Wow! 2018 has come and gone! This brings us to the time of year when I go back over the stories we’ve done to see which ones were the most viewed — and to take a look at my personal favorites. It’s a busy season for all of us, but I hope you find some time to relax in a comfy place and check out any stories you missed. Or reread the ones you loved!
As I was looking through our most-viewed stories, it was interesting to see how many were from previous years — on a variety of topics! We are continually pleased at how our stories hold up over time. Our writers give the stories nuance and context, which also allows for a longer shelf life, whether they’re looking into our environment, such as in stories on local water quality, endangered species, and logging on the Tecumseh; things to do, as in pieces on southern Indiana waterways for canoeing and kayaking, hiking the American Discovery Trail, and Hoosier haunts; or the contributor’s take on local history, like the trains of the 1970s and, of course, the iconic Rooftop Quarry. And we expect many of our Top Stories of 2018 — about the arts, outdoors, and socially relevant issues, among other topics — will be enjoyed for years to come.
We kicked off 2018 with a story on the opening of FAR Center for the Contemporary Arts, by Claude Cookman and photographer Chaz Mottinger. Pictura owners David and Martha Moore are on a mission to bring different kinds of art together in a historic building at Fourth and Rogers streets (thus the name, FAR). And later in the year, writer and photographer Sam Welsch Sveen visited galleries Twisted at Artisan Alley and Delinquent Gallery & Tattoo KAIJU to see new “lowbrow” and edgy art spaces.
Photographer Adam Reynolds and writer Jenny Elig took us to Columbus’s Miller House and Garden — the family home of J. Irwin and Xenia Miller — and gave us a look inside the architectural jewel. Writer and WFHB Music Director James Manion and photographer Chaz Mottinger took us to Blockhouse Bar for a Q&A with bandleader and drummer Ben Lumsdaine, whose Call & Response House Band features local and national jazz artists.
But my favorite arts story — written by Michelle Gottschlich with the help of Monroe County Public Library Community Librarian Christine Friesel — has to be about the memoir of Edwin Fulwider, who grew up in Bloomington in the early 1900s. The piece includes many passages of the forgotten memoir, which allow you to picture the “rich landscape of local art, life, and history” of Bloomington in a bygone era, as Michelle writes. And you can read more by checking out the only known copy of the memoir at the Monroe County History Center!
Including stories about protecting the environment and learning more about what folks are doing outside for work and for play, one of our most-popular categories every year is the Outdoors. Writer Susan M. Brackney provided information on how to avoid planting invasive plants and what the state government is (and isn’t) doing to help the problem. Writer, and now beekeeper, Erin Hollinden gave us a firsthand account of starting her own beehive and helping to save the world, with plenty of support from a community of experts and other beekeepers. We also had a guest column by Matt Flaherty that discussed Indiana University’s solar energy plan and its shortcomings.
Early this past spring, photographer Chaz Mottinger visited three local farmers and their farmsteads — Barnhouse Farms, Linnea’s Greenhouse, and Living Roots Farm and Sustainable Living Center — to see how they were preparing for the local farmers’ markets. Later into spring, we posted a video by Duane Busick about the Azalea Path Botanical Garden and Arboretum, which is home to one of the largest collections of azaleas in the Midwest. The 80 acres is filled with more than 400 varieties of azaleas, nestled along the backroads of Gibson and Pike counties in southern Indiana.
Writer Allison Yates gave us eight fun and weird places to visit in Indiana over the summer, including a wolf sanctuary and a “teeny” Statue of Liberty museum. And this fall, writer Sean Starowitz asked the question: Can Bloomington Be Called the ‘Biking Capital of the Midwest?’ In it, he discusses Bloomington and Monroe County’s vast number of hobby-biking opportunities; in a second installment, he took on some of the pitfalls in current biking infrastructure within city limits.
Before I get to our stories that discuss social issues, I want to give a major shout out to our columnists. Ruthie Cohen kept our tummies happy with Stirring the Pot. She gave us a wide variety of recipes this year, some taking on a single ingredient, such as mustard, or raiding her entire pantry. And after getting hooked on The Great British Bake Off, she branched out more into baking, talking to professional and home bakers, and even trying her own recipe using phyllo.
