,” Billings relishes.

“My favorite things are the magic that Kristi conjures with her editing, Chad’s exceptional mixing, coupled with his piquant humor and dry wit quipped be-tween takes,” Milo closes. “I hate to say something cheesy like: We’d still be making this even if no one was watching. But it’s true…. That said, we hope more people start watching!”

For more information or past episodes, visit their web site,


Story by Sara E Teller
Photos by Bernie LaFramboise

THE RICHARD GAGE DESIGN STUDIO WAS ESTABLISHED TO OFFER a wide variety of art services to the City of Hazel Park and the community at large, including to “fabricate difficult or unique decorative architectural elements and sculpture with hand-craftsmanship using contemporary and historic techniques,” according to owner Richard Gage. “We work with architects, municipalities, developers, planners, designers and homeowners.”

Gage lives in Royal Oak, and has been local to the area for more than 50 years. The Richard Gage Design Studio has been in business since the late ‘90s. “I came to Hazel Park in 2000 because the City was eager to embrace new business and was interested in working with creative small business addressing their needs, wants, and desires,” Richard explained. He felt this was the perfect opportunity to show the City what he was made of. “Although involved in the creative process all my life, it wasn’t until the early ‘90s that I went full-time into the decorative arts.”

“Over the years, I have helped other artists and builders by offering access to my larger equipment, space and expertise,” Richard said, citing several artists who have taken advantage of what the Design Studio has to offer, including Mark Belchenco Studio, Lamia Metal and Alex Drew. Richard also mentioned that the Henry Ford Estate in Dearborn sought out his artistry for historical repair and replacement of the copper roof on their Rose Garden Tea House as well as iron work in the main house.

Gage, who was a technical consultant for Kresge’s community artist program, believes his architectural work has been significantly influenced by “historic standards, classic proportions and timeless craftsmanship…I admire the clean lines of George Nelson as well as the organic simplicity of George Nakashima,” he explained, adding, “My sculpture is heavily influenced by the smallest parts of nature and typically executed on a grand scale, such as Petal Parts in John R’s Art Park and Winter Wheat in David’s Gold Medal Sports.”

The Design Studio is well-versed in creating a wide range of artwork, featuring varying techniques and for all different purposes. Even when presented with a concept that includes more a “loose or random” appearance – basically some-thing not necessarily well-defined – Gage and his team can produce it. “I’ve produced gates and railings in modern Frank Lloyd Wright style as well as in the decorative Victorian Era,” he said. “I’ve recently been exploring homages to experimental art such as The Ant Farm by Paul Clark, and works produced by Piero Manzoni and Andy Warhol.”

Because of their “wide variety of skills, (the team does) simple functional things mostly for homeowners but builders, too,” said Richard. Some examples of more ‘everyday’ tasks his team has taken on include bending a piece of aluminum trim that is no longer available, repairing vintage brass toilet levers, restoring a stainless pot for canning and fixing some garden tools. “We (fixed the tools) for an elderly local, and got flowers for the rest of the summer!”

The design team keeps very busy throughout the year and Richard takes pride in the ability to be presented with new challenges every day. “Every day I have some new challenge to resolve. Today I am working on how to best wire a sign for a Detroit business. Yesterday, it was how to make a jig to accurately cut ceramic tile for a miter corner.”

Gage established The Hazel Park Arts Council along with a few other locals, including Jan Parisi, Ed Klobucher, and Jeff Shelly, and became the Council’s Treasurer. The Arts Council, according to its site, “is committed to furthering artistic and cultural initiatives…through a number of avenues, including advo-cating local artistic initiatives…collaborating with the Hazel Park Arts Fair.” He also worked on The Art Park on John R as well as the first art fair and the Phoenix Mural. “Working on the Arts Council is great because of the people –smart people offer smart discussions. Amy Aubry and Allissa Sullivan, and all our members are invested in Hazel Park’s future and that shows during our meetings,” Gage said.

The Design Studio’s growth has been made possible over the years by its reputation within the community. “My business growth is solely attributed to word of mouth and some public sculptures, such as Pollen Release in Royal Oak and Bent Brush in Ferndale,” Gage explained. “I also have signs with my contact information.”

