so much for that whole local thing

There is something truly wrong with local leadership when it runs its longstanding Farmers Market out.

Yes, it would appear that the powers that be in Lapeer have managed to oust the Farmers Market. The vendors are regrouping and will congregate over at the Center Building beginning in May.

The Farmers Market is one of the few things that dependably generates a sense of community and actually draws people downtown. It serves a pretty lofty purpose bringing local produce and local goods to the community. Market manager Denise Becker is dedicated to the effort and consistently implements changes to make the market relevant and accessible and fun.

But no, if you’re among Lapeer’s anointed, apparently you just gotta mess with that.

In the last decade, the downtown “thoroughfare” has languished with empty storefronts. They streetscaped the downtown with the cupolas from the old State Home – that should have been a clue. Year in, year out, Nepessing Street stretched like a semi-ghost town. Well-meaning business owners try to make a go of things, but the city extracts its every last penny and regulates, regulates, regulates – just like it’s trying to do right now with Peddlers Place. There’s really no wonder about those empty storefronts.

In the meantime, there’s been no shortage of economic initiatives that seem to mainly suffice to throw taxpayer dollars in the direction of bigger corporations. Yeah, not feeling the love over all those IFT’s while small business owners struggle.

This latest turn of events is a monumental embarrassment to the entire community, and entirely too consistent with “leadership” invested more in itself than in the people.

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what the frack

Yeah. This makes me crabby. Oil and gas industry folks have been running around Lapeer County approaching property owners with contracts. People have been signing them, too. The five-year renewable agreements, at what-I-heard-was $25 an acre, give the industry access to frack.

When your neighbor signs an agreement, there’s every possibility that you will be affected whether you signed an agreement or not. And the ways you might be affected are pretty damned significant – as in contaminated ground water, excessive consumption of that precious resource, air pollution, degraded quality of life and infrastructure, the list goes on.

Speaking of neighbors signing agreements, how about the State of Michigan busily preparing to put lease rights up for bid for oil and gas exploration on public lands in Lapeer County? Public land. That means it’s land for the people. Not only that, it’s real close to the people. So if, say, there’s water contamination or air pollution, said people are likely going to suffer from it. That’s not to mention the transformation of your hiking or hunting turf into an industrial site.

And yet, disturbingly, the people seem to have less control over any of this than the oil and gas industry does – by a long shot. This is the water we drink and the air we breathe, folks.

This. Is. Not. OK.

It is being allowed to happen by a government complicit with the interests of the industry – trumping citizens’ rights, compromising the health, safety and quality of life of the citizenry, and giving the industry tax breaks at the same time. Check out bills like HB4885, 5274 and 5255 lately blessed by “our own” state senator Phil Pavlov. Ugh.

People first. People before industry. You don’t have to be a rabid environmentalist to understand we need water and air just to survive.

This is on us, though, folks. We have to step up and react, be noisy, be involved – care. We have to look at how we live our own lives.

Hat tip to the great job the Sierra Club Nepessing Group is doing bringing informational forums to the county, and getting good turn out to boot, on this topic.

I can’t shake something I heard an expert on this topic say at one of those forums.

“We as citizens have the right to do government’s job if government doesn’t do it,” he said in outlining local back-end workarounds to the dilemma.

What a sadly radical, awesome thing to say.

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Emerging Photographer and New Classes at Gallery 194

A Spring Greeting

The photography of Emily Hilgendorf is on display in the East Hallway of Gallery 194 in Downtown Lapeer. The emerging artist’s work will be on display through Saturday, March 22.

Hilgendorf is the first artist this year to be featured in Gallery 194’s East Hallway, also known as their emerging artist hallway.

“This is an area of the gallery where we like to showcase up and coming artists, students, or artists that might not have a large enough body of work to fill the main gallery space,” said gallery director James Alt. “Emily is a perfect choice to start the year with, she has a great photographic eye and she is also a previous Gallery 194 student who studied in our Getting to Know your Digital Camera Class with popular local photographer Dale Vronch.” Hilgendorf credits Vronch’s class for opening her eyes to how much can be conveyed through a simple photograph.