Jennifer Pacenza’s Behind the Curtain took us far and wide this year. She kicked it off with ÓperaMaya, in which creator and director Mary Grogan brings the Maya culture to Bloomington — and introduces opera to the Maya in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, where few have experienced the art form. Jen reviewed a number of theater performances, such as IU Theatre’s Nice Nails, which took on a variety of social issues, including immigration, trans awareness, and labor laws; Jewish Theatre’s Church & State, which discussed “God, guns, and politics”; and IU Theatre’s controversial play The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? that Jen says gives audiences “a flurry of emotions — love, betrayal, disgust, pity, and delight.” She also got to talk to a childhood hero, Double Dare’s Marc Summers, about the making of a documentary, presented by Bloomington Playwrights Project and IU Cinema, about his life on the messy Nickelodeon show while struggling with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder.
In his column, My Dad Voice, Troy Maynard continued his introspective, humorous, and heartfelt fatherly storytelling while reflecting on allowing your kids to grow up and “ultimately trust them to fly on their own,” in Fly Away; realizing you can’t have the good parts of being a parent without the difficult, in Some Like It Hot; and discussing the fine line of overprotective parenting and how hard it can be to watch your child suffer, in Sock It To Me. In his latest, A Big Step to Fill, Troy remembers his step-father and says that “deep down inside, we’re all 12-year-olds who need something solid and predictable in our lives.”
Writer Michael G. Glab took on a variety of guests in his monthly column, Big-Mike’s B-town, in collaboration with his WFHB show, Big Talk! Profiles this year included attorney, radio DJ, and aspiring Episcopal deacon William Morris; Bloomington’s first female firefighter, Jean Magrane; historic preservationist Derek Richey; jazz expert David Brent Johnson; misfit Darran Mosley; Hoagy Carmichael’s son Hoagy Bix; and local Black Lives Matter spokesperson Vauhxx Booker, among others.
The socially relevant
I tend to appreciate our socially relevant stories the most, and we had some great ones this year! A few were about bettering the self, such as a story by Allison Yates on dance and its ability to cultivate self-love, build friendships, and provide stress relief “in a world where women’s voices are undervalued.” There’s also a story by Jennifer Pacenza, as she learned more about honoring your body through body-positive fitness — as opposed to diet culture. (This is one to read or reread before setting New Year’s resolutions!)
Other stories connected the individual to the broader community. Writer Hayley Miller and photographer Nicole McPheeters looked into PrEP, which can lower the risk of contracting HIV by more than 90 percent in some people. They talked to Positive Link and folks who take PrEP about stigma and other barriers to taking the medication. Nicole also worked with Michelle Gottschlich on a story about The Language Conservancy, which has helped save indigenous languages across the nation. The Bloomington-based nonprofit has also partnered with the United Nations, which will expand their efforts worldwide.
This leads us to two of my other favorite stories of the year — both very different.
John Mikulenka wrote a passionate piece about the preservation of intentional communities, often referred to as “communes.” He explored Needmore and May Creek Farm, which were formed in the 1960s and ’70s, and their need to “bend with the times” as the early members age. The details he includes in this piece are captivating, especially the life and death of Needmore’s Ann Barlow, who left readers with one of my new favorite quotes: “If life ever becomes disorienting … exhale and just follow the bubbles.”
Writer Alexandria Hollett took on an engaging piece about organizing the left and uniting people with similar values but conflicting methods of action. She discussed the difference between organizing campaigns and symbolic activism, pushing activists to emphasize “long-term strategy and tangible wins over disconnected and short-lived protests,” and talked to several local activists about “building the world we all deserve.” I appreciated the deep look into activism strategies, especially in another politically exhausting year.
Here’s to the year ahead! We hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season with loved ones!
And P.S.: There are plenty of great stories that didn’t make this list, so click here for a complete LP archive.