Artist’s exhibition offers new take on time, space in the Great Lakes

Capital News Service

GRAND RAPIDS — You may have seen the posters — brightly colored, cross-sectioned landscapes that attempt to simultaneously show all of an ecosystem’s flora and fauna. You can find them in grade-school textbooks, hanging on classroom walls and at trailheads throughout the Great Lakes region.

The posters intend to educate viewers about biodiversity and the makeup of ecosystems. But they feel a bit lacking to New York artist Alexis Rockman, who traversed Michigan gathering inspiration for his exhibition “Alexis Rockman: The Great Lakes Cycle.”

“I would see these posters and I would think, ‘That’s only half of the story,’” Rockman said. “There’s a much darker story that’s happening in these images, and that’s what I’m after.”

Rockman’s response takes the form of five mural-size paintings on display at the Grand Rapids Art Museum. They’re part of an exhibit that includes six large-scale watercolors and 28 of his field drawings.

It will remain on view through April 29.

The paintings share things in common with those educational posters.

They, too, are cross sections that show an amalgam of the scene’s inhabitants. But unlike those posters, they don’t omit invasive species, disease and pollution. And looking at them doesn’t invoke a serene sense of calm, but a discomforting feeling of conflict.

Each painting features a cast of Great Lakes actors spanning time and space. Pleistocene-era caribou march in the direction of floating timber and shipwrecks in “Cascade.” Microscopic actors like norovirus and salmonella are drawn as large as trout and waterfowl.

In “Forces of Change,” a kraken-sized E. coli bacterium wraps its tentacles around walleye and heavy machinery.

The stories are told chronologically. In “Pioneers,” the Great Lakes’ earliest fish — the likes of lake whitefish, lake sturgeon and burbot — enter stage left. The right side of the painting depicts a stream of invasive species cascading from the ballast of a saltwater freighter.

The colors grade from bright blues to warm yellows and greens — a shift from icy clarity to algae-polluted contamination.

Rockman draws inspiration from science and natural history, recalling a childhood fascination with museum dioramas.

“As a kid I’d go to the Museum of Natural History, and then I’d go to a jungle or something, and I’d be like disappointed because I could never see under the water,” Rockman said.

“When I go to these places, I always want to see it through that type of lens,” he said. “It’s this idea of this miraculous view where you can see simultaneity. Scale shifts, different pieces of information — regardless of the limitations of the human experience, you can still see things that matter.”

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The exhibition is born from the 30-year relationship of Rockman and Grand Rapids Art Museum Director Dana Friis-Hansen. In 2013, he asked Rockman about collaborating. The Great Lakes were a no-brainer for the exhibition’s subject matter.

“People are crazy about the Great Lakes,” Friis-Hansen said. “There’s a passion for the Great Lakes for their beauty, for their history, but also for protecting the Great Lakes.”

Rockman sees it as a passion likely to grow.

“The Great Lakes is something that’s right in the middle of America, something that we take for granted, I think, and something that is going to be of vital importance — I believe there are going to be wars fought over the freshwater in the lakes,” Rockman said.

To prepare the exhibit, he visited museums, ate whitefish and spoke with Great Lakes experts.

The concepts for the exhibition’s five main paintings were developed over coffee with Jill Leonard, a Northern Michigan University biology professor.

The large-scale watercolors are concepts that couldn’t fit into the five main murals, Rockman said.

The field drawings are monochromatic animal and plant studies made from site-sourced organic materials. They include a bald eagle painted in sand from the Lake Michigan beaches of Saugatuck and a common loon painted in coal dust from West Michigan’s Grand Haven Power Plant.

The “interpretation” section of the exhibition encourages visitors to respond. They can piece together puzzle versions of the paintings to contemplate connections between events and organisms. They can also write responses to the question: “What can you do to protect the Great Lakes?”

Nearby Grand Haven Public Schools students studied Rockman’s pieces and created art in response. Visitors can view them via QR codes throughout the exhibition. In the education gallery on the lower level are responses to the artwork by teams of elementary school students.

