The cosmos is ready for its close up in Eric Zeigler’s exhibit

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The universe is on view in downtown Toledo. Or at least photographer Eric Zeigler’s vision of the universe, which includes: Galaxies of 100,000 stars, compressed into one small frame the size of a computer monitor. One of Pluto’s moons, the smear of light as good as anyone will likely ever see it. The rust on a meteorite in an image blown up 36-times its natural size. A computer image of neutrinos – subatomic particles so small 65 billion of them fit into a square centimeter – interacting. The exhibit “Under Lying” is now on view at River House Arts, 425 Jefferson St. The exhibit is open through July 30. For hours call 419-441-4025. The show will be part of Art Loop on July 21. The work, Zeigler explained, comes from his interest in astronomy that was sparked by a class he took at Bowling Green State University, where he earned a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Photography in 2008. He’d been taking photos since his early teens, inspired by his grandfather. Above the television in his grandparents’ home was a landscape photo his grandfather had taken. And scattered around the house were copies of Popular Photography magazine. His grandfather, Zeigler said, was interested in optics, and during World War II maintained sights on bombers that flew missions over Germany. Young Eric was fascinated by the data included in Popular Photography. What did the shutter speeds and aperture opening numbers mean? “I was totally addicted to figuring all this stuff out,” he said. He set his family’s new digital camera on manual. That helped him understand shutter speed, but the optics weren’t advanced enough to really vary the depth of field much. Then at about 16, a friend’s family gave him a film camera. It all clicked. The son of a carpenter, who worked with his father, he first attended BGSU to study construction management. “That lasted one day.” Then architecture. Then, since he liked…


Perrysburg Musical Theatre lands “Big Fish” in impressive fashion

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Staging the musical “Big Fish” is not a small task, and the Perrysburg Musical Theatre is up to it. The story, first a novel, then Tim Burton-directed movie, then a musical, is a sprawling father-son tale that blends uplifting fantasy with real-life drama. At the very big heart of the musical is the hero Edward Bloom (D. Ward Ensign), a small town salesman given to telling grand stories about his life that may be true, at least in some fashion. As he faces death, the world of those stories collides with real life. “Big Fish,” which is making its Northwest Ohio premiere, is being presented Thursday, June 23, through Saturday, June 25, and Sunday, June 26, at 2 p.m. in the Perrysburg High School auditorium. Tickets are $13. Visit http://www.perrysburgmusicaltheatre.org/. “Big Fish” is a great fit for the Perrysburg summer troupe. The show calls for a cast of more than 40, many of them young people. It exudes a sense of community whether in Bloom’s hometown or the circus he works for. The play’s technical demands are a challenge. The plot cuts back and forth between present and past, from a kid’s bedroom and a bewitched forest. The production, led by the creative team of C. Jordan Benavente, Julie Bermudez, Ensign and Nicole Spadafore with set design by Dave Nelms, pulls this off seamlessly. The high point being the daffodil-infused climax of the first act. The show is more than a visual wonder. As well as a large ensemble it demands three strong singing actors for the central parts of the  fantasist Edward Bloom, his wife Sandra (Elizabeth Cottle), and their son Will (Garrett Leininger). All have strong, expressive voices, and solid acting skills. And Cottle and Ensign effectively portray their characters from their teens into late middle age. Ensign needs to embody both the real life father, who can be overbearing, with the hero of his stories, who is resourceful and an underdog….


