Wind + James Opens in Schoolcraft

By Sue Moore

Creativity oozes out of Windy Clark 24/7 as she envisions her newest endeavor, Wind + James in Schoolcraft. She and husband Jamie Clark have taken a run-down warehouse at 555 Eliza Street and turned it into a venue for art classes, parties, wedding receptions, events – and in April, Schoolcraft High School’s prom.

“It’s a funky, modern, colorful, fun space,” Windy Clark pointed out. “Kids love the colors, the décor and it’s just a great place for their very own parties. This space makes me feel happy and I hope it does for everyone else who wants to be here.”

Clark started by hosting parties in her own home in Vicksburg for up to 100 people. “That’s the sweet spot for me,” she said. “I love doing the design and décor for a party and was initially inspired by my kids’ parties where I did a lot of baking and art work. Before getting married to Jamie, I planned events and displays for the Harley-Davidson store on Sprinkle Road. Jamie came in to buy a raffle bike for the Three Rivers Chamber of Commerce. It was love at first sight.”

The couple has four children. The youngest, Louie Edward, was born in March but Windy doesn’t plan to take much time off as the need to get the facility up and running is vital. They have spent over $1 million to turn it from what was the home of heavy industry to a fancy event space.

Initially, Clark started with art classes, having purchased Art on a Whim that was housed in the Park Trades Center in Kalamazoo. She transferred all the materials and instructor Gretchen Leguizamon to Schoolcraft in 2017. Wind + James was granted a temporary occupancy permit by the Schoolcraft Planning Commission and then an extension for 2018 while they get concrete poured for the required number of parking spaces. These should be done in time for a grand opening the Clarks hope to have for the Fourth of July celebration in Schoolcraft. Jamie Clark is well known in the area as the third-generation owner and principal of Clark Logic, and its subsidiaries J&L Express, iTrailer and CMS Warehouse & Storage. In addition to providing hundreds of jobs for local residents, the Clark family supports more than 40 local charities, nonprofits and local organizations.

Jamie Clark never has enough time in the day according to his wife. “He just can’t sit still and has got to be busy all of the time. Although Windy admits she can be the life of the party, he is usually quiet, supportive of her work and will stand back to observe. He is a bicyclist, competing in road races across the state. He coaches youngsters’ basketball for son Bowie, soccer for their son, Remy, and takes daughter Charli to participate in Girls on the Run in Kalamazoo.

Their occupancy permit is good for up to 299 people for an event. Outdoor space is being planned for a courtyard on south and east sides of the building. She is using shipping containers from her husband’s business. One will house a band shell, one is for food service, and another for a possible putting green. There is a warming kitchen inside is available for licensed caterers. Families can bring in alcohol if they will provide a rider on their own insurance policy and have someone certified to serve alcohol to serve as the bartender.

This summer the Clarks plan to offer art camps for youngsters with plenty of space for children to work with paints and build the things they love. The website is windandjames.com. The phone number is 269-615-1338.

Angels Crossing Under New Management

angels 1By Sue Moore

Angels Crossing Golf Club was selected as one of the best places you can play golf in the 2017 issue of Golf Week. With the Renaissance Golf Management team in place at Angels Crossing for the 2018 season, the goal is to make the course even better and go from #17 to first on the list.

Renaissance owner Tom Ham was hired to oversee all operations for the municipal course. He is bringing with him PGA golf professional Brian Schueneman to oversee daily operations of the course. The company was selected by Vicksburg’s Village Manager Jim Mallery. It plans to improve the bottom line of the course while focusing on the golfing experience for the many members and guests who love the challenge the Angels Crossing course presents. The course will be open for play the first week in April, weather permitting.

Ham is one of only 38 PGA master professional people certified in general management of golf courses in the nation and the only one in Michigan with these credentials. His team manages Hemlock, a well-known course in Ludington and 10 others in the state. “We are evaluating many things at Angels Crossing in order to make the course the very best experience possible,” Ham said. “We are starting on the greens with ‘deep-time’ aerification. This will help get air into the substructure of the greens and when cut vertically, they will play faster at about a 10 level being our target. The size of these greens is awesome. The architect who designed the course had a vision that they should play firm and fast and that’s what we hope to achieve.”

