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A "Quilt of Words," GRCC's Spring Sustainability Series Wraps Up

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The 1970 activist celebrated a birthday on Thursday. April 22ND marked the 40TH Anniversary of Earth Day. Originally the brain-child of the esteemed Senator from Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson, Earth Day has grown from a grassroots national teach-in involving just our country in 1970 to a globally coordinated environmental love-fest organized in over 150 countries today. Participation in Earth Day, initially in the tens of millions, now boasts hundreds of millions.

Celebrating right here in Grand Rapids, and culminating their month-long Spring Sustainability Series: “Visioning the Change,” Grand Rapids Community College students joined the Grand Rapids Public Museum for a “Celebration of Earth & Sky.” The Friday, April 23RD event featured a performance of GRCC student work in the Meijer Theatre.

A “Quilt of Words” was the result of GRCC Associate Professor Maryann Lesert’s open call to the Arts and Communications Department at the college. 

Music students, Martin Kinchen on guitar and vocals, and Theodore “Teddy” Ndawillie II on concert grand piano framed the quilt with a presentation of their original compositions.

Jim Keating, Art Department faculty member and his students created a digital backdrop of images projected behind the quilt with additional printed work displayed on the mezzanine level of the museum.

The “Quilt of Words” itself came from student submissions, culled and organized by Lesert’s creative writing class.

Ian Hilgendorf, Gavin Hollemans, Brooke Verville, Jacqueline Prins, Ken Tamke, and Dave Mascho wove nature poetry, Haiku, confessions, criticisms, desperate pleas, and environmentalist reflections, surrounding it all with a border of wishes for our planet.

With Lesert’s guidance the pieces and patterns were assembled, each student giving voice: Hilgendorf to nature, Verville to despair, Tamke to the environmentalist, Hollemans to criticism, Prins and Mascho to the border of wishes, and even Lesert to confessions. 

The overall message GRCC’s Sustainability Series delivered, and echoed in a “Quilt of Words” is not a pleasant one to hear (or read). On a scale of unconcerned to panic, we as a people should be positioned more towards the latter than the former regarding the state of, and ability to, save our planet. 

As two documentary films screened in the series, “Food, Inc” and “What a Way To Go: Life at the End of Empire” suggest, we may already be too late.

Therein seems to lie the problem. Despite the dire situation our planet is in we remain stuck at the wrong end of that scale.

Said environmental author, Alan Durning, “Measured in constant dollars, the world’s people have consumed as many goods and services since 1950 as all previous generations put together. Americans alone have used up as large a share of earth’s mineral resources as did everyone before them combined. Yet this historical epoch of titanic consumption appears to have failed to make the consumer class any happier.”

Durning seems to more accurately reflect where Americans stand. We’ve turned a blind eye. We think that somebody, somewhere has our back, science, our government, who? Ultimately, it is up to each of us.

The Way We Do Things

If you humble yourself, maybe we can be friends

There are plenty of places you could make your amends

How can I, but one, assist tendencies to move

When my ideas, I fret, are not in tune with the groove


I love your body, but I hate your mind

Wish we could discuss some things to refine

I cast my vote to no avail

My voice unheard, the ship’s set sail


You are too proud and make me angry

But I am you, and you are me

The well-oiled machine has lost a screw

In God we trust, and I in you


Forget your sorrows, for we are the best

There is nothing you need to get off your chest

-Gavin Hollemans

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