July 12, 2009

One corner of Bloomington is about to take a step back in time when a mid-19th-century barn moves in behind the Wylie House Annex at 317 E. Second St. and the Annex itself -- a 1930s arts and crafts house -- disappears from the site.

The barn will be taken apart on its site on Mt. Carmel Road and reassembled with additions, among them a new basement. On the outside and part of the inside, it will still look like the old three-story barn built in the 1860s. Wylie House Director Jo Burgess expects the work to be completed within a year.

The Annex, rated in the city's historical survey as a property contributing to the historic character of the East Second Street Historic District, will then be demolished and the site landscaped to evoke the time when the Wylie House was part of a 20-acre farm.

July 12, 2009

In 2008, Shu-Mei Chan earned her Masters in Fine Arts at IU and, like most graduates, had to decide the next step in her career. When contemplating this next step, she noticed an inconsistency in the Bloomington art community. According to Chan, though IU has one of the top ceramics programs in the country, Bloomington has few facilities to support these artists after graduation.

“We wanted to stay in Bloomington and saw that missing in the community,” Chan says.

Alongside her husband and fellow accomplished ceramic artist Daniel Evans, Chan made plans to change this inconsistency. The two founded the Bloomington Clay Studio (BCS) with the intent of building a community-based facility that allows artists to continue their education through clay and other mediums.

May 31, 2009

Mike Black stands casually behind the counter of his downtown market, wearing a zip-up North Face, light-colored jeans and faded New Balance shoes. He greets customers as they enter the store, knowing most by name, often knowing what particular lottery ticket or pack of cigarettes they buy before they tell him.

"Downtown is like a big family," he says with a smile. "I know everybody."

Since opening Black's Mercantile on 221 N. Walnut St. a little over three-and-a-half years ago, Black, 55, has provided downtown with a comfortable environment to shop for groceries.

May 17, 2009

In my dozen years in Oakland and Berkeley, I lived in two studio apartments, two one-bedroom apartments, one backyard cottage without a bathroom and -- after my daughter was born -- converted rec rooms in a family home at the top of China Hill.

We loved that place with its windows overlooking the orange trees in the yard below and beyond that, Lake Merritt. For us, a "granny flat" was just what we and our landlord-family needed, and I expect we would have happily stayed there if I had not taken a job at IU.

Moving to Bloomington, we bought a cottage in Elm Heights --1,200 square feet on a small lot. After a couple of years, when I talked seriously about moving back to California, my daughter drew herself up to her full 5-year-old height and said, "We can't. My friends are here, and besides, I know all the plants in the yard."

April 19, 2009

Revolt stirred in an unlikely corner of Bloomington when word got out that the Bloomington Adult Community Center (BACC) on South Walnut Street would be closed and most of its programs moved to the Sportsplex.

To many older adults who play bridge, dance, learn languages, get help with their taxes and otherwise use the well-worn building, this was not good news. The Sportsplex -- out busy, narrow Second Street on the edge of what used to be "the town" -- is hard for walkers, bike riders, bus riders and even drivers to get to.

Some of us like the BACC where it is: downtown, where we can come to a class and then stop off at the post office and library, maybe drop in at a coffee shop. Some of us like having a place of our own, even if it is a worn warren of rooms. And some of us were not happy that we did not find out what was in store for us until mid-March.

March 8, 2009

Tree-hugging is not a bad word.

That was the message speakers conveyed between films at the Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival on Tour on Feb. 26. The event, which was hosted by the Indiana Forest Alliance (IFA) at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, featured nine films highlighting various environmental issues around the world.

Films varied from Sand Dancer, the profile of an artist in New Zealand who creates intricate designs in the sand, to Fighting Goliath: Texas Coal Wars, the story of a coalition of Texans fighting the creation of 11 coal-powered energy plants in their state.

The importance of activism was a heavy theme throughout the night. “I guarantee trouble will find you no matter where you live, so become an activist before it finds you,” Andy Mahler, the festival’s host, told the audience.

January 25, 2009

Musgrave Orchard is more than a place with great apples for sale. It is a way of life for Amy and Andy Hamilton, who make sure it is more than just a down-to-earth grocery store. They have created a place where the community can eat, socialize, learn and take a second to breathe.

“November is the middle of the winter share craze,” says Amy, who has owned Musgrave with her husband Andy since 2002. The intensity lasts 10 weeks, starting in mid- October and ending shortly before Christmas, when the Hamiltons wrap up farming until March.

The couple spend many sleepless weeks with 15-hour work days. And each has had moments when the thought of picking up and moving their daughters Grace and Willa to Arizona sounded ideal. But they realized they wouldn’t live any other way.

“This isn’t just a winter orchard anymore, this is where people come to get their food,” Amy says. “It has been a taproot into the community for its localness. It’s turning into the old market where people come up here and get their beans.”

December 28, 2008

Chef Daniel Orr trots around the kitchen of FARM restaurant with ease, dabbing each plate with his culinary touch. Whatever the order, whatever the day, Orr knows "real food."

And from experiences on his family's farm in Columbus and his eatery in Bloomington, he can attest to the significance of supporting local farmers and buying local food.

"FARM is community-driven, where we support local farmers," he says. "We do sustainability projects, such as composting and recycling. We try to give back to the community, and, hopefully, we will earn the trust of our locals and people that come in from IU."

October 19, 2008

It is move-out time. Pictures are taken off the walls, the carpet is vacuumed one last time, and all the counters are wiped clean. The landlord arrives for the move-out inspection. Move-in damages are compared to the state of the property now.

What appears to be the normal tear and wear of renting for a year can turn into deductions from a security deposit. And Jim McGillivray, IU Student Legal Services (SLS) staff attorney, says the definition of the normal wear and tear is broad.

"What we try to argue in court is that ordinary wear and tear is the sort of depreciation you would expect from that (type) of tenant and the number of tenants living in the premise for a year," he explains. "But what could look like normal wear and tear to one landlord can look like damages to another."

August 24, 2008

The Monroe County Public Library Board of Trustees ended months of bitter debate on Aug. 20 when it voted 5-2 to start televising its monthly work sessions, every other month.

Bitter may be an understatement. Trustee Penny Austin said at an Aug. 13 board work session that coming to meetings makes her feel physically ill. She reiterated that point at the board’s regular meeting a week later.

At the work session, board President John Walsh characterized Trustee Randy Paul’s “behavior and tactics” as “selfish, narcissistic, disrespectful, dishonorable, unethical and detrimental.” He repeated disrespectful, dishonorable and unethical twice.

Board Vice President Fred Risinger shouted at Paul during the work session. He too restated his frustrations at the Aug. 20 meeting.

“I really feel like we’ve been pressured into this, and I resent it,” he said of a vote to have Community Access Television Services (CATS) broadcast the board’s previously untelevised work sessions.

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