BG school district hires new athletic director

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Jonas Smith served as athletic director for Dayton Public Schools, where he oversaw seven high schools and a $3.6 million renovation of the district’s Welcome Stadium. But something was missing. Smith is hoping to find that missing piece at Bowling Green City School District. “The last several years, I’ve missed being around kids,” Smith said. Tuesday evening, Bowling Green’s board of education hired Smith as the district’s new athletic director. Smith said he was attracted to the “very welcoming” community, the good schools, and the potential to build relationships. Bowling Green Superintendent Francis Scruci said he was attracted to Smith’s 20 years of experience overseeing a large program, his reputation in the state, his winning record at Dayton, and his success securing corporate sponsorships for the renovated stadium. “It’s what he brings to the table,” Scruci said. Smith will receive an annual salary of $90,000. “I’m a firm believer that you get what you pay for,” Scruci said. Smith was accompanied to Tuesday’s school board meeting by his wife, LaDonna, and their two sons, ages 15 and 11. He was also joined by a former school superintendent and mentor, who flew up from South Carolina to be present for his hiring. Smith knows time to prepare for his new job is ticking away, with fall sports starting on Aug. 1. His philosophy for school athletics is “7-12,” he said. The head coaches at the high school level should have a hand in their sports from seventh grade on up. The fundamentals should be stressed at the middle school level, so the athletes will be ready for high school, he said. But he also believes athletics takes a back seat to academics, Smith said. “They are students first, athletes second,” he said. “We’re going to do what’s best for children.” Smith said he will be accessible to parents. “I have an open door policy for parents.” But he also believes in following the…


Bowling Green praised for creating safe place

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Gwen Andrix stood before Bowling Green Council Monday evening and thanked city leaders for making her feel safe in the community. Andrix, a transgender woman, was one of the people behind the vigil held last week after the nightclub shooting in Orlando that killed 49 people. She started out last week holding a one-woman vigil at the four corners downtown – holding a rainbow flag in unity with those killed or injured in the shooting. That small symbolic act turned into a vigil attended by more than 300 people last Wednesday in Bowling Green. Andrix thanked city council and the mayor for being present and supportive, and praised the Not In Our Town organization for helping to pull together the vigil. “I feel safe in Bowling Green,” Andrix said. “I’m pretty much accepted. It’s a nice place to be.” In other business at Monday’s meeting, Planning Director Heather Sayler said the city had hired a consultant to work on the neighborhood revitalization plan for the East Side of the city. The consultant, Camiros, will start work in July and has 14 months to complete the plan. The city is paying $98,300 for the project. Mayor Dick Edwards expressed his sadness over the Buckeye Boys State decision to relocate to Miami University after operating at Bowling Green State University for 39 years. “We can only hope that BGSU will be successful in bringing Boys State back to the campus at the end of the five-year contract period,” Edwards said. Also at the meeting: Brian O’Connell, city utilities director, reported the city’s solar field construction is expected to start in early July, with the site being operational by the end of the year. Brian Craft, city public works director, said construction will begin July 18 on a left turn lane from East Gypsy Lane Road onto South Main Street. Businesses in the area are being advised. Craft also reported the meters will be removed…


BG debates new restrictions for garbage bins

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bob McOmber never expected his job on city council would mean cruising through neighborhoods scouting out garbage bins. “I’ve spent more time than I could ever imagine looking at trash receptacles,” McOmber said Monday evening. He isn’t alone. Fellow Bowling Green council members Daniel Gordon and John Zanfardino have also been driving city streets trying to come up with reasonable rules for garbage bins. The three discussed possible rule changes Monday evening during a Community Improvement Committee meeting before the council meeting. Brian Craft, city utilities director, suggested the rules require all bins to have lids closed when placed out at the curb. Any bin with a “pyramid of garbage” will not be picked up, for two reasons, Craft said. First, when being lifted, the tall trash often spills on the ground, and second, if the lid blows open it can be broken off by the arm that lifts the trash into the truck. Craft also suggested that bins sitting out along the road on non-collection days be picked up by the city, with a citation and $25 fine given to the resident. Just today, the trash crew picked up bins at the curb on East Reed Street after neighbors complained. “The containers were sitting on the curb for weeks on end,” he said. “That’s the hammer to get people’s attention.” Zanfardino asked if civil infractions could be issued rather than the cans being confiscated. But Craft said that response would be too slow for most unhappy neighbors. “A citation doesn’t really correct the problem,” he said. The biggest issue, however, remains unsolved. That is – where can residents store their trash bins on days when they are not being collected at the curb? Gordon said he has received several emails from residents wanting simple language explaining where the bins can be stored. Most agree the cans should not be stored in front of a home. Zanfardino said 16 citizens sent emails…


