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2019 Articles | Page: | Show All

Comedian-In-Chief: American politics still needs comedy

In an era of few smiles as you scan the news, it is hard to imagine humor having a purpose or need. But looking over history, if that view was true, then it would be a terrible turn of events. 

However, according to The Hauenstein Center, “Humor, a widely misunderstood and underappreciated component of American civic life, often feels in short supply amid the hyperpolarization, loneliness, and resentment presently afflicting our polity.”

H.W. Brands, the Jack S. Blanton senior chair in history at the University of Texas at Austin, will present at the Eberhart Center insights on joke-telling American presidents, Americans, and the serious role of humor in American democracy. 

This informative Hauenstein Center event is held in partnership with the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library & Museum.

You can RSVP here for this free event until February 7, 2019.

Old school console night: Bringing your best game to Creston

Winter cabin fever setting in? Tired of playing video games with your friends connected to the game only by way of a broadband line? 

If you answered “Yes” to both, then Monday nights at Creston Brewery should be the ticket as they present this season their Old School Console Night once again. 

The community tap room recently underwent at the first of the year a slight reorganization of their space, placing a higher value on creating more space for folks to just hang while enjoying a freshly made craft beer. 

Added to the venue on Old School Console Night are stacks of TVs spread throughout the taproom that are hooked up to vintage NES, Super NES, Nintendo 64, and Gamecube systems for you and your crew to play. 

And while the brewery has lots of the classics on hand, should you have a favorite game cartridge from any of the systems listed above, then, by all means, please feel free to bring it with you.

And since this is a community-boosting game night, the brewery will encourage folks to mix it up so that no one person can dominate a game, thus ensuring all who show up get a chance to play and join the fun.

Jefferson, Slavery, and the Moral Imagination: Race and American memory at the crossroads

The Hauenstein Center at Grand Valley State University presents some of the most delightful nights of intellectual curiosity in our city, and as we prepare to celebrate Black History Month, their January panel is sure to ignite a lot of minds as they look at a beloved but equally curious American historical leader. 

Thomas Jefferson — one of our nation’s most revered philosophers of the early republic’s Enlightenment ideals — was deeply involved in the nation’s original sin of slavery. 

History shows us that he was not only a slave owner, but modern DNA testing has strongly suggests that Jefferson fathered five children with Sally Hemings, whom he enslaved. 

From the event site this lecture, hosted by historians Annette Gordon-Reed (Harvard University) and Peter S. Onuf (University of Virginia), attendees will seek to answer this question: “In today’s divisive and distrustful moment, how can Americans grapple productively with the most challenging obstacles to finding common ground for the common good, especially at the troubled crossroads of race and American memory?”

This Hauenstein Center event, "Jefferson, Slavery, and the Moral Imagination" is presented in partnership with Grand Valley’s Division of Inclusion and Equity, and is free and open to the public. 

Knit Night!: Creston Brewery is getting all Hygge on us (and we like it)

As social media luster starts to fade with each breach of privacy, meetups, on the other hand, are roaring back in style (much like podcasts did). 

And while some may say they never went away, their power, importance, and meaning for our culture can be a healing force in a social media landscape in rapid decline as civility dies within our favorite digital spaces.

And since it is very cold outside and, if you are like me, then we all are in search of the warmth of good community interaction that isn’t digitally driven, but reaches back into our analog traditions.

One such meetup happening on Wednesday night has me imaging images of Hygge (pronounced Hoo-ga) as the Grand Rapids Knitters, a local meetup group of West Michigan, arrive at Creston for a three-hour event that is sure to spark joy as you congregate with some amazing artisans. 

Hygge has often been described as the coziness of the soul and this group is perfect for everyone from the novice to the advanced as they gather around craft brews named after many wonderful aspects of our city’s culture. This group is open to knitting or crochet activities and they welcome new knitters with their projects as they are here to advance comfort in creation at this gathering.

