Tag Archives: Old Town

LANSING: Lookin’ Around….

24 Aug

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We’re in the north end of Michigan’s capitol city, Lansing, today the Old Town District is hosting ScrapFest. Here’s how it works; back in June teams had one hour to collect up to 500 lbs of scrap from a local facility, then they have about two weeks to create their sculpture, made entirely of scrap metal. During ScrapFest pieces are displayed and auctioned off, 40% of the proceeds go to the artists, the rest is donated to the Old Town Commercial Association. It’s pretty amazing, check it out…

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The day promises to be a hot one, we arrive just as the festival opens; Turner street has been closed to traffic, artist’s tents line the street, sidewalk cafes are overflowing with diners, metal sculptures of varying heights and widths fill the remainder of the street. My eyes follow the finger of a woman pointing to someone in the distance, I zero in on the man wearing hoof shoes and a metal framed horse head for a hat. There’s so much to look at I find myself wandering with no real purpose or plan. Some sculptures are electrified, a couple of cables and a car battery do the trick. A ‘painting’ sits on an easel, look closely to see the city skyline, a church steeple, the moon and the stars, a second one features a bridge–is that the Mackinac? Kris and I marvel at the towering figure in front of us; with the turn of the wheel his arms, hands and fingers come to life.

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There’s a sculpture of a crane with a scene of cat tails that would look fabulous in my back yard. A large tree is cloaked in lovely metal flowers, there’s a piece that reminds me of antique Tiffany lamps; green glass and metal form a beautiful canopy of leaves. Each sculpture is unique, so creative, it’s hard to believe the components came from a scrap pile. The angel is getting a lot of attention,her stainless steel feathered wings are magnificent. I like the giant mobile-looking piece, do you remember the game Tip-It? That’s what I thought of when I saw it. Lots of people are taking pictures of the robot DJ with his turntables, how about the candle-powered light bulb, the Knight with his chariot, the silhouette of the horse, the gorgeous fire pit, which one would you bid on?

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We pass booths selling mini-sculptures, coasters, key chains, clothing. A line is forming at the food truck, the band is getting ready to play. Kids are making crafts, the street is filling up curious pedestrians. We’re hot and thirsty, Bloom Coffee Roasters is just up the street. Housed in an attractive orange-brick building, the small space serves as a neighborhood gathering spot offering coffee drinks from beans roasted in-house. Folks at the counter are on a first-name basis with the staff, shelves hold bags of freshly roasted beans, mugs and t-shirts. A couple of iced coffees will do the trick for us.

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Back outside the street is jam-packed with people, we make our way from Turner to Grand River on the way back to the car. Kris spots some interesting things through the window of The Gallery In Old Town so we go inside. Turns out the Gallery is an Estate Liquidator, they hold auctions and what they have left they bring to the shop to sell off, at really good prices. This particular lot had a bunch of vintage things; a funky organ, kitchen items from the 40’s and 50’s as well as some pop-style light fixtures. This is a good place to check out from time to time, you never know what you might find. A quick stop on the bridge gives a nice view of the Grand River, a lone fisherman has this part of the river to himself. 

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With art on our minds we drive over to the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum on the campus of Michigan State University. You can’t miss the building; it’s the striking pleated stainless steel and glass building visible from Grand River. Designed by architect Zaha Hadid, her buildings are getting a lot of attention since her death in 2016. The Iraqui-British architect was the first woman to receive the Pritzker Prize, she was the first and only woman to be awarded the Royal Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects and she was sometimes called the “Queen of the Curve”. I googled her to see her other buildings before I wrote this, she certainly had a way with geometry, I think her buildings are spectacular! The Broad is a parallelogram-shaped building with a distinct  lean, the structure continually changes color depending on the time of day and the angle of the sun. We enter through the west entrance into the Passage Gallery, looking around I am surrounded by curly fries, Kris corrects me, spaghetti, he says. The exhibit is called Toiletpaper Paradise, based on the magazine TOILETPAPER. “Domestic settings are re-imagined as psychedelic, subversive montages vignettes”, I’d say that sums it up. It’s pretty groovy, large pieces hang on the walls, rugs are scattered on the floor; the familiar in an unfamiliar way.

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Around the corner is a big silver tent, a docent leads us inside, a series of red light bulbs illuminate the space, a pulsing rhythm emits from speakers, live crickets chirp in their own rhythm. The docent demonstrates how the crickets will change their chirps as she alters the sound coming from the speakers. We amble through galleries, the next exhibit is The Transported Man, here ordinary objects become not-so-ordinary when you read the additional information about them. A mysterious floating table, a bar of liposuction soap, I like the elephant’s trick, looks like the cat had too much helium…a festival of the odd. We see a wall of windows, each a different color, notable artwork hangs on a cranberry-colored wall. As much as we like contemporary art, the building itself is the main attraction for us. The staircase seems to float, every hallway leads to something unexpected, it’s like an extremely sophisticated fun house.

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LANSING: Old Town & More

14 Jul

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We are in Michigan’s capital city, Lansing, interestingly enough, Detroit was originally the capital of Michigan. Due to concerns over Detroit’s location, such as its proximity to Canada and the desire for a more central location, Lansing became the capital in 1847. The city became an industrial hub with the founding of Olds Motor Vehicles in 1897; factories produced auto bodies, wheels and parts, Lansing produced Oldsmobiles until 2004. The city also manufactured plows and other agricultural tools; the Lower Village Town, now called Old Town specialized in making these tools, the oldest of Lansing’s villages, the first home in was built here in 1843. Factories closed, jobs disappeared, beautiful Victorian buildings were abandoned,Old Town fell on hard times. As is the case with many urban areas across the country these days, new life has reclaimed this charming district, turning it into a destination with public art, eateries, boutiques and galleries. Let’s look around.

