The tipping system breeds tension
Natalie Wright, Editor
After waiting tables for three years, I firmly believe everyone should work in customer service at some point – waiting tables if possible.
Providing service for others teaches invaluable life lessons, and you can make good money doing it. I’ve walked away from some shifts having made $30 an hour, others I’ve made less than $5 an hour. It’s a fact you have to accept – the good and bad days even out.
The frustrating part is that often tables that require the most work from their server pay off the least. The customers who tip well are usually courteous and thankful. The customers who tip poorly often barely acknowledge their server as a human being.
It makes no sense – the harder you work, the less money you get.
Some argue that servers need the motivation of tips to provide good service, but plenty of other businesses find employees who provide excellent customer service while being payed an hourly rate. By paying servers a fair wage, we don’t have to ban tipping. It could still be something to strive for.
Expected tipping creates tension between customers and servers. A less than friendly customer may not be treated well, because it’s assumed they won’t tip decently. A friendly server often appears fake.
Working at a restaurant in Ann Arbor, a college town that hosts hundreds of foreign students and faculty, I witnessed another toxic side to tipping: It perpetuates stereotypes and breeds racism.
Because tipping customs differ around the world, those not familiar with American standards might not realize that servers are paid next to nothing hourly.
Raising the minimum wage for servers, or including a mandatory service fee, can put an end to this tension between servers and customers.
What does your wallet say?
EJ Stout, Managing Editor
Excellence deserves recognition.
It’s a value that has been drilled into our heads as Americans, be it as direct advice or simply in our daily observance of the cutthroat society around us.
In a culture saturated with mediocre efforts disguised as five-star service, sometimes it’s hard to separate the lackluster from the exceptional, and even harder to know how to reward excellence when you do see it.
As consumers, we exist in a very rigid system – marketplace outcomes largely predetermined by super corporations pulling the puppets strings of our wallets.
Not often does it feel like our wallets are doing the voting, and many industries benefit from the contents regardless of our intention or support.
Those in the service industry, however, are tasked with providing service to customers of all backgrounds, all needs and all attitudes. Their work is then immediately judged and scored in the form of a monetary tip.
In no other industry are one’s efforts so directly tied to their rewards. Servers are asked to cater hand and foot to their guests, fulfilling requests often well outside of reasonable expectation. And they are asked to do so with a glowing smile and cheerful attitude.
It’s a grueling job.
It’s a grueling job that should be rewarded for its excellence.
Removing the tipping system in our state would minimalize the efforts of every service industry worker, and it would take away our power as consumers to quite literally put our money where our mouths are.
In a culture slowly stripping away our power as citizens, we ought to fight for the chance to support each other.
By EJ STOUT
A new photography display has taken up residence on the ground floor of the GM building. A closer look reveals unusual processes and tools used in each of the student works, which were created in Washtenaw’s Alternative Processes photography course.
The course uses unique methods – both historical and contemporary – to explore a wide range of photographic possibilities. It is intended to expand skills in fine art and commercial photography, yet can apply to many creative fields.
The photography department is reintroducing the course through a series of presentations to be held on Wednesdays from noon-1 p.m. and again from 5-6 p.m. through Nov. 19.
ALTERNATIVE PROCESSES: A series of presentations
WHEN: Wednesdays through Nov. 19
TIME: noon-1 p.m. and 5-6 p.m.
WHERE: GM 017
COST: Sessions are free with refreshments provided
COURSE: PHO 210
NOTE: Registration for the Winter 2015 semester begins on Nov. 12.
By EJ STOUT
Stickers cover the walls of the trailer-style Fleetwood Diner. EJ Stout | Washtenaw Voice
Four patrons sat down shortly after midnight donning gear plastered with the iconic Old English “D.” Their slurred speech suggested they couldn’t distinguish one word from the next, but their accuracy and efficiency in ordering indicated they’ve been here many times before.
“Hippie Hash. Over easy. Wheat bread.”
A separate couple cowered in the corner – one with headphones plugged into his laptop, the other with her nose deep in a book. They didn’t last long in the distracting chaos surrounding them.
