Letters

Letters 08-31-2015

Inalienable Rights This is a response to the “No More State Theatre” in your August 24th edition. I think I will not be the only response to this pathetic and narrow-minded letter that seems rather out of place in the northern Michigan that I know. To think we will not be getting your 25 cents for the movie you refused to see, but more importantly we will be without your “two cents” on your thoughts of a marriage at the State Theatre...

Enthusiastically Democratic Since I was one of the approximately 160 people present at when Senator Debbie Stabenow spoke on August 14 in Charlevoix, I was surprised to read in a letter to Northern Express that there was a “rather muted” response to Debbie’s announcement that she has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president...

Not Hurting I surely think the State Theatre will survive not having the homophobic presence of Colleen Smith and her family attend any matinees. I think “Ms.” Smith might also want to make sure that any medical personnel, bank staff, grocery store staff, waiters and/or waitress, etc. are not homosexual before accepting any service or product from them...

Stay Home I did not know whether to laugh or cry when I read the letter of the extremely homophobic, “disgusted” writer. She now refuses to patronize the State Theatre because she evidently feels that its confines have been poisoned by the gay wedding ceremony held there...

Keep Away In response to Colleen Smith of Cadillac who refused to bring her family to the State Theatre because there was a gay wedding there: Keep your 25 cents and your family out of Traverse City...

Celebrating Moore And A Theatre I was 10 years old when I had the privilege to see my first film at the State Theatre. I will never forget that experience. The screen was almost the size of my bedroom I shared with my older sister. The bursting sounds made me believe I was part of the film...

Outdated Thinking This letter is in response to Colleen Smith. She made public her choice to no longer go to the State Theater due to the fact that “some homosexuals” got married there. I’m not outraged by her choice; we don’t need any more hateful, self-righteous bigots in our town. She can keep her 25 cents...

Mackinac Pipeline Must Be Shut Down Crude oil flowing through Enbridge’s 60-yearold pipeline beneath the Mackinac Straits and the largest collection of fresh water on the planet should be a serious concern for every resident of the USA and Canada. Enbridge has a very “accident” prone track record...

Your Rights To Colleen, who wrote about the State Theatre: Let me thank you for sharing your views; I think most of us are well in support of the first amendment, because as you know- it gives everyone the opportunity to express their opinions. I also wanted to thank Northern Express for not shutting down these types of letters right at the source but rather giving the community a platform for education...

No Role Model [Fascinating Person from last week’s issue] Jada quoted: “I want to be a role model for girls who are interested in being in the outdoors.” I enjoy being in the outdoors, but I don’t want to kill animals for trophy...

Home · Articles · News · Art · Sculpting a life: Jim...
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Sculpting a life: Jim Miller-Melberg

Carina Hume - September 22nd, 2008
Walk into Petoskey’s Crooked Tree Arts Center and you’ll think you’ve walked into a sculpture garden. Taking over the art center entrance and Edith Gilbert Gallery is an in-your-face art installation by sculptor Jim Miller-Melberg. With vivid colors, stark whites and eye-catching forms, this exhibit is striking enough to captivate even the youngest child.
Follow Miller-Melberg’s life through early sketches – including figures, nature and sculptural concepts – maquettes, small-scale sculpture from which larger pieces evolve, and the finished product, through November 15, in the exhibit, titled “Jim Miller-Melberg: An autobiography in drawings & sculpture, 1946-2008.”
Nearly 100 working sketches and photos of finished outdoor sculptures are framed in collages on the walls, combined with 40 pieces of sculpture, including sculpture in the round and relief sculptures (three-dimensional wall pieces).