So if you have been curious about your post-Facebook life, then this might be just the thing to keep you in stitches for hours. (Sorry. Sure it is a bad pun, but laughter — even the groaning kind — is better than no laughter at all.) 

In my opinion, humanity needs more meetups to reignite genuine human dialogue and healthy interactions within our physical public spaces. This Wednesday’s Knit Night! is a chance to rekindle the fire of community while you occupy your hands with something other than a keyboard or handheld screen. 

All levels are welcome. To learn more about our local Grand Rapids Knitters, please visit their meetup page here for more details on how to join them. Tiny donations of $1-$2 each are suggested.


Control Dance Party: Cold outside? Generate some heat on the hottest, tiniest floor in GR

It is Friday night. The temps are falling but you are not sure where to go.

If this is your predicament, then the best advice to beat the winter doldrums that keep many warm and couch-locked on a Friday night is to venture down to the North Monroe Neighborhood for the city’s best long-running dance party, Control, on the tiniest dance floor in the city. 

The tunes are always hot as DJ Colin Clive (of Mustard Plug) turns up the heat as you sweat away from the troubles of the week.

So if you are tired of freezing, then this Friday night, call a Lyft and head to Control Dance Party at Rocky’s Bar and Grill. 

Rocky’s late-night menu offers a few choice options for those who want to down some bar grub pre-dance party. You might think you don’t need the calories, but honestly, after four hours on the dance floor, your only option to refuel afterward is Grand Coney, so weigh your options carefully … and then get to Control! 

As always, there is no cover for Control Dance Party but you must be 21 or over to attend.

Sita Navas: Video gaming culture gets remixed with that distinct Mayan style

The city has no shortage of spaces for artists to showcase their works. One of the most reliable of venues over the history of contemporary art for creators to have their works seen has always been the local coffee shop.

On Saturday night, art lovers with a passion for remix culture and video game design will have a chance to meet artist Sita Navas at her reception at the popular Grandville Ave. coffee shop, Mayan Buzz Cafe.

The coffee shop already has a solid reputation for its bold, flavorful brews and will seek to build upon that reputation with an equally strong showcase when this Tucson, AZ artist arrives in Grand Rapids to present to our city her newest works on display at Mayan Buzz Cafe through February 2019.

Navas’ works are interesting in her treatment of the classic imagery of video game culture remixed through the lens of that distinct Mayan style of art. 

So if enjoy the thought of video game imagery appropriated-forward and then remixed with distinct popular brands like TMNT, Super Smash Bros, or The Legend of Zelda and Mayan culture, then this is the show for you. 

And lest you think this is some fad, then you have not been observing what has been popping up at artists markets all over the world, where more and more gaming culture imagery is being hung, enticing an entire generation of new art collectors raised on 8-Bit games and beyond who are starting to decorate their homes, lofts, or apartments. The future is here and it is colorful, rich, and most of all, a lot of fun.

To see a sample of Sita Navas' style, please visit her Etsy shop here

Dr. David Stovall: MLK Day celebrations advance dialogue all over town

When it comes time to celebrate the anniversary and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a lot of area organizations host some tribute to the slain civil rights leaders who not only advocated for racial equity for African-Americans, but also spoke out against war, housing discrimination, and poverty.

Locally, three of our education institutions, Davenport University, Grand Rapids Community College, and Grand Valley State University have harnessed their power to welcome guest lecturer Dr. David Stovall to Grand Rapids.

Dr. Stovall is a professor of African-American Studies and Criminology, Law & Justice at the University of Illinois in Chicago and will be discussing the MLK-centric themes of urban education, community development, and housing.

Organizers say the professor’s lectures will center on the significance of race in the quality of schools located in our communities that are changing both racially and economically. Dr. Stovall’s work is rooted in Critical Race Theory, educational policy analysis, sociology, urban planning, political science, community organizing, and youth culture.

