Monday, September 1, 2014

An Interview with Jen Schultz the DFL Candidate for District 7A

I was introduced to Jen Schultz at an art opening earlier this year. We struck up a conversation that ultimately led to this interview. Schultz is an economics professor at UMD here and is vying for the seat in the Minnesota House for District 7A. It's easy to see why she got the endorsement. She's intelligent, engaging and passionate about her convictions.

EN: What are your ideas on Minnesota health policy and how do they differ from what everyone else is saying?

JS: Following the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) in Minnesota we have seen better than expected numbers in terms of people getting insurance through the MNSure program and a greater than expected drop in the number of uninsured people – a fall of just over 40%.

We need to continue the program to encourage further enrollment of people who need insurance and further reductions in lack of insurance, but we also need to move ahead in working on cost and quality of health care.

Under the ACA model, cost control is expected to be due to competition among insurers. Unfortunately, Minnesota has a very small number of insurers. To create the kind of competition needed to control or even decrease costs, the ACA allows for several innovative approaches. The first is insurance co-ops: the creation of insurance programs owned by the people who are insured, in a model similar to the Whole Foods Co-op here in Duluth. To implement a co-op, we need to apply for a waiver from the federal government, but these waivers have been granted in several other states. A second approach to increase competition and control prices would be for the state itself to create a “public option,” an insurance program owned by the state itself. By enrolling state employees, employees of the universities and of school systems, and county and local government employees, we could create a pool of people that would be large enough to avoid overexposure to risk, spreading the risk over hundreds of thousands of people. This could then compete in the exchanges with private insurance programs. Application for special waiver would be required here as well, but the ACA envisions states launching experiments to make the program work best.

Implementation of these programs, along with quality assurance programs and fixing remaining glitches in the operating system purchased from private information technology companies, would put Minnesota in the forefront of providing maximum access to health care with best control of cost and quality.

EN: What the public wants and what is in their best interest can often be at odds with one another. How will you deal with that when you are in office?

JS: Unfortunately, the public often imagines that government can provide them with what they want and need at no cost to themselves and at no compromise of their own lives.

A classic example of this is taxes. No one really wants to pay taxes. However, as the Minnesota Republican Governor Elmer Anderson said, “Taxes are how the people join together to do good things.” In fact, Minnesota’s higher than average taxes have led to a much better than average economy in the state. By providing the best education possible, by maintaining and strengthening our infrastructure, and by providing financial incentives for innovative businesses, Minnesota has consistently been the top performing economy in terms of growth and employment in the Midwest, with the recent exception of the North Dakota oil boom. States that have cut taxes have found that they must cut services, as we found during the Pawlenty years, and have in turn found that that leads to weakened economic performance, as we are now seeing in states like Kansas, Wisconsin, and Indiana. Minnesota ranks in the top ten states for business environment in evaluation by Forbes Magazine and CNBC.

In order for people to understand this they must be well informed. Unfortunately, people are deluged with false information about these issues by news media due to either poor or dishonest reporting and the propaganda of the wealthy people who benefit greatly from low taxes. In order to be a leader, I will need to be an educator. Fortunately, that has been my career for the last 20 years.

EN: So much of politics involves compromise. How do you feel about some of the compromises you see being made in government today?

JS: Compromise is the essence of political leadership. The Affordable Care Act represents a good example, with Democrats developing a program based primarily on the use of private insurance, following a model developed by the conservative Heritage Foundation and implemented by Mitt Romney in Massachusetts. Conservatives are dissatisfied because it is a government run program, progressives are unhappy because it is dependent on private for-profit businesses. But over 14 million people are now insured, at least 8 million of whom were previously uninsured. Costs of health care are rising more slowly than ever in the last four decades, and Medicare has seen its financial integrity improved to make it solvent for at least two decades more than was anticipated before the program.

Progress is evolutionary in our system, not revolutionary. In the words of Mick Jagger, you can’t always get what you want, but sometimes you get what you need.

As a representative, I will be a pragmatist, working for the goals I think are important but moving forward through the possible, rather than holding out for the perfect.

EN: What would you consider to be “adequate funding” for public education? Where are the shortages occurring and why?