AN ARTIST’S VISION
The concept for the sculpture display was born four years ago.
“I showed [Gail DeMeyere, CTAC visual arts director] some of my work to familiarize her with what I was doing, and she thought it would make a very good educational exhibit,” says Miller-Melberg. “So, we decided …that we would make a kind of autobiography of the exhibit, showing drawings and the development of a sculptor’s life, in a sense.”
A Birmingham resident, Miller-Melberg’s outdoor sculpture, “Two Figures,” is also a part of CTAC’s Art in Public Places, sponsored by Moran Iron Works and the Frey Foundation. The project displays seven pieces of massive outdoor art in Northern Michigan communities on a rotating basis.
For close to 20 years, Miller-Melberg designed and manufactured playground sculptures, such as basketball hoop supports, precast turtles and camels, creating a company called Form, Inc. Sold in 1981 to the Wausau Tile Company in Wisconsin, the business still makes playground sculptures, to this day.
“My turtle, one of my products I designed when I was still teaching at the University of Michigan, in probably 1959,” says Miller-Melberg, “was donated by the company who is now making my products, and it’s over in the (Petoskey) library park. It’s part of the exhibit, in a sense.”
One hundred turtles have been shipped to China recently, and 40 more camels, originally a commission – a picture of them is part of the exhibit – have just been shipped to Saudi Arabia.

HANDS-ON EDUCATION
At age 79, Miller-Melberg has been creating art most of his life. “My Finnish grandfather was a painter,” he says, “and somehow or other it was always encouraged, and I started drawing when I was probably old enough to hold a pencil.”
He credits his father with giving him his early sculpting skills.
“My father was a pattern-maker in Detroit,” explains Miller-Melberg, “and he had his own small shop. He had four sons and we were all trained in the pattern-making business [which] involved woodworking, working with foundry (casting metals), working with wax, working with various materials…I think that’s how I got my start, just working in the woodshop since I was about seven years old.”
Although he’s received art instruction at the University of Michigan, Wayne State University, Cranbrook Academy of Art, Ecole de la Grand Chaumiere in Paris and pursued independent study in England and France, Miller-Melberg’s sculpting education is unconventional.
“I love the idea of universities, because you meet so many different kinds of people,” he says, “but I think that my basic education was my own interest in the work, visiting museums, traveling in Europe – in England, France, Italy – and just seeing all the wonderful things that had been done through the ages. So that’s an education, just looking, and observing, reading.”

A SCULPTOR’S LIFE
Fortunate to have sustained a sculpting career, Miller-Melberg understands that making a living as an artist is challenging.
“It’s very, very difficult to make a living being a sculptor, but that was always my intention. I had never intended to teach, so though I taught for three-and-a-half years at the University of Michigan, it was sort of an aberration. I had always thought artists and sculptors and painters should make a living doing their work.”
“I started out doing mostly woodcarvings…but because of my background as a pattern-maker, I’ve done cast iron, cast aluminum, cast bronze…modern materials, such as plastic, fiberglass materials, plaster. The only thing I’ve not done is stone carving, which I had hoped to do at one time,” admits Miller-Melberg.
“I think I’m best at carving, but I do a lot of modeling, too. Obviously, you have to model in clay and I model in wax, too, for bronze casting, but I’m pretty adept at most materials.”
Ideas for new pieces come to Miller-Melberg from nature and observation, and he credits his former wife – a concert pianist while she was alive – with inspiring him.
“What gives me the greatest pleasure is kind of inventing new things, new shapes, new ideas,” he says, “but, still, I love looking at other people’s work, because you learn from looking.”
“I do a lot of drawing from nature,” he says. “I do small sculpture, little studies in wax; if they’re good I have them cast in bronze. I’ve been working on some of those, too.”
His advice for those just starting out? “The whole art world is in turmoil,” he says. “There’s all kinds of things in the world to look at. I’m concerned that maybe there’s not enough emphasis on skills – basic skills – like carving, putting things together with your hands, working with your hands. There’s a lot of computer work done now, which is very nice and very interesting, but I think it’s very essential that people start doing things again with their hands.”

WHY VISIT THE EXHIBIT?
“I think it’s interesting to see the life of a sculptor,” says Miller-Melberg. “How one develops from a very early age – one drawing dates back to when I was 16 or 17 years old – and some of the relief sculpture, I was about the same age. And also, I think it’s interesting because I’ve done such a variety of things; I attempted to bring sculpture to public life through sculptures for playgrounds and street furniture.”
“[People] should see it,” Miller-Melberg finishes, with a laugh, “because I’m the only person in Michigan who shipped camels to Saudi Arabia.”
Visit the Crooked Tree Arts Center in downtown Petoskey, now through November 15 to check out Jim Miller-Melberg’s autobiographical sculpture exhibit. Hours are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission is free. For more information visit www.crookedtree.org or call
231-347-4337.

 
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