“I am incredibly proud of the work the three universities undertook as a collegiate body to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. King,” said Rhae-Ann Booker, Ph.D., executive director of diversity, equity and inclusion for Davenport University. “With the incredible and powerful presentation planned by Dr. Stovall, we’ll be able to engage audiences around key issues impacting our community involving justice, bias, and community engagement, an effort that will honor the very principles established by Dr. King.”

Dr. Stovall will be speaking on each of the campuses Monday and Tuesday and will be a part of a larger community gathering on Monday night at Fountain Street Church in Grand Rapids on January 21. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and the event begins at 6 p.m. The event is free to all participants.

On campus lectures are as follows:

Monday, Jan. 21, 2019, 9:30 a.m. presentation at Grand Rapids Community College in Applied Technical Center Auditorium 

Monday, Jan. 21, 2019, 1:30 p.m. MLK Silent March and Celebration at Grand Valley State University in Zumberge Hall/Fieldhouse Arena

Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, 12 p.m. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration and Silent March at Davenport University in Sneden Auditorium.

The Making of the Standing Rock: Understanding a movement for future generations

It has been nearly three years since a group of Native Americans set up a camp in North Dakota at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation to begin what would become one of the greatest acts of resistance seen this century.

This very grassroots movement organized under the hashtag of #NODAPL sought to halt The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) from being constructed by the Canada Energy Transfer Partners. 

And while the battle would be lost once President Trump took office, reversing President Obama and our U.S. Corps of Engineers’ denial of the easement needed for construction of the pipeline under the Missouri River, the national conversation over water and indigenous rights is far from over. Even today, many smaller and just as important protests have sprung up everywhere from Florida to Michigan ever since showcasing a nation’s growing concern over access and preservation of fresh water, which is essential for all life on our tiny planet.

On Monday, Jan. 21, one of our residents, Levi Rickert, publisher/editor of Native News Online, will provide a lecture titled "The Making of the Standing Rock Photo Exhibition" to go along with the opening of a brand new exhibition at the Grand Rapids Public Library, “Standing Rock: Photographs of an Indigenous Movement.”

Rickert, working alongside Grand Valley State University's Kutsche Office of Local History, curated from his more than 1,600 photographs to showcase a fresh new look at that protest. The result is a new traveling exhibition that will debut locally in Grand Rapids and provide for others — Native and non-Native peoples — an opportunity to better understand this uprising that was also a form of modern awakening for many around the world. 

There will be a brief reception in the Local History Department starting at 6:15 p.m. with Rickert starting his lecture at 7 p.m.

The 20th Annual Animation Show of Shows: Let's get animated in public (and in the dark)

January is a great time to visit the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts and it is not just because of the art that adorns the walls.

This is the time of the year when they begin to welcome a series of programs like the 20th Anniversary of the Animation Show of Shows.

Locally, most of our experiences with this art form are via the popular long-form films that dot area movie screens, ranging from cute kids films to complete reboots of popular action hero series.

Instead, with The Animation Show of Shows, locals are treated to a thrilling and inventive showcase of 15 thought-provoking, poignant, and very funny animated shorts from around our planet.

Animation often jars us from the clinches of our reality and by doing so shakes a bit of our personal clutter, allowing us to focus on the themes that often only animation can communicate so beautifully. These shorts will rock your world and leave an impact on the viewer just as this ever-evolving film practice is doing on this art form.

The Animation Show of Shows runs from January 18 through February 7 and is a popular series, so consider purchasing pre-show tickets from UICA’s guest service desk starting at noon on each show day. Admission is $5 for members and $10 for non-members.

The Phoenix: A national recovery partner opens their first Michigan chapter

Let’s be honest. Substance use disorder sucks. It ruins people’s lives, destroys families and relationships, and most of all often erodes one’s confidence in life. But it does not have to be like this and locally a national player is entering Michigan via CrossFit Luminary for the first time, offering local folks who are seeking to stay sober a running chance at hitting their goals.

The Phoenix originated in 2006 and was started by Scott Strode. According to their website, they seek to “offer a free sober active community to individuals who have suffered from a substance use disorder and to those who choose a sober life. Using a peer support model, we help members heal and rebuild their lives while also striving to eliminate stigma around recovery.”

