Thursday, June 22, 2017

Modernism and residency: The SAA kicks off a summer of unique programming

The Springfield Art Association is currently in high gear with a unique exhibit featuring nearly 300 specimens of modernist furniture and décor.

The SAA is also now hosting the first two visiting artists to participate in the recently established Enos Park residency program for visual artists.

James Pepper Kelly of Chicago and German-born Astrid Kaemmerling are both in the midst of six-week stays, during which they are creating new work relating to the Enos Park neighborhood or Springfield as a whole. The work will be presented later this summer in a special exhibit at the University of Illinois Springfield’s Visual Arts Gallery.

 Kaemmerling, who has shown work in Germany, Italy, Korea and the United States and has been the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, is currently based in San Francisco. The concentration for her current Springfield-based project is in the field of “walking art,” in aid of which free tickets are currently available for her “Enos Park Community Walking Laboratory.”

According to Kaemmerling’s online event page, “while meandering the streets of Enos Park for one hour you and I will engage in a conversation about the past, present and future of the neighborhood while monitoring our thoughts and passageways.” The conversations will be recorded and later presented as part of the exhibit, along with maps of the paths taken in each walk.

Kaemmerling’s enthusiasm for the residency is palpable. “It’s a fantastic way for me to put some of the research I have done into action and really field test it,” she said. “The support here so far has been incredible. And welcoming! Wherever I go, even on the street, people are super friendly; they greet you and engage in conversation. It’s been really nice.”

This story appeared in the Illinois Times on June 22, 2017.

Read the entire article online.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

FMHS grad Ramirez made wise investment choosing coaching

Decisions. Decisions. You’re fresh out of college. Do you take the $50,000 a year job with a major investment firm? Or the $3-4,000 job helping coach the game you love for your nearby community college?

Chris Ramirez didn’t have to think long about that. The 2001 Fort Madison High School graduate opted to be the assistant baseball coach under Justin Schulte for Southeastern Community College, a year after graduating from High Point University in 2005.

Ramirez had a state championship on his résumé from high school and played four years of collegiate baseball. Why give up a good thing?

Besides: “I wasn’t ready to go buy a bunch of suits and sit in an office all day,” Ramirez said of rejecting an offer to be a financial advisor for American Express Financial Advisors.

Twelve years later, Ramirez is still coaching the game he loves, and now he’s a successful head coach at University of Illinois Springfield. He took over the fledgling three-year-old program four seasons ago and has kept raising the bar of expectations. The school had won no more than 12 games when he took job. The victory count so far has been: 22, 28, 28 and 33.

Ramirez grew up in Fort Madison and a fond memory was practicing and playing baseball with his father, Mike. But he wasn’t just an all-state baseball player. He competed for the Bloodhounds in football and basketball all four years, plus three spring seasons in tennis and his senior year in track. This, however, was back when being a four-sport, four-year athlete was no big deal (see separate story).

He committed to play baseball for Iowa State University. But the school dropped the program, so he went to Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids. There he started as the centerfield and was the closer on the pitching staff. He finished his college career with two years at Highpoint University, a small Division I program in North Carolina. He graduated with a business degree, but still had hopes for a career path to the major leagues. The opportunity never came.

 Then he was offered the high-paying job of financial advisor for American Express. At the same time, however, a call from his former coach — legendary Norway coach Jim Van Scoyoc — at Kirkwood, who informed Ramirez that Schulte, a former Norway standout, had taken the baseball coach at SCC. “(Schulte) offered me $3-4,000,” Ramirez said. “I called and turned down the $50,000 job at Greensboro.” He worked a golf course in the morning to make some extra money, “like a lot of coaches have to do to get started,” Ramirez said.

“I think it’s such an impressional age group,” Ramirez said. “You get to work with these young men and develop them. “Ultimately my message as a coach is to get these young men ready for life after baseball,”

This story appeared in The Fort Madison Daily Democrat.

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Military museum aims to give video gamers historical context

The Illinois State Military Museum is asking video gamers to put down their controllers and stop by to get a first-hand look at some of the equipment, uniforms and weapons they see as they fight in the digital world.

The “War Games” event at the museum (admission is free), which runs from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, June 24, was the idea of Lizzie Roehrs, 21, of Springfield, an intern at the museum and a student at the University of Illinois Springfield.

She noticed that kids coming through the museum on school field trips could easily identify many of the weapons on display. They told her they had seen them while playing video games. “The connection is already there. They are already associating what they see in video games with history,” Roehrs said. “But, with playing a video game, they don’t get a lot of context. So the idea for the event came from not only wanting to encourage kids to continue an interest in history, but also to teach them that there is more to the events in video games than what’s on the screen.”

During “War Games,” there will be re-enactors at the museum explaining how and why certain equipment was used. Attendees will also be able to try on uniforms and explore a trench.

In addition, Roehrs is setting up displays in the lobby with some of the tools and weapons in the museum’s collection that she’s seen in video games. One such item is a Japanese knee mortar that can be seen in “Call of Duty: World at War.”

Soldiers from the Illinois National Guard fought Japanese troops in the Pacific Theater during World War II as part of the 33rd Infantry Division. Roehrs has also found uniforms and uniform patches that are seen in some of the video games. “We have a ton of artifacts at the museum. We have an entire vault full of artifacts and an additional building on the National Guard base that is packed with these artifacts. We have items from the state militia through the modern, global war on terror,” Roehrs said.
“I look at these kids as potential history buffs,” Roehrs said. “Maybe they don’t realize that they are as into it as they are. If you give them a little more of the history, bring them out to the museum and show them the real thing, that could spark an interest in history.”

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on June 16, 2017.

Read the entire story online.