Arts & Culture | Michigan Radio

Arts & Culture

Arts and culture

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

In a nondescript building in Marshall, Derek Smith is reaming a hole to fit a tuning key into head of a mandolin. That sound is a squeaky and a little irritating. 

It wasn't long before I asked Smith if he could create a different sound. I asked him to play something on one of the mandolins in the shop, a much better sound.

Smith and the rest of the team at Northfield Mandolins make high-end instruments. And the demand for the mandolins is brisk.

women posing at a Holi event
Razi Jafri / Michigan Radio

It's finally here! Wednesday's vernal equinox marks the first day of spring. Celebrations marking the transition from the dark days of winter into a gentler season are part of cultural traditions across the world. 

Mary Stewart Adams, a star lore historian and the founder of Michigan's only international dark sky park, joined Stateside to tell us more about why the equinox has received so much attention throughout time.

Among the many odd things about standard varieties of English is the “s” at the end of “knocks” as in “She knocks on the door.”

If you were to change “she” to “I,” “you,” “we,” or “they,” the “s” would go away, and “knocks” would become “knock.” Why does third person singular tense get an "s" tacked on the end? 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

On the counter there was a big stone mortar and pestle, and a capped bottle with a vivid green liquid in it labeled “ARUGULA.” It was clear, this was going to be a different kind of drink.

What ice fishing can teach you about life

Mar 11, 2019

Ann Arbor writer Tamar Charney shares her thoughts about the connection between ice fishing and life.

If your life is in shambles, you probably have bigger things to worry about than grammar.

This week's topic comes from a listener who wanted to know the origin of "in shambles."

Soon after we received this question, a co-worker told us she was surprised to learn this phrase, used to refer to a mess or state of disorder, was originally "a shambles."

Political Lizard


Listen to this month's Local Spins as we check out the West Michigan music scene with John Sinkevics, editor and publisher of

Here are this months picks: 

Dorene O’Brien brings exquisite art and unsentimental heart to the characters in her new short story collection, What It Might Feel Like to Hope, published by Baobab Press.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Tom Fuleky is showing me some of his work. He’s a stonemason and he’s been at it for nearly 50 years.

“And it took me 30 to really figure it out. And I know it sounds crazy, but once I figured it out, oh my god, it wasn't as frustrating,” he says.

The opening of the I-496 expressway in 1970.
Michigan Department of Transportation

During the 1950s and 1960s, the federal government funded the construction of highways in cities across the country. To build the new infrastructure, many cities seized land from existing neighborhoods in a process that came to be known as "urban renewal.” Many of those neighborhoods had predominantly African-American or immigrant residents. 

A Lansing project called “Paving the Way” wants to digitally preserve the history of one such black neighborhood demolished during the construction of I-496.

Wayne State University Press

Wayne State University Press has released a new compilation of 23 essays by award-winning Michigan authors titled Elemental: A Collection of Michigan Creative Nonfiction. 

As writer Kelly Fordon writes in her review below, we are lucky to have this many extraordinary writers living in our state.

A few weeks ago on Reddit, someone posted a clip from the Ellen Degeneres Show. The guest was Candice Payne, the Chicago woman who rented hotel rooms for homeless people during last month’s polar vortex.

The post’s headline was, “Ellen gifts $50k to Candice Payne, Chicago woman who help over 122 homeless people during brutal cold winter last week.”

In the comments below the post, one user asked the question, “When did ‘give,’ the verb, give way to ‘gift,’ the noun, becoming the verb?

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Mardi Gras in New Orleans is the inspiration for our drink on Cheers! If you’ve ever been on Bourbon Street late at night, you’ll see people sipping from a rum-heavy, red, sugary drink in a plastic cup called the Hurricane. It’s like someone spiked a kid’s slushy.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

It's early in the morning in the shop of Johnson’s Sporting Goods in Adrian. Steven Durren is using a rasp to form a rifle stock. He makes custom firearms, mostly early American style from the Civil War to WWI. They’re not exact reproductions, but in the style of those single shot and bolt action rifles.

picture of Alden B. Dow Home and Studio Interior.
Mid-Century Modern Midland

From furniture show rooms to television shows like Mad Men, mid-century modern style has seen a renaissance in recent years. But for the people living in the city of Midland, those clean, sleek lines are a part of everyday life.