JS: Minnesota education at all levels, pre-K through graduate school, is suffering because of two things. The first is the gutting of education funding at all levels under the Pawlenty administration when education funding was diverted to pay for tax cuts that primarily benefitted the rich. The second is the imbalance of resources among school systems, with greater Minnesota and inner city schools suffering from a lack of funding due to lower tax bases per capita than wealthy suburban districts. The first fix is obvious: we need to pay back education programs the money diverted by the GOP, and we need to bring funding levels back to where they were, with additional funding to cover inflation. Thanks to tax reform under the DFL, we now have the money to do that over the next two to three years while still balancing the budget and setting aside a rainy day fund. The second problem was what was once addressed by the “Minnesota Miracle,” in which the state took over a large portion of funding for education in order to balance funding between wealthy and poor districts. We need to explore that again. We need to move to establish universal pre-K in Minnesota as a way to address the achievement gap, we need to lengthen school days and school years – a solution that has worked for the best Charter School systems in other states in dealing with the achievement gap. We need to improve teacher training and to retain good teachers. We need to make higher education – including technical schools, bachelors programs, and graduate programs – affordable for all students. Some of this will cost money, but education is the best possible economic investment. Reforming the education system will pay dividends from reduction of prison population to improved family stability to making our citizens into productive taxpayers. Plus a well educated work force that can add value for businesses is Minnesota’s best way to continue our successful state economic performance and to compete in the global environment.

EN: Where do you see unfairness occurring in our state tax policy and how do you hope to address this?

JS: The primary unfairness is lack of progressivity – the principle that people with high incomes should carry more of the tax burden than low income people. The DFL improved that during the last legislative session, but unfortunately we still have a system where low income people often pay a larger share of their income in taxes – income tax, sales tax, property tax, gasoline tax, and so on – than the wealthy. That needs to be fixed. Families in higher income brackets can afford to pay a larger percentage without suffering, lower and middle income people are more likely to put the money they have directly back into the economy by buying goods and services that drive the economy, and pure fairness requires that a billionaire should pay a higher tax rate than his secretary, not the other way around.

The wealthy are actually the greatest beneficiaries of government spending, receiving personal and business benefits that help make them successful. I just saw and article that noted that the federal government spends $15 billion a year on doctors’ training, reducing the amount they have to pay themselves, with the states pretty much doubling that amount. I do not think that is a bad thing – we need doctors. But I do think that doctors who benefit from that government largess should be willing to pay a fair tax when they finish training and earn six and even seven figure incomes.

EN: Who are you running against?

JS: My opponent in this election is Becky Hall, the endorsed Republican candidate and a founder and major leader of the Tea Party in Duluth.

There is a third party candidate, Kristine Osbakken, a Green Party member running on the premise that there is no significant difference between the DFL and the GOP. That premise was last tested in 2000, when a strong Green Party candidacy provided the margin of victory for George W. Bush over Al Gore. Bush went on to start wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, create the Homeland Security apparatus, gut environmental and labor protections, and appoint a Supreme Court that has devastated the rights of common people in favor of the wealthy and business. Al Gore went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on global warming.

There is a huge difference between the DFL and the GOP, and between me and my Tea Party opponent.

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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Burden of the Public Eye

"There's something about the pace of life that makes it difficult to really slow down and assess where we're going and how we're doing on this journey called life." ~ Ed Young

There's something strange about the nature of "celebrity." Many young people dream of "making it" in the field of their dreams, but few really understand the hidden cost of being famous. It might be fun at first. But when you read between the lines of many stories, you see that the mystique is also a burden.

In his biography, Bob Dylan talks about the pre-eminent need to maintain a “normal” family somewhere away from the public eye. The task took a toll on his first marriage. Some Dylan observers even went so far as to speculate that his famous motorcycle accident in the Sixties was staged as a mechanism for getting him out of the public eye for a spell, some time to slow down and assess.

This past weekend, I have been introduced to the almost incredible notion that Amelia Earhart, the first woman pilot to fly across the Atlantic, did not die in her attempt to be the first to fly solo around-the-world in 1937… that in fact it was a means for her to escape the public eye and get her life back.

According to Robert Lookup’s “Highlights of Aviation History,” (Reader Weekly, May 8, 2003) Amelia Earhart’s disappearance over the Pacific in her Lockheed Electra remains one of the significant events of first half of the century.

The idea of celebrity did not begin with Warhol. Warhol just noticed the phenomenon and used his art to highlight this tendency to elevate people to mythical stature.