Strode discovered while in recovery from his own issues with addiction that adding a healthy workout routine to his life helped with many of the problems that can plague those seeking a sober lifestyle.  

When asked how this was important to his recovery, he responded by saying, "It was surrounding myself with people who would rather get up at 7 in the morning to climb a mountain than to stay up until 7 in the morning, drinking and using. With influences like that, I just moved further away from the darkness of my addiction.”

The Phoenix welcomes guests of all fitness levels and asks only that folks who wish to attend abide by a few standard rules. If you are planning to attend your first Phoenix event, you will need have 48 hours of continuous sobriety before arriving. First-time attendees are asked to sign a Team Member Agreement and Waiver and to fill out an Enrollment Form found on their site. Most of all, members who seek to attend regularly are asked to commit to a sober lifestyle.

So while the new year offers many challenges, The Phoenix offers the kind of health challenge that is certain to have a positive impact on the lives of any who enter CrossFit Luminary’s doors. 

The Nutcracker: A classic is revived and surrounded by incredible talent all around.

There are many indicators that the holiday season is upon us, and one such is the return of the Grand Rapids Ballet’s annual crowd-pleaser, “The Nutcracker.”

And if you have not been in some time, now is the time to get there because this annual tradition got a major overhaul a few years ago with a true West Michigan touch.

But please don’t worry, the Nutcracker character has not been replaced by a Dutch man handing out windmill cookies. Rather he and the entire production have been totally updated to become a fresh theatrical rendering from the mind of one of our own, Chris Van Allsburg. 

The world-famous illustrator Van Allsburg has successfully created in the past such children’s favorites as “The Polar Express” and “Jumanji,” and now can add “The Nutcracker” to the list of creative offerings he’s given the world as a part of this beloved holiday tradition in our city.

In addition, the new production features Broadway-quality sets by Tony Award winner Eugene Lee (“Wicked,” “Sweeney Todd,” and “Saturday Night Live”), festive choreography by Val Caniparoli, and live music from our very own Grand Rapids Symphony.

But this is the final weekend so don’t hesitate in securing tickets to this visually rich and updated performance with so many creative and talented members of our city on stage.

A Night of R&B and Old School Hip Hop: DJ Composition invites you to boogie down

One of the hardest parts of the holidays is finding an activity that can please the hordes of friends who find themselves looking for something to do the weekend before New Year’s Eve’s festivities commence.

And while the selections this time of the year are slim pickin’s, Billy’s Lounge of Eastown has the best bet for Saturday night.

A Night of R&B and Old School Hip Hop is a production of DJ Composition and Troy Caesar with a dance floor reminiscent of the era in which much of this music was created. 

What I mean is that Billy’s is that perfect neighborhood bar where there is plenty of seating, a big ol’ dance floor, and lots of folks just having a great time. It is one of those truly great American bars where the vibe is about community and the dancing is sweaty and hot when packed.

So while you could stay at home and spin many of these tracks, the best part of music like this is the chance to celebrate it on the dance floor with a bunch of friends. Cover is just $10 at the door and Billy’s Lounge welcomes everyone 21 or older to the party. 

Long Road Distillers NYE Masquerade Drag Show: Best bet for NYE (but bring your Washington’s)

It is not a secret that after decades of New Year’s Eve parties, I feel like I have seen it all … until this year.

For starters, while some events inflate the heck out of their cover fees (because they know you will pay it to gain entry), the venue rarely goes above and beyond the free glass of “complimentary” sparkling wine … and it is typically a step above André that they are pouring.

Lucky for us, seeking a bit more with our cover charge enters Long Road Distillers and Beauty Beyond Drag, who will present a very special NYE Masquerade Drag Show

The doors to this festive affair will open at 8 p.m. for a drag show that is sure to keep you talking well into 2019. 