Schueneman has his PGA card and has been the pro at both public and private golf courses. “We want to specialize in customer service by installing a new web site that will be able to book tee times online,” he said. “It’s the wow factor we are after. That means making sure there are no little pieces of trash laying around on the grounds, that golf carts are clean and the service is impeccable.”

Schueneman is from River Valley near Three Oaks where he played baseball in high school and college. He didn’t take up golf until he was 26. He sports a 1.6 PGA handicap, which is highly competitive for any pro golfer. He served as golf professional most recently at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor and before that at Lost Dunes in Bridgeman.

Pricing will remain the same for 18 holes at $49 per round. “This price is not low by local standards but for those driving from longer distances for an exceptional experience, it is the best value in the state,” Ham said. “We hope to cater to local traffic with incentive programs that will reflect our interest in leagues and special events.”

The team is managing the whole facility including the dining room, kitchen, pro shop and maintenance. They have retained Joe Tsui as the chef and hope to keep as many of the current employees as possible. The village of Vicksburg will own the golf shop but will be able to order equipment through the buying group that Renaissance represents to achieve better pricing, Ham said.

Alpin Hong Plays at the Vicksburg Performing Arts Center

Hong-Alpin-13
Alpin Hong deconstructs a piano.

By Sue Moore

You’re a classical pianist. You’re performing before an audience when a bat, perhaps startled by your virtuosity, flies out of the piano. What do you do? If you’re Battle Creek native Alpin Hong, you switch to film music – Batman.

Hong will be on the stage of the Vicksburg Performing Arts Center April 17, as part of the Irving S. Gilmore Keyboard Festival. The 7 p.m. concert is free. No bats are expected to attend.

Hong loves to entertain youngsters with his music by transforming his audience’s expectations into full enjoyment of his music. “Kids have an idea of what it’s going to be like, coming to a classical music concert.

“In five minutes of my performance, I know I’ve got their full attention. I just love that. You can transform people forever this way, and that’s what I hope to do with my concert.”

The family concert tour as part of the Gilmore Festival will be a homecoming for Hong. He started his musical life in Battle Creek with piano and violin lessons at the age of four. His dad and mom were Korean; his father came here to practice medicine and psychiatry while mom was a homemaker. Hong said his mother was the more musical person in the family.

Hong was 12 and his brother 10 when his parents were killed in an automobile accident in Allegan County. That left just one relative in the United States, an aunt who lived in Los Angeles. The boys went to live with her.

Hong, 41 now, came back to solo with the Kalamazoo and Battle Creek Symphony orchestras in his earlier years. He was chosen to headline the Gilmore’s family concerts during the biennial festival series that brings some of the greatest stars to Kalamazoo.

“It is absolutely essential for youth to know the classical experience,” Hong said. “I don’t want my concert to be the last one kids will ever want to attend. Classical music is much like green leafy vegetables. You know they are good for you but it’s not always tasty.”

That brought up the bat story: “For example, some years ago I was playing a concert in Columbus, Ohio and a bat flew out of the piano. I started playing music from Batman and the audience loved it. Kids are the best testing ground for music. They are honest. Adults will clap nicely but kids will let you know if they are bored. Although I’m rooted in extensive classical piano training, I have a background in extreme sports, martial arts, and video games.”

“My concert presents a retro-fitted mash-up disguised as a piano recital – prepare to be amazed!” Hong said he will be playing Muczynski’s Desperate Measures, a modern work based on a theme of Paganini, and Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue as the grand finale of his tour in southwest Michigan.

One place Hong plans to visit upon his return to Kalamazoo: Boonzaaijer Bakery. “I go there every time I’m in the city.” Hong’s brother lives in Ann Arbor where he teaches and practices psychiatry. “I tortured my brother growing up. I guess it takes one to know one as we are polar opposites in personality. He is quiet and reflective. I met my wife, Tiali Dattara, through him when they were both in medical school at UCLA.

“My wife is not exactly sitting at home waiting for me while on tour. She cares for our two children, a boy, six, and a girl, four, while working as a doctor in Los Angeles. This time she will be coming with me to see where I started life. It will be a very emotional homecoming.”