In writing last week about fads (The Madness of Crowds, July 3) I became keenly aware of the passion for celebrity that was even at that time being generated by the power of emerging media. Charles Lindbergh, in his epic 1927 trans-Atlantic crossing, became ultra-celebrated. And the consequences of that celebrity were ultimately dark. Five years later, his twenty month old son was kidnapped and brutally murdered in what newspapers called “The Crime of the Century.”

Did Amelia Earhart begin to become concerned about her own rising celebrity, her own lack of a private life, her own loss of control over her future? There has always been a measure of ambiguity over the details of her disappearance. Indeed, the event ultimately succeeded in removing her from the public eye. But what really happened? This website offers the following surprising answer:

The truth is, Amelia Earhart did not vanish… at all. Rather, she was laid low after she was reported missing, changed her name, and adjacent to the WWII era she resurfaced in the United States to live out the rest of her life in basic anonymity.

In 2009 a Hollywood film starring Hillary Swank will capture pop attention, but will there be kernels of truth in this story? Or will it add more fog than illumination?

My initial suspicion is that the Earhart story is not yet over.

* * * *
EdNote: This blog entry was written in July 2008. The burden of celebrity is something many have wrestled with. It's the downside of fame. What do you think?

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Winning

Blue Van Gogh is an example of serendipity.
"You can't win the lottery if you don't buy a ticket."

There are many kinds of winning. When we win a lottery, or even something as simple as a raffle, it feels good because it's fun to get lucky like that. Even though we know it was just a game of chance, we enjoy the feeling that accompanies our good fortune. But there are other kinds of contests and competitions that bring a deeper kind of satisfaction.

This afternoon I will be hanging artwork at Benchmark Tattoo here in Duluth and the title of my show is Influences. One of the pieces in the show is titled "Winning," a mixed media composition that includes a front page story on a yellowed Maple Heights News about an eight year old boy named Eddie Newman who won the Grotto Circus Contest. I was one of four winners of the contest and received $87.50 for correctly guessing the number of animals, performers and personnel in the circus that was coming to Cleveland soon. I also received eight free tickets.

I remember well the pains I took to logically figure out the solution to this problem. I was lying on the living room floor with a sheet of paper, picking my mom's brain. "What other animals are in the circus besides lions and tigers?" She said there would be pigs, and I guesstimated 32 of those. As it turns out the number I came up with was accurate, even if there wasn't a single pig in the entourage. I didn't win because I was smarter than anyone else. I won because I entered the contest and tried.

But winning that contest did influence me. So did winning a halloween costume contest around that same time in my life. A half century later someone contacted me through social media saying they remembered my costume from that evening. I was dressed as a blob, rolling around on the floor inside two sheets that my mom dyed and sewed together for the occasion.

This art game is one of the prizes if you play and win.
In high school the Bridgewater Jaycees had an art competition in which students were invited to submit illustrations for the cover of a program for the Winter Carnival. I won $25 for a humorous set of ink drawings depicting a skier losing control on a slope and ending up splayed in a heap.

One way that winning contests influences us is that it reinforces the notion that sometimes there are good outcomes when we throw our hats into the ring.

There are many kinds of influences in life. Some we choose and some are thrust upon us. All impact us in varying degrees and who we become is directly related to how we respond to — or synthesize — these influences. Life is the process of digesting these influences.

Winning the art contest was meaningful because it utilized skill, imagination and creativity. It wasn't just a lucky number pulled from a pail.

Entering contests did not suddenly become a way of life, but these wins did produce a confidence that inspired me to enter other contests. In 1991 by story "The Breaking Point" won the Arrowhead Regional Fiction Competition, a five-state short story and poetry competition. (The story is a centerpiece in my third volume of fiction titled The Breaking Point and Other Stories.

SPEAKING OF CONTESTS.... This week I read about some kind of global activity in which artists hide art and people can search and find it. I believe there was a specific day in which this was to happen but since I did not save the link I don't know any more details beyond what I shared already.

I've hidden these somewhere in the Twin Ports.
SO, I am making a contest for you, if you happen to be here in the Twin Ports. I will be hiding five baseball sized reproductions of my art this weekend. If you find one and come to Friday evening's art opening at Benchmark Tattoo, you will win a copy of my book Unremembered Histories. If you find the reproduction of my ink on paper drawing titled Masquerade, you will win the original, which happens to be a favorite of mine. If no one finds this hidden art card, then anyone can purchase the original for $45 at Benchmark Tattoo during the month of September.