At the corner of Ashley and Liberty streets in downtown Ann Arbor sits “the hippest little diner in the hippest Midwest town,” but there’s much more to the iconic Fleetwood Diner than its charming tagline.
“Some nights you get dinner and a show,” Karen Fogarty explained, as she poured fresh coffee for guests just walking in.
Stickers cover the metallic walls of the trailer-style monument, less advertisements, more personal declarations of interest and passion. Conversations overlap within the cramped space, covering topics from the appropriate use of ethnic terms to one group’s “totally epic J.”
The various posses found at the Fleetwood are strikingly distinguishable, yet the boundaries between them are fluid and friendly. New allies are formed at the classic ’50s-style barstools. Though they are soon forgotten, these fleeting friendships typify the atmosphere at Ann Arbor’s unrivaled 24-hour dive.
At the Fleetwood, midnight quickly turns into 4 a.m.
Fogarty has been taking orders and deciphering slurs at the restaurant for more than three decades. She was only 16 when she began washing dishes at the diner. Now 48, Fogarty has seen the place change hands four times.
Despite changes in ownership, the fan-favorite Original Hippie Hash has stood the test of time. The famous breakfast dish layers grilled tomatoes, green peppers, onions, broccoli and mushrooms over a bed of homemade hash browns and is topped off with feta cheese and a side of eggs.
Three to four days per week, Fogarty covers the graveyard shift from 11 p.m.-7 a.m., catering to the night owls of Ann Arbor. She is the only server on duty.
Fogarty described the joint as “self-run” and expects guests to police themselves. Patrons catch on quickly. If someone sits down and immediately makes a mess of the table, she does not hesitate to put them in their place.
Karen Fogarty, left, serves a wide range of clientele during her graveyard shifts at The Fleetwood Diner in downtown Ann Arbor. EJ Stout | Washtenaw Voice
“I set boundaries, then we’re all good,” she said.
Although Fogarty reports that her take-home pay is just $1 per hour, she said that she consistently receives an average of 33 percent tips. “I don’t work for free,” she said, adding that customers rarely turn into regulars if they don’t tip well.
Despite her no-nonsense attitude, Fogarty is quick with a smile and describes her late-night clientele as “beautiful party people.”
Tyler Kent, 21, works the flattop grill – a position that puts him directly in view of customers while he prepares their food.
“The whole thing is kind of a show,” Kent explained. “You can see everybody and everything that’s going on.”
Kent followed his sister and brother-in-law to Ann Arbor and landed his first job at the diner at age 18. He believes that locals appreciate Fleetwood for its laid-back atmosphere. “Unless you’re being a danger to yourself or others, nobody cares.”
Cabs line up at the nearest corner, prepared to collect guests as they stumble out while homeless panhandlers take advantage of the rare late-night opportunity.
Arina Kartasheva, 18, a former Washtenaw Community College occupational studies and graphic design student, frequents the diner after other establishments have closed their doors.
“I think Fleetwood is the only place I’ve been to after 2 a.m.,” she admitted. The food isn’t what draws her in, though. The atmosphere is most important, Kartasheva said. “It’s pretty accepting of drunks. I also like how it’s a ’50s diner, but at the same time alternative.”
But perhaps the most heartfelt testament of all comes from Fleetwood’s new next-door neighbor, the famously and shamelessly unforgiving Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger.
A sign in Blimpy’s window reads: “You want upscale? Go to the Fleetwood.”
By EJ STOUT
Twenty-four proposals won’t make it onto the Nov. 4 general election ballot, which is a staggering number compared to the past few elections.
Trends in ballot measures have increased over the past four elections. Only four measures were proposed in 2008, compared with 24 in 2012 and 27 this year.
So why aren’t the majority of these proposals offered up for popular opinion? Where has our voice gone?
Of the 15 introduced by legislators, only one got enough votes in the House and Senate to pass. That bill became Proposal 1 on the Aug. 5 ballot, and phases out the Personal Property Tax on industrial and commercial properties by 2023.
Of the nine additional proposed ballot measures, six did not submit enough signatures by deadlines, and the final three – minimum wage, abortion insurance and wolf-hunting – have already been passed into law in one way or another.
