Friday, August 17, 2018

1964: No Question About It, The Times Were A-Changin'

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’
--the prescient Bob Dylan
First performed live: 26 Oct 1963

We were just kids.
I just finished watching the American Experience documentary about 1964, the year America split. It was a year of racial conflicts, generational conflicts, gender conflicts and political conflicts. It was a year in which significant changes were beginning to take place, foreshadowing the turbulence to come. What follows are some notes I jotted as the program covered events from January to December of that year.

“People who grew up with outhouses in their back yard are now taking their children to vacations on a lake,” said Rick Pearlstein in the documentary. This was my experience precisely. 

When the year opened, it had only been five weeks since the Kennedy assassination. LBJ had only been sworn into office weeks earlier, but at the outset he was determined to take advantage of the office, declaring an unconditional war on poverty in his January 8 State of the Union address.

On January 20 my family moved from Cleveland to New Jersey, an incident without any media notice whatsoever, but it was a move that made a significant impact on my life personally.

18 days later, on February 7, the Beatles planted their feet on American soil bringing a sense of joy and hopefulness, while simultaneously sowing seeds of rebellion in a somewhat harmless way as boys began avoiding barbershops. Parents didn't like it.

The documentary showed a photo shoot that brought together the Beatles and Cassius Clay. Clay, who would soon become a Muslim and change his name to Muhammed Ali was not yet champion of the world. The Beatles' handlers sought to pair them up with Sonny Liston, but Liston was too serious and declined the distraction. Cassius Clay found it to be just another audacious "day in the life."

The Clay vs Liston fight took place on Feb 25, and we all know what happened next. Clay, who had won Olympic Gold in 1960, scored an upset.

* * * *
1964 was a presidential election year which ultimately pitted Barry Goldwater against LBJ. Goldwater's rise was considered the birth of the modern conservative movement.

* * * *
Photo released into public domain by Ron White.
The World's Fair in New York was given a brief nod, in part for having been the launching pad for the Mustang. Many people remember the Unisphere as symbol of the World's Fair. My neighbor's father was a union welder who worked on the construction of that iconic symbol. What many people forget is how it was a two-year World's Fair. Because of our proximity, we hosted a family reunion in our new home, which became a springboard for many relatives to attend the Fair.

* * * *
The documentary zeroes in on the impact youth were beginning to make. More kids, and more kids with Money. The theme of Youth would be woven into the fabric of this documentary several times.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’

* * * *
It was in 1964 that President Johnson introduced new phrase: The Great Society, which would included a promise to end racial injustice and bring an end to poverty.

Civil Rights protests were continuing in the South where civil rights activists were striving to register black voters. There was new legislation to end Jim Crowe rules in the South, but efforts to pass a Civil Rights Bill in Congress was met with the longest filibuster in U.S. history, two months duration. Ultimately the revolutionary Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed.

* * * *
Snippets in passing included young fans' extreme emotional craziness for Ringo, Andy Warhol's Cambell's Soup cans and Ken Kesey's LSD-infused madcap cross-country adventure with the Merry Pranksters.

* * * *
Freedom Summer in 1964 brought manifold college students to the Deep South as part of the effort to end discrimination against blacks. On June 21 three young Civil Rights workers --Andrew Goodman, James Cheney, Mickey Schwerner -- came to Mississippi as volunteers in this effort. When they came South they had been warned to be careful about being out after dark. When they got arrested, purportedly for speeding, they were held and then released... after dark, never to be seen again alive.

* * * *
Republican National Convention took place at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. In his acceptance of the nomination he famously stated, "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice..." Mad Magazine would soon feature a mushroom cloud in one of its cartoons expressing concern about what this really could mean.

* * * *
"Summer's right for Dancing in the Streets" -- Martha Reeves and the Vandellas hit song played against scenes of violence in the streets. It was apparent something was cooking...

* * * *
The Gulf of Tonkin Incident puts Viet Nam on front page of newspapers. In truth, Johnson and high government officials distorted the facts in order to escalate his powers. Johnson retaliated against the North Viet Nam by seeking and obtaining from Congress a blank check to expand the war in Viet Nam. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution or the Southeast Asia Resolution, Pub.L. 88–408, 78 Stat. 384, enacted August 10, 1964, was a joint resolution that the United States Congress passed on August 7, 1964, in response to the Gulf of Tonkin incident.