He hopes community patrons will appreciate all art that is displayed in and around town and always appreciates feedback related to his team’s work. “Add comments through Facebook about our efforts,” he mentions as way to express appreciation. “Stop by the Farmers’ Market for our kids’ booth and buy a t-shirt, donate money there or at the City.” The studio is private, but anyone is welcome to stop by and take a look around or inquire about a project. Gage can be contacted at 248.541.7730.

Photo and story by Kevin Alan Lamb

NO MATTER YOUR TRADE OR PASSION, all roads leading in the direction towards progress are paved with fear, frustration, and doubt. The secret you see – finding something inside of you that no one can take away – something that is yours, God-given, but man-made, and hold onto it. Be driven by faith in your abilities and efforts, and find a way to remind yourself of the vision no matter the breakdowns and pit stops along the way.

Creative careers will never stop testing you; that is why they are the most beautiful and satisfying. The life of an actor isn’t an easy one, but it sure is remarkable for those who navigate the journey. Folks like Bello Pizzimenti.

Pizzimenti was born in Ferndale, and attended the Detroit Waldorf School where he performed his first plays. He later attended Cranbrook upper school, where he lived in residence throughout his high school years. While performing in the annual winter musical, he was discovered by a Canadian director who invited him to join an international production of Les Miserables in Windsor, Ontario. This proved to be the launching pad for his life and long road towards assuming the role of other identities on stage. After attending Western Michigan University, where he received his BFA in musical theatre, Pizzimenti chased his dreams to live in Harlem and pursue a career in the biggest city in the world.

Q: What are some of the more significant memories you hold on to from your time with “Les Mis,” in Windsor?
A: I remember the moment my high school choir teacher told me right after a performance that a director from Canada had been at our show, and that he was specifically interested in me for his production. That was very exciting. I remember the day of my audition for the show, which if I remember correctly was also my first day of rehearsal. We were essentially inside a storage space in a warehouse in Windsor. I thought I was just singing for the music director and the director, because they were the only ones in the room with me. What I didn’t know was that the two young men playing Enjolras and Javert were in the next room listening to me as well. I finished singing, and they came out with huge grins on their faces to greet me and welcome me to the cast. Shortly afterward the rest of the cast arrived, and we started rehearsing.

Most importantly, I remember the friendships. Some of the best times of my life were had that Summer, and in the following years during my regular trips to Windsor. I had a sense of belonging and a sense of self-confidence that I had not had before. It was the summer that made me feel that a professional life in theatre was for me.

Q: What was one of the best and worst moments from your time in Harlem pursuing acting after undergrad?
A: Some of the best: Being cast in a workshop performance of Tectonic Theater Project’s adaptation of Carmen. I got to work with Moises Kaufman and the rest of the team, as well as a powerhouse cast of performers. We presented at the Guggunheim, and when one of the other performers had to go to the hospital the day of the performance, I stepped in on short notice to cover his solos. Moises was impressed by me and I was subsequently called back several times for a full production of the show, though I was ultimately not cast.

And, performing in my only NYC-based full-length professional play, BACK by Mickey Bolmer. As a cast we were encouraged to explore and to have fun, and I found myself feeling very free, loving, and open as a result. It was a professional experience in which I could truly say that I enjoyed the process.

Some of the worst: Botching several of my opportunities with Tectonic, and subsequently being called in for them less and less often. Feeling that I did not live up to the potential that Moses saw in me. Accidentally not learning the entire musical cut required for an audition, leading to a very embarrassing situation for everyone in the room. Dealing with contracts and/or offers that conflict with each other. I’ve probably gotten stomach ulcers panicking about these situations over the years.

Q: What drives your passion for acting?
A: These days, I don’t know. I used to be in it for fun. Then I was in it for success, recognition and money. Now I’m in it because it’s the only skill I have that people are nice enough to pay me for.

Q: Tell us about Chasing the Star…
A: It’s an independent film by Collective Development Inc., a Michigan-based film company I first worked for during my senior year in undergrad. We shot it in the desert of Yuma, AZ, which was awesome because it was my first time getting to go to a very specific environment for a shoot. It made it feel much more authentic for me as an actor, and I think it makes the film much more authentic feeling as well. Plotwise, it’s the story of the Three Magi essentially. There isn’t a ton of source material on their backstory (to my knowledge), so a lot of the circumstances come from the imagination of the writer, which is all to the good as it makes the three men much more human. They are all flawed, and have to reconcile their past over the course of the story. I play the youngest Magi of the three, Gasper.

