East Native Rises In West

December 12, 2007
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East Grand Rapids resident Janet Neff patiently waited through more than a year of Senate nomination hearings (twice) and personal attacks to move from the Michigan Court of Appeals bench she had occupied since 1989 to confirmation this past summer to the U.S. District Court in the Western District of Michigan. Another East Grand Rapids native last week was appointed the first female president of what is considered to be the most powerful legal organization in the country: the 116-year-old Uniform Law Commission. Martha Lee Walters, a justice on the Oregon Supreme Court, graduated from the University of Michigan in 1972 and earned her law degree from the University of Oregon School of Law. One of her best known cases was as representative for Casey Martin in his lawsuit against the PGA Tour to allow the disabled Martin to use a golf cart. She was appointed to the Oregon Supreme Court in 2006.

**Creative Class: The 22nd Annual Governor’s Awards for Arts and Culture on Nov. 29 at the newly renovated Detroit Institute of Arts provided tribute to several area individuals and arts groups. Linda Nemec Foster, Grand Rapids Poet Laureate in 2003-2004, was one of three individuals nominated for the Michigan Artist Award. Though she was not given the top honor, judges for the ArtServe Michigan event did name Dwelling Place the recipient of the Exemplary Business Award for its “notable dedication to enhancing the presence of art and culture in the community.” Dennis Sturtevant, its long-time chief executive officer, was recognized for using art as a catalyst for neighborhood revitalization. The Dwelling Place engineered Avenue for the Arts (aka Division Street) and was a finalist last year in the Grand Rapids Business Journal Newsmaker top 10 economic stories.

Western Michigan University was given the Arts Education Organization Award for “demonstrating extraordinary student and educator support and commitment to advancing arts education.” Fritz Stansell, founder of Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp north of Muskegon, was cited with the Nonprofit Arts/Cultural Leader Award. Saugatuck resident Bobbi Gaunt (one of GRBJ’s Most influential Women in 2006) was one of the three nominees for the award.

The black-tie affair, chaired by Deborah Dingell, Mark Murray and Dan Musser, also featured the recognition of native Grand Rapids artist Nathan Goddard, who won the competition to design the coveted Guvvy, a new concept funded by Masco Corp. foundation. Capital News Service’s Hayley Outslay reported that, in previous years, winners of the Governor’s Awards received a unique piece of art. The Guvvy has replaced that, and winners also received a smaller version to keep. The icon is designed to be the “Stanley Cup of arts and culture,” according to ArtServe President Neeta Delaney.

According to Outslay, Goddard majored in painting and drawing and previously made greeting cards, desktop items and other items that he said “you can gift away.”

“So much of what I’ve done in the past feels very quickly used,” he said of working in a commercial setting. “You design things and then on to the next, without a pause or appreciation for the effort put into making it.”

He said he wanted to find a “poetic symbolism” and create something that would be modern and dynamic. The design involves two elements: A linear element suggests the state’s administrative structure, while energy wraps around it to symbolize the creative spirit that structure supports, he said.

Diversity in the arts is one of the state’s greatest assets, said Delaney. The organization has offices in Lansing and Southfield. “We have everything from world-class institutions like the DIA and the Grand Rapids Ballet, and at the same time have small bluegrass festivals in the Upper Peninsula,” Delaney said.

“ArtServe is all about getting the message out that arts, culture and creativity are Michigan’s competitive edge.”

**Last week ended with the announcement that The Recording Academy had nominated Grand Rapids native Marvin Sapp as one of 62 artists for the 50th annual GRAMMY Awards.

Detroit natives also receiving nominations last week included: Aretha Franklin, Bebe Winans, Cece Winans, Marvin Winans, Carl Craig, The Clark Sisters, Dwele, Fred Hammond, J. Moss, Madonna and The White Stripes.

**The list of proposals to ban smoking in Michigan’s bars, restaurants and many other workplaces continues to churn out of Lansing (see story, page 12). Last week the State House narrowly voted to ban smoking in such establishments but the move faced a lukewarm reception in the Senate.

Meanwhile, customers of local establishments continue to find the no smoking signs going up.

Customers who visited downtown Grand Rapids dining hot spot Bistro Bella Vita last week noticed something new: no tobacco smoke. Effective Dec. 1, Essence Restaurant Group, owners of the Bistro and The Green Well Gastro Pub, enacted a policy that prohibits smoking inside Bistro Bella Vita.

Essence's newest dining venture in East Hills, The Green Well Gastro Pub, has never allowed smoking inside the establishment since opening in September.

**Mass transit and public transportation continues to be a hot-button topic. West and east regions of Michigan will gather tonight in a meeting in Grand Rapids. The second transportation town hall meeting is being hosted by state lawmakers at 7 p.m. at The Rapid Central Station, 250 Grandville Ave. SW, in the second floor conference room. **Saugatuck’s Waterfront Film Festival was recently ranked as SAGIndie’s third best film festival in the world. The ranking appears in the winter 2007 edition of Screen Actor Magazine. Since its formation in 1997, SAGIndie has been traveling to film festivals, trade shows and conventions around the world. The Waterfront festival was recognized as a “flawless event that has outstanding support from the local community.”     

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