This legislation was of historical significance because it gave U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson authorization, without a formal declaration of war by Congress, for the use of conventional military force in Southeast Asia.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside and it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’

* * * *
Under Johnson there was an emerging sense of betrayal by our own government, -- faultlines around politics, race, gender, and what is status quo began to appear. When the Warren Report declared Lee Harvey Oswald to be the sole gunman in the Kennedy Assassination it only exacerbated our sense of distrust in our government.

* * * *
Free Speech Movement in Berkeley led to a campus demonstration that would foreshadow many years of student protests. In Berkeley 800 demonstrators arrested. Though charges were dropped it was labeled as the beginning of the Student Movement, which would shape American politics for years to come.

* * * *
The Johnson vs Goldwater election in November pitted to very different visions.

Johnson made this promise: "Everyone can have a job. Every kid can have an education... in time we can have the Great Society we're all entitled to."

Goldwater came back with: "We can prevent depression. We ca have full employment. I've heard there pipe dreams for the mast 30 years and I've never seen one of them come true."

Johnson took his landslide as a mandate, but 27 million people voted for Goldwater and this became the foundation of a conservative movement that would find resurgence. Young Republicans regrouped...

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin’
And the first one now will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’

Young people would grow to be a force. Sam Cooke's hit song at the end of '64 announced "Change is gonna come..."

The events of 1964 revealed a new mix of idealism and outrage. Though hindsight is 20/20, very few people at the time really saw what was about to come down.

If you get a chance, it's a surprisingly insightful assessment of the time...

Thursday, August 16, 2018

A New Epicenter Forming on the South Side of Town: Upcoming Happenings in Carlton and Wrenshall

It's Jazz Weekend and Pippi will be Cookin' at the O on both Friday and Saturday evening. Pippi, Daniel & friends will be here to give you a soul-satisfying uplift.

* * * *

Glenn & Emily Swanson began the summer with an ambitious schedule that included Movies at the O, a Honey Bee Festival and more. This coming Saturday the Oldenburg House Arts and Cultural Community has lined up an afternoon and early evening of music as a fundraiser for Noteworthy Kids. The Family Music Picnic will kick off at 1:30 with the Moonlight Community followed by Pippi Ardennia at 2:45, Robot Rickshaw at 3:30 and the Big Time Jazz Orchestra at 4:00.

* * * *

If you've never been to the Free Range Film Festival in The Barn on County Road 1 outside Wrenshall, well, let's just say it's a wonderful venue. August 26 will be the opening reception for a new art exhibition titled FREE RANGE TRIALS, featuring work by Kathy McTavish and Cecilia Ramon.

Having followed Kathy McTavish's creative explorations since 2011, I can honestly say that the one consistent feature throughout can be summed up with this rule of thumb: Expect the unexpected.

According to the announcement:
In farming terms, field trials are an opportunity to determine effectiveness of experimental techniques in agriculture. In the arts, experimental trials are usually only visible in the artist studio. Free Range Trials functions as a visible lab for artistic process and creative experimentation through the exhibition of work by two contemporary artists -- Kathy McTavish and Cecila Ramon - that will be open for viewing and audience interaction from August 26 through September 3, 2018 from 2-5pm daily.

From a birds-eye perspective, Free Range Trials explores the cross section of culture and agriculture. An apt metaphor for the space can be found in the agricultural features of hedgerows. These dense spaces form boarders on the farm that foster beneficial insects. They are a little more wild and diverse and they function as an overlapping ecosystem where the more highly controlled aspects of the farm intersect with the unmitigated aspects of the natural world. They can be planned and planted but they are designed to invite chance and wild growth. These spaces serve as a metaphor for Free Range Trials. It is a literal as well as conceptual space on the margins of both art and farming where we are allowing for experimentation to foster beneficial diversity that can be brought back into both of those "fields" of study.

Kathy McTavish recently completed a year-long solo exhibition at the Tweed Museum of art and was recently selected as an "Artist on the Verge" by Northern Spark. She is the recipient of numerous Jerome grants and is a recognized voice in new media art. Cecilia Ramon has exhibited work on an international scale and recently returned from presenting her work in Iceland and the Netherlands. She completed her masters in systems thinking from the Schumacher Institute and presented her work at a symposium last fall entitled "Terrain".