Q: What’s next for you?
A: Who knows? Best-case scenario is I stay honest with myself and listen to my gut, intuition, whatever you want to call it. Maybe I’ll end up in a rock quarry. Maybe I’ll just read books and hide from the world. Maybe I’ll keep acting. Maybe I’ll find something else. Hopefully, I’ll be there when and if people need me.

Story By Sarah E. Teller

THE PURPOSE OF THE ONE NATION FESTIVAL IS TO SHOWCASE a variety of cultures and genres of music, and to celebrate the diversity in music,”according to Steve Gamburd, of The Phoenix in Hazel Park and the Hazel Park Arts Council, who curates the show along with Been Frank. “In a nutshell, One Nation Festival represents the open-door aspect of The Phoenix. The five-night concert represents diversity by including a number of music genres from local, regional and touring bands.”

Steve and Been have an ear for quality, and they’ve been looking for quality of music throughout the years. “We weren’t the School of Rock, but we understood which bands had both the talent and the drive and have included many of these youth bands in our festival line-ups over the years.” When they like what they hear, “we provide them with the show date of their choice as well as the option to network and reach out to local bands to be added. When mixed genre and multi-cultured bands that are not punk, metal, rock or hip hop contact us about whether or not their music fits here, we fit them here with an idea of how to curate the bill accordingly.”

Many of the bands this year have performed in years past. “We have seen them a number of times and believe in them,” Steve says. “We will keep providing these opportunities for those that love being part of our events. Exposure is the key in the music industry.”

The One Nation Pre-Party will be held on Thursday, August 31, 8:00 P.M. at New Way Bar, 23130 Woodward, Ave., Ferndale, and is set to feature funk rock, hard rock, and reggae bands Off The Ledge (Lansing), Static Factory (Flint), and Speakeasy (Detroit).

The concert will be held at The Phoenix September 1st through 4th, and will include the Phoenix Gallery stage and the outside Garden Stage. The event breakdown is as follows:

Friday, Sept. 1 features classical and folk acoustic, Latin, Afro-Cuban, acoustic singer songwriter, acoustic folk rock, and indie rock.

Saturday, Sept. 2 features acoustic emo, folk and soul rock, pop punk, art pop, Bangladesh psychedelic, Industrial grunge, thrash punk and metal.
Sunday, Sept. 3 features acoustic pop, folk rock, hard rock, emo-core, theatrical punk, and alternative punk.

Monday, Sept. 4 features a mix of groove, soul, DJ, hip hop, poetry, funk rock, blues rock, experimental dance and singer songwriter pop.

“Inside and outside, we will also include a variety of art vendors, live painting, and variety acts,” Steve says. “There will be a BBQ of hot dogs and hamburgers as well as complimentary side dishes – a potluck.”

“The first year of One Nation was quite ambitious, and we ran it for nine days straight,” Steve explains, adding, “It was a fantastic opportunity for youth bands to have their first venue concert and bring their family and friends. The second year, Dally In The Alley kept them from doing a Saturday show, but, “That was all fine and dandy since we support The Dally every year and remain closed.”

By year four, Steve and Been began to push the diversity of music genre. “We began to gain interest from a number of bands and performers that wanted a new outlet,” he says. One Nation represents a diversity in ages of performers as well.

This year, there will be two stages, so the festival will be larger than in years past.  There will also be an art show to view inside the gallery The Female of The Species – The Art of Steve Czapiewski. “We are very eager to get more people involved to be part of our art and music endeavors,” Steve says. “It is a shared experience that all interested parties should benefit from. Please come and support the bands, but especially the bands on tour!  They need an audience and to feel welcomed in a Detroit-area festival.”

By David Wesley

BRIAN MILLER: SON, BROTHER, LOVER, FRIEND, musician, writer, goofball, host at the New Way Bar…he was a guy who touched more lives in his 32 years than most people do in a lifetime. Jamie D’Angelo, owner of the New Way Bar, is devastated and heartbroken by Brian’s passing, like everyone else who knew him. Brian hosted the open mic night there, and started a live music scene seldom enjoyed anywhere else in or around Ferndale. Jamie gave us his thoughts about Brian and his legacy.

