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Us and them

April 7, 2008 - Diane Speer
There will probably always be that “us” and “them” mentality. Downstaters tend to view Alpena as remote, unsophisticated and lacking in culture. What could “we” possibly have to offer “them” beyond beautiful lakes and prime hunting and fishing opportunities? Surely nothing in the way of the arts. Well score one for the home crowd. Beginning this Saturday, the Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan is showcasing a juried exhibit of the Detroit Society of Women Painters and Sculptors. This renowned group is 105 years old and has previously exhibited in Chicago and New York as well as throughout the state. Several of the society’s members drove up to Alpena this past weekend to bring the artworks that will be on display through mid-July.

They dropped the art off in the afternoon, but two of the women — Paula Wild and Nancy Curnow — decided to stay overnight in Alpena. They wanted to check out the city and attend an evening reception at the museum for local metal sculptor Kim Monnier. I had a chance to talk with both artists when I stopped by the museum this past Saturday for the same reception. Wild and Curnow couldn’t say enough about how impressed they were with the museum, with the community and with the other cultural opportunities that they had learned about since arriving in town. Neither expected the museum to be housed in such a modern facility. They admitted to thinking more along the lines of an old house converted into a museum — a common practice in many small towns.

In between dropping off their artworks and attending the museum reception, they stopped at Art in the Loft, where there are currently about 600 pieces created by students in area schools. They couldn’t believe the creativity they saw there or the outstanding loft space.

While in Alpena, they also learned about the marine sanctuary, our two local theaters, the symphony orchestra and all the other rich cultural activities we enjoy here. They liked the friendliness they encountered and the small-town feel. “Can I buy a house here?” one of the women asked me, before quickly adding, “But you have to sell my condo for me first.”

Both artists couldn’t wait to get back downstate and tell their fellow members how wonderful they found Alpena to be. They’re going to let them in on what we here have known all along — because of its woods and its water, AND because of its arts, Alpena is a great place to live!


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