Student responses are inspiring, Friis-Hansen said.

“They’re carrying that thread forward.”

But Rockman sounds less optimistic.

“Dana and I have always believed that education is our only hope, and that’s why we’re doing this, bending over backwards to make work with kids and do educational stuff, and that’s crucial,” Rockman said. “But — I’m not sure. The recognition of being insane is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

“I’m less hopeful than I was 10 years ago, but I still get out of bed and do what I do,” Rockman said.

The exhibition will travel to five other museums after it leaves Grand Rapids: the Flint Institute of Arts, Chicago Cultural Center, Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, Haggerty Museum of Art of Marquette University in Milwaukee and Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis.

Marie Orttenburger writes for Great Lakes Echo.

Oct. 6, 2017 – CNS Budget

Oct. 6, 2017 — Week 5

To: CNS Editors

From: Perry Parks and Andi Brancato

For technical problems, contact CNS technical manager Tony Cepak at (517) 803-6841 or

For other matters, contact Perry Parks:


MICHIGAN JOURNALISM HALL OF  FAME: Nominations are open and due by Jan. 22, 2018. The induction ceremony is scheduled for April 15. For details on how to submit nominations, go to

Here is your file:

LIQUORRULE: Some state officials want to eliminate a restriction that keeps liquor stores at least a half mile apart. They say it stifles competition. But opponents say it helps limit the number of stores in a particular area and protects small operators from getting squeezed out of business. A bill is moving through the Senate to keep the restriction in place. We hear from Grand Ledge and Wayland senators and Traverse City and Holland retailers. By Kaley Fech. FOR HOLLAND, TRAVERSE CITY, LANSING CITY LIMITS, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS AND ALL POINTS

MENTALHEALTH: Up to 64 percent of county jail inmates in Michigan have some form of mental illness. That has police scrambling to increase training to learn how to handle people who should be in mental hospitals instead of behind bars. Advocates say cooperation among agencies is at an all-time high. We hear from and about law enforcement and mental health experts in Oakland, Cheboygan and Kalamazoo counties, Clinton-Eaton-Ingham counties, AuSable Valley and Northern Lakes Community Mental Health, as well as the ACLU and Sheriffs’ Association. By Jack Nissen. FOR CHEBOYGAN, GRAND RAPIDSBUSINESS, METRO TIMES, LANSING CITY PULSE AND ALL POINTS

XMASTREES: While warm weather hangs on, Michigan Christmas tree growers are readying for another strong year of sales. Michigan ranks third in the nation in the number of Christmas trees harvested, supplying about 1.7 million fresh trees to the national market each year. We talk to growers from Mason and Manton, as well as the state and national growers’ associations. By Carl Stoddard. FOR CADILLAC, TRAVERSE CITY, CRAWFORD COUNTY, LANSING CITY PULSE, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS, LUDINGTON, LAKE COUNTY, CHEBOYGAN, ALCONA, GLADWIN, MONTMORENCY, PETOSKEY, MANISTEE, BIG RAPICS, HERALD-REVIEW AND ALL POINTS

W/XMASTREEPHOTO: The Windy Hill Christmas Tree Farm in Thetford Township, north of Flint, is one of many tree farms in Michigan. The state is the third-largest Christmas tree producer in the country, after Oregon and North Carolina. Credit: Carl Stoddard

CLEANUPCRITERIA: Emergency rules for how much of a hazardous solvent can be left in contaminated  groundwater are set to expire Oct. 27. But the Department of Environmental Quality is proposing a new limit for the chemical responsible for a high-profile groundwater contamination west of Ann Arbor. Other affected sites are in Oshtemo and Metamora townships. The change may be the first among a series of revisions to cleanup criteria for up to 300 other chemicals. We also hear from the Michigan Environmental Council, Michigan Petroleum Association and a Wayland senator. By Kaley Fech. FOR GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS, STURGIS, HOLLAND, THREE RIVERS, METRO TIMES AND ALL POINTS

