• Jason Keusch

Take a Chance-Love Lansing

What follows are thoughts about my city and the people that inspired me to produce the collage “Love Lansing”. It is a work of literal distress and eternal hope. The work is a celebration of the individuality of Lansing. It speaks to the souls of the DO-ers. The picture is historical, but the image is focused on the future. Our future resides on the shoulders of the chance takers and the people who do it right despite the naysayers and institutional hurdles. Our future is spurred on by the individual and symbiotic relationships, not the collective.

"If men loved Pimlico (substitute: Lansing) as mothers love children, arbitrarily, because it is theirs, Pimlico in a year or two might be fairer than Florence. Some readers will say that this is mere fantasy. I answer that this is the actual history of mankind. This, as a fact, is how cities did grow great. Go back to the darkest roots of civilization and you will find them knotted round some sacred stone or encircling some sacred well. People first paid honor to a spot and afterwards gained glory for it. Men did not love Rome because she was great. She was great because they had loved her. " -G.K. Chesterton (orthodoxy)

my man, GK

It seems that when I want to get to the root of something, I almost always defer to the commonsense philosophy of the Great GK Chesterton. In the quote above, He refers to Pimlico, an oft-forgotten portion of central London at the dawn of the twentieth century. Now, his comments are not the discussion of urban planning or pride of place, but in his writing, it is merely a metaphor for humanity and Catholicism (it's a brilliant idea in a brilliant book). For my purposes, however, we'll ignore the metaphor and apply the literal meaning.

If you're a loving Lansing resident and get excited about each new development or exciting movement happening in the 517; or you have a big idea that's going to change our City into a mini-Grand Rapids; or you belong to some 501-3C that's going to promote artists or technology or walk-able streets; at first, you'll probably be disappointed by a conversation with me.

I think Lansing is spoiled by a trick of geography. We’re centrally located. Historically, that provided us the seat of government, a world class U and made us a vehicle manufacturing hub. These behemoth organizations lead to false securities and the idea that we are bigger than we are. I am skeptical of organizations of all sizes, sorts and missions- they are easily corruptible. I am especially leery when they are founded to support something I do. They are well-intentioned, but no good deed goes unpunished. To sum up my criticism: We’re a small to medium city of union-class of people that controls the making of laws in the SOM that can go a freaking BROAD Museum any time we want, yet has the audacity to complain about the parking or the one-way streets. We’re spoiled and we think we deserve more, and maybe we do, but acting like our personal actions aren’t the solution, leaves us mired in yesterday. Lansing’s institutions are so big relative to its population, that we appear to be waiting for some public act or work to change our city into our hopes. Harsh enough? Yes, but harsh because I love her. Harsh, because I need real perspective to act in her interest.

I believe success is based completely on the ability to do business and the luck that doing it well may create. I love doing business here (and small business is hard, here). Its people, its architecture, its map, its celebrities, its art and its culture make me feel like I personally have a 200 year history. I love GM and Oldsmobile. I view the Cutlass 442 as my car though I never drove one. I love that Capitol Dome and the idea it represents. I love almost everything that my Sparties do in the world. Every particle accelerated is my scientific achievement. You see what I am getting at? I love it so much that I am allowed to say what I dislike as long as I am willing to DO something about it that doesn't harm anyone. Speak, if you act. Shut it, if you don’t act.

So, to me, the answer resides in the actions of the individual and loosely formed alliances by like-minded people. This comes first, then it becomes part of the life, then it gets organized. And then, the people like me go do something different, because we hate to be “organized”. A rising tide floats all boats, but the Boat maker is the unsung hero. That leads me to Melik.

me and melik at the Lansing Made Nook

I worked with Melik for many years at Troppo. He has always been his own man. As chronicled last week in the City Pulse he is truly a ‘champion’ of Lansing, for Lansing. I've always admired him for the way that he Nikes- he just does things. I am enamored with his spirit because he has none of the pessimism that I possess. He just goes and DOES cool things all day with no regard for his reward. To me, Melik Brown is the Mayor of all things unofficial, the emcee organic happenings, a true friend and a personal role-model. Check out: Lansing Made

Melik's original photograph

I'd like to highlight a couple of other chance-takers...

There is a married couple in REO town that has built a small business based on Metal cutouts of cultural and celebrated Michigan themes. Caitlin and Dane Vermulen have made an awesome business that adorns walls in homes all around the State. Wait, there's more: a photography trade, dope sculptures, geometric designs and cool furniture. They do both things right. They make great art products and they run a great small business. Check out: Michigan Imagery

I've included, in the painting, some non-profit people of whom, as a Lansing-guy, I am proud. I did so without their knowledge because they're DOing: The Greater Lansing Food Bank, Ele's Place, Peckham Industries, Cinnaire, and Impression 5. There are tons of other people and groups that do great things! These are just a few that stand out in my travels.

There are full-time artists in our area that attempt to make a living by making you happy. I made this painting for them too. They are truly small business people. You should check them out. They bleed. You’ll have to trust me on that. Of course, I didn’t include their artwork on the collage because, afterall, this is my show. Check out some of my favs: :

Svitlana Martynjuk. Andrew Sandstedt. Julian Van Dyke. Brian Whitfield. Marissa Thaler.

Finally, there are some stars of Lansing that have helped shape the entire world. Magic! Stevie! Malcolm X and The Iron Sheik are the ones I chose for this piece.

And so, in order to Love Lansing "as mothers love children, arbitrarily, because it is ours.", I have given you ambivalence. To me, this is real love. Lansing’s place in history lies in huge institutions that are slow and secure. It requires unions and local developers and politicians with good and bad ideas. You have to bitch about one-way streets to get two-way streets. Visiting the Broad Art Museum or a nationally broadcasted college football game should be a ho-hum, that’s-just-how-we-do part of life. When loving something and faced with the pros and the cons, accept both. We have to love our history and look at it critically and realistically. But our future, that requires taking individual chances without a safety net. It takes failure. It takes love. Rome was not loved because it was great, it was great because it was loved.

And, we love our little rome called Lansing, Michigan.

Thanks to all of you for participating and supporting this painting. Melik and I have been so pleased about the reaction to it and frankly, the sales. When we decided to do this, we wanted to make it affordable for as many folks as we could. Mission accomplished! Get it here:

This collaboration is one of love! We're selling maximum 300 posters. The first 100 is 30.00. It goes up 10 bucks every hundred after. The original is availalee. All thoughts, rants and praise are solely the thoughts of Jason Keusch. Please don't blame anyone I've included in this if I've offended you. They had no role. BE NOT CONFOMRED!

Jason Keusch is a visual artist, sometimes writer and former Chef. Varhaus is a made-up word for his art studio. For more information, sign up to this blog , hit him up at or email

*** All rights reserved.

Jason Keusch 2019

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