As an amateur photographer, Hilgendorf shoots primarily around Lapeer; however, she takes her camera with her wherever she goes and has captured amazing shots while in California and North Carolina. Her subject of choice is anything in nature that she finds remotely interesting.

“Photography has taught me that there is beauty in anything – sometimes it just takes a lens to show it,” said Hilgendorf.

While visiting Gallery 194 to see the great works of art on display, it’s a great time to take note of their current class offerings. With the new year comes new classes and the return of some past favorites.

Starting in February the gallery will once again be offering its popular Getting to Know your Digital Camera class taught by Dale Vronch. In this beginner to intermediate level class, students will learn to use their camera as a creative tool for expression in a small group setting alongside one of the area’s top photographers. The class runs for six sessions and will cost $80 with the first class taking place February 4 at Gallery 194.

Next up is something for younger artists. The gallery is once again offering their popular Youth Art Saturdays. This is a perfect opportunity for young artists in the second to fifth grades to learn how to express their creative ideas while being guided by local art educators Marianna Fiedor and Nick Lange. This popular class will meet every other Saturday at Gallery 194 starting February 8 for four sessions. Tuition is just $40 and includes all the supplies the young artists will need.

The gallery will also be offering a new class this year, a Watercolor Sculpture Book workshop designed and taught by Marianna Fiedor. In this two session workshop for adults, Marianna will teach students how to create their own unique watercolor sculpture book that opens up to reveal a beautiful splash of color and texture. This workshop will take place on February 1 and 2 and will cost students $60. It is a great way for artists of all levels to learn new techniques and create a striking piece of art for you or to give as a gift.

The gallery has a lot more classes in the works for 2014 including more watercolor classes, drawing and painting classes, and even music classes that teach Mountain Dulcimer and Guitar.

Advance registration is required for all of the classes at Gallery 194 and registration can be done by visiting the gallery or by calling 810-667-1495. Gallery 194 is located at the corner of Court and West Nepessing Streets in downtown Lapeer next to the historic Pix Theatre. Gallery 194 is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and admission is always free and open to the public. For more information log onto, or LIKE Gallery 194 on Face Book.

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Three Visions at Gallery 194

Three Visions featuring the art of Robert Huebel, Ronald Schmitz, and Vera Peltonen Bean opens Tuesday, Jan. 8 at Gallery 194 in downtown Lapeer. The show will run through Saturday, Feb. 9. The public will be able to meet and engage with the artists at a free reception Friday, Jan. 10 from 6 to 8 p.m.

Three Visions brings three established artists with three unique styles and perspectives to Gallery 194. While their styles might all be very different, each artist is connected to the other through mutual friendship and respect for one another. Robert and Ronald have long been mentors to Vera and sponsored her membership to the Flint Artist Market, an organization to which all three artists now belong.

Artist Robert Huebel has spent most of his life studying and teaching art. He taught in the Flushing Community School district for 36 years. He now works as an artist full time and presently works in mixed media.  His works are influenced by trips to South America, Central America, Mexico and the American Southwest.

“I find myself motivated by rich native traditions, variety of culture, religions, landscapes, textures, architecture, and the spiritual energy of these areas,” says Huebel. In his work, Robert tries to incorporate as many native and natural materials as possible. Robert Huebel is the current President of the Flint Artist Market and has recently exhibited his work at Buckham Gallery in Flint, and at a one man show at Bay College in Escanaba.

Ronald Schmitz is a retired Flint area educator who confesses to never having any formal art training; however, after retiring he did take a few adult education classes.  Ronald says that  his passion for painting comes from his wanting to translate the complexity that he sees in nature and the world around him by conveying this beauty for others to experience.  One will be immediately struck by the artist’s use of detail, detail that defines this “complexity” that the artist observes and is conveying to the viewer. Schmitz now paints exclusively in watercolor, has exhibited in many shows both individually and as a member of Flint Artists Market. His work can be seen in collections locally, nationally, and internationally.