On Aug. 27, the Natural Resources Commission became solely responsible for defining game species and establishing hunting seasons when an initiative was approved directly by state Legislature. Voters no longer get to decide the fate of wolf hunting.
The initiative was delivered as what is known as an indirect initiated state statue. This rare process allows supporters to collect signatures and send their proposal directly to state Legislature. Elected officials can then decide whether to approve the initiative immediately or put it on the ballot for popular vote. This time, it passed.
This law now renders both wolf proposals on the ballot this year to be purely symbolic – neither result will have any practical effect on wolf-hunting laws. The public’s opinion on this matter was rendered inconsequential through strategic backdoor legislative efforts. But is that such a bad thing?
Wolf-hunting laws have been on a two-year process of approvals, veto referendums and legislative overrides.
First, the Legislature passed Public Act 520, which established wolf-hunting season in three zones of the Upper Peninsula. Proposal 1 was formed to overturn that law.
Next, it passed Public Act 21, which gave the NRC full control of state hunt designations, no longer requiring any legislative action – including the possibility for public veto referendums. Bye-bye to Prop 1 and PA 520.
Now, Proposal 2 looks to overturn Public Act 21. Another moot vote as the NRC has been granted explicit rights through the most recent National Resources Commission Initiative. The law features some strategic loopholes that prevent virtually all risk of it being overturned, much to the dismay of groups such as Keep Wolves Protected and the Humane Society of the United States.
In a statement following his signing of Public Act 21 into law, Gov. Rick Snyder explained, “This action helps ensure sound scientific and biological principles guide decisions about management of game in Michigan.”
Maybe our elected officials have assessed the state’s decaying economy and lost faith in voters, local governments and special interest groups to find solutions. Can we blame them? We got ourselves into this mess, and, as the saying goes, this is why we can’t have nice things.
Although the regulation of wolf populations seems low priority for the state, the process serves as example of the need for hard legislative action that doesn’t bend to popular, often uninformed, opinion.
Ben Ellsworth | Washtenaw Voice
THREE PROPOSALS YOU DON’T GET TO COMMENT ON:
The initiative would have raised the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour over the next three years, including increases for tip workers. The proposal was denied from the ballot due to too many duplicate signatures, however, the proposal would have been moot anyway. The Legislature recently passed a new law that increases minimum wage to $9.25 per hour by 2018.
Neither private nor public insurance companies are permitted to cover abortions without prior supplemental policies, except in cases of danger to the mother’s life. The initiative was approved by legislature on Dec. 11, 2013.
This signature-based citizen initiative would have prohibited use of horizontal hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as “fracking.” The Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan decided to postpone the initiative until 2016, as it similarly did for its 2012 measure, in an effort to focus on community awareness.
See Related Stories
The Washtenaw Voice Voters Guide
By M.M. DONALDSON
and EJ STOUT
The recent Sustainable Dinner was presented at Garrett’s by, from left, Chefs Alice Gannon-Boss, Derek Anders and Alex Young. EJ Stout | Washtenaw Voice
A short walk from Garrett’s to the CORE Garden provided a bounty of fresh herbs and vegetables for a five-course dinner served by the student-run restaurant. But a network of dedicated volunteers and supporters is responsible for the success of that short route.
Less than a year and a half since Kim Groce had the idea of growing vegetables on WCC’s grounds, the campus and surrounding communities combined efforts to celebrate the fruits – or rather vegetables – of her labor. Key leaders and volunteers in the creation of the CORE Garden and those interested in good food crowded the restaurant to celebrate the garden’s first annual harvest on Friday, Oct. 10 with the Sustainable Dinner at Garrett’s.
Within the sustainable food movement, “locally sourced food” is a dominant buzz phrase traditionally defined as food collected from within a 100-mile radius. The restaurant and garden at Washtenaw Community College, however, sit just two-tenths of a mile from each other.
“The vision was even bigger than I imagined,” Groce said. The WCC humanities, social and behavioral sciences counselor wanted to give students access to fresh vegetables and give them a chance to grow the food themselves.
Groce secured a spot on campus for a garden, including a temperature-controlled hoop house and raised beds for herbs. Expert horticultural advice and marketing strategies paired with countless volunteer hours led to an edible display of heirloom and rare vegetables prime to be transformed into gourmet meals.