“I met Brian when I bought the bar four-and-a-half years ago. He was running the open mic on Wednesday. At that time, the open mic was not very well-at-tended, but Brian changed all that. Week-by-week he stuck with it, and something really special happened. A music scene was created every Wednesday. It was really something special. I will remember Brian as a kind person.
He was very thoughtful and caring. He was a gifted musician and songwriter too. Brian has left a lasting impact on New Way Bar and Ferndale in so many ways. He was one of the things that makes life in Ferndale so wonderful.

You could always count on seeing him riding his bike around town. And he would stop to chat every time I would see him. He really helped me turn the New Way into what it is today. It’s completely different than what it was four years ago.”

Jamie’s devastation is shared by all of us in Ferndale who knew him. Because of people like Jamie, Ferndale has become one of the best cities in the country. We’re hoping the people who knew him will cherish his memory for the years to come, and help colorize Ferndale with a lasting effect.

A group of musicians who loved, and were inspired by Brian Miller came together to create an album of songs that celebrate his beautiful, talented, kind, goofy soul. The album contains both songs that Brian Miller wrote, and other songs that Brian loved, or that remind us of him. This album is a tribute to, and celebration of, his beautiful soul. It was released April 29th of this year. Each song has credits listed individually on the track. The hope is that the album will continue to grow larger as more of the musicians who loved Brian Miller record more songs. It can be heard here:

By Adam O’Connor


Well, a few things they love just as much happen to be as good booze, great beer, and outstanding music. Fortunately, the newest Ferndale summer festival provides exactly those things – and more.

Bruise, BBQ & Bourbon – produced by Ferndale’s  own Ultimate Fun Productions and The Social Connection – kicks off it’s inaugural celebration in the summer the weekend of June 16–18. The festival will take place down the main thorough fare of East 9 Mile Road in Downtown Ferndale.

The weekend will feature two stages of continuous music – one acoustic and one main stage – featuring the likes of local and regional acts like George Morris in the Gypsy Chorus, Ryan Delilah and the Miracle Men, the Whiskey Charmers, Dan Tillery, Alise King, Tosha Owens, Tripp N Dixie, AwesomeR, and Flint’s one man band Sweet Willy Tea amongst others.

The event will also feature everyone’s favorite festival foods – definitely focused on BBQ, but also offering up a smattering of other items for those who don’t partake in summertime’s grilled and smoke treats. Local BBQ purveyors Smoke Ring BBQ, Detroit BBQ company, Stonewood Smokehouse and more will be joined by the other great Michigan BBQ slinging champs like Lansing’s The Smoking Pig and Hollands Hogwild BBQ. Some pit masters (such as Smoke Shack) will be coming from so far as Columbus Ohio – and they will undoubtedly be more announced.

An abundance of craft beer will also be present, as well as a varied choice of booze – from smoky bourbons to aged whiskey’s and more. There will even be a Moscow Mule tent featuring every type of Mule variation you’ve heard of – and some you haven’t – such as the Mexican Mule (tequila, ginger beer and lime juice), Gin Gin Mule (gin, ginger beer, lime juice) and Cider Mule (vodka, ginger beer, hard apple cider, and lime juice) and a bunch more! Further, Cocktail Creations is your destination to sample a variety of classic newly-conceived summer cocktails if Moscow Mules aren’t your thing. And finally, if you were hoping for a great selection of bourbons you won’t be disappointed by the offerings on Bourbon Boulevard.

There will be all-ages fun as well, offering games, the kids zone face painting, Michigan’s favorite backyard past time of cornhole and tons of more wholesome and family friendly entertainment for anyone who feels like bringing themselves out to the free event

The event takes place on Friday, June 16 from the hours of 5 pm until Midnight; Saturday, June 17 from Noon until Midnight; and Sunday, June 18 from Noon until 10pm.

Further information and festival updates are available at or by visiting the event’s social media (you can even entered to win a free slab of ribs!).

By David Wesley

SINCE FERNDALE FRIENDS LAST SPOKE TO DAVE PHILLIPS of Ferndale Community Radio (FCR), there has been an outpouring of support for the station, in particular from local businesses. The future is optimistic for FCR. The Rust Belt Market, in downtown Ferndale has been their anchor in keeping them going and providing a base for their work. Dave Phillips spoke to me about the current happenings of FCR and where they are at now with their goals.