ENROLLMENT  — Public school enrollment in Michigan will decline by more than 5 percent by 2025, according to one projection. It is one of only nine states facing that fate. That means even less revenue for struggling schools, whose expenses don’t drop in proportion to lower student counts. Officials say not enough young people are staying and having children in Michigan. We hear from an Allegan Schools official. By Jack Nissen. FOR HOLLAND, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS& ALL POINTS

FARMRUNOFF: Federal officials are launching a two-year study to determine the best ways to convince farmers in Michigan and across the Great Lakes region to help fight water pollution. The pollution has created conditions ripe for excessive algal blooms that perennially appear in Lake Erie and other lakes and bays and threaten water quality. The culprit: nutrient-laden runoff, much of which comes from farmland. We learn about the Saginaw River Watershed and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. By Steven Maier. FOR GLADWIN, ALCONA, CHEBOYGAN, MARQUETTE, SAULT STE. MARIE, LEELANAU, PETOSKEY, HARBOR SPRINGS, OCEANA, TRAVERSE CITY, MANISTEE, LUDINGTON, HOLLAND, BAY MILLS, ST. IGNACE, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS AND ALL POINTS.

LYNX: It’s scientifically feasible for the National Park Service to reintroduce the Canada lynx onto Isle Royale after the predator’s disappearance eight decades ago, according to a new study. The island has a sufficient supply of the lynx’s favorite food, snowshoe hares, to support a population of about 30 lynx. They’d probably be imported from Ontario. Meanwhile, the Park Service is expected to decide the controversial issue of whether to bring more wolves to the island to replenish that animal’s population late this fall or early this winter. By Eric Freedman. FOR MARQUETTE, BAY MILLS, SAULT STE. MARIE, CHEBOYGAN AND ALL POINTS.

           w/LYNXPHOTO: Canada lynx. Credit: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Uncertainty floods the future of Great Lakes’ water quality, quantity


Capital News Service

LANSING — For climate change experts, it’s a world of “ifs” when trying to predict what will happen to the waters of the Great Lakes — including a surge of algae blooms.

And while there are some educated guesses out there, not much can be said for certain.

“One thing that we do know about projections for the future is all of them, and there are no exceptions, all of them call for warmer mean temperatures,” said Jeffrey Andresen, Michigan’s state climatologist and a geography professor at Michigan State University.

Now there’s a lot to take away from warmer mean temperatures projections, but again, few things are certain. Continue reading

Bills would eliminate concealed-carry regulations

Capital News Service

LANSING — Some lawmakers are working to remove the licensing requirement for concealed pistol carriers.

Rep. Triston Cole, R-Mancelona, has introduced bills to eliminate concealed pistol license, or CPL, laws.

Cole said he doesn’t want to make it easier to obtain a gun or loosen those regulations, but he wants to ensure that “law-abiding citizens” don’t need to jump through hoops to carry a concealed pistol for self-defense.

“The idea is to promote constitutional freedom,” Cole said. Continue reading

Bill seeks to reduce penalty of expired concealed pistol license

Capital News Service

LANSING — People with concealed pistols could avoid felony charges for expired licenses under a bill introduced by Rep. Shane Hernandez, R-Port Huron.

Under current law, anyone with an expired concealed pistol license who still carries his or her concealed weapon could be charged with a felony, even if it’s only been a few days since the license expired, Hernandez said.

Hernandez said he was inspired to introduce the bill after hearing about a staffer’s friend who faced such a charge because of a recently expired icense during a routine traffic stop.

The bill would reduce that felony to a civil misdemeanor with a $330 fine if someone’s license has been expired for six months or less. Continue reading

Bills would increase sentences for animal abuse in domestic violence

Capital News Service

LANSING — Proposed bipartisan legislation to stiffen punishments for abuse to pets during domestic disputes is headed to the full Senate with the unanimous approval of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Supporters say the increased penalties would help prevent both animal abuse crimes and domestic violence.

