June 4th, 2012
Thanks to City Manager Bernie Lynch and Acting Supt. of Lowell National Park Peter Aucella, several excellent groundskeepers from the City and Park last Thursday spent a few hours sprucing up Kerouac Park and the Jack Kerouac Commemorative (the sculptural tribute) on Bridge Street downtown in preparation for a video-taped report by the UK Travel Channel. The TV program, “American Times,” is broadcast in 118 countries with an audience of more than 30 million people. Kudos to Deb Belanger and the Convention and Visitors Bureau for organizing the visit to Lowell. The SUN published a good story on the visit. The journalists were on a tour of about six places in the state for a one-hour special on Massachusetts. Their focus in Lowell was the local cuisine, the boxing heritage (Mickey O’Keefe of The Fighter and Lowell P.D. was interviewed), and Kerouac (the program host thought JK was from California because of books like Dharma Bums and Big Sur). The City and Park crew took care of the planting beds and lawn, trimmed low branches on the willows and other trees, removed some graffiti on the sculpture, and generally cleaned up. The area looked much improved for the TV taping.
Web photo by Jim Higgins, courtesy of NYTimes
May 18th, 2012
I can’t say enough good stuff about the upcoming season of music at Boarding House Park via the stellar (and beneath the stars) Lowell Summer Music Series of Lowell National Historical Park and the many sponsors. Peter, John, and the team have assembled an all-star (there’s that word again) line-up, including Ziggy Marley, K.D. Lang, America, Lyle Lovett, The Brew, John Sebastian & the Pousette-Dart Band, Kenny Loggins, John Mayall, some Styx and Pink Floyd, Gaelic Storm, and others. Here’s the link to see whole series.
April 24th, 2012
NYTimes opinion writer David Brooks in today’s column advises Americans at large to think about creativity vs competitiveness in our economic life—and wonders out loud if the standard call to compete at all costs may not be the most productive course of action. Read his thoughts here, and get the NYT if you want more.
His analysis could apply to what happened collectively in Lowell in the 1970s. Residents, spurred on by persuasive leaders backed up by activists on the ground, moved towards a new paradigm for community development. Rather than spending all their efforts and energy on luring new employers to set up shop in the city, Lowellians began to reframe the value of the city’s intrinsic worth as an important American place whose architecture and heritage were special. This was done so effectively that Lowell became a model for preservation-driven revitalization among smaller cities. In effect, Lowell created its own niche in the way Brooks praises. Lowell people dared to be different, and it has pretty much worked for 30-plus years as a distinguishing asset.
April 16th, 2012
Sunday, April 22: Two Earth Day Events in Lowell
Earth Day Family Fun Day
12 noon to 4 pm: Earth Day Family Fun Day with the National Park Service and Community Gardens Project at the Park Maintenance facility at 220 Aiken Street. Create crafts from recycled materials, tour the greenhouse and learn about nature, gardening & our environment. A dozen non-profits will help collect household goods and recyclables. Featuring Radio Disney & Next Step Living. For more information:978-674-4309
South Common Haiku Book Project
A special event at the Edith Nourse Rogers School at 43 Highland Street.
2 pm: Guided tour of the South Common Historic District with community scholar Dick Howe Jr. Anyone who has been on Dick’s Lowell Cemetery tours and other walks around town knows this will be a great take.
2 pm to 4.30 pm: Indoor activities at the Rogers School (use main entrance and go downstairs). Join a book-binding workshop led by artist Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord and make your own pocket-sized copy of a book of my South Common haiku written last fall and winter. Everyone can make one book and take it home. We will have all the materials, including small sticks picked up from the Common that will be used in the binding. Musician Joe Darensbourg will play an unplugged set or two to liven up the workshop atmosphere. City planner Allegra Williams will be on hand to show and talk about the inspiring new design drawings for landscape improvements forthcoming at the Common.
The South Common is one of the largest public green spaces in the city but one that needs more community stewardship. For more information: email@example.com
March 31st, 2012
At about 6 pm on Friday, March 30, Chancellor Martin T. Meehan of UMass Lowell spoke to an audience of more than 100 people in the Moody Street Feeder multi-purpose room on the fourth floor of the Boott Cotton Mills Museum. Behind him, through tall east-facing windows of Boott Mill #6, segmented like rectangular-blocked graph paper, behind him the late-day light of early spring gave the rose-red bricks of the Massachusetts Mills a familiar warm glow—and all we could see from that fourth floor height, from a certain angle, was the uppermost sections of the mill and the old Napping building, an industrial ridgeline under the pale blue sky.
Someone listening to the Chancellor talk about the extraordinary partnership between Lowell National Park and the University and how projects such as the new “Dickens in Lowell” museum exhibition enrich the community, this exhibit whose opening we were there to celebrate, someone listening and looking out the windows could imagine the surprise of Charles Dickens when he arrived in Lowell in February 1842 and noted the “fresh buildings of bright red brick and painted wood,” a scene matched by what we were seeing outside the windows in the historic mill district of downtown Lowell, in the middle of Lowell National Park. Dickens visited factories, mills, that produced cotton cloth, carpets, and woolen fabric. He saw the city when it was still new, about 20 years old, the span of time from 1992 to now.