The evening opened with Zingerman’s Roadhouse managing partner and Chef Alex Young, speaking to an audience of mostly WCC culinary students and a handful of faculty and community members. Young’s work in education regarding sustainable farming practices has earned him national recognition, and he continues to serve on the WCC Culinary Arts and Hospitality Advisory Committee.
Young encouraged the students to push themselves to be part of the change to create food that is healthy for both personal nutrition and society as a whole. He explained that “not all farms are created equal,” and consumers must make tough decisions that will shape future industry practices.
A brisk field trip to the garden before dinner stimulated appetites, not only from the exercise but also from the vivid descriptions and visuals of each planted item.
“Collards … tomatoes … peppers … Oh, taste this!” could be heard as people call out various flora like an impromptu game of “I Spy.”
WCC biology student and CORE Garden volunteer Kady Maser, 25, was just leaving when the assorted group arrived at the hoop house. Despite a car full of freshly harvested tomatoes, Ann Arbor native Maser stayed and gave an enthusiastic tour of the garden’s features, pointing out unique vegetables and eagerly answering questions.
The mojito mint received a lot of attention during the garden tour.
“It’s better than chewing gum,” said Melissa Moffatt, 22, from Howell, after tasting the particularly sweet variety of mint. A WCC biology student, Moffatt decided to attend the dinner after knowing a classmate who was involved in the CORE Garden project.
Nearly 50 guests attended the dinner that followed and were welcomed by Kim Hurns, interim dean of Business and Computer Technologies, whose own students took the challenge to create several marketing and social media proposals for the project.
Upon entering Garrett’s, attendees received a “mocktail,” featuring the mojito mint with simple syrup and club soda.
The guests made their way to tables already decorated with tendrils of tomato plants, pumpkins and colorful hot peppers.
“This is all a synergy of really, really good work on campus,” Hurns said, introducing Groce at the head table as the special guest of the evening.
Chefs Alice Gannon-Boss, Derek Anders and Alex Young were recognized for their contributions in helping the Garrett’s culinary arts and hospitality management students showcase the CORE Garden bounty in full glory.
“This is to honor you, Kim, for everything,” Gannon-Boss, a WCC culinary arts instructor said about Groce’s efforts. The dinner was just one way for those involved to learn more about food sustainability and the importance of numerous groups collaborating to build a strong resource.
Anders, also a WCC culinary arts and hospitality instructor, described the menu and its consideration of ingredients that had a low-carbon footprint and were accommodating to gluten-free and vegetarian diets.
The first course of the meal offered buffet-style small platters that included ingredients such as garden-fresh tomatoes, Swiss chard, and roasted pepper chutney.
Then, the culinary display kicked off in full gear. Students quickly presented the first course in neat choreography with the upbeat music provided by WCC Music Performance faculty member John E. Lawrence and his jazz band.
Working on assignments in the Writing Center, Tony Klee, 38, a WCC liberal arts student from Ann Arbor had just found out about the dinner late that afternoon and decided to attend.
A self-proclaimed foodie working as a sommelier consultant, Klee was particularly intrigued by the contrasting flavors of the first plated course: a hearty pumpkin soup topped with sweetened crème fraiche and peppered with bitter coffee dust.
Next, guests were treated to a simple but robust salad, highlighting the natural flavors of delicate baby greens and plump tomatoes that served to whet appetites for the upcoming entree. The main course featured a duo split on one plate: a pan-seared quinoa cake with roasted yams drizzled in honey next to a spaetzel with oyster mushrooms, roasted celery root and aged gouda over a bed of sage and walnut pesto.
The grand finale provided a parsnip and rosemary cake with creamy vanilla “rice cream” and poached Honeycrisp apples surrounded by a salted whiskey caramel sauce.
The dinner guests gave the culinary students a standing ovation at the end of the meal.
“They did well with a little more ambitious menu,” Anders said, “But this student group is high energy.”
Tired but enthusiastic, Shameka Thomas, 36, a WCC culinary arts student from Belleville, said the experience taught her to deal with the pressure and demand of serving many people at the same time.