“It addresses a gap in the law right now,” said Sen. Steve Bieda, D-Warren, the primary sponsor. “The current statute doesn’t deal with the situation where someone is using the torture of an animal to torture a human being.

“The bills are as much domestic violence prevention as they are animal abuse prevention.” Continue reading

Transgender youths defend their rights against bathroom bill

Ash and M.K. Kelly in a Lansing bookstore during the interview

Ash and M.K. Kelly in a Lansing bookstore during the interview

Capital News Service

LANSING — Twins MK and Ash Kelly, both wearing wire-rimmed glasses and hoodies in navy blue, are wandering on Michigan Avenue in Lansing, jamming their hands into jeans pockets. Someone in a coffee shop recognizes them and waves enthusiastically through the window as they pass by.

MK and Ash, 20, are of some renown in Lansing, and not only because they do music and drawing. Lots of people are getting to know them from a video on Popsugar about their GoFundMe campaign to help pay for their gender reassignment surgeries, which are not covered by their health insurance. MK works in a tattoo shop and Ash is unemployed.

Sexually assigned as girls at birth, Ash came out as “non-binary” in 2014 and MK in 2015. Non-binary describes any gender identity which doesn’t fit strictly into categories of male or female. Continue reading

Big name retailers join fight against Enbridge pipeline

Capital News Service

LANSING — The chorus of voices calling for the decommissioning of a twin oil pipeline running across the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac has become more diversified.

A network of 18 businesses, all but one based in Michigan, recently announced support for halting use of the controversial pipeline.

The Great Lakes Business Network, formed in December, is supported by the National Wildlife Federation and the Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities in Traverse City. It’s also collaborating with the Michigan League of Conservation Voters.

Line 5 is a pipeline operated by Enbridge Inc. that runs 645 miles from Wisconsin to Ontario and carries 540,000 barrels of oil per day. The 4.5 mile section that crosses under the Straits spanning the Upper and Lower peninsulas is controversial. Continue reading

Feb. 10, 2017 CNS budget

Feb. 10, 2017

To: CNS Editors
From: Perry Parks and Sheila Schimpf

For technical problems, contact CNS technical manager Pechulano Ali, (517) 940-2313,

For other issues contact Perry Parks,, (517) 388-8627.

Here is your file:

VIOLENCEGRANTS: Gov. Snyder’s latest budget proposal includes $4.3 million in state-administered federal grants toward preventing gender violence, but some local nonprofits are worried about losing support under the Trump administration. Many organizations are most concerned about losing the STOP Violence Against Women Formula Grant Program, which allows nonprofits to hire advocates to provide courtroom support for victims in both civil and criminal cases. We talk with advocates in Big Rapids and Marquette and representatives of the State Police. Other affected communities include Three Rivers, Holland, Grand Rapids, Cadillac and Sault Ste. Mari. eBy Caitlin Taylor. FOR BIG RAPIDS, HOLLAND, THREE RIVERS, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS, CADILLAC, LUDINGTON, TRAVERSE CITY, MARQUETTE, SAULT STE. MARIE, STURGIS, MANIISTEE, CHEBOYGAN, LANSING CITY PULSE & ALL POINTS.

TRANSGENDERBOYSCOUTS: A recent decision by the Boy Scouts to admit transgender members broke years of tradition. Advocacy groups across the state were elated with the choice, and said members of the community believe it makes a dramatic difference in attitudes. By Isaac Constans. FOR TRAVERSE CITY, LEELANAU, LANSING CITY PULSE & ALL POINTS.

