Local photographer travels Great Lakes by tall ship to capture images for ArtPrize

September 30, 2010 // 0 Comments

When classic tall sailing ships gathered in Bay City, Mich. for the annual Tall Ships Celebration in mid-July, photographer Stacy Niedzwiecki of Rockford jumped at the opportunity to travel through the Great Lakes via an historic form of transportation. This trip of a lifetime was the inspiration for her 2010 ArtPrize entry, “Great Lakes – Great Ships – Great Concerns,” at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Grand Rapids. Niedzwiecki’s photography pieces combine a strong message of freshwater conservation and protection—the same message carried by the tall ships as they traveled from port to port through the Lakes this summer. Niedzwiecki served as a photo journalist throughout the summer, covering a variety of sailing events, starting with the Tall Ship Celebration in Bay City. Following the celebration, she boarded the sailing vessel S/V Denis Sullivan, an educational schooner based out of Milwaukee, Wis. The Denis Sullivan served as the flagship for the Great Lakes United Tall Ships Challenge 2010, and became Niedzwiecki’s floating residence over the next two weeks through Lakes Huron and Superior. Niedzwiecki traveled alongside a group of 11 high school students from three states who were participating in a summer youth program through Michigan Technological University. Niedzwiecki captured scenes of the students’ sailing adventures, along with the day-to-day life of the Sullivan’s professional crew and sail-training volunteers. Carefully skirting a large storm system across Lake Superior, the ship arrived in Duluth, Minn. on July 29, 2010. Niedzwiecki also photographed the arrival of the tall ships Europa and Roald Amundsen to Muskegon Lake. She concluded her photo project in Chicago aboard the Privateer Lynx during the glorious Parade of Sail around Navy Pier on Lake Michigan. “Upon my return, naturally I had folks asking me how my summer cruise was,” laughed Niedzwiecki. “This wasn’t your typical pleasure cruise featuring umbrella-style drinks. The sailing crew worked arduous hours, and it was the responsibility of the rest of us on board to support in the sailing operations. Often, this meant working on very little sleep, in hot, humid conditions without showers.” Niedzwiecki, who had no prior sailing experience, assisted with classroom materials, memorized various lines and sails, attempted knot-tying, charted the ship’s position and performed ship inspections. “Of course, there was plenty of dish washing in the […]

Rockford woman creates art from heartache

September 16, 2010 // 0 Comments

When Melissa Cooper-Prince’s eleven-year marriage suddenly ended last year, she was disillusioned, angry, and heartbroken. “I felt blindsided. I needed an emotional outlet,” so the Rockford mother began painting while her children, Hannah, 9, and Cooper, 4, were visiting their father. At first she created small, simple watercolors, but as she became more immersed in the cathartic process, she ventured into other media—as well as more technically, and emotionally, challenging compositions. Having taken only three art and design courses at Hope College many years ago, Cooper-Prince had limited experience as an artist, but she realized that “it was a form of therapy” as she would become lost in her art for hours and hours reflecting on her life with and without her husband. “Whatever I was feeling at that moment would come out on canvas. It was an amazing feeling.” Formerly a social worker, Cooper-Prince is “intrigued” by the idea of art-therapy. “I think that it may be a more effective way to resolve issues than talk therapy. You not only have the beneficial artistic process but a tangible, concrete expression of your thoughts that you can then step back and analyze.” And, she jokes, “I saved myself a million dollars in therapy bills!”And when Cooper-Prince, a sales coordinator at Metro PCS, finally shared with her friends and family her new found passion, she found that her works of art resonated with others—especially women who had gone through similar situations. After seven of her watercolors were displayed in two Rockford Coffeehouses, Epic and Frenz, she decided to create a piece for this year’s ArtPrize competition. “I wouldn’t say I’m an artist, but I just felt the need to put it out there as part of the healing process.” The nine-paneled canvas piece, entitled “Til Death Do Us Part”, was created this past spring from silicone, paper, oil, and watercolor. It also incorporates metal elements of chains, window screen and grommets. Cooper-Prince says it “represents a bound woman trying to find her voice, her sight and her freedom.” “When you get married, you have a certain vision for how you see your life, and my piece is about re-invention and becoming my own person and not being part of this couple anymore, but I think that […]

