Hazel ParkSeptember 7, 2012
World-renowned art showcase benefits Promise Zone
By Andy Kozlowski
C & G Staff Writer
HAZEL PARK — There are only two chances left to check out a famous collection of lithographs from the late 1800s on display at Hazel Park Harness Raceway.
The prints have toured all over North America and Europe, but this marks the first time they have appeared at a U.S. raceway. It’s a fitting venue, since a number of them depict the sport of trotting, now called harness racing, an American pastime predating football and even baseball.
“These lithographs take us back to our roots, where there was obviously a very significant contribution by horses,” said Ladd Biro, director of racing at Hazel Park Harness Raceway, 1650 E. 10 Mile.
“Horses were as important to families back then as a car is today,” he said. “And not only were they a means of transportation, but also industry, with America’s agricultural base prior to the Industrial Revolution, and as a way of recreation, which is where racing them started.”
The lithographs are the works of New York printers and harness racing enthusiasts Nathaniel Currier and James Merritt Ives, on loan from the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame in Goshen, N.Y., a colonial village called “The Cradle of the Trotter” and considered the birthplace of the sport.
The 33 lithographs are now on display in the raceway’s former card room, which in recent times has played host to wedding receptions and other events.
The tranquil winter scenes in some of the lithographs can be seen on Christmas cards, while others are more comedic in nature. One print depicts a horse between heats, with one caretaker bathing it while another pours a bottle of booze down its throat. In a separate print, a man is heading toward a narrow bridge in his wagon and trying to stop as several horses locked in a fierce race hurtle toward him.
“It’s Americana, with a little twisted humor here and there,” Biro said. “It’s just immaculate detail, with many subtle touches. I was looking at them earlier today and commenting on the whiskers in someone’s beard. One person commented there was a fire in the horse’s eyes, so to speak — an intensity.”
Opened in September, there are two dates left to see the exhibit: Friday, Sept. 14, and Saturday, Sept. 15, from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Both nights also have live horse racing starting at 7:35 p.m. and going no later than 11:30 p.m. Saturday night is the Night of Champions, featuring the best Michigan-bred two- and three-year-old horses.
“This event leaves us with a crescendo, an exclamation point, to our live season,” Biro said. “We’ll still simulcast, but it brings to a conclusion our live season.”
A $3 donation is requested at the Friday night viewing, while a $20 donation is requested at Saturday’s wine-and-cheese gala. The event benefits a good cause, with proceeds going to the Hazel Park Promise Zone.
The Hazel Park High Class of 2012 is the first to qualify for the promise. As long as they live in the district and graduate from Hazel Park High School, students are eligible for two-year college scholarships, up to $2,000 a year, for the equivalent of an associate degree from Oakland Community College.
The amount of the scholarship is determined based on the length of consecutive attendance at Hazel Park Schools: 100 percent benefit for students in the district since elementary school, 90 percent benefit since junior high, 75 percent benefit since ninth-grade, 50 percent since 10th-grade, 30 percent benefit since 11th-grade and 20 percent benefit since 12th-grade.
Once in college, students renew the scholarship each semester and must maintain a minimum 2.5 GPA, as well as a full class load of 12 credit hours per semester.
Made law in 2009 by former Gov. Jennifer Granholm, the Promise Zone allows 10 economically distressed areas, Hazel Park included, to recapture one-half of the increase in the state education tax, which does not affect the district’s per-pupil allocation.
The Promise Zone supplements this with private fundraising efforts. The first $50,000 consisted of door-to-door solicitations, bottle collections, spaghetti dinners, a pub crawl, and student-driven penny drives, hat days and more in the schools. One former student, who wishes to remain anonymous, gave $10,000. Other alumni chipped in, as well.
Last fall, the Hazel Park Promise Zone assumed the task of raising $100,000 before the end of 2012, to be matched dollar for dollar by a grant from the Sutar-Sutaruk-Meyer Foundation. The match grant was clinched by a $50,000 donation from The Walmart Foundation, meaning the Promise Zone effectively secured $200,000 for direct college scholarships to graduating Hazel Park High students.
Now it’s all paying off, with 97 students in the graduating Class of 2012 qualifying for the Promise Zone scholarships.
“We raised $200,000 in six months’ time,” said Pegg Roberts, executive director of the Hazel Park Promise Zone. “The reason we did that is because community people got together and really made it happen. I’m really proud of them.”
She said the raceway’s Currier and Ives exhibit is another example of Hazel Park striving to make the promise work.
“I love the fact the community continues to see the Promise Zone as a powerful tool for our young people and for everyone to get involved in raising scholarship dollars to send our students to college,” Roberts said. “It’s an amazing effort.”
Hazel Park Harness Raceway, 1650 E. 10 Mile, is hosting the Currier and Ives exhibit, open 5-10 p.m. Friday, Sept. 14, and Saturday, Sept. 15. A $3 donation is requested on Friday, and a $20 donation is requested on Saturday. The Saturday showing is a wine-and-cheese gala, coinciding with the Night of Champions. Proceeds benefit the Promise Zone. For more information, call the raceway at (
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