The rose-red structures yesterday, thanks to careful preservation and useful renovation, hardly looked older than those that Dickens saw 170 years ago. The view-shed began above street level, so there were no utility poles, street signs, or moving vehicles to distract from the vista. There may have been a wire or two that I filtered out. It was a view out of time, or timeless, a fitting backdrop for the commentary we were hearing about Dickens and the nineteenth century, about crossing the Atlantic in a small ship in a winter storm, and the boarding house outfitted with a piano. When Florian Schweizer, director of the Dickens Museum in London, spoke to the crowd, his English accent only added to the retro quality of the moment. We could imagine Dickens himself speaking with the Lowell movers and shakers who escorted him around for the half day whose experiences made for the lasting account in the author’s travel book “American Notes for General Circulation.”
Merrimack Prints web image courtesy of Lowell Historical Society
March 29th, 2012
Howl in Lowell has a lively report on the Charles Dickens museum exhibition opening at the National Park’s Boott Mills Museum on Friday, March 30, at 5 pm. The media coverage has been outstanding for this project, from the Sun and Boston Globe to the Washington Post and WBUR-FM radio in Boston.
February 18th, 2012
Last night there was a flurry of farewells instead of white stuff from Cobblestones upstairs to the Talon Room of UMass Lowell’s Tsongas Center as scores of friends, co-workers, and admirers gathered to pay tribute to departing city cultural affairs chief LZ Nunn and National Park Supt. Michael Creasey.
The Cultural Organization of Lowell (COOL) invited the ground troops of the arts and heritage front to thank and offer best wishes to LZ Nunn for her seven years of accomplishments and leadership at COOL. LZ poured herself in to projects like the world premiere of the Cambodian opera “Where Elephants Weep,” two editions of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival in Lowell, the Destination World/Discover Lowell series, and the start-up of a new City Hall administrative unit called Cultural Affairs and Special Events (CASE). Her time coincided with the Creasey years at the National Park.
UMass Lowell Chancellor Meehan hosted the packed reception at the Tsongas Center, where the air was supercharged in anticipation of the River Hawks hockey game against Boston University. Particularly with the Tsongas Industrial History Center education program, the University and National Park are long-standing collaborators. From the Public Matters leadership development program and the Kerouac scroll manuscript museum exhibition to Canalway construction projects and expansion of the Folk Festival, we saw big things happen on Michael’s shift at the Park.
LZ is going to the Greater Lowell Community Foundation for her next stage of work, and Michael is heading to a National Park post in Vermont. Both of them will be missed in the roles they filled so effectively.
The Park Service has its own going-away party for Michael planned for mid-March, where all the Park’s community partners and friends will have an opportunity see him.
January 12th, 2012
Read Rita Savard’s fine article about typewriters in our culture and, specifically, Jack Kerouac’s typewriter at the National Park’s Mogan Cultural Center museum exhibit about the immigrant history of Lowell. Filmmakers were in the city yesterday documenting the old Underwood typewriter on display with one of Kerouac’s backpacks on the first floor of the Mogan Center. See the article here, and get the Sun if you want more.
The typewriter at the Mogan Center was donated by Kerouac’s first wife, Edith Parker, now deceased. From her we learned that Kerouac used the typewriter when he was living with her and her family in Michigan after they were married in 1944. He was there only a short time. The machine is an Underwood portable, but not the Underwood referenced in the title of the book of early writings that I edited, “Atop an Underwood.” That machine was a rented typewriter that he used in an apartment that he rented in Hartford, Conn., when he was there in the fall of 1941. That’s the source of the “Atop an Underwood” title—he blasted out stories, poems, prose sketches, and other compositions in his room after coming home from a part-time job at a gas station. He writes about that episode in his life in “Vanity of Duluoz,” the novel he wrote most of on Sanders Avenue in the Highlands, when he lived in Lowell in 1967-68 with his wife of the time Stella Sampas Kerouac. Stella donated the green canvas backpack and camping materials that are on display with the typewriter at the Mogan Center. The actual backpack and its contents are described in Kerouac’s novel “Big Sur.” The Kerouac display case was included in the “Immigrants” exhibit when the Mogan Center opened in 1989, not only because they are Kerouac actifacts but also because they fit in with the other images and objects representing the social history of people from the many different ethnic groups who made Lowell their home.
See a photograph of the typewriter by Lorianne DeSabato on her Flickr site.
December 30th, 2011
Niagara Falls and Pawtucket Falls. You wouldn’t think they have a lot in common because of the vast difference in scale, but each of these water features is a defining element of the community that grew where the water rushed by. Read what’s being talked about in Niagara Falls on the topic of public spaces and healthy communities.
And here’s the link for the website of the Project for Public Spaces.
December 22nd, 2011
Paul McCartney on Tuesday returned to his roots in Liverpool for a concert at the Echo Arena on the dockside along the Mersey River. Read one fan’s report on the concert and hometown atmosphere from the a very active website devoted to McCartney, The Beatles, and their friends. For the obsessives among us, the report includes set lists for the soundcheck and concert, including two encores, and a click-able slide show. The man is 69 years old.
This past fall, a delegation of business and tourism folks from Liverpool visited Lowell to see how our older post-industrial city was making a go of it through innovative use of its distinctive heritage, red-brick factories, worldly culture, special urban development tools, and higher education.
Here’s the Liverpool Echo review of the concert. The reader comments are interesting and varied, not all full of praise for the local guy made good.