The city has an unusually large number of mid-century modern structures that include residential homes, doctor's offices, fire stations, churches, and businesses. 

Displays at the "Black Bottom Street View" exhibition at Detroit Public Library's Main Branch.
Katie Raymond / Michigan Radio

What is lost when an urban area is “renewed?”

That’s the question being asked by an exhibition called “Black Bottom Street View,” on display at the Detroit Public Library's Main Branch through March 15.

The words and phrases that pop culture inserts into our everyday language never cease to amaze us here at That's What They Say.

A listener recently wrote to use about one in particular. Laurel wanted to know what we think about "nado" as in the movie "Sharknado."

Michigan-made movie premieres in Santa Monica

Feb 8, 2019
Jeff Daniels
Montclair Film

A movie shot in Chelsea premiered at the Santa Monica Film Festival the night of February 7th. It’s called Guest Artist.

Chelsea native Jeff Daniels wrote and stars in the film, which follows a troubled playwright that is paid to deliver his play in the Midwest.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Bees and Blossoms sounds like it might be a drink for spring, but Tammy Coxen with Tammy’s Tastings says you can only get one of the ingredients during the winter.

“One of the few things that I appreciate about winter is that we get this great influx of really interesting citrus fruits,” she said. 

Live From Here has announced that the musical guest for their live show in Detroit will be Lord Huron. Currently on tour promoting their third album Vide Noir, the band will pause to join Live From Here host, Chris Thile on stage at the Detroit Opera House on Saturday, February 23, 2019 at

This month, concert venues across West Michigan are welcoming a series of musical powerhouses. 

John Sinkevics is editor and publisher of Local Spins. He joined Stateside to discuss the artists making waves on the west side of the state. 

Maddie in front of a music stand on stage
Long Haul Productions

When you learn how to make art – whether it’s oil painting or playing in a rock band – you develop more than just a talent.

It can also help you learn some pretty important life lessons about things like failure and vulnerability.

pictures of the shoebox lunches served by Southfield restaurant Beans and Cornbread
Neil Master

When you hit the highway for a road trip, you probably don’t think twice about being able to find somewhere to eat when you get hungry.  

But for African-American families heading South during the Jim Crow era, restaurant options were slim to none. So when they had long train or car trips planned, women of the family would pack lunches into old shoeboxes.

Last week, we talked about how easy it can be to misinterpret an idiom, especially when a key word sounds very similar to another word.

Before we go any further, look at the following sentence and fill in the blank with the first word that comes to mind:

"Let me tell you, if you think that, you've got another ____ coming."

Florence Knoll Bassett sits at a desk with a dog in her lap
Courtesy of Knoll, Inc.

A leading architect and designer from Michigan died this week.

Florence Knoll Bassett was known for changing how we understand office space in the U.S. She was a giant of mid-century modern design, the style people may associate with the Mad Men-era.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Sometimes your plans get disrupted. Sometimes you take a leap of faith.

That’s the story of David Sutherland.

He started as a musician.

“Years after I had finished a PhD in musicology at the University of Michigan and had taught for four years, I couldn’t get a job. And I decided, well, hey, teaching didn't work out so well," he said as he sat at a harpsichord he built.

It's been an interesting journey since.

View of actor Brace Beemer, dressed as Lone Ranger, posing with clown and facsimile boxes of Cheerioats cereal
Courtesy of Detroit Public Library Burton Collection

He was a respectable man. He never brandished a gun with the intention to kill, never spoke profane language, and never used incorrect grammar or slang. He was always mysteriously masked and made a vow to fight injustice. He is famously known as "The Lone Ranger.”

Kat, a student at CultureWorks in Holland, Michigan

Artists create for all sorts of reasons: to express emotion, convey an idea, or raise a political ruckus.

For people who struggle with anxiety and depression, art can also be a kind of therapy.

It's happened to the best of us.

There's a saying that you've been using for as long as you can remember. Then one day, someone informs you, hopefully kindly, that you've actually been saying it wrong this whole time.

Former users of "take it for granite" and "pre-Madonna" know what we're talking about.