* * * *
There's a lot of creative energy at play on the South side of town. If you've never been to the Oldenburg House, I'd almost make it an imperative to become familiar with it. Saturday afternoon will be a beautiful day for a short drive to this "Paradise in a Clamshell" on the edge of Jay Cooke State Park, adjacent to the Munger Bike Trail.

Related Links
In 2014 Kathy McTavish, along with Joellyn Rock and friends, assembled The Sophronia Project in the Barn @ Wrenshall.
Oldenburg House website: OACC.US
Oldenburg House Jazz Education Programs

Meantime art goes on all around you. Let the music move you.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Just Another Night at the Chipmunk Oasis (A Story in Pictures)

The Chipmunk Oasis:
A Typical Dive in the Zenith City, January 2018
Narrated by Yours Truly

It was a cold, dark night. I was standing by the stove to keep warm.
Mikos and friends were getting pretty heated about Trump's latest move when...
Roger Redbelly turned and made a sharp remark.
On the far side of the room da boys were in their own high stakes world.
Kingpin Carl had a dice table going down there, too.
Roger was hot now. Benny should've cut him off an hour ago...
Louie fidgeted. He didn't want to get involved.
"I'll see your five and raise you ten."
When Maxie expressed her concern to Benny he shrugged. "It happens every night.
Just then someone brought up the Russians and for a minute it looked like...
Well, you know how it goes. It wasn't pretty.
For what it's worth, everybody got home safe. 
Happy Wednesday.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Trail of Tears + A Reminder about Tomorrow Evening's Forum at AICHO on Treaty Rights & More

"When a white army battles Indians and wins, it is called a great victory, but if they lose it is called a massacre."
 --Chiksika, Shawnee

The relationship between our U.S. government and the native peoples who occupied these lands before the coming of the Europeans has had many tragic moments. One of the most appalling was the removal of the Cherokee, Choctaw and others from their native homelands in the Southeast to a desolate barren region called Oklahoma.

In 1830 President Andrew Jackson championed the Indian Removal Act which was essentially a forced deportation. There were objections raised in some quarters. Chief Justice John Marshall of the Supreme Court stated that the act was unconstitutional. President Jackson said, essentially, "Try and stop me." In other words, the president had the army, the Court only had pieces of paper.

"The Chaos of Ghost Fish" -- painting by Moira Villiard
Alexis de Tocqeville, French philosopher who was studying the American experience at the time, wrote of this forced removal, "In the whole scene there was an air of ruin and destruction... one couldn't watch without feeling one's heart wrung."

Essentially it was a land grab and, amazingly, the country allowed this thing to happen. All through the 1830's tribal peoples were forced out and relocated. Thousands died along the way. As they made their way west from the Carolinas, however, many escaped and disappeared into the forested hills of Tennessee and fled north into Eastern Kentucky.

Today, most people give little thought to this forgotten incident. Yet we honor President Jackson with his portrait on our twenty dollar bill. No wonder history is so messy and confusing.

“Treaty Rights, Climate Justice and Decolonization”  

Wednesday evening at 7 p.m. three local organizations – AICHO, Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light, and TakeAction Minnesota – are hosting a free informational forum on the topics of “treaty rights, climate justice and decolonization.”  The event will feature four speakers who will share their knowledge and personal experiences about these topics. They include: Ricky Defoe, Lyz Jaakola, Niib Aubid, and Joseph Bauerkemper.

The panel will unpack the history and origin of treaty rights, how they have been used over time, and the role treaty rights currently play in resource extraction, resilience and relationships between Native and non-native peoples.

WHEN: August 15 at 7 pm
WHERE: AICHO – 212 W. 2nd Street, Duluth, MN.

Related Links
State of Minnesota, Fond du Lac Band reach agreement on treaty rights
Endangered, the current exhibition at AICHO
A Brief History of the Trail of Tears
The Trail of Tears and Its Aftermath

Monday, August 13, 2018

Public Art in the Twin Ports: Spirit of the Lake by Kirk St. Maur

Spirit of the Lake (detail)
It wasn't until I stopped and read the inscription on the Albert Woolson statue in 2015 (in front of the Depot) that I began to look more closely at the public art on display around the Twin Ports, hence my desire to write about some of these works that we take for granted and provide a few insights about the artists and their work. In July I kicked off the theme with a blog post titled Public Art Isn't Just for the Birds, following up with a piece on the Leif Erickson statue and a related controversy. This morning I wanted to acknowledge the Spirit of the Lake monument by Kirk St. Maur.