Vera Peltonen Bean is a retired world class cyclist  turned artist, who now works out of her studio, “Emotions in Motion,” located in Downtown Lapeer inside the Lyric Mall.  She has transformed the emotion and motion of over ten years of world class bike racing into an array of creative expressions ranging from black and white pen and ink work to sculpture, to acrylics on canvas.

“I would very much like to believe everything is as simple as black and white, however… it’s not. It’s only black and white on the surface. If you take a closer look… things become just a little more complex and a little more complicated. Just as all of us,” says Peltonen Bean.

Peltonen Bean’s work is of expressionism, abstract ideas, emotions, dreams, memories, journeys, and spontaneous fragments of thought and explores black and white as well as bold, vibrant colors. Her designs have been featured on QVC, she has been a guest speaker for the Otter Lake Literary Club, and is a proud member of the Flint Artist Market.

Three Visions at Gallery 194 is a very unique show.

“It brings together three different artists that all have their own styles but are all connected through friendship,” says gallery director James Alt.  “Working with these three artists to put this show together has been an energizing and amazing experience and I think visitors to the gallery will really be able to connect with the artists’ work and feel their energy and passion toward their art.”

Three Visions featuring the works of Robert Huebel, Ronald Schmitz, and Vera Peltonen Bean will be on display for the public to enjoy through Feb. 9. Gallery 194 is located at the corner of Court and West Nepessing Streets in downtown Lapeer next to the historic Pix Theater. Gallery 194 is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is always free and open to the public. For more information log onto, LIKE Gallery 194 on Face Book or call 810-667-1495.

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Thumb Area Traveling Show at Gallery 194

“Cannonball” by Kimberly Santini is on display at Gallery 194 through Nov. 10 as part of the Thumb Area Traveling Art Show.

The top ten works from the Thumb Area Art Exhibit (TAAE) are now on display at Gallery 194 in downtown Lapeer, through Nov. 10. The exhibit is put on by the Romeo Guild of Art (RGA) featuring works by nine different artists and is presented in Gallery 194’s emerging artist hallway.

The Thumb Area Art Exhibit features original artwork submitted in oil, acrylic, watercolor, pastel, drawing, and sculpture. The top pieces were chosen as the “best of” from a larger show that originally took place at the Starkweather Arts Center in Romeo this past September. That show featured 37 different artists and offered 58 different pieces.

Don Wieland, president of the Romeo Guild of Art, said the exhibit was judged by Victor Pytko, who is an art instructor at the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center and has been a past speaker at guild meetings. Wieland who paints still life art of vintage toys and collectibles took second place at the show with his piece entitled “Fresh Meat.” It is one of the works featured in the traveling exhibit at the gallery. The top ten pieces, chosen by Pytko, travel to sponsoring galleries throughout Michigan’s Thumb area including Gallery 194.

Wieland chose the President’s award which this year went to Sharon Will for her work, “Asian Satin.” He said he chose her work because of her composition style and the high quality pastel work she does. Sharon also received the first place award for her piece “The View From Above.”

Also included in the exhibit is “Cannonball” by artist Kimberly Santini. Her painting captures the joy in a Golden Retriever as it jumps into water. “Cannonball” was chosen as Best of Show.

“It’s a tremendous honor to be chosen.” says Santini. “This exhibit represents so many people with talent in our area. It just gets better and better.”

Visitors to the gallery will be able to enjoy the show through Saturday November 10th. Gallery 194 is located at the corner of Court and West Nepessing Streets in downtown Lapeer next to the historic Pix Theater. Gallery 194 is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and admission is always free and open to the public. For more information log onto, LIKE Gallery 194 on Face Book or call 810-667-1495.