STATEPOWERDEVOS: Newly confirmed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos says she wants to return more power to the states. Education officials in Michigan offer their support for this shift, as they say the state’s education woes are partly a product of unnecessary federal intervention. They assert state educators know what’s best for Michigan’s schoolchildren, and can achieve higher educational success than the federal government. We speak with officials from the state Department of Education and the superintendent of Gladwin Community Schools. By Laina Stebbins. FOR BIG RAPIDS, LAKE COUNTY, OSCEOLA, GLADWIN, GREENVILLE, OCEANA, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS & ALL POINTS

Continue reading

Physician assistants could expand access to health care – Table


Capital News Service

Primary Care Physicians: Ratio of population to primary care physicians in Michigan counties

Place # Primary Care Physicians PCP Ratio Z-Score
Alcona 5 2,116:1 0.45
Alger 4 2,381:1 0.61
Allegan 27 4,168:1 1.17
Alpena 28 1,039:1 -1.07
Antrim 9 2,597:1 0.72
Arenac 6 2,581:1 0.71
Baraga 10 870:1 -1.65
Barry 20 2,955:1 0.86
Bay 56 1,908:1 0.29
Benzie 6 2,905:1 0.84
Berrien 131 1,185:1 -0.7
Branch 22 1,984:1 0.35
Calhoun 76 1,776:1 0.17
Cass 10 5,191:1 1.31
Charlevoix 22 1,188:1 -0.7
Cheboygan 14 1,838:1 0.23
Chippewa 23 1,682:1 0.07
Clare 10 3,057:1 0.9
Clinton 29 2,646:1 0.74
Crawford 13 1,070:1 -0.98
Delta 24 1,538:1 -0.1
Dickinson 23 1,135:1 -0.82
Eaton 41 2,643:1 0.74
Emmet 39 850:1 -1.73
Genesee 370 1,123:1 -0.85
Gladwin 9 2,833:1 0.82
Gogebic 16 995:1 -1.2
Grand Traverse 131 687:1 -2.6
Gratiot 26 1,614:1 -0.01
Hillsdale 14 3,293:1 0.97
Houghton 32 1,132:1 -0.82
Huron 21 1,534:1 -0.11
Ingham 297 950:1 -1.35
Ionia 20 3,204:1 0.94
Iosco 15 1,695:1 0.08
Iron 7 1,645:1 0.03
Isabella 35 2,012:1 0.37
Jackson 83 1,932:1 0.31
Kalamazoo 248 1,035:1 -1.08
Kalkaska 6 2,866:1 0.83
Kent 571 1,089:1 -0.93
Keweenaw  N/A  N/A 0
Lake 2 5,693:1 1.37
Lapeer 35 2,525:1 0.68
Leelanau 7 3,107:1 0.91
Lenawee 30 3,306:1 0.97
Livingston 90 2,049:1 0.4
Luce 8 813:1 -1.9
Mackinac 11 1,006:1 -1.17
Macomb 493 1,734:1 0.12
Manistee 14 1,746:1 0.14
Marquette 77 879:1 -1.61
Mason 25 1,144:1 -0.8
Mecosta 23 1,874:1 0.26
Menominee 11 2,163:1 0.48
Midland 85 987:1 -1.23
Missaukee 4 3,763:1 1.09
Monroe 55 2,734:1 0.78
Montcalm 26 2,427:1 0.63
Montmorency 6 1,558:1 -0.08
Muskegon 115 1,487:1 -0.17
Newaygo 21 2,286:1 0.56
Oakland 1,861 662:1 -2.77
Oceana 14 1,875:1 0.26
Ogemaw 12 1,770:1 0.16
Ontonagon 2 3,161:1 0.93
Osceola 7 3,323:1 0.98
Oscoda 4 2,095:1 0.43
Otsego 15 1,609:1 -0.01
Ottawa 168 1,623:1 0
Presque Isle 2 6,531:1 1.44
Roscommon 8 3,002:1 0.88
Saginaw 173 1,136:1 -0.81
Sanilac 12 3,485:1 1.02
Schoolcraft 5 1,649:1 0.03
Shiawassee 30 2,297:1 0.56
St. Clair 81 1,981:1 0.35
St. Joseph 21 2,903:1 0.84
Tuscola 17 3,192:1 0.94
Van Buren 41 1,840:1 0.23
Washtenaw 612 579:1 -3.44
Wayne 1,162 1,528:1 -0.12
Wexford 32 1,020:1 -1.12