Guests attending the event are asked to enter through the Rickhouse entrance in the back of the building. Tickets are $25 online in advance and should there be any tickets left, then $30 at the door. 

In addition to a champagne toast and Thai-inspired appetizers, this all-star NYE production will be hosted by Star Buxom and Baha Blast and feature The Lady Dior, Danica Jane Richards, KennDoll Versace, BRIT, and Lolita Noire. And you should know by now that it is best to bring a lot of one dollar bills with you to tip the performers throughout the night. 

And don’t worry because after midnight, the fun isn’t over; this party is slated to keep bumping until 1 a.m. A portion of the proceeds from this NYE event will go to support the work of Division Avenue’s Heartside Ministries.

The Grand New Swing Dance Year: Add learning to swing to your NY's resolutions

Many folks love New Year’s Day for the laziness often built into it.

For starters, you always have plenty of football games to choose from and the day is often enjoyed under a cozy blanket while in your best loungewear as you dive into a healthy start of your new year’s diet or resolution.

But what about those who are not into sports or lounging around, but would like to start on a different foot this year?

Lucky for us, you can put your best foot forward with the Grand Rapids Original Swing Society (or GROSS) as they start their nearly weekly 2019 gatherings with its kick-off The Grand New Swing Dance Year event at DeVos Place on Tuesday, January 1 at 7 p.m.

This much-beloved event that makes its way around town via the various indoor venues during the cold months and later outside during the warmer season, is a welcoming event for all ages and abilities. 

In fact, at 7 p.m. the organizers spend time teaching folks some steps to teach who have never danced before to swing music a step or two. 

But even if swing is not your thing, it is always fun to just dance with a room full of other community members of all abilities. 

GROSS invites folks to even dress up a bit to get into the mood, but it is not necessary to enter the fun. Be prepared to also be wowed, as I have been over the years, by some of the dancers who are downright amazing. If this is like their other past events, expect a sizable crowd.   

Guests can purchase tickets for $12 online in advance or drop $15 at the door. If you would like to see the first part of the 2019 dance season’s locations, please visit GROSS’ website.

Roma: Auteur's latest is not to be missed on the big screen

“A great movie is never just about its story. It’s about how that story is told, and particularly how it’s seen by the audience.” This is how Vox’s Alissa Wilkinson started her very insightful and tender review of Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón's latest film, “Roma.” 

But more importantly to me is that the film’s producer, Netflix, will only be showing this film in the theatre in a very small amount of theaters for a very limited run before it is streamed on your phone, laptop, or tablet days after its theatrical release.

But a film like this needs to be seen on the big screen, and lucky for you, it is going to be running at Celebration Cinema Woodland.

Cuarón, known for his immersive experience films like “Children of Men” and “Gravity,” has become a bit of a filmmaker’s filmmaker for his ability to take subject matter that could just be a rote exercise in filming in anyone else’s hands and, through his tender abilities, elevate the material to an instant classic.

With “Roma,” the auteur’s most personal film to date, Cuarón reaches back in his own life to pull forward a piece from his childhood. (More on that in the review link at the bottom) 

From Woodland's site: "A vivid portrayal of domestic strife and social hierarchy amidst political turmoil, ROMA follows a young domestic worker Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) from Mixteco heritage descent and her co-worker Adela (Nancy García García), also Mixteco, who work for a small family in the middle-class neighborhood of Roma. Mother of four, Sofia (Marina de Tavira), copes with the extended absence of her husband, Cleo faces her own devastating news that threatens to distract her from caring for Sofia’s children, whom she loves as her own. While trying to construct a new sense of love and solidarity in a context of a social hierarchy where class and race are perversely intertwined, Cleo and Sofia quietly wrestle with changes infiltrating the family home in a country facing confrontation between a government-backed militia and student demonstrators."

If you would like to read more about the film, read Wilkinson’s review here, but most of all, do not delay seeing this limited release work of art that is certain to be in the winner’s circle this award season.
2019 Articles | Page: | Show All
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