main: December 2009 Archives

I've had my home state of Michigan on the brain quite a lot lately -- and it's not just because, as I sit nearly snow-bound in Madison, Wis., I'm wearing the same U of M sweatshirt I've had since 1987.  While the economy is dreadful across the U.S., Michigan got hit earlier and harder by this recession.

But rather than focus on gloom and doom, I want to think about what's next for Michigan.  How can it envision a better future?  A friend who works for the state's office of historic preservation turned me on to the site "Let's Save Michigan," which just did a blog post on the role that the arts play in creating cities people actually want to live in.

My brother, who lives in Ann Arbor (site of my alma mater), sent me a link to a PBS NewsHour segment with Ray Suarez on that city.  Suarez investigates what has made Ann Arbor more recession-proof than the rest of the state (though, as Ann Arbor's mayor points out, the recession can't be kept at bay indefinitely).

Not surprisingly, it's investment in education and technology--and being a place that people actually want to relocate to--that has helped Ann Arbor.  Suarez doesn't really delve into the cultural scene (the closest he gets is foodie paradise Zingerman's), but any A2 resident knows that a steady diet of concerts, films, exhibitions, etc. is part of the town's appeal.  You can live in a city of manageable size and still have plenty to do.  In my college days, I went to poetry readings, saw The Replacements and Billy Bragg, attended my first opera and saw performance artist Karen Finley (whose "We Keep Our Victims Ready" I still remember as ludicrous, for what it's worth).

Other good stuff in Michigan includes the "Kalamazoo Promise," a program funded by anonymous, private donors that offers paid college tuition to students who graduate from Kalamazoo public schools.  The benefit can be used at any of Michigan's state colleges and universities.

I don't have any answers for Michigan; I haven't lived there for 17 years, although I occasionally think about moving back.  But I'm glad there are smart people thinking about Michigan's future and ways to make it brighter.
December 9, 2009 2:07 PM |

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