Bob Mack voices interest in state rep seat

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Tim Brown’s plan to resign as state representative for Wood County has left a big hole for local Republicans to fill. But Bob Mack, Perrysburg Township trustee, would like a chance at the job. “This all came about rather quickly,” Mack said Monday afternoon. And so far, Mack is the only Republican to state a commitment to run. The party has until Aug. 15 to pick a replacement for Brown to appear on the November ballot. Mack believes he has the qualifications for the legislative position. “I don’t want to do anything in my life unless I’m uniquely qualified to do so,” he said. Mack said he has spent 28 years in the “trenches of commercial real estate.” And he is in the middle of his fourth term as Perrysburg Township trustee. “I understand both the pressures of government funding and needing to make ends meet,” he said. Mack said he also served at least a decade on an ODNR coastal resources advisory commission. Though Mack is not up for re-election as township trustee this year, if he is chosen by the Republican House leadership to fill in Brown’s seat, he will have to relinquish his township position. “I have very mixed emotions,” Mack said. “It gives me a little bit of angst. We always have unfinished business in township government.” But if elected to the state legislature, Mack might be able to continue working on one of those items of unfinished business. One of his goals as a township trustee was to lead the township to a Wood County water service or get a more reasonable water contract with Toledo. “I could still have a voice in resolving water issues,” he said. Brown’s move to the director’s position at the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments will allow him to play a role in the water rates equalization conversation being held now in the region, Mack said. “It’s a phenomenal move…


Kelly Wicks eyes open state representative seat

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News     Kelly Wicks, a Bowling Green Democrat who ran for state representative in 2012, would like to take another run at the legislative office now that his former competitor, Tim Brown, has left the race. “With the sudden resignation of Tim Brown, it put a whole new spin on the election in November,” Wicks said Monday afternoon. Since Brown, a Republican, announced last week that he was resigning to take the top position with the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments, Wicks said he has been approached by local constituents about applying for the position. “They asked if I would be willing to step up and make another run,” he said. After a great deal of talk with family members, who would be most affected by a campaign, Wicks decided to put his name in the race. “Ultimately, it will be up to the Democratic Central Committee,” he said. That committee will review all the Democratic applications, then make a decision who will appear on the Wood County ballot. Wicks said his strongest qualifications are his willingness to be available to constituents and his experience running a business, Grounds for Thought in downtown Bowling Green. “I think my three decades of private sector work make me a good candidate,” he said. “I would be able to hit the ground running.” Wicks praised Brown’s efforts at the Statehouse, and said he looks forward to working with Brown on TMACOG issues such as high speed rail transportation. State Rep. Tim Brown’s decision to resign from the Statehouse has given the Wood County Democratic Party a glimmer of hope that it has a chance to take the state seat. Wicks is the second local Democrat to make an official announcement of his interest in the seat. The first was Bowling Green Councilman Daniel Gordon. There is already a Democrat on the ballot for state representative, but David Walters, of Bowling Green, has stated he plans…


Scruci’s first year focused on listening and talking

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Francis Scruci is no shrinking violet. If parents don’t know what is going on in the district, there’s a good chance they haven’t been listening. In his first year as superintendent of Bowling Green City School District, Scruci has made the most of high tech and low tech communication to find out what citizens want, and to tell them what is going on behind school walls. “One of the things I heard was that the communication was really lacking,” Scruci said about the initial comments he heard from local citizens. “What I’m hearing now is people know what’s going on in the schools.” For those who prefer face to face conversations, Scruci holds frequent group chats at local coffee shops. For those who prefer social media, Scruci sends out videos every Friday giving parents and students updates. “I think we get more out of that than if I would send out emails,” he said. The superintendent is not above pulling silly stunts and jamming to music on the videos – that’s as much for the students as the parents. “I want our kids to know that I have a personality. They see I can laugh at myself. They see they can approach me.” When he arrived in Bowling Green last year, Scruci quickly attained status among students by being present at nearly every school event. And in many cases, he was more than present. At the first football game last fall, he climbed up the director’s ladder and took a turn conducting the marching band. When the elementary students started a new reading program focused on a cute rodent, he walked around with a stuffed “Humphrey the Hamster” in his shirt pocket. When it comes to parents, Scruci prides himself on being straight forward, and not candy-coating the truth. “There aren’t any hidden agendas. We’re calling a spade, a spade. That’s something I’ve done everywhere I’ve been.” When Scruci and the school…