DW: Since we last spoke a couple months ago, how much progress has there been in getting Ferndale Community Radio off the ground?
DP: We’ve seen an outpouring of support from the community, local businesses in particular. We’re over the moon about the number of local businesses who have pledged money, and we hope to recruit a few more in the near future. If all goes well, we should be on the air by the end of Summer, but there are still a few hurdles to jump.

DW: What will it take for FCR to finally reach its goal and how can people help make it happen?
DP: There are three main ways people can help:
Donate. Any little bit helps.
Spread the word. There are many more people out there who would support this project but just don’t know about it yet. The more people who know about it, the more donations we get.
Inform local businesses and connect them to us. We offer generous underwriting packages that are perfect for local businesses to spread the word.

We could reach our goal if we get five to ten more businesses to sign on.

DW: What will be the biggest perks to FCR and how will it affect the city and community?
DP: It’s similar to the difference between eating at a Chili’s or Imperial. Commercial radio stations are bland, and designed to appeal to as many people as possible. This station is unique and targeted toward a specific demographic – the Ferndale resident.

Local bands will be played extensively. Local stories will be covered in depth. In the event of an emergency, we’ll be focusing specifically on the Ferndale aspect. We’ll be playing songs that you won’t be able to hear anywhere else on the FM dial.

DW: How will the FCR impact the Rust Belt and vice versa, since the Rust Belt will be the broadcast center?
DP: In short, this project would have been dead in the water without the Rust Belt. We can’t thank them enough for giving us a space and really breathing life back into Ferndale Radio. We’re excited about having an impact on the Rust Belt, too. Shoppers will be able to hear our signal inside and they’ll be able to see us. It probably exists somewhere, but I can’t think of many radio stations where the DJs are as visible as we will be. It should create a unique shopping experience.

DW: We here at Ferndale Friends encourage residents and business owners to support FCR any way they can, preferably with donations. This is a project that will benefit the entire city and add so much more to our lives here. More about Ferndale Community Radio can found at or

Just before going to press, project organizer Michelle Mirowski announced that they are working out the final details with the City. Our fingers are crossed…


By Sara E. Teller

Peter Cooper, who passed away on April 27th at the age of 64, was a local activist and legend in the LGBT community, residing in Oak Park. He was a man of many hats who touched the lives of all who knew him. Peter was the former religious services committee chairperson at Congregation T’chiyah, a former professional fundraiser at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, a former new and MDOC case manager overseeing intakes and referrals at AIDS Partnership Michigan (APM) and a former cage banker at Motor City Casino. He had also held several positions at City National (a.k.a, First of America or National City Bank). A regular at the Media West convention in Lansing, Peter graduated from Frank Cody High School.

“Peter was most involved in the early formation of AIDS network,” explains long-time friend Tom Zerafa. “He was also the facilitator of Affirmations men’s rap group that met on Saturday evenings and, more recently, he served as a precinct captain for Oak Park elections. Peter also volunteered as a professional clown for parties and other gatherings.” Tom appreciated Peter’s community involvement. “Peter Cooper was one of the first guys I met when I came out in 1973 and we crossed paths numerous times over the past 44 years,” he recalls. “I can honestly say that we had grown in friendship and trust supporting each other in the best and most challenging of times.” Many felt that way about Peter.

“He was active in politics and his Jewish faith and traditions,” according to Rudy Serra, who connected with Peter through Congregation T’Chiyah two decades ago and instantly befriended the man. Congregation T’Chiyah is an inclusive, egalitarian, participatory Reconstructionist synagogue that provides for the expression, observance, study, and enjoyment of Judaism, Jewish culture, and Jewish tradition. Rudy remembers fondly Peter’s dedication to the religious community. “Every year Peter organized a National Coming Out Day services at Congregation T’chyah complete with a pot-luck dinner and group discussions,” he says. “I was honored to be invited to participate in this event for the past few years. Peter skillfully guided those unfamiliar with Jewish tradition through the service so everyone felt included.”

