Letters 11-23-2015

Cheering From Petoskey While red-eyed rats boil fanatically up from the ancient sewers of Paris to feast on pools of French blood, at the G20 meeting the farcical pied piper of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue thrusts a bony finger at the president of the Russian Federation and yells: “liberté, égalité, fraternité, Clinton, Kerry--Obamaism!”

The Other Mothers And Fathers Regarding the very nice recent article on “The First Lady of Yoga,” I have taken many classes with Sandy Carden, and I consider her to be a great teacher. However, I feel the article is remiss to not even give acknowledgement to other very important yoga influences in northern Michigan...

Drop The Blue Angels The last time I went to the National Cherry Festival, I picked the wrong day. The Blue Angels were forcing everyone to duck and cover from the earsplitting cacophony overhead...

Real Advice For The Sick In the Nov. 16 article “Flu Fighters,” author Kristi Kates fails to mention the most basic tool in our arsenal during Influenza season... the flu vaccine! I understand you might be afraid of being the victim of Jenny McCarthyism, but the science is there...

Keeping Traverse City in the Dark Our environment is our greatest asset. It sustains our lives; it drives our economy. We ignore it at our peril. Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) has submitted letters of concern to both the city commission and planning commission regarding the proposed 9-story buildings on Pine Street. We have requested an independent environmental assessment with clear answers before a land use permit is granted...

All About Them Another cartoon by Jen Sorensen that brings out the truth! Most of her cartoons are too slanted in a Socialist manner, but when she gets it correct, she hits the nail on the target! “Arizona is the first state to put a 12-month lifetime limit on welfare benefits.” That quote is in the opening panel... 

Unfair To County Employees It appears that the commissioners of Grand Traverse County will seek to remedy a shortfall in the 2016 budget by instituting cuts in expenditures, the most notable the reduction of contributions to various insurance benefits in place for county employees. As one example, the county’s contributions to health insurance premiums will decrease from ten to six percent in 2016. What this means, of course, is that if a county employee wishes to maintain coverage at the current level next year, the employee will have to come up with the difference...

Up, Not Out I would like to congratulate the Traverse City Planning Commission on their decision to approve the River West development. Traverse City will either grow up or grow out. For countless reasons, up is better than out. Or do we enjoy such things as traffic congestion and replacing wooded hillsides with hideous spectacles like the one behind Tom’s West Bay. At least that one is on the edge of town as opposed to in the formerly beautiful rolling meadows of Acme Township...

Lessons In Winning War I am saddened to hear the response of so many of legislators tasked with keeping our country safe. I listen and wonder if they know what “winning” this kind of conflict requires or even means? Did we win in Korea? Did we win in Vietnam? Are we winning in Afghanistan? How is Israel winning against the Palestinians? Will they “take out” Hezbollah...

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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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