Daniel Gordon to pursue state representative seat

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   State Rep. Tim Brown’s decision to resign from the Statehouse has set the dominoes in motion. His departure has given the Wood County Democratic Party a glimmer of hope that it has a chance to take the state seat. The first local Democrat to officially state his interest in the legislative seat after Brown’s announcement is Bowling Green Councilman Daniel Gordon. But first, the Democrat currently on the ballot, David Walters, of Bowling Green, has to resign his place on the Democratic ballot for the Ohio State House of Representatives. And Sunday evening, Walters announced his plans to bail. “Tim Brown has been a dedicated public servant to the residents of Wood County for many years and has done a commendable job of representing the best interests of our county,” Walters stated in a press release. “However, like Representative Brown, I feel that my calling now lies away from elected office and so it has become imperative that we put forward a candidate who can continue his legacy of placing the interests of Wood County residents above partisan politics.” And that will make room for Gordon, whom Walters endorsed. “While I remain passionate about the issues affecting Wood County, I feel that there is a person better suited to represent our community than myself. That individual is Bowling Green City Councilman Daniel Gordon,” Walters said. But Gordon may be just one of several Democrats eyeing the seat. According to Mike Zickar, head of the Wood County Democratic Party, the process for finding a replacement candidate will be made in the next few days. The new candidates from both parties for the state representative seat must be filed with the Wood County Board of Elections by Aug. 15.  Any Democrat interested is encouraged to send a resume to mikezickar@yahoo.com. Gordon, in his third term as First Ward councilman, said he has been focused on making improvements in Bowling Green, such as the creation…


Buckeye Boys State says farewell to BGSU

  By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Buckeye Boys State ended Sunday with the traditional call: “We’re adjourned.” Those words had special resonance at Bowling Green State University where the government education program has made its home for the past 39 Junes. Next year when the American Legion-sponsored program convenes, it will be at Miami University. The program’s board of trustees voted Thursday evening to approve a five-year contract to move the program to Miami University, dashing the hopes of locals who wanted to keep it here. The move had been rumored for weeks and had even been prematurely announced on two occasions earlier this year. The vote, said Boys state spokesman Jim Koppin, was not close. When all was said and down, it was a business decision. Despite a last-minute proposal matching Miami’s offer, “Bowling Green never came up with a proposal we could live it. As one local resident said, ‘it was too little, too late.’” Mayor Dick Edwards said on Friday he’d been told BGSU’s initial offer was an increase of 41 percent. Koppin said he’s been told the same figure. A jump in the cost of that magnitude would have been difficult for Legion posts around the state to absorb. All the delegates’ expenses are paid. It costs $300 to send a high school junior to the program. This year 1,250 were registered, though a few were not able to attend. The local posts pick up the tab, with some receiving corporate sponsorships to help cover the costs. Should that price tag go up to $400, he said, it would make it difficult, especially for a post like his own in Anna that has fewer than 100 members. “We just couldn’t have done it,” he said. “If we’d had to stay here under their costs, we would have curtailed the program.” And that’s not the direction Boys State is going, Koppin said. At the national Boys State meeting in Indianapolis last year, Ohio, which operates the…


Black Swamp Arts Festival music acts don’t skip a beat in time of change (Updated)