I'd always assumed she was Scandinavian, perhaps misled by the braid that falls across her shoulder, and in part because we have such a strong Scandinavian community here. This is why I am writing about it, to set the record straight for anyone else so misled.

Till recently I, like many others, usually gave but a passing glance at the statues as I headed toward a store, beach or restaurant. In other words, it was not real engagement or real appreciation.

As it turns out the bronze sculpture by Kirk St. Maur, is titled Spirit of the Lake and features a young Ojibwa woman.

Born in 1949, the artist was raised in the hills just across the Mississippi river from Mark Twain’s birthplace. To this day St. Maur has maintained his American studio there. When not in the States, he sculpts in Florence, Carrara, or Pietrasanta, Italy. His first one-man show took place at the Art Center in Quincy, Illinois in 1974. Since then he has had shows in both the United States and Italy.

After producing abstract art in a number of media in the U.S., he went to Italy for further experience in figurative and naturalistic art. He has studied with or assisted numerous sculptors, particularly Raimondo Puccinelli and Oscar Gallo in Florence. After receiving his M.A. in sculpture under Enrico Manfrini, he taught for a year as Professor of Sculpture at Gonzaga University’s program in Florence.

Since 1979, his work has ranged from small action pieces, such as the Flying Torchbearer, to life-size or heroic-sized realistic or symbolic works. His life-size bronze of Oregon State University’s first woman graduate commissioned in 1982 and installed in 1983 is realistic while “Against Tyranny,” “Womanhood,” and “News from the Pass at Thermoplyae" are examples of his heroic sculpture.

The Spirit of Lake Superior sculpture stands 63"x 27"x 38" and was installed in 1994 across the street (toward the lake) from Little Angie's Cantina in Canal Park. The statue features a dancing/running native American girl holding a birchbark ricing tray between her right hand and torso, atop a red granite boulder.

It's a pretty cool piece. Take a minute to appreciate the workmanship next time you're in the neighborhood.

On this day in Art History, French painter Eugene Delacroix passed away at age 65 in 1863. If you do not know hie, he was the artist who painted the classic painting of Lady Liberty Leading the People.

Related Links
DPAC Monument Maintenance 

Meantime art goes on all around you. Get into it.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Local Art Seen: Sandbeck and Villiard Explore Issues Surrounding Endangered Species and Endangered Lifestyles Portrayed

Ellen Sandbeck (left) with Moira Villiard
Friday evening the American Indian Community Housing Organization (AICHO) paired two disparate artists in what might appear to be disparate themes under the single heading, Endangered. Upon deeper inspection the two bodies of work share the same root, an exploration of our impact as people on the lifestyles of Native peoples and our impact on the more vulnerable creatures of the animal kingdom.

Both artists have been making an positive impact with their art, and I was intrigued when I learned they were doing a joint show. Moira Villiard's paintings captured my eye from the first time I encountered them at a PROVE Gallery show a few years back. She's an emerging artist worth watching with a lot of future ahead of her. I've been following Ellen Sandbeck's work since the 1980's and the paper-cutting technique she's developed produces work that is jaw-dropping in its ornateness and beauty.

"Niu Ox" -- Conservation status: Vulnerable
Few people realize that Ellen at one time produced books of stencil patterns for Dover Books when she was younger. Her skills and interests have been diverse as have been the directions in which she focuses her creative energies. An author of several books on topics as varied as Green Housekeeping, worm wrangling and horticulture, her special skill producing paper cutouts is most noteworthy. One can see that although making stencil patterns fell to the background, the skillsets involved never went away.

"Interconnected" -- Moira Villiard 
Like any polymath, her wide-ranging interests intersect and produce permutations such as the incorporation of animalia from the Chinese zodiac. A couple years ago her worm business (worms assist in composting and produce organic food for plants) brought her to Southeast Asia on a business trip. Similarly, her daughter currently lives in China, and these influences have been absorbed by the ever-developing artist. Her own natural ability to focus and her attention to detail make the work she is now producing quite striking. And she's shows no signs of slowing down.