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We park on Turner, fancy gold lettering fills a windowpane advertising the Creole Coffee Company, inside, diners scoop up forkfuls of shrimp and grits, biscuits and gravy, eggs benedict. We approach the counter, order two cold brew coffees to go and check out the space while we wait. Vintage signs hang on exposed brick walls, antique-looking lighting illuminates the dining area. This restaurant is part of the Potent Potables Project, a group of 3 men changing the face of dining in Lansing. This establishment serves breakfast and lunch daily from 8 am – 2 pm, oh, and the coffee rocks. Walking to the end of the block we notice murals and sculptures, at the corner we make a left on Grand River.

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Up a ways at N. Cedar is Preuss Pets, the coolest pet shop we’ve ever been to and always worth a visit. The 22,000 sq. ft. building is jam-packed with gerbils, ferrets, guinea pigs, reptiles, fish and birds. Displays are creative like the lime green, blue and orange school bus with the frog at the wheel or the red convertible atop the aquarium supplies. I look around from cage to cage, the gerbil is taking a break from running on his wheel to get a drink, little brown bunnies are taking a nap. The fish section is huge, colorful fresh and saltwater fish glide through the water, each aquarium is unique, you can buy live coral, the shapes and colors are amazing. A small parrot is doing gymnastics on his perch, canaries sing songs, a cockatoo greets me with a ‘hello’, I bid him farewell and we’re off. The Old Town General Store is filled with Michigan goodies from beer and wine to gourmet food and merchandise. Metro Retro is a collection of funky items both new and vintage, the old Glamour magazine covers made into wall hangings are neat-o. 

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Architecture is purely Victorian, lovely buildings with ornate brick and trim make up the streetscape, hanging planters overflow with petunias that perfume the air, banners give a shout out to Old Town. We make a left at the Brenke Fish Ladder, built in 1981 it allows fish swimming up the Grand River to bypass the dam. The river is also a popular spot for fishing, catfish, carp and sunfish all call the river home. The Lansing River Trail invites pedestrians to stroll alongside the mighty Grand, Michigan’s longest river; looks like the turtles are sunbathing today.

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Back on Turner we head to Meat BBQ for a late lunch. Seated on the patio we sip on cold soft drinks under the afternoon sun, a large platter of nachos arrives: tortilla chips bear the weight of pulled pork, bacon, brisket, bbq sauce, cheese, onion, tomato, jalapeno, avocado and a drizzle of sour cream, Dee-licious! Though the nachos really would have been enough we added on sides of blue cheese potato salad, yum, and sweet and spicy cole slaw, good. The bar at The Creole is open and it’s Happy Hour. The restaurant doesn’t open until 5 pm, so we have the place to ourselves. Kris orders an Old Fashion, it’s the French 75 (champagne, lemon, gin) for me. We nurse our cocktails in the charming, air-conditioned, New Orleans-like space; the bartender tells us about the building which is over 100 years old. The Creole takes up the other side of the Creole Coffee Company and is also under the Potent Potables group. The lease actually states the walls cannot be changed, they are the work of former Creole Gallery owner Robert Busby, love that! We talk about Old Town, Detroit, food, craft cocktails and the Detroit City FC, a good time was had by all…..

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Next we pop in and out of independent shops that line the district; Craig Mitchell Smith has a beautiful array of glass art pieces, we walk through to Bradley’s Home and Garden with its modern furnishings, Lead Head Glass terrariums, Tessino jewelry and Lori Mitchell figures. October Moon is a great gift shop with a little bit of everything; specialty food items, linens, dishes, handbags and unique cards. Lamb’s Gate Antiques is filled with a wide variety of cool pieces; lamps, dishes, collectibles, furniture, toys– I like the sweet old ceramic figurines.  We have come full circle, the Jeep awaits.

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Our last stop for the day is the WJ Beal Botanical Garden on the grounds of MSU in East Lansing. Founded in 1873 I read that this is the oldest, continuously operated, university  garden in the country. Prof. Beal established the garden as an outdoor teaching and research laboratory. We are on campus following W Circle Dr, we park near the library, Beaumont Tower looms in the distance. Walking past the fountain we come to the entrance of the garden, the metal gate and surrounding fence look straight out of a fairy tale. A pergola offers shade to visitors and plants alike, benches invite passing pedestrians to sit for a while. Grassy paths run between garden beds, plants are planted in collections of economic, systematic, landscape and ecological groupings–I honestly don’t know what any of that means, but they sure are pretty to look at!

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Familiar flowers like Phlox, Bee Balm, Cosmos, Allium, Foxglove are in full bloom, a leafy shrub is covered in small, white flower balls, bees are busy at work collecting pollen, the butterflies are crazy about them too. Flowers vary from spikes and individual clusters to cone-shaped and narrow-petals; all stages are represented from bud to finished bloom. A mirror-like pond reflects the attractive surroundings, dappled sunlight reaches through trees onto the well-maintained lawn. We spy a bunny in the shade having an afternoon snack, a butterfly reading a plant label, daylillies in assorted colors and a gazebo offering us a panoramic view of the grounds; a peaceful respite tucked away in the big city. We’re keeping our eye on Lansing, so much happening in Old Town, businesses are starting to get a foothold in the new R E O Town district too, we’ll keep you updated.

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