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The Black Swamp Arts Festival will feature a mix of new and familiar acts. That’s not unusual. That they feature veterans and newcomers is also par for the course. That those act will come on the wings of critical plaudits, well that goes without saying. Probably the biggest change on the festival’s music scene is one most people may not notice, and that’s as it should be. Kelly Wicks, one of the festival’s founders, is stepping down from his role as chair of the performing arts committee. Taking on that key role are Cole Christensen and Tim Concannon, two long-time festival volunteers who’ve worked with Wicks. “We’re not reinventing the wheel,” Christensen said. “It’s about preserving the great traditions of the Black Swamp Arts Festival. We’ll continue to feature local regional national and international talent and also to give people acts people don’t get to see. The festival has reputation for having great music, and we’re going to keep that.” That means performers whom festivalgoers have never heard of before will be their favorites after the second weekend in September. After a few months of learning the ropes (with Wicks offering some advice), most of the main stage slots are booked for the festival that kicks off Friday, Sept. 9, at 5 p.m. and closes Sunday, Sept. 11, at 5 p.m. It’s been bookended by the blues. The festival opens with the Tony Godsey band, a regional blues band that’s set to release its aptly title “Black Swamp Territory,” a collection of 10 original tunes. Closing will be an old friend, Michael Katon, the Boogieman from Hell (Michigan, that is). At one point, Katon had played Howard’s Club H more than any other performer. He was a regular at Christmastime, playing Christmas Eve, the blues equivalent of the Magi. In the past decade, though, he’s mostly been booked across the pond. Christensen said that Katon is excited to be returning to Bowling Green. On…


Hard work comes naturally to BG teenager

BY JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   While other high school students are still snug in their beds on most summer mornings, Nick Breen has been out working in the woods for hours. “He’s full of energy and we put that energy to good use,” said Cinda Stutzman, natural resources specialist with the Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Department. “He’ll just show up some times and say, ‘I think the trails need trimmed.’” Breen, a junior at Bowling Green High School, has been volunteering with the parks since sixth grade. “Ever since his mom started dropping him off,” Stutzman said. Breen now pedals his bicycle to Wintergarden Park in the mornings to see what work needs to be done. “I wake up too early for my own good,” he said, adding that he does take time to have fun like other teens in the summer. “I do mope around, but I’ve got too much time. I’m here whenever I don’t have other things to do.” As Breen ages, the projects he takes on get bigger. A couple weeks ago, he was given the job of clearing the way for a flagstone walkway in front of the Rotary Nature Center. He dug out the path, and placed the pieces of stone, which had been salvaged from old sidewalks in the city. The project took him three days. Breen spends quite a bit of time ridding Wintergarden Park of invasive plant species. Earlier this month, he also dug 100 holes in the hard clay soil so milkweed could be planted. He even built a fence around the observation platform in the prairie area of Wintergarden Park. Breen has a soft spot for nature, planted by his parents, Dave Breen and Cindy Marso. “I’ve been hiking for a long time. My parents got me hiking since before I can remember.” The teen prefers working in the less developed city parks. “I’ve always like the more natural parks.” Breen hopes to turn that…


Plensa’s mythic monoliths invite visitors to explore Toledo Museum’s grounds

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News For the next six months “Paula” will preside at the Monroe Street entrance of the Toledo Museum of Art. The sculpted head stands 22 feet tall, weighs 35,000 pounds, and if you listen closely enough she may whisper to you. Jaume Plensa’s work needs room to speak to viewers. Space for viewers to stroll around and quietly commune with the large structures. The human forms reflect back to viewers something, maybe secrets, about themselves. The Toledo Museum of Art has given the Plensa’s art the room it needs both inside in the Levis Gallery and spread across the museum’s 36-acre campus. The Spanish artist’s work has already found a home here. At a recent press preview, the museum’s associate director Amy Gilman said that when Plensa’s “Spiegel (Mirror)” was installed at the intersection of Collingwood and Monroe a few years ago, museum officials weren’t sure what the response would be. “We didn’t know what would happen when we put something at such a prominent intersection of the museum and the city. … The public doesn’t always like the public part of public sculpture.” Even before the installation was complete, she said, “it became beloved. It became a touchstone.” Since then people have picnicked, played, and wed near the sculpture. So when the opportunity to bring this show, which was organized by the Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art in Nashville, to Toledo, “we didn’t hesitate.” The installation of “Spiegel” also made people realize how far the museum’s campus stretched. Gilman said the museum wants to extend its programs into that 36 acres, and Plensa’s “Human Landscape” is the ideal vehicle to further that mission. So through Nov. 6, “Spiegel” will be joined by “Paula” and five more monumental Plensa sculptures spread around the grounds. The museum has a summer’s worth of outdoor activities planned, starting with the Community Block party today (Saturday, June 18) from 6 to 10 p.m. and continuing with outdoor…