Artist in Residence Sponsored by Paper City Development

By Jef Rietsma

A pair of artists – one from New York, the other from California – has been selected to participate in the inaugural season of the Prairie Ronde Artist Residency at the former Simpson Paper Mill as its ambitious redevelopment plan moves forward.

In working with the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center (VCAC), the artist-in-residence concept had been imagined in the “thinking about it” stage, said John Kern, who played a key role in creating the program and its guidelines. The VCAC is planning to help by hosting meet and greets and the occasional opening.

“We had been looking at ways in which we could develop a broader creative community even though there’s already a good one existing here in Vicksburg,” Kern said. “We were wondering about how we could raise the profile a little bit.”

The idea gained momentum thanks to Frances Li, a visual artist in New York City. Kern said Li is his wife’s niece and spent a month in the area last year. The visit afforded Li, Kern and his wife, Jackie Koney, an opportunity to debate the merits of an artist-in-residence concept at the former mill.

Kern and Koney are playing major roles in the mill’s redevelopment under the authority of its backer, Chris Moore.

Li was behind an email blast that targeted a network of her friends and like-minded artists who might have an interest in the local opportunity. Kern said nearly a dozen people applied for the position and two seemed to stand slightly above all others.

May Hong, who hails from Brooklyn, N.Y., plans to do mural work over a four-week period once she arrives April 23. Meanwhile, Penelope Anstruther, an Oakland, Calif. resident, is set to do a multimedia project by creating sculptures with found objects from the mill, Kern added.

“The agreement is they can do whatever they want, though we encourage them to incorporate the mill complex as much as they can and Vicksburg in general in their work and in their planning,” Kern said. “In addition, we’ll ask every artist to do some sort of a community give-back, whether that’s open studio space or a gallery opening or some sort of event with some sort of effort to include the village.”

Ultimately, a finished product will be turned over to the Mill for its private collection, Kern said. He added that artist-in-residence participants will receive a $2,000 stipend, a place to stay for their visit and use of a vehicle.

Kern said he is excited for the program to take root. Being part of the interview team, he said, was a thrill.

“They’re all very serious and brilliant people, and they are looking forward to just having quiet time to focus on making what they want to make,” he said. “These are professional artists so they are serious about what they do, they’re eager to be here and participate in the community.”

Kern said the artists will have any portion of the mill not under construction available for inspiration and their use as a workplace.

For now, the local artist-in-residence program will see just one artist working at a time.
“Right now, we’re set up for one at a time,” Kern said. “We’d like to explore maybe growing it into something a little more cohort-driven down the road, but right now, that’s what we have.”

Anstruther plans to arrive in late May and stay a month. Both Hong and Anstruther chose the lengths of their stay, Kern said, noting they were given a window of between four and seven weeks.

The second application series recently closed and Kern, along with others who are a part of the Prairie Ronde Artist Residency program, are in the midst of evaluating their portfolios and bodies of work.

Schoolcraft Girl Scouts Give Back to Their Community

sch-girl-scouts.jpg
Girls in the Troop 80302, front row, from left: Jozie Rafferty, Sienna Lego, Abby Hulinek, Christina Standish, Ella Flinton. Back row, from left: Adele DeVries, Sophie Orton, Brenna McDonald. Adults in the back row, from left: Nancy Rafferty, Eagle’s Nest; Peg Crissman, Eagle’s Nest; Cindy Miller, Harding’s; Jan McNally, Eagle’s Nest; Faye VanRavenswaay, Schoolcraft Library. Not pictured: Leaders Toni Rafferty and Nikki Hulinek.

By Sue Moore

The Schoolcraft Girl Scout Troop 80302 recently completed a project that earned them a Bronze Award, the highest they could receive at the Junior Girl Scout level. This award is intended to encourage scouts to explore their community and its needs. There are eight girls in the troop, all in 5th grade in Schoolcraft.

First, they found a need at the Eagles Nest food pantry. They decided they could help by replacing the cardboard boxes that held food donations for the pantry at Harding’s Market and the Schoolcraft Community Library. They built two sturdy wooden boxes to replace the cardboard ones that didn’t hold much weight and weren’t very attractive.