Peter was involved with the congregation’s Holiday Workshop Series, and even constructed a temporary shelter covered in natural materials which is used for meals during the Jewish festival of Succoth. The structure is referred to as a succah or sukkah. One friend recalls, “Through the years we brought our two youngest children to decorate Peter’s backyard sukkah until the kids outgrew it.” Another says, “I will remember Peter as a vibrant presence in Congregation T’chiyah who contributed greatly to our discussions and study sessions, who added joy to our holiday celebrations (especially Purim). I will remember Peter as a friend who always had a smile and always had a hug and always was a joy to be around whether it was a day hanging around his backyard or a day at Belle Isle or a party.”

Peter was a loving person who connected easily with others, especially with his partner of twelve years, Jonathan Quirk. Rudy says, “Peter’s relationship with Jonathan was a fundamental part of both their personalities. Their love and commitment was inspirational.” Tom adds, “Perhaps the greatest treasure Peter leaves with us is his most faithful and beloved partner, Jonathan Quirk, who Peter met through Affirmations. Their ten-year relationship was inspirational, creative and loving to the core. Peter documented that relationship with hundreds of photos as well as [photos with] almost everyone he ever met. His ready lens will be missed by everyone.”

Another friend recalls his humor. “Peter was a punster, a prankster…He was infamous for his costumes at MediaWest con…As a wise-cracking cow, he truly had great legs and that’s no bull. We all will miss him terribly. He brought light and humor to even serious issues and a passionate level of concern.” Rudy seconds these sentiments. “Peter realized the importance of laughter. He never took himself too seriously but always took the concerns of others seriously,” he says. “Peter was willing to be a clown in order to bring laughter to others.”

Peter was also an inspiration to the LGBT community at large. “In earlier years, he supported activities sponsored by MCCD, Dignity, WSU Gay/Lesbian Liberation Front, Triangle Foundation, Motor City Pride, Pridefest, among numerous other organizations,” Tom explains. Rudy recalls his work in the LGBT community as well: “I think Peter’s combination of LGBT activism with a vibrant Jewish faith and tradition was something unforgettable,” he says. “The community will remember him for acting on his realization that we are connected and each of us needs each other.”

In general, Tom says, “Peter was a formidable presence and always spoke his mind respecting cultural differences and bringing people together of various backgrounds. His way of accepting people at face value is an example that I try to emulate in my own experiences. Peter indeed set the bar for making diversity a priority to be lived!”

The Hebrew Memorial Chapel held a tribute for Peter officiated by Rabbi Alana Alpert following his passing. Contributions were accepted in his memory by Congregation T’Chiyah. “I quoted in Between the Lines a few weeks ago that I ‘cannot begin to imagine what life will be like without my closest friend, Peter Cooper’,” Tom says, “Even now the adjustment is difficult in his absence. I anticipate the time when we meet again in the life hereafter.”

Story by Ingrid Sjostrand
Photos by David Mcnair

ONE CHANCE ENCOUNTER WITH A STRANGER IS SOMETIMES ALL IT TAKES TO IGNITE CREATIVITY AND ENCOURAGE YOU TO PURSUE A PASSION. That’s exactly how Alex Denell turned his talent for pencil art and photography into a potential career.

“I was at Great Lakes Coffee in Detroit with my camera on the table, this lady just started talking to me and asked what kind of camera I had. Long story short — I showed her my portfolio and she said, ‘you should draw my granddaughter.’ And a month later I sent it to her,” Denell says. “That was the first profile I did, and it made me realize I might have something here.”

Since that meeting in the Fall of 2016, 28-year-old Denell has drawn about ten pencil portraits for clients ranging from images of babies, pets and –most recently – a wedding. His clientele has been mostly family and friends, but recently he’s gained a following through the Ferndale Forum – a Facebook group for residents and friends of Ferndale.

Denell, a Clawson native, works at Woodward Camera and has always had art in his life. His grandfather was a cartoonist, his father is a graphic designer and Denell grew up sketching still life images and taking advanced placement art classes through high school. In 2007, his interest shifted from drawing to photography when he started taking photos with his cell phone.

“Over the years, I found my place in nature photography; I took some photography classes at Oakland Community College, then at College for Creative Studies,” he says. “I never really had any big dreams of making a lot of money off photography, I just enjoyed doing it, and found it to be very calming.”