BG’s Not in Our Town recognized nationally

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Four years ago, Bowling Green was struggling with how to confront racist acts and hatred in the community. Racial graffiti had been written on sidewalks, racist tweets were made about university students, and a local man with ties to known hate groups was arrested. City and university leaders came together and decided to try a Not In Our Town campaign. The program had worked in other communities across the nation to stand up against all forms of violence, discrimination and hatred. The effort took off, engaging more than 12 community organizations and collecting 50,000 pledges from students and community members who understand that hate hurts the entire city and campus. Earlier this month, those Not In Our Town efforts were recognized with a national award for adding to the quality of life in Bowling Green. The award was presented in Chicago by the International Town & Gown Association and Brailsford & Dunlavey. Accepting the award were local NIOT leaders Heather Sayler, representing the city of Bowling Green, and Leslie Galan, representing BGSU. Galan said the award came as a surprise since the recognition is normally given to programs that create economic development and infrastructure projects. “It’s an honor, when you think you’re flying by the seat of your pants,” Galan said. But the efforts are clearly paying off, she added. “It has really helped to change how students see things. It’s changing the quality of life for a lot of people.” The Bowling Green NIOT program is now being asked to share its success with other communities struggling with similar problems. “We have the same concerns, the same issues,” Galan said. Despite its success, Not In Our Town organizers will be the first to admit that their work is not over.  The community was reminded of that this week when the group participated in a vigil for the victims of the Orlando shootings. During the vigil, Rev. Gary Saunders disputed the notion…


Kuhlman tries for court of appeals seat – sending local candidates scrambling for open seats

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County Commissioner Joel Kuhlman has turned in an application for judge in the Sixth District Court of Appeals, sending more local candidates scrambling for seats. Kuhlman didn’t think much of it when some of his Wood County supporters approached him about filing for the ballot spot vacated when Court of Appeals Judge Jack Puffenberger withdrew his name on June 3. Kuhlman chalked it up to his local constituents being supportive. But then the push came from people outside Wood County, including encouragement from Lucas County’s handpicked candidate for the seat who declined the offer. So Kuhlman started taking a second look. “I’ve been struggling with it for the last couple days,” said Kuhlman, the lone Democrat on the county commissioner board. “I really like being a commissioner.” But after debating, he decided to take the chance. “I’m going to go for it,” he said Friday afternoon. Kuhlman’s decision has started a game of political musical chairs with potential candidates eyeing empty seats. “It’s a complicated mess right now,” said Mike Zickar, head of the Wood County Democratic Party. That’s because earlier in the week, Republican Tim Brown announced he was giving up his state representative position to take the top spot with the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments. “It’s like playing multiple games of chess right now,” Zickar said. Here’s why: Kuhlman is facing off with Republican Ted Bowlus right now for county commissioner. If Kuhlman is selected by the Sixth District’s eight central committee leaders for the court ballot, he has to give up his spot on the county commissioner ballot. That leaves a big opening for Democrats interested in running for county commissioner. The replacement for the ballot will be chosen by the Wood County Democratic Party, but will not serve unless elected, since Kuhlman will remain in the commissioner seat till the term expires in January. Meanwhile, both parties are eyeing the empty seat being vacated by…