The theme for my show is Influences and the art here expresses a variety of the primary influences on who I am and have become. It is not a comprehensive “explanation” of where my attitudes and convictions come from, but it does express a large swath of the territory from which my creative passions were derived. Ask and I will explain in greater detail inasmuch as these are but smatterings and hints.

With regard to the hidden art cards, I WILL BE GIVING CLUES so do return to Ennyman's Territory and see if you can find something worth looking for. First Clue: The five art cards pictured here can be found at places I like to frequent in the Twin Ports. Second clue will be posted tomorrow here and will be Tweeted, which means it will also show up on my Facebook page.

Good luck! Maybe you'll be a Winner!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Seeing the Unseen: Contemporary Chinese Artists at the Ringling

Li Wei
I like surprises. Especially nice ones. One of the more exciting unexpected finds for me took place while traveling in Florida a couple years back: the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. I'd already known about Ringling Brothers Circus Museum being in Sarasota where the circus wintered like snow birds. I did not, however, know that John and Mable were art collectors.

Like many from America's privileged classes, they took up an interest in art collecting. During the Roaring 20's post-WWI European art could be snapped up on pennies for the dollar. The Ringlings even purchased a 16th century theater they found on the outskirts of Venice, disassembled and re-assembled the whole of it in Sarasota.

Unfortunately, the Thirties hit and many -- like the Ringlings -- got stung and lost all. Fortunately, a few years before, they donated their art collection to the University. And what a collection. One highlight is an enormous painting Peter Paul Rubens, but there are many other famous artists represented include Benjamin West, Diego Velázquez, Paolo Veronese, Rosa Bonheur, Gianlorenzo Bernini, Giuliano Finelli, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Frans Hals, Nicolas Poussin, Joseph Wright of Derby, and Thomas Gainsborough among others. But the highlight for me was running into two paintings by Marcel Duchamp. Very special.

The museum is host to other exhibitions and through the end of February 2015 The Ringling is featuring eight contemporary Chinese artists in an exhibition titled “Seeing the Unseen.” Artists in this show include Cao Fei, Li Wei, Wang Qingsong, and Miao Xiaochun. A promotional blurb on the show states, "Reflecting the artistic innovations of our media age, their works provide a fresh view of China’s rapidly changing socio-cultural landscape. These Chinese artists apply new concepts and technology to record and present inspiring moments veiled in daily life."

One of the featured artists in this exhibit is Liu Bolin, whose invisible man pictures went viral a couple years back. I remember seeing links being shared extensively whenever it was, not knowing who he was at that time. Here is a promotional image from the show that may jog your memory on this artist. Yes, there is a man in the photo.

Liu Bolin... 
If you're a Sun City resident or a someone who likes to escape South for the winter, the Ringling Museum is worth going out of your way to see. And this winter at least you'll have this treat to look forward to.

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Dig it.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Twin Ports Art Scene Will Be Lively in September

It looks like September is gearing up to be an exciting month in the Twin Ports arts scene with exhibition and openings in a whole range of locations. Let's start with...

Adam McCauley, Colin Witta, and Christopher Selleck will be featured in a show called Thread at the Washington Gallery, September 12, 6-9.  McCauley, who sent the poster here, expressed his excitement about the new work he will be showing. I mention it first only to get it on your calendar that the Second Friday Art Crawl is shaping up to be a good one. Start here, then walk downhill to the PROVE.

Next week's openings include:

Esther Piszczek's show Visions will be opening: Thursday, Sept 4 from 6-9 p.m. @ Beaner's Central. Thematically the work will be an exploration of pattern on glass and mirrors. Maija Jenson's interview with Esther about this show will air on KUMD 103.3 FM tomorrow morning, 8/29, at 7:45 a.m. during Northland Morning. Live Stream is available on KUMD and the interview will be recorded and archived.

To make an art night of it, you might want to start with Mary Reichert's opening at Lake Avenue Café from 4-6 p.m. featuring her beautiful felted rugs and scarves.


On Friday evening September 5 there will be an opening for Ed Newman's show Influences at Benchmark Tattoo. It's another great new space, located at 19th Avenue East and 8th Street, nearly across from Sara's Table up near UMD and Chester Bowl. I will share more about the theme in another blog entry. Dane and Kyle are outstanding artists themselves, with skin as their canvas. You might even be interested in having one of my drawings on your shoulder. This is the place to get it done.


