I started reading the New York Times a couple of years back when I was taking classes full-time at Eastern Michigan University. They had a program where they supplied free copies of the paper to their students, so I eagerly picked up my copy every day I was in the Porter building (the primary area for School of Education classes, and the site of the free papers).

Over the last while, I’ve also started reading their online version, and today I noticed a great article entitled “Industrial Echoes in Michigan’s Copper Country“. It’s a nice travelogue, describing the author’s trip through the Keeweenaw Peninsula, also known as Copper County. I have a special place in my heart for that area of the country, since it’s where Michigan Technological University, my alma mater, is located. The article is definitely consistent with many of my memories, though my favorite restaurants were always Marie’s Deli and the Suomi Cafe (though the Kaleva Cafe, which the article mentions, was great too).

The photo that accompanies the article shows the Quincy Smelter, which I explored a number of times during my college years. My good friend Harrison Withers first showed me the smelter, and we used it as the location for a photoshoot we did, producing material for a class CD-ROM project. Later, I introduced my friend Josh to the smelter, and he took some amazing photos of his own.

smelter: looking up
Interior of the Quincy Smelter. Photo by J. Schnable

It was during this time, along with the summer internship in downtown Detroit in 1996, that I discovered my love for rusted, decaying textures. Inspired in large part by the small artists’ community in Houghton (which was centered around the Suburban Exchange coffee house, performance space, and recording studio), I started producing my own music, photos, and visual art, and it is those experiences that have largely shaped the art I continue to produce to this day.

Seeing this all in the New York Times this morning brought back a powerful flood of memories. There’s no place more beautiful in the fall than the Copper Country, as the colors turn and the whole area becomes a sea of orange, gold, rust and brown, and I think I might finally try to get back up there this year. We’ll see. For now, enjoy the article.