Rockford’s Eric Brown enters “Pandora” in ArtPrize

July 30, 2010 // 0 Comments

by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL  The last vacation Rockford resident and stained glass artisan Eric Brown, owner of the Squire Street business by the same name, took was in 2000. Brown along with his wife, Pat, were visiting Alaska to fulfill a lifelong dream of discovering our 50th state first-hand. “While there I was struck by small trees growing and living in the hostile and rocky environment with their roots clinging tenaciously to the barren rock surfaces,” said Brown adding, “I had the thought that one day, if I could find the perfect rock, I would create a stained glass lamp, depicting a dwarf wind-swept bonsai like tree, using the rock as a base.” That day arrived in early 2010 when Eric came into the possession of an ideal rock, a beautiful 41 lb. piece of green fluorite quartz. In a labor of love requiring 216 hours (27 days in total) Eric created a one-of-a-kind stained glass table lamp that he calls, “Pandora”. Eric is a master of many artistic talents, all of which were required to bring “Pandora” to life. Beginning first with the base, it was necessary to drill a 7/16-inch hole through the center of the 1ft. x 1ft. rock, to accommodate a threaded rod to electrically wire the lamp. The boring of the quartz rock was no easy task as it contained many faults that could easily rupture. Eric had to adapt a diamond core bit by adding a long enough stainless steel shaft to drill completely through the rock. Exhibiting the skill of a diamond cutter he accomplished, what was to be, the first of many steps. Using graduated diameters of PVC pipe, Eric then formed the core of the tree’s trunk. He demonstrated his metal crafting skills by painstakingly winding hundreds of feet of copper wire, beginning with roots clinging to the rock and working upwards around the core to the very branches at the top. It was then necessary to add many pounds of molten solder to the wire creating a spiraled and gnarled tree-like surface. Brown then wired the lamp, adding lamp sockets to the tip of each of the five branches. It didn’t get any easier as Eric had to then move on to the creation […]

Rockford Christian School art students inspired by ArtPrize

October 22, 2009 // 0 Comments

In September, Rockford Christian School (RCS) junior high students spent an entire day visiting various ArtPrize exhibits along with over 1,500 other Grand Rapids area students. The RCS teens had the opportunity to converse with several artists and learn about their motivation and creations. One artist in particular, Jason Hackenwerth, really inspired the teens. RCS art teacher, Kelly Tuit, said, “Jason really engaged with the kids.” Hackenwerth’s art exhibit was a 10-foot balloon creature, which demonstrated to the teenagers that art isn’t just about oil paintings or sculptures. The students were also invited to talk to another artist, Rob Jackson, whose exhibit was a 50-foot homage to the end of the recession, titled “Wall and Main.” “The kids learned that art is about the experience,” said Tuit. According to Tuit, the field trip changed many of the teens’ perception of art. After the insightful field trip, the students returned to school and were given some guidelines for the RCS ArtProject competition. They were told their art had to either reflect the student or had to convey some kind of current social issue. The other guidelines were the inclusion of a “venue” which for the purpose of the competition was a shoebox, and providing an artist’s “work statement” which summarizes the art’s intent. “The students really enjoyed discussing whether an artist should be true to their self or create something that resonates with popular opinion,” said Tuit. After the guidelines were conveyed, the seventh- and eighth-grade students began enthusiastically working on their projects. “What the students have created so far is truly amazing and creative”, said Tuit. Countless colorful in-progress masterpieces line the art room’s walls and storage spaces. Some of the ArtProject contenders are intricately constructed using various materials while others convey a powerful message about current events. It’s evident that many students were inspired by what they saw during their field trip to the Grand Rapids ArtPrize. The RCS student body is voting on the anonymous RCS ArtProjects in mid-October and various prizes will be awarded to the artists with the most votes. The biggest winners, of course, are the junior high students at RCS. Their minds have been stretched as they contemplated their various masterpieces and how they will impact the world around […]

Rockford photographer competes in ArtPrize

September 24, 2009 // 0 Comments

Award-winning nature photographer and Rockford resident Stacy Niedzwiecki will be competing in ArtPrize 2009. Her Michigan Moments photo series will be displayed at SanChez Bistro, a popular downtown Grand Rapids restaurant located at 38 West Fulton. Niedzwiecki’s images are an inspirational journey through the most picturesque locations in the Great Lakes State, from backyard settings, local parks and beautiful lakeshore areas. The artist invites her audience to experience peace and tranquility found in the natural splendor so unique to Michigan. Her ArtPrize entry features a series of large gallery-wrapped canvas giclée prints, paired with a multimedia screen presentation along a 36 foot wall on the second floor mezzanine level of the restaurant. Artists from across the country and 24 other countries are competing in ArtPrize. Niedzwiecki hopes that her work will have enough “hometown appeal” to viewers that she will land in the top ten finalists. “My goal is to carry the flag for West Michigan and the things that are so wonderful for those of us living here,” Niedzwiecki says. Voting for ArtPrize contestants begins the opening night Wednesday, Sept. 23 at 6 p.m. and will continue through Wednesday, Sept. 30. On Thursday Oct. 1, the top ten ArtPrize artists will be announced at which point the public will then vote for the placement of those ten artists. In order to vote, the public must register at an official registration location. There are 14 places throughout downtown Grand Rapids. For details on voting and how to register, visit For an entire afternoon of ArtPrize fun, Niedzwiecki suggests a good day to plan a visit will be Sunday, Sept. 27. The venues located in the Heartside district are collaborating on a special neighborhood “Strolling Brunch” event. Some venues will be serving complimentary food items and have a cash bar available from noon until 4 p.m. Niedzwiecki, along with other artist, will be present to discuss their work. Other opportunities to meet the artist at SanChez will be available throughout ArtPrize—visit for the schedule of appearances.

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