“It was a lot of work,” Thomas said, “but worth it.”
Fellow WCC baking and pastry student from Ann Arbor, Amanda Sturges, 22, felt a sense of accomplishment.
“When things get hectic, stay calm,” Sturges said, explaining how she got through the day that lasted 11 hours for some of the culinary students.
“It’s almost like seeing my kids grow up,” Groce said, surveying the dining room full of music, food and people. “I couldn’t be happier.”
The CORE dinner will surely be an ongoing event, Groce declared. Despite being the first growing season, with only one-third of the hoop house’s capacity used, the network of dedicated individuals and groups present left a strong impression that the project would be nurtured from many directions.
“I never thought it would be this grand,” Groce said. “When you talk about food, people get excited.”
By EJ STOUT
Throughout the year, breweries across America work to capture and bottle the essence of each season. Crisp, citrus-forward wheat ales provide a refreshing companion to hot summer evenings while thick, malty stouts are distributed during the long winter frost.
In Michigan, however, no season produces more varietal brewing styles than fall. Brewmasters have latched onto the season’s potential and have worked hard to create recipes that go hand-in-hand with the state’s colorful and cozy autumn atmosphere.
The Voice staff rated a selection of these autumn-inspired beers to see what all the hype was about. We chose seasonal beers that represented a range of regions, price points and flavor profiles.
Samuel Adams, in Boston, Massachusetts, serves as a gateway to the craft beer industry with generic and safe offerings, while Dogfish Head’s unconventional brewing styles target a much smaller audience from its headquarters in Milton, Delaware.
Our goal was to use most of our taste buds evaluating Michigan breweries, so we sampled varieties from Short’s Brewing Company in Bellaire, New Holland Brewing in Holland, and local Ann Arbor spot, Arbor Brewing Company.
Some breweries focus on the crisp flavors of early fall, while others draw attention to the season’s darker, more powerful profiles.
We found that one stood out among the competition.
Natalie Wright, Editor, “Seeker of Hops
EJ Stout, Managing Editor, “Craft Beer Ninja”
Erin Fedeson, Contributor, “Amateur Lightweight Taster”
Taylor Robinson, Contributor, “Dark Brew Babe”
Samuel Adams – OctoberFest
5.3% ABV, 16 IBUs, $10 per six-pack
Natalie: This smells and tastes like fall leaves, but is also pretty bland.
EJ: Woodsy with slight citrus overtones. Nothing exaggerated – this beer lacks distinguishing flavor.
Erin: I got a strong sense of fumes in my mouth.
Taylor: Medium-heavy classic Sam Adams; however, no prominent flavors.
New Holland Brewing – Ichabod
5.2% ABV, 26 IBUs, $18 per six-pack
Natalie: Smells like nutmeg with a sour pumpkin finish.
EJ: Strong spice throughout with a sour finish. Overwhelming nutmeg.
Erin: This is some kind of gland attack – not a big fan.
Taylor: Lighter-bodied. The burp offers a shower of fall flavors.
Arbor Brewing Company – Violin Monster
9.3% ABV, 35 IBUs, $13 per six-pack
Natalie: Sweet caramel smell and cinnamon flavor with a roasted finish.
EJ: Chocolate aroma. Smooth caramel texture rolls over tongue.
Erin: Very, very, very tart.
Taylor: Mmm, love that dark beer! Chocolaty and smooth, balanced with a bitter finish.
Short’s Brewing Company – Autumn Ale
6.5% ABV, 45 IBUs, $12 per six-pack
Natalie: Sour, hoppy and refreshing.
EJ: Very citrusy and bright flavors. More “late summer” than autumn.
Erin: Bitter attack.
Taylor: Tastes like (Sam Adams) OctoberFest, but better. More flavorful.
Dogfish Head – Punkin Ale
7.0 ABV, 28 IBUs, $10 per four-pack
Natalie: Not overly flavored or sweet. How a pumpkin beer should be.
EJ: Very balanced use of pumpkin, considering how wary I am of flavored beers.
Erin: A cool slice of drink.
Taylor: Hops take over the overall flavor and structure of the brew. Underlying pumpkin flavor.