To get the project started, they met with Jan McNally and Peg Crissman, who help out with the food pantry each week, to find out what was needed. The girls drew up plans after visiting both sites to see how big they could build the collection boxes needed to hold all the food donations placed in them.

They wrote a letter to Big C Lumber looking for help with blueprints and building the boxes. Big C graciously donated all the lumber and half off on the purple and yellow paint needed to make them in Schoolcraft colors, according to scout leader Toni Rafferty. By painting them, the girls thought the boxes would be more obvious to the public and thus draw more food donations. The rest of the supplies were purchased at Big C and B&G Discount. A scout dad helped to build the boxes, teaching the girls how to use a variety of tools.

The girls spent 160 plus hours in meetings, planning, purchasing, working and presenting this project Rafferty pointed out. Both boxes made it to their new homes after being shown to the Schoolcraft School Board at its March meeting.

Mending Day in Schoolcraft

mending pic
DeMaris Holmes helps with the mending.

The second Mending Marathon Day by the Schoolcraft United Methodist Women’s group was so successful members have decided on another one on Saturday, April 14 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at the church’s Fellowship Hall on N. Grand Street. Here, DeMaris Holmes studies a stocking that she was going to mend when the second event was held last fall. The marathon is part of the church women’s sharing talents commitment. They don’t charge for the service, but accept donations for the group’s children’s camp scholarships, Judy Oliphant said. She is chairing the Mending Day this spring and encourages anyone in the community to bring in clothes with a rip or tear in need of mending.

Southwest Michigan Second Annual Library Hop in April

By Eric Hansen, Vicksburg District Library’s head of circulation and reference

The Annual Library Hop is a way to introduce people to area libraries and the programs each library offers. Each participating library has planned special events during the month of April. Schoolcraft Community Library is presenting a Storybook Walk in its Reading Garden all month; Mendon Township Library has an all-month display featuring Madam Marantette, world renowned horsewoman; and Three Rivers Public Library has a Paint & Pour Craft Project one day, and two author visits scheduled. Libraries offer events throughout the year that are open to everyone. They host authors, artists, hobbyists, informational meetings, children’s programs and events for teens, to list a few.

The Library Hop provides a wonderful opportunity to plan road trips with family or friends in Southwest Michigan. The first week of the Library Hop coincides with the Vicksburg Community Schools Spring Break and any student who is enjoying a vacation would benefit from this a great opportunity to be educated and entertained.

The Library Hop is a great way to showcase the charm of small communities. There are interesting shops and restaurants in each location. These communities have beautiful parks which would be great places to have a picnic. And there is history: Did you know that the harvester-thrasher combine was invented by one of the first settlers in Climax? Did you know that at least two of the communities represented were part of the Underground Railroad?

This is the Second Annual Library Hop coordinated by Linda Adams, the office and community engagement manager at the Vicksburg District Library. It occurs from April 1 through 30.

Adams and one of her friends devised the idea for this program as they visited local quilting stores for their Quilting Hops.

Patrons can pick up a “passport” at one of local participating libraries. Each participating library has a page in the passport. Each will stamp their page showing their library was visited.

The program has grown significantly since last year, from 11 to 19 participating libraries. It has been a team effort, with Todd Reed of Sturgis District Library creating a website available at LibraryHop.org, and Perri Saunders of White Pigeon Township Library creating a library “Passport” for the participating locations. There is also a Facebook page highlighting the special April events.

Participating libraries are: Athens Community Library, Burr Oak Township Library, Cass County District Library, Colon Township Library, Comstock Township Library, Constantine Township Library, Dowagiac Community Library, Galesburg-Charleston Memorial Library, Lawrence Memorial Library – Climax, Wood Memorial Library, Marcellus Township, McKay Library, Augusta-Ross Township, Mendon Township Library, Nottawa Township Library, Richland Community Library, Schoolcraft Community Library, Sturgis District Library, Three Rivers Public Library, Vicksburg District Library, and White Pigeon Township Library.

Patrons can find the websites and addresses for each library at the Library Hop website at libraryhop.org/destinations.html.