In 2008, Denell had a health scare and, since 2014, has since been on medication that limits the amount of time he can be outdoors. While it sounds discouraging, it only motivated him to refocus on drawing and use his previous photographic work as a starting point.

“With my current situation forcing me to be indoors I picked up drawing again,” he says. “Over the last five years of shooting, I’ve accumulated hundreds of pictures so this time around I began drawing my nature photographs. It’s all my original artwork which is cool – it’s my original photograph and my drawing.”
Denell still draws nature scenes from time to time but says he finds more passion and inspiration from portraits.

“Drawing the portraits are probably my favorite to do, although the portraits take longer to complete, they also tend to mean much more to people,” he says. “It’s a personal gift, and that’s important to me. The best part is to see the person’s reaction when I finally hand over the drawing. That’s what makes it all worthwhile.”

A portrait takes, on average, about 20 hours of work to complete but it can depend on the detail and size of the image. He starts by printing a black and white photo of the image, taping it to the back of his page and lightly outlining it using a light board. Once he’s traced everything, he removes the photo and starts freehand shading. Recently he’s started recording the entire creative process and sharing the video with his clients, giving an intimate look at the work that goes into his art.

As his customer base grows, Denell says he is exploring other options for getting his work out there. He is considering displaying his work at Lawrence Street Gallery or maybe even getting space at Rust Belt Market. For now, his work can be seen on his Facebook and Instagram. He is always looking for more clientele and is willing to negotiate on price – depending on the size and subject matter of the image.

“Today I draw a wide range of things from nature, cars, pets, portraits, even wedding photos,” he says. “I still continue to learn something new with every drawing I do and I like to challenge myself, so I’ve been just trying it all, whatever comes my way I go for it.”

AMANDA OSORIO: Class of 2000

WHEN AMANDA OSORIO WAS ATTENDING FERNDALE SCHOOLS, she had no idea what an impact her time spent in the District would have on her later life. As a self-described academic, Amanda excelled in all of her classes and took advantage of every opportunity Ferndale offered to further her academic career. When she graduated in 2000, she left high school with 40 college credits from AP courses, having earned a Gates Millennium Scholarship and acceptance to Smith College. All of these things are outstanding accomplishments, but it was her involvement outside of the classroom that truly shaped the person she has become today.

During her time at Ferndale High School, Amanda truly found her voice in choir under the guidance of longtime chorale teacher Ms. Brown. “Mrs. Brown heard the potential in my voice and arranged for me to have private voice lessons. It was good for the choir to have stronger singers, but it was such a gift to me as it helped fulfill a desire I held but was afraid to articulate. Guess she was right, as I ended up singing at the Metropolitan Opera House!” Longtime Ferndale patron of the arts Lori Christensen coached talented FHS vocalists for years, but Amanda was perhaps her greatest success story. Amanda went on to not only be a singer for the Metropolitan Opera, but she also won a Grammy during her residency at the MET for her work in the live broadcast of The Tempest.

Amanda’s academic excellence led her parents to enroll her at Cranbrook-Kingswood after middle school. While this was an incredible experience, Amanda never felt at home at Cranbrook and constantly felt like something was missing. “I was miserable there. I came back to Ferndale and with the care that came with being in my home community, the freedom to explore who I was and wanted to be, and of course an amazing vocal music and theatre program, I blossomed.”

Now living halfway around the world in South Africa, Amanda is the mother of two and owner of her own arts company, Africa Arts. She says Ferndale will always be home, and Ferndale Schools will hold a special place in her heart: “It is a rare district that spans the socio-economic diversity of Ferndale and yet still manages to cater to the needs of a great majority of its students.” Ferndale gave Amanda the opportunity to explore not only her academic potential but her artistic calling as well. As one of the longstanding staples in the district, every year Ferndale High School puts on a large scale musical production. During her time at FHS Amanda even had the opportunity to be the student director for the musical Carousel.

Looking back now, Amanda attributes much of her positive experiences and success to Ferndale as a community as well as Ferndale Schools and the incredible teachers the district has employed over the years. “Being able to direct a musical, take university classes, meet students from other districts at CASA, experience diverse friendships, find teachers who were advocates, and not be judged for the process of growing up—these are the incredible gifts that Ferndale gave to me. That kind of support is priceless; it allowed me to take risks and it helped me become the successful person I am today.”