It was fun overhearing a few people making comments indicating their awe at the detail in Sandbeck's pieces. But both artists have this as their primary aim: to make people think about what we as a culture have been doing, how we are endangering animal species and lifestyles.

Endangered opened Friday in the Dr. Robert Powless Cultural Center. One side of the room feature Ellen's paper cut depictions of endangered species. On the other side, Moira's illustrations depict the history of wild ricing and delve into what’s at stake in terms of a way of life in the face of sulfide mining. The exhibit will be on display through the end of August.
"Waterways" by Moira Villiard
"The Chaos of Ghost Fish" -- Moira Villiard
"Protect Water" by Ellen Sandbeck
Giclee reproductions also available for both artists' work.
Ellen Sandbeck pieces displayed here. 

Related Links
Getting Real: New Work by Moira Villiard
An Introduction to Painter Moira Villiard
Ellen Sandbeck's Buddha-A-Day Project (2013)
Ten Minutes with Ellen Sandbeck (2008)

Meantime art goes on all around you. Get into it.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Robert Lillegard Shares Practical Insights on How to Get Published in Major Media

Yesterday's Twin Ports Social Media Breakfast, hosted by UMD, convened in a rather impressive room on the third floor of Maloskey Stadium. On a perfect Duluth summer day with cloudless skies, the light streaming through walls of glass gave such a welcoming feel that it was hard to get started and hard to leave. A special shout-out to Molly Solberg for organizing these events.

Our speaker for August was Robert Lillegard, founder of Be Our Guest PR who was also a guest speaker in late 2016. His presentation at that time was both practical and thorough, which no doubt contributed to the strong turnout yesterday.

Lillegard essentially presented an outline of his career with each anecdote designed to teach a lesson about the writing life. The title of his talk served as a drawing card, mainly because he's done it: How To Get Into Major Media.

1. We all start somewhere.
He began by sharing how in 2005 he wanted to become a journalist. He shared an anecdote about his first assignment for the campus newspaper, how he went out and began surveying students regarding their level of concern regarding terrorism.

2. Rejection is part of the game.
He next spoke candidly about the numerous rejection letters he received when he first began pitching story ideas to editors. It brought to mind my own experience of sending out queries back in the days when you typed letters and included a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE). After maybe dozens of form letter rejections I received a form letter rejection with a hand-written note on it from the editor. It was thrilling to learn that an actual human being had read my pitch and rejected it personally. Editors were real people.

3. Learned about newsroom from inside.
Lillegard landed a job in which he had the opportunity to experience what it was like on the receiving end of pitches. This gave him a number of insights, including the following:
a. Never complain to media
b. Do send nice letters
c. Send photos
d. Send stories well in advance, not last minute
e. Be persistent

4. You can always get better.
He began in 2008.

5. NYTimes published an article about an idea he had had … he never pitched it.
He shared a story about an idea that he had regarding a craft beer event here in the Twin Ports. He was nearly floored when he read a New York Times story about that very same event, as if someone had read his mind. On take away for him was that he was on the right track. His idea was on target. Another lesson is to pay attention to what is being written to see what kinds of stories the media are looking for.

6. Your Content is what is important.
He underscored the importance of content. Editors are looking for stories people want to read.

7. Large Media looks at Mid-Size Media which is looking at Small Media
Media begets media. We can be seduced into thinking that the smaller media are just emulating the big dogs. The reality is that the Times is looking down at the smaller media, sifting for stories that are worthy of a wider audience. Begin at the bottom and work your way up.

He left an extensive time for Q&A and the audience, which had been full engaged, had many practical questions. Afterwards he briefly reiterated his career path and then outline his three step process for getting published in major media.

1. Come up with stories worth writing about
2. Tell editors
3. Repeat

Related Links
Tips for Aspiring Op-Ed Writers from the New York Times
How I Got Published in the NYTimes on My First Try
And finally, there is a Facebook Event Announcement of note: Michael Fedo, author of The Lynchings in Duluth and many other books, is having a book signing party for his newest release from Holy Cow! Press, Don’t Quit Your Day Job: The Adventures of a Midlist Author
I mention this only because he will be having a writers workshop preceding the book signing. The workshop will focus on how to write publishable Op-Ed articles. Details on the book signing and workshop here.

Meantime... if you're a writer, write on.