Culture Pearls

April 28, 2003
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St. Petersburg, Russia, this year is hosting various celebrations of its 300-year history of arts and culture. So what, you ask? Well, having made some limited cultural and political exchanges in the ’90s may spark greater anticipation by some Grand Rapidians, but Grand Valley State University’s Department of Art & Design will definitely be among the guests.

And it may be too bad all of GR can’t turn out to applaud the fact that one among the few international exchanges is GVSU’s ElonaVanGent — who was specifically invited and is said to be among the “most important of the world guests.”

  • Foreign “exchanges” of another sort are making the connection between West Michigan and Baghdad.

Michigan State University President Peter McPherson, a lakeshore native, was assigned recently to oversee Iraq’s finances during the reconstruction of the country. Now, President GeorgeBush has dipped into West Michigan again to lead another vitally important part of Iraq’s recovery.

JamesHaveman Jr., the recently retired head of the state’s Department of Community Health, has been selected by the administration to oversee health care administration in the war-torn country. The change to Haveman bumped Dr. FrederickBurkle, a deputy administrator at the United States Agency for International Development, who was told last Monday he would not be in charge of health in Iraq.

So, Haveman is hustling to get overseas and begin his duties there.

  • Maybe Iraq’s new health chief could begin his trek to the Middle East locally, thereby giving another boost to the economy.

Passenger totals at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport were up 4.4 percent in March over totals posted in March 2002.

At the Kent County Aeronautics Board meeting last week, Vice Chair KennethKuipers was quick to point out that according to Passenger Terminal World magazine, passenger figures for 2002 “were largely lackluster,” and of the world’s top 30 airports only eight posted increases from January through October of 2002 over the same period of 2001.

“Here we come along and we’re up, not down. That’s a pretty significant swing when all 17 U.S. airports in the top 30 showed passenger reductions averaging 5 percent,” he said.

Last week the board gave the go ahead to start the bidding for the Oostema Boulevard landscape improvements, which will include plantings, retaining walls, signage and lighting along Oostema Boulevard from Patterson Avenue to Terminal Drive, as well as traffic signals at the intersection of Oostema and Patterson.

The project, designed to create “a gateway image to West Michigan,” will be constructed over two years at an estimated cost of $3 million.

  • What comes after Dead Sea Scrolls? An exhibition in October called Tribes of the Buffalo, including a complete set of illustrations by Swiss artist Karl Bodmer of the Plains Indians done in 1831-32 and related artifacts collected by John Painter. And perhaps even bigger, the museum will begin an assessment and dialog with the community of what to do with the 2000-year-old Norton Mounds National Historic Landmark site, commonly called the Indian Mounds. The site is on 70 acres owned by the museum and sits south of the Market Street exit on I-196, across the river from Millennium Park. The National Historic Landmark is certainly Michigan’s largest and ranks among all such sites in the Midwest.

  • Now that West Michigan has again proven it can rub shoulders with the arts and culture crowd on any level, another historic treat is coming here.

The Declaration of Independence Road Trip, which features a rare, original copy of the Declaration of Independence showcased as part of a special multi-media exhibition, will visit the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum July 10-31.

Grand Rapids is the only site in Michigan that will host the historic document and the event coincides with Gerald R. Ford’s 90th birthday celebration on July 14.

Famed TV producer NormanLear, whose credits include such landmark shows as “All In The Family,” acquired one of 25 remaining Dunlap broadsides printed on July 4, 1776, with the goal of bringing the “People’s Document” directly to Americans. The idea was to encourage people, especially young people, to participate in civic activism, to exercise their rights and to vote.

“Hundreds of thousands of people from big cities and small towns have come to see our nation’s birth certificate and reflect on its cherished ideals,” Lear said. “We hope this experience inspires young people, and through them all Americans, to reinvigorate our democracy by getting involved and, above all, to vote.”

  • As the Grand Rapids Griffins move through the American Hockey League playoffs, the smart money says the team already is a winner.

Why? Because nearly $300,000 already has been raised through the team’s charitable functions and community efforts during the 2002-03 AHL season.

Most of that money, $212,300, has gone to the Griffins Youth Foundation, which expands opportunities for participating in ice skating and related sports and activities for local children. But the rest of it has been spread around to other local agencies, organizations and projects. These range from the Muscular Dystrophy Association to the Kent County Civil War Monument and Fountain Restoration project to the March of Dimes.

“This impressive total is the result of a wonderful community partnership between the Griffins organization, players, corporate sponsors and, most importantly, our fans,” said BobSack, Griffins senior vice president of sales and marketing. “The Griffins are so pleased to unite these various parties for such worthy causes.”

  • Is a Griffin an animal? No, it’s a mythical beast. Which means you won’t find it at a new store coming to West Michigan.

But if you’re crazy for canines or fanatic about felines, then Just Paws might be the place for you.

“We are Grand Rapids’ first pet store for people,” said PeggyLandre, president of Just Paws. “Everyone knows a person that is just crazy about their pet, and this is the place for them.”

The store will carry a variety of items for the home and garden, but all of them are for the human in the relationship, not the pet.

“From pedigreed to the pet next door, we have fun merchandise to show off your favorite feline or doted-upon dog,” Landre said.

The store debuts at 10 a.m., Thursday, May 1, in the Marshall Field’s wing of Woodland Shopping Center.

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