ABV: Alcohol by volume, IBU: International Bittering Units, Prices are averages
THE WINNER IS:
Overall, the craft beer industry has done well to feature fall flavors without allowing the strong profiles to overpower their creations. Some breweries focus on the crisp, bright profiles of early fall, while others choose to draw attention to the darker, spiced auras of late fall.
Any of these five craft styles will suit you better than the mass-produced and uninspired flavors of the corporate breweries.
Our favorite? The hometown howler: Violin Monster.
By EJ STOUT
Sanaa Naeem | Washtenaw Voice
“Pinkwashing,” as it’s known, gives any business or brand access to public heartstrings during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so long as it’s bathed in pink and turns a profit.
A term coined by Breast Cancer Action’s “Think Before You Pink” campaign, “pinkwashing” showers guilt on all parties involved – brands, distributors, consumers and promoters.
For the sixth October in a row, the NFL has chosen to “pinkwash” its entire brand, including players and stadium turfs, as part of its “Crucial Catch” campaign.
But in 2013, “only 8.01 percent of money spent on pink NFL merchandise is actually going towards cancer research,” according to Business Insider reports.
On the other hand, Domestic Violence Awareness Month – also during October – has been observed since 1987 but has yet to reach the same level of public support that its cancer counterpart has.
Maybe purple is easier to ignore than pink.
Try as it might, recent off-field activity in the NFL has not been enough to demand a league-wide acknowledgment of domestic violence problems.
Rather than continue to watch the league’s credibility diminish year after year as criminal charges become less the exception and more the norm, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell would be wise to move the chains in a forward direction.
It took the public release of security footage showing Ray Rice knocking out his then-fiance before Goodell issued an indefinite suspension. By waiting so long to take appropriate action, Goodell simply made it back to the line of scrimmage. But only through moral progress can the NFL truly move forward.
Sure, even if the league took a strong public stance on domestic violence, it would take some time to implement. Make no mistake – when players exist in this ever-documented sphere of public spectacle, there’s no such thing as an off-field private life.
But for a league filled to the brim with role models, the importance of leading by example could not be more grave.
So what is Goodell waiting for?
Procter & Gamble recently pulled its sponsorship from the annual “Crucial Catch” initiative, so the NFL is already clinging to the threads of a dying PR campaign. Why not embrace this opportunity to play a proactive role for once?
Trade in your pink mouth guards and pink cleats for purple ones. Paint the uprights purple and show the public – and the countless afflicted – that domestic violence will not be tolerated in this league or in this country.
We’re so used to watching the NFL face its responsibilities only when up against public outcry. Well, here’s the outcry.
There isn’t a large enough rug to sweep this under – be it natural or artificial.
With so much negative press saturating the landscape, fans and critics of the game have not been shy to express their views about the league’s lackluster response to serious abuse concerns.
Cosmetic ads intended to promote make-up lines specific to each team’s colors have been digitally altered to feature black eyes paired with the slogan “Get your game face on!” – an irony not lost on the many who can’t wipe off their bruises at the end of the night.
One of ESPN’s top sports columnists has been suspended for three weeks following his unapologetic rant calling Goodell a liar – a suspension longer than Rice initially received for his indisputable act of violence.
If the NFL’s biggest concern is its image – which it has proven time and time again – then the strongest move would be a visible and public display of values.
Go purple or go home.
Artist Susan Skarsgard to present ‘Not a Normal Career’ lecture
By EJ STOUT
Linear career paths may serve some industries, but those brave enough to search out their own challenges may find greater reward waiting for them along the way.
Such is the case for many in the creative fields, as crossover between disciplines has only increased with the ever-demanding job market.
Using grant money from the college’s Strategic Plan, Washtenaw instructor Kristine Willimann has sought out distinguished creative professionals and invited them to present as part of a new speaker-lecture series on campus.
The series offers perspectives from a variety of fields, including social media, culinary arts and graphic design, all within the Business/Computer Technologies division of the college.
Ann Arbor resident Susan Skarsgard will speak at the college on Oct. 16, providing insights gained during her storied career in calligraphy, art and graphic design.
Skarsgard hopes to offer advice to those looking to develop and foster strong creative practices in their own lives.
