Letters

Letters 08-03-2015

Real Brownfields Deserve Dollars I read with interest the story on Brownfield development dollars in the July 20 issue. I applaud Dan Lathrop and other county commissioners who voted “No” on the Randolph Street project...

Hopping Mad Carlin Smith is hopping mad (“Will You Get Mad With Me?” 7-20-15). Somebody filed a fraudulent return using his identity, and he’s not alone. The AP estimates the government “pays more than $5 billion annually in fraudulent tax refunds.” Well, many of us have been hopping mad for years. This is because the number one tool Congress has used to fix this problem has been to cut the IRS budget –by $1.2 billion in the last 5 years...

Just Grumbling, No Solutions Mark Pontoni’s grumblings [recent Northern Express column] tell us much about him and virtually nothing about those he chooses to denigrate. We do learn that Pontoni may be the perfect political candidate. He’s arrogant, opinionated and obviously dimwitted...

A Racist Symbol I have to respond to Gordon Lee Dean’s letter claiming that the confederate battle flag is just a symbol of southern heritage and should not be banned from state displays. The heritage it represents was the treasonous effort to continue slavery by seceding from a democratic nation unwilling to maintain such a consummate evil...

Not So Thanks I would like to thank the individual who ran into and knocked over my Triumph motorcycle while it was parked at Lowe’s in TC on Friday the 24th. The $3,000 worth of damage was greatly appreciated. The big dent in the gas tank under the completely destroyed chrome badge was an especially nice touch...

Home · Articles · News · Art · Gene Jenneman
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Gene Jenneman

Rick Coates - May 31st, 2011
Gene Jenneman : and Dennos Museum Celebrate 20 Years
By Rick Coates
One of the first stories the Northern Express covered in 1991 was the opening of the Dennos Museum Center on the campus of Northwestern Michigan College. Gene Jenneman has served as executive director ever since, and he took time via Skype to be interviewed while at a museum conference in South Korea. Jenneman reflected on the past 20 years of the museum and the Milliken Auditorium, its importance to the region and some thoughts on the future.

Northern Express:  Why are you in South Korea?
Gene Jenneman: I was invited to speak at the first Yeongwol Yonsei Forum: A World of Museums in Yeongwol, South Korea (near Seoul).
Yeongwol is a community seeking to revitalize its economy through the development of an extensive number of museums on various subjects, becoming Korea’s Museum City. This project was begun in 2005. The purpose of this forum is, in part, to assess the project to date. The focus in Yeongwol has been to develop museums with single collections. 
When the Dennos was created there was a need to address the integration of the college’s unique collection of Inuit art into the overall program of the museum. I have  been invited to speak on the development of the Dennos as a community museum that serves the purpose of being a specialized museum of Inuit art, while offering a much broader range of programming. This trip and my visit to China points to how the Dennos has become a global institution. 

NE: You went to China as well?
    Jenneman: Yes, you do not fly this far for a three-day event. The Dennos has developed cultural relations here in China for both visual and performing arts. I met with several potential performers and with perspective partners for future projects at the Dennos. 

NE: Okay, let’s go back in time. You have been the Dennos’ only executive director; reflect a little on those first years on the job.
Jenneman: I arrived in August of 1988 and started working with the architect to take the initial concept for the building and to modify it for the current collections. I spent those first few years (prior to the Dennos’ opening) working on developing collections and the vision of the museum to fit the community expectations.

NE: Certainly the Milliken Auditorium was a big part of the planning process.
Jenneman: Well this actually is somewhat of a funny story. The Milliken was originally supposed to be a 250-seat lecture hall, not the performing arts venue that it became. 
Just two weeks after I was hired there was a major tribute dinner honoring Bill and Helen Milliken. The State of Michigan granted $500,000 to name this lecture hall in honor of the Millikens. So I bought two $100 tickets and hadn’t even received my first paycheck yet. The brochure on the tables at the tribute dinner stated that the auditorium was going to be 350 seats, not 250. So I immediately began thinking that the stage would need to be expanded and that a performing arts venue would be a nice addition and we raised an additional million dollars and expanded the project. In my opinion it was among the best things to have happened to the project.

NE: What has the Dennos Museum Center meant to the community?
Jenneman: I think the biggest thing is that prior to the Dennos this area had no capacity within the community to bring the kind of exhibitions that would eventually come. No one was really able to envision what that exactly would mean when we opened the doors. 
My feeling from day one right up until this day was that the Dennos should enhance the cultural experience of the region rather than recycle it. By that I mean we should be constantly bringing things that are new to the community, rather than already showing what exists in the community. 
Certainly, early on having the Van Gogh self portrait was big for us. We had thousands of visitors and the big hype was the armed guard standing watch. That really set the tone for our potential. Our partnership with the Detroit Institute of the Arts over the years has been so valuable. I think another big thing we never imagined 20 years ago was how global the Dennos Museum would become. I am in South Korea talking about the Dennos and I was just in China for a second time talking about the Dennos. 

NE: Have you accomplished what you set out to do 20 years ago?
Jenneman: Yes and then some. I think in many ways we have exceeded the community’s expectations in regard to what we have accomplished.I have always been a risk taker and continue to be so, and when you take risks, hopefully you are successful most of the time. I think by taking that approach we end up with a far more interesting institution. I believe that when you look back over the past 20 years at the range of exhibitions and performers I believe that we have provided a very rich cultural experience for the region. 

The complete Gene Jenneman interview is online at www.northernexpress.com  Jenneman addresses the challenges the cultural arts face today including the major funding cuts;  details on his trip to China;  the importance of the various collections; early protests and objections to the museum; the musical line up for the 2011/12 performing arts season; and the future of the museum as well as his pending retirement.
 
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