by Stephanie Beach
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — A community art project that restored a downtown Traverse City park bench recently was unveiled. Blackbird Arts of Traverse City launched the “Benchmark” community art project in 2012 to help support the talent of local artists and connect them with children to create a collaborative learning experience focused on literature, art education and community renewal.
The latest project was arranged through a partnership with ACT-GT (Artists Creating Together-Grand Traverse), formerly Very Special Arts. It brought together Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District teacher Lorraine Laird, her students, Traverse City author Cari Noga and local artist Marcia Borell. Laird’s special education class chose Noga’s book “Plover Pilgrimage,” the story of a 12-year-old boy with autism who has a fascination with birds.
The six-week project engaged the students in hands-on learning, bringing academic learning together with creative expression through the arts. It was guided by local artists, but the students accomplished the design, sanding, priming, stenciling and painting of the park bench. The bench illustrates the spring arrival of the piping plover, who nest on the shores of Sleeping Bear Dunes.
“The project gave the students an opportunity to combine art and literature to create a beautiful piece of art that they are very proud to share with the community,” Laird said.
Gaylord area tennis pro Dave Johnson coordinated a day of competitive drills and play at Michaywe in July that drew an enthusiastic crowd of tennis players. The event was followed by refreshments and prize drawings for top winners of the Alpine Regional Tennis Association’s raffle.
Shane Cousineau won the first prize of two tickets to the U.S. Open in New York with courtside seating in the USTA Presidential Box. Second prize went to Kathy Passiak. Door prizes were awarded to Erin Rogers, Dave Leonardson and Shane Cousineau.
The event raised $10,800 to help further the mission of the Alpine Regional Tennis Association to improve tennis resources for area youth and adults, and to eventually build four adjacent courts for regional competitive tournaments.
Later in the month, nearly 20 members of the newly formed association gathered together to scrub and clean off years of neglect at the Aspen Park tennis courts in Gaylord.
The project took creative thinking as there is no direct water supply. ARTA Board member Kathy Johnson arranged for the city to provide a tank of water and the call went out for tennis volunteers, who brought brooms, buckets and mops to form the clean-up crew.