“Make sure you’re doing the things you want to be doing, and setting yourself up for the things you hope to be doing,” Skarsgard explained.
For the past 20 years, Skarsgard has served as design manager of General Motors Design, initially working as a lettering artist for vehicle nameplates before moving into corporate and brand identity work.
Julia Gleich, a Production Center assistant, has been familiar with Skarsgard’s vehicle branding work for a few years and is excited to see her speak about the unique career opportunity.
“I think it’s excellent that we can see her talk about a job many of us didn’t even realize existed,” Gleich said. “You’ll never look at the back end of car the same way.”
Skarsgard attributes her success in the field of industrial design to a background of varied disciplines.
“I think some of it practically comes from the fact that I didn’t actually go to school to be an industrial designer,” she explained. “A lot of my approach, my problem solving is informed by a different place.”
Ten years into her work at GM, Skarsgard decided to go back to school to pursue her master’s in fine art at the University of Michigan School of Art and Design.
Her graduate thesis project can still be seen each spring blooming in the university’s Nichols Arboretum.
The project, titled “Imagine/Align,” is a thoughtfully designed half-mile-long line of 20,000 yellow Trumpet Daffodils planted in 2003, and required the help of more than 150 local volunteers.
Skarsgard purposefully choose not to impose her personal views on those involved in the project, but instead let them form their own interpretations.
“A lot of people brought stuff to it that I thought was very profound and very thoughtful and uniquely their own reasons for being there,” she said. “I think it made the whole project become a community project.”
While Skarsgard feels that the Ann Arbor community could do more to support working artists, it is her own success that led to her recruitment by graphic design instructor Willimann.
Willimann hopes attendees of Skarsgard’s presentation will be “inspired, energized and awed” by the artist’s experiences.
“There aren’t a lot of local people that are of the caliber of graphic designer, typographer, calligrapher that she is,” Willimann admitted. “She’s a perfect candidate to bring in.”
Skarsgard’s international recognition has resulted in numerous speaking and teaching engagements across the globe. She encourages people to “value learning for their entire lives,” and the stresses the importance of “learning how to learn.”
“I really think it’s important to accept constant change – and embrace it,” she said. “There’s always things to learn in every work situation if you approach it in that way.”
Willimann, too, believes that students and creative professionals are wise to take advantage of their surroundings.
“As often as you can, learn from the people around you,” she said. “Let people who have been there and done that be your mentor, be your guide.”
Who: Susan Skarsgard, design manager at General Motors Design
What: ‘Not a Normal Career’ – a lecture documenting Skarsgard’s career in calligraphy, art and graphic design
When: Oct. 16
Where: Great Lakes Center, room 202
By EJ STOUT
Bat conservationists and enthusiasts recently descended upon Washtenaw’s Morris Lawrence building for a Saturday filled with educational and entertaining events.
Interactive booths filled the first floor of the ML building, even spilling onto the adjacent sidewalks. Speakers touched on subjects from bat migration and echolocation to “The Secret Lives of Real Vampires.”
The 13th Annual Great Lakes Bat Festival on Sept. 27, co-hosted by the Organization for Bat Conservation and the Hands-On Museum, looks to honor the unique and vital role that bats play in the ecosystem of the entire Great Lakes region.
Live bats were on display with a sign that read, “Don’t touch the glass – we can already hear you!”
Booths and displays were filled with hands-on activities and games for children, though many adults roamed eagerly throughout the free event.
By EJ STOUT
Regardless of confidence, ignorance or fluency in self-defense, it is never comforting to walk alone through an unlit parking lot.
As outdoor lights begin to dim on Washtenaw’s campus between 11:45 p.m.-midnight, reassurance drops.
But the presence of a white, lettered Jeep circling the empty landscape is not reason to fear. The ever-vigilant vehicles are not there to startle you. When they deliberately turn around in order to face you from across the lot, it’s not to intimidate or encroach.
WCC Campus Safety and Security selflessly offers the glow of their headlights as a beacon for students and staff navigating back to their cars. They don’t require a phone call, and they don’t stick around for “thank yous.”
So I just want to make sure it’s clear:
Thank you, CSS. Our campus is better with you in sight.