"Blue Van Gogh" by Ed Newman

Ken Marunowski will be taking down his work at Red Mug tomorrow but you'll still get an opportunity to see it at The Shack for the month ahead. Marunowski is a plein air painter of the first degree. He also works in charcoal and other media.  

The September 11 Opening Reception at the Duluth Art Institute is going to be another great night for the arts. It's a triple header with an Earl Austin Retrospective, an exhibit titled Signs & Wonders featuring Jim Klueg and Faith Benzer, and Sean Connaughty's Ark of the Anthropocene. And a special surprise on top of all that will be the re-emergence of Sophronia in the Great Hall. I kid you not, this will be a night not to miss.

Can't get enough? Take a trip up to the Tweed Museum at UMD and feast there now and again. There's a new exhibit coming that may excite you.


And now, for something completely different.... Dylan will be in Minneapolis the first week of November. It's not too early to mark your calendars. More information coming soon

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Check in and check it out.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Visit with Island Lake Artist Elizabeth Kuth (Part II)

THIS IS PART II OF AN INTERVIEW WITH ELIZABETH KUTH. Portions of this interview appeared this week in the Reader.

After examining the many canvases and resources in her studio, we walked up to the house where she shared books of drawings. Many of the drawings are with brush and ink or other various media. With a warm zeal she described the ideas behind her work.

In a statement at the Women's Art Resources of Minnesota website Kuth explains, "As an artist I believe the commitment and passion from yourself is essential to develop a high sensitivity for quality and meaning in your work. Only you have the power to do the work, endure the struggles and sacrifices it takes to translate your inner world into a medium of expression." You can read her full statement here.

While driving home after the visit I felt a surge of desire to get into my studio to paint. The following evening this wish was fulfilled.

EN: Who have been your biggest influences?

EK: A lot of my influences come from German abstract expressionism. That is kind of an intrigue to me.

EN: Where are your forms coming from?

EK: In your genes and who you are, and who your parents were and grandparents were. That’s one thing that started to come out. That interested me because I saw a lot of bones in my earlier work. These bones kept appearing, which was interesting, because my grandfather was a bone surgeon. He did drawings and did a book of illustrations of bones.

I think a lot about spaces, from early childhood. Whether it was the dock I was on or the lake,… even when I’m painting something would hit me from early on and I would go with that for a while.

Sometimes I turn a painting upside down and look at its shapes and forms and work on it as abstract design….

A lot of my images have a sense of falling. Those back there are about something falling down. By turning it upside down I might see something that ignites something in me, and I will see something different.

A lot of my things seem to have a downward position and by turning it I see a new meaning in it.

I am looking for something that hits me…. Ah! I like this better. I don’t think about what it’s going to be until it starts to become something.

(Referring to three large paintings that she is working on simultaneously.) Now these two are doing more for me than this one. This one is too still. I look for movement. Maybe this theme of falling has something to do with vulnerability.

* * *

I do feel a need to identify something in a piece. Most of my things are figurative, filling up the whole space. There’s a suspension… but also a dominant form.

These are a couple earlier paintings of mine. Less shapes and forms, but Paul Klee-ish, something I sort of see, a playfulness.

EN: Did you know Bill Morgan?

EK: Yes. He was my teacher and mentor. Went to UWS a while in art education, but knew that was not for me. Went back later and got a Masters in Art.

I may never exhibit these things but it’s influencing me… drawing horses, capturing movement. I also work with paper, oil paint on paper, and I’m really liking them.

These were early works of mine, these early forms. I see that in a lot of my shapes… I paint around suggested forms to find the forms. The more I superimpose something, that makes more of an illusion.

Another thing I do is integrate space… I see this over and over, these forms, like bones or faces. But these lines create the magic, building up the space that way.

EN: How much comes from within as opposed to replicating what you see?

EK: No, it’s just creating and moving forms. If you go through these you’ll see how they changed so much. This one is from 2012…. This was early on, and then see how they changed. Sometimes I go back into my sketchbooks and redo them, superimposing on what was once subtle, but now evolved, showing somewhat a development. That’s what I’ve been doing with all my paintings, going back into them, so there’s push and pull. It’s not about the subject, but about forms, forms that have an emotional quality.

That’s kind of what I do.

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SEE more of Elizabeth Kuth's paintings at symbolicart.org/

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