Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

Home · Articles · News · Art · Artistic Found ations... Rich...
. . . .

Artistic Found ations... Rich Branstrom

Kristi Kates - April 20th, 2009
Artistic “Found”ations
The Recycled Art of Ritch Branstrom

By Kristi Kates

If you live in or visit Northern Michigan, chances are you’ve seen the work of Rapid River ‘found object’ artist Ritch Branstrom. In addition to the traditional artist venues, such as galleries and festivals, Branstrom’s creations are also a big part of Emmet County’s Recycling Program.
Does “Emmet the Recycling Robot” ring a bell? That’s right - Branstrom is the talent behind the distinctive “Ashcan Aliens” - all named Emmet, although they each have a different appearance - that are poised next to five of the county’s recycling centers. The sculptures draw attention to the informative recycling signs at the drop-off sites. But the “Emmets” are only the tip of the artwork where Branstrom’s work is concerned.

Born in Detroit to a mechanic father, Branstrom inherited several uncles who were home builders, and he grew up watching all of them “getting things done,” as he puts it.
“When I was growing up, I just started taking things apart,” he says, “watches, radios, speedometers, anything I got my hands on. I put a toolbox on my tricycle, moved onto modifying bikes and building forts, and then as I got older, cutting up cars and trucks. I always had parts left over, and sometimes... they looked like things.”
Branstrom attempted school, attending Michigan Tech for a while; but a .04 GPA made him wonder if he was cut out for the traditional education system. He soon found out it wasn’t school itself, but choice of classes; he left Michigan Tech for NMU, and turned his GPA from a .04 to a 4.0 by taking every studio class he could, from jewelry and blacksmithing to illustration, woodworking and ceramics. Soon, his artistic sensibilities began to find their place.
Branstrom started out crafting earrings out of the unfortunate material of deer hooves. “People thought they were coral, or shell, and they were intrigued - I mean, the earrings were beautiful - but after people discovered what they were made out of, they weren’t so thrilled,” he laughs. “It was a learning experience.”
After a few additional experiments with crafting portable wooden chairs, Branstrom found himself gravitating towards found objects, much like the leftovers from the earlier deconstructions of his youth. But he still lacked a focus.
“The major thing that really pushed me into the found object sculptures was that my father got brain cancer, and I was only one of the four sons that didn’t have a job - thus I didn’t have a ‘life,”’ he explains, “so I spent a year helping out my mother everyday, and making sculpture out in the garage the rest of the time. That’s when it really started; that was some of my best work.”

For the past 20 years, Branstrom has been collecting things: “Anything that has potential,” he says. He finds things alongside the road, on the beach, in the woods; people bring him random objects, and he himself collects car hoods, chrome bumpers, and old farm equipment. What other people might think of as trash, Branstrom - to use a cliched phrase - turns into treasure.
Someone of his most popular art objects are his quirky “can fish,” which are made from soup, pop, or beer cans, and are given personality through their bottlecap eyes and scavenged material fins.
“I create a lot of different work, but the fish have proven to be the most popular,” Branstrom says, “they are a prime example of utilizing the landscape of upper Michigan as inspiration, and a source of raw material; fishing is a way of life for many, and castoff cans are an abundant natural resource in the U.P. I’m just using what’s readily available, and making what I see.”
Branstrom’s vision extends well beyond the Emmets and the fish. The first large pieces he ever worked on were two worms - one 65 feet and one 20 feet - made out of mining equipment tires in Marquette. They were his first large-scale works, and still reside in the Picnic Rocks Park.
In addition to the worms, there are plenty of other art pieces; Branstrom’s constructed a giant canoe out of found metal objects - including a quartered-up auxillary fuel tank from a WWII bomber, license plates, leftover chunks of stamped ceiling, and metal shelving - assembling the canoe utilizing the techniques used in building a traditional birch bark canoe.
He’s created an entire “heavy metal sax band” (pun intended) of life-size metal characters.
And he just had a proposal accepted for a piece of public art that will be displayed in Escanaba - a larger-than-life iron buck deer, to coincide with the native language translation of Escanaba as “land of the red buck.”
As far as Branstrom’s connection with Emmet County, that project began to take shape over 10 years ago, when Branstrom was living for a time in Chicago.

“I sold a metal flying bird of prey to a man who said it was a gift for his daughter who lived in Michigan,” he explains, “he said she was crazy about recycling and would really like it. A few years later I was exhibiting at Blissfest when I met the daughter, Elisa Seltzer; it turned out she worked for Emmet County as head of the waste management program, so she really WAS crazy about recycling.”
The following year, Emmet County held a call for entries for recycling robots; Branstrom’s artistic proposal was accepted - all five Emmet robots, plus one tire man. The robots stand sentry at the recycling bins, and have proved to be both helpful in drawing attention to recycling, and a photo draw for tourists and residents alike.
The Emmet robots helped garner more attention for Branstrom’s work. In addition to his pieces being displayed at the Emmet County recycling centers, he also has pieces at the Hramiec Hoffman Gallery in Harbor Springs, and recently started showing at the Michigan Artists Gallery in Suttons Bay. He’s been a returning artist at Blissfest, and will also appear at the Wheatland Music Festival in September 2009.

Branstrom never seems to stop moving or creating his unique artwork, and always seems to be developing new and more challenging ideas for his own projects. He draws inspiration from “all kinds of things - mythology, popular culture, poems,” or simply because he’ll find something and it will remind him of something else. But perhaps his biggest project to date is his own homestead.
“My homestead is an ongoing project which I’ve been collecting material for and working on since 1994,” he says. “My home is embellished with material from nearly everyone and everything around me. I operate like the hermit crab, that sticks all kinds of debris together to create its domicile - adhoc architecture, for a specific use, purpose, or situation. That’s been a dream of mine since childhood - to create my own home.” (Adhoc Workshop also being the name of Branstrom’s studio in downtown Rapid River.)
“As far as a dream as of late, I’ve been dreaming of having a studio set up where I could employ and provide things to do for friends who want to help and work. I’ve been putting together a can fish factory - thanks to a poor economy, I have a number of friends who are unemployed and want to help out. So my major dream of being able to work with and help my friends, as well as being organized and increasing production, is becoming a reality. That’s what is really cool.”

What’s also really cool is that, especially in this day and age of overconsumption and dwindling resources, Branstrom has honed his own way of crafting unusual and striking artwork that reuses, recycles, and repurposes things that would often otherwise go completely to waste. But he remains humble in his approach, and simply melds his artwork and his recycling into his everyday life, as more of us probably should.
“Found art is becoming more prevalent, I guess, because recycling is becoming more mainstream,” he says, “so in some ways, found art is becoming the new ‘hot’ thing. But for me, it’s what I do. I enjoy it. There is no separation between life and work; it is all one,” he chuckles, “I have a hard time going to the store for groceries, and not picking up some object along the way.”

Find out more about Ritch Branstrom’s artwork online at www.adhocworkshop.com.

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5