As with every year, 2017 has brought a lot of personal ups and downs. But unlike every year, a lot of those downs stemmed from local and national news. Many others have experienced it, too — that gut-wrenching feeling that’s become so frequent you’ve stopped noticing it but you also know that it’s never quite gone away. And while Limestone Post covers those gut-wrenching stories, it’s been such a relief to also work every day on stories that put a little good into the world.
Now that our editorial schedule is pretty much a well-oiled machine, we’ve had more time to focus on getting out into the community and partnering with other local organizations. We’ve had a lot of fun talking to folks at our booths at the farmers’ market, First Thursdays, Fourth Street Art Festival, Pridefest, and more. We’re also loving the collaborations we’ve been able to do with places like Cardinal Stage, REEL Rock Film Festival, Bloomington PRIDE, and Sycamore Land Trust and are looking forward to working with more organizations in 2018.
This year has also given us many new and talented contributors! Some of our newest include Yaël Ksander and Claude Cookman, who have brought new voices to our coverage of the arts; Grayson Pitts, who gave us an insider’s look at Stable Studios; Doug Storm, who described the effect the death of Ross Lockridge Jr. had on the best-selling novelist’s family; Allison Yates, who gathered a list of current reads from local book lovers (with a few images by Chaz Mottinger) and wrote a profile on Rise to Run, a new grassroots movement whose slogan is “mobilizing young progressive women to run for office.” Duane Busick created a video on Busking 4 Freedom, Jim Allison has contributed stories that focus on democracy, and Laura Martinez has written a couple of impactful essays on the issues facing our Native American populations. April McKay wrote a love letter to bats and Jenny Elig and Mark Anthony Kathurima took a look at the special relationship between hairstylist and client. Rachel Glago and Erin Hollinden wrote guest columns on issues they’re involved with. And we also have two new columnists: Troy Maynard, who is focusing on fatherhood with personal essays in My Dad Voice, and Jennifer Pacenza, who is covering local theater in Behind the Curtain.
We take pride in how our stories hold up over time — even if they hinge on a specific event. Our writers “dig deep” (to borrow a kind phrase from a reader) and fill the stories with more meaning and substance than would a simple profile or preview, which makes many of these stories just as relevant now as when we posted them.
I was looking back at my previous yearly roundups and am pleased to see the trends continue — our readers are invested in quite a variety of topics. And we are even more pleased by the feedback we are getting: Our readers are finding our in-depth coverage meaningful and appreciate the quality of the writing from our contributors. All of this speaks to the diversity of interests in our community, from numerous social justice issues to the enjoyment and protection of our natural environment to a whole lot of nostalgia for the place we call home. (I mean, our photo gallery of Rooftop from 2016 is frequently a top-hitter in our stats…).
Arts and Outdoors
Our most popular story category — I know you are oh so surprised in a city like Bloomington — is the arts. Some of our coverage in this category takes a look into the past, such as writer Sierra Vandervort’s reflection on Bloomington as haven for the Midwestern punk scene in the ’70s or Michael G. Glab’s look at the ’20s, when Hoagy Carmichael and his pal Monk made Bloomington a hotbed for the Dada scene. Others stories remind us how the past can impact the present, such as one about metalsmith Alma Eikerman by Ann Georgescu. Eikerman was a professor in the Indiana University School of Fine Arts and her work continues to inspire current metalsmithing and jewelry design students far beyond the IU campus. And still other stories look to the future, such as Lindsay and Sam Welsch Sveen’s article on an emerging art scene that is offering “alternatives to the institutions” and is redefining what it means to be a “gallery.” Speaking of galleries, we’ve posted a number of photo galleries this year. One of my favorites was our three-part “Places, Things, People” series by Adam Reynolds, who took photos using a 4×5 field camera of — you guessed it — the places, things, and people of southern Indiana.
Yaël Ksander wrote three arts stories that received a lot of attention. The first was an in-depth look at the collaboration between photographer Jeffrey Wolin and writer Scott Russell Sanders, whose two books (published 30 years apart) chronicle our quarries — the workers, rock, and cultural history of the Indiana limestone industry. Yaël then spoke with Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist and Bloomington expat Joel Pett when he returned to his hometown in September for a gallery show and a stand-up gig at the Thomas Gallery. She wondered whether a man with “a mean streak a mile wide” has, deep down, a passion for humanity. In her third LP article, Yaël talked to many accomplished artists, who reflected on how domestic life makes it “hard to remember that you are an artist. Especially if you’re a woman.”
Our outdoors category is a close runner-up in popularity, and one of the LP staff’s personal favorites. A big way people appreciate the outdoors is by exploring, which is shown in Grayson Pitts’s story about some of Indiana’s scariest spots, which he wrote during the Halloween season, or the article by our editorial assistant, Dason Anderson, on where to catch either the partial or total eclipse when it came to our area in August. But Bloomington residents are also passionate about protecting the outdoors they love. In June, Matt Flaherty wrote an article about how his hike on the Tecumseh Trail ended in destruction. This story got the attention of hikers and forest lovers from all over the region, who are hoping to preserve the backwoods areas of our Indiana forests. We followed that up with a staff-written article on the DNR’s logging of Yellowwood.