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Easy Striders cruise the Southern Links Trailway

We had the Southern Links Trailway all to ourselves Saturday morning. As you can see, it was absolutely spectacular. I was there with the Easy Striders, our local group of beginner/intermediate runners. We covered nine miles Saturday. To think we might have missed this amazing scene if we hadn’t planned our run. Simply incredible. Saw a deer on the trail, too. All this while enjoying the good company of friends. And we topped off our exercise with our fave breakfast at Curly’s Lakehouse Grill in Columbiaville.

Sunday, I covered another six miles on the Paint Creek Trail. Simply superb.

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Gallery 194: From Above and Below

From Above and Below featuring the art of Susan Clinthorne, Alexander Clinthorne, and Sally Thielen is now open at Gallery 194 in downtown Lapeer. These talented artists bring their unique vision to the Main Gallery from Tuesday, October 9th through Saturday, November 3. The public will be able to meet and engage with the artists at a free reception Friday, October 12 from 6 to 8 p.m.

Sisters Susan Clinthorne and Sally Thielen might be familiar to visitors of Gallery 194. They brought their traveling social art exhibit “Letter’s Home/Searching for the Key” to the gallery in 2011. This year each artist will be displaying their own unique works of art. Also displaying is Susan’s son,  Alexander.

From Above and Below is a distinctive exhibit for Gallery 194. The show brings together three different styles that all complement each other in organic and creative ways. The name for the show is derived from each of the artists’ creative thoughts. Sally describes it as an “interest of nature from the underearthly to growing and soaring objects above the earth’s surface with plant roots being the meeting point.”

Artist Susan Clinthorne explains, “Most of what we produce is quite fanciful and are interpretations of our natural environment.”

Susan exhibits with Ann Arbor Women Artists and Ann Arbor Area Pastelists and is a member of the Great Lakes Pastel Society and Michigan Watercolor Society. She teaches watercolor at the Ann Arbor Art Center and has shown her work in venues across the state for the last 10 years. Along with her work in watercolor, she is also immersed in other painterly mediums such as dry pastels, printmaking, collage and acrylics.

Before studying art, artist Alexander Clinthorne studied languages. “I like how sentence structure can hold words together to translate coherent thoughts from one mind to another,” explains Clinthorne. Now he is taking his love and fascination for language and applying it to art. Alexander has compiled a visual vocabulary of recurring drying patterns in nature and then builds that language out of clay. He has spent time studying art and language in Egypt, Japan, and Iceland and now works as a part time instructor in clay at the Ann Arbor Art Center. His work has been displayed nationally and internationally.

Sally Thielen, “South Eagle Woman,” is a descendant but non-tribal member of the Michigan Chippewa tribe. She works in a variety of mediums and enjoys exploring new styles and mediums. Her love for heritage and culture is very prominent in her work. Thielen has shown her work in galleries throughout the United States and Canada and in Embassies throughout the world. She has been featured in several publications including “Michigan History Magazine” and “Who’s Who in American Art.” In 2004 Sally was invited to Washington DC for the 40th Anniversary of the Art in the Embassy Program.

From Above and Below at Gallery 194 features a large variety of work from these very talented artists. Included in the display are several of Alexander’s paintings that are debuting at this exhibit and set the atmosphere for his sculptures. In addition to visual art the show includes an audio soundtrack created by Alexander that will create a very immersive art experience for visitors to the gallery. The soundtrack for the show will first be heard during the meet-the-artist reception on October 12. Visitors to the reception will also get to hear special spoken word art written by Sally Thielen as well as meet and engage with the artists.

From Above and Below featuring the works of Susan Clinthorne, Sally Thielen, and Alexander Clinthorne will be on display for the public to enjoy through November 3. Gallery 194 is located at the corner of Court and West Nepessing Streets in downtown Lapeer next to the historic Pix Theater. Gallery 194 is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11am to 6pm and admission is always free and open to the public. For more information log onto, LIKE Gallery 194 on Facebook or call 810-667-1495.

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