Susan M. Brackney spoke with Friends of Lake Monroe to help us understand what’s in store for our lakes if we ignore what we’re putting into them. One of our guest columns by Erin Holliden was about how members of Citizens’ Climate Lobby believe their efforts have encouraged some congressional Republicans to consider a solution to climate change.
But some of our most-popular stories fit into a number of categories, which shows our readers — and the B-town community at large — want to be informed, active, and engaged.
We’ve mentioned it before, and I’ll make note of it again: Bloomington cares. We began 2017 with a letter to “S—,” written by our longest-running columnist Ruthie Cohen after attending the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., addressed to an 11-year-old who had been feeling skeptical about the march’s efficacy in the world. Another early 2017 story was in response to the presidential inauguration in January. LP asked several people involved in Inaugurate the Revolution to write about issues that led them to participate in the event. In February, prior to the crackdowns in People’s Park and Seminary Square, T.J. Jaeger wrote about how easy it is to find yourself experiencing homelessness, and what that first day of homelessness can be like. And in April, writer Sarah Gordon took an in-depth look at race in The Greatest College Weekend. Ever since a team from a Black fraternity raced in the inaugural Little 500 in 1951, the race has had few minority participants. A concerted effort in the 2000s seemed to have broken the color barrier, but today the men’s and women’s races are nearly as white as ever.
Later in 2017, Michelle Gottschlich explored adult literacy and its necessity in the path to survival (such as filling out a housing application or obtaining a job that can support a family). Ann Georgescu first wrote in 2016 about HOPE, or Helping Offenders Prosper in Employment, a service-based research project that helps incarcerated youth prepare for life after their release. This year, she revisited HOPE to learn more about how much the organization has grown and continues to help our youth (partly due to people learning about HOPE through Ann’s first article on the project!). Writer, and citizen of the Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas, Laura Martinez wrote a piece in October about how racist Native American costumes portray stereotypical (and incorrect) versions of traditional Native dress while ignoring the violent history (as well as the current issue) of sexual assault on Native American women.
And on a lighter note, Sierra Vandervort introduced us to Daisy Mae, a therapy horse affected by equine dwarfism at People & Animal Learning Services (PALS), who brings comfort to people with disabilities in Monroe County. Our final feature story of 2017 discussed body positivity and the inclusivity writer Jen Pacenza experienced in our community as she sought to create a more body-positive 2018 resolution for herself.
A few profiles also got a lot of attention this year. For his Big Mike’s B-town profile column, Michael G. Glab talked to Peggy, a local woman who hasn’t had her own home in two years; community organizer Kate Hess Pace; and Abegunde, a scholar, an egungun (an ancestral priest in the Yoruba Orisa tradition), a healer, a poet, a teacher, and a birth and postpartum doula.
Our newest columnist, Troy Maynard, first wrote a piece, The Importance of Pretending to Be a Dog, that reflects on his childhood anger and resentment of growing up in a family that had less money than other families he knew. He learns from his own kids how appreciation is the antidote of regret. The inaugural story for his column, My Dad Voice, began with a conversation Troy had with his son on how essential it is to say “I love you” out loud.
I can’t finish this editorial without briefly talking about nostalgia. We’ve been discussing Bloomington’s “sense of place” a lot lately, which was also the main topic of our 2016 roundup. Our landscape is constantly changing (such as the new Chocolate Moose), which makes so many ache for the days of yester. A few popular stories in 2017 brought us the nostalgic side of Bloomington’s sense of place. We posted photos by Richard Koenig of Bloomington and the surrounding area in the 1970s, back when trains were running straight through downtown. Whether you remember those days or not, it’s a fascinating trip through time. Another piece where nostalgia jumps off of the screen is Dason Anderson’s Hoosier barn story. Dason spoke to historical preservationists, who are trying to preserve Indiana’s (agri)cultural past — one barn at a time.
One of the last stories of the year was a wonderful collaboration with Rachel Bahr’s English 11 class at The Academy of Science and Entrepreneurship. This is the second year we’ve worked with students on their “sense of place” and what it means to them. While last year’s class did the project with photos and extended captions in a project called “This Is Where,” this year the students each made a video to show why a particular location expressed a sense of place to them. I love this project because it shows such variety in the types of spaces and shared community experiences that our youths value.
If you get a little downtime, we hope you take a moment and check out a story you missed or a story you want to reread. Although a lot of these stories were written months ago, we take pride in how they hold up over time — even if they hinge on a specific event. As one reader recently emailed us: “Thank you for sharing both the type and style of content that I don’t catch anywhere but the ol’ LP. Your writers seem to dig a little deeper and, maybe as a result, show more heart as they sew and stitch together stories that otherwise would not be told.” This depth and heart, we believe, fill our stories with more meaning and substance than would a simple profile or preview, which makes many of these stories just as relevant now as when we posted them.
The entire staff at LP hopes you are having a wonderful holiday season with your loved ones! Thank you for all of your kind words this year! Keep your eyes peeled for info about our first print edition! Bring on 2018!