NMU professors awarded grants

Trent Podskalan

Two Northern Michigan University professors have received grants to fund the restoration of museum paintings and the research of the perception and performance of children’s motor skills earlier this month.

Director and curator for the Devos Art Museum, Melissa Matuscak was granted $4,000 from the Finlandia Foundation to clean and restore 20 paintings by Finnish artist and Upper Peninsula native, N. Cecelia Kettunen, a project that Matuscak said has been going on for five years.

Matuscak said Kettunen was raised in Ishpeming and died in 1992. Matuscak also said it’s not very often the museum receives this amount of work from a single artist.

“We’ve had [the paintings] in storage and have shown them in the museum before,” Matuscak said. “[Kettunen] stored the artwork in her cabin, but the cabin wasn’t heated in the winter and the bulk of it was created in the 1940s and 50s.”

Matuscak said the paintings may have been damaged by conditions created by a wood stove Kettunen had in her cabin.

A wood stove, Matuscak said, can create surface grime which could be a contributing factor to the condition of the paintings.

The paintings, Matuscak said, need a good cleaning and there are some cracks in the paint in some areas that need to be painted over.

“The goal with the whole project is to have a catalog published about Kettunen and create an exhibition of her work and have it travel around the Upper Peninsula and the Midwest,” Matuscak said.

“Right now we have about a dozen paintings down in Chicago but they’re going to take a year to clean.”

Matuscak said the grant is beneficial to the completion of this project as the museum has a budget to do programming, but no fund is established for work on the museums permanent collection.

“Anytime we do projects like this, it comes out of the programming fund,” Matuscak said. “That’s why we applied for the grant.”

Matuscak also said the grant is not only an honor to the museum, but to the community as a whole.

“It was a huge honor to be recognized for the importance of this artwork not only to the community, but to the Upper Peninsula as well,” she said.

Spokesman Richard Ahola of the Finlandia Foundation said Matuscak was one of 31 people that were awarded grants this year.

A second grant was awarded to Jason Bishop  in the amount of $5000 from the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance. Bishop, who is an assistant professor at the Physical Education and Institutional Facility (PEIF) and coordinator of the Physical Education Teacher Education Program, is working on a project involving aerobic and muscle-strengthening among children and teens to understand how children comprehend their ability to finish tasks related to necessary motor skills.

“It started with my dissertation where I was assessing motor skills of students with ADHD and comparing their perceptions to their actual performance,” Bishop said. “I needed to identify a scale or questionnaire that had been previously validated. I found one, but I didn’t find one that matched what I needed.”

Bishop said the grant will help to create and validate a scale to assess motor skill ability. He said that every 15 years, the scales need to be re-validated and he is working on a questionnaire that will consist of 15 items.

Bishop’s questionnaire is unique in that it will be accessible through its own iPad app as opposed to being on paper.

Bishop said a normal paper questionnaire would show two pictures with children performing the same motor skill: one performing an action correctly and one performing it incorrectly.

Bishop said an example would be one picture showing a child kicking a ball into a net while the second picture would show a child kicking a ball and missing the net. Bishop also said that with the iPad app, video of the action will be shown for a visual representation as opposed to just looking at two pictures.

Bishop said he is very happy to have been awarded the grant.

“A lot of my colleagues applied for this grant and I made it to phase two,” Bishop said. “None of my colleagues have ever made it to phase two. I was just happy to make it past phase one.”

Bishop said he’s even more surprised he received the grant because he just started his position in January and some of his colleagues have been working for two or three years and have not received a grant.

Bishop said he wants to tackle the issue of obesity and the goal of his research is to try and increase physical activity for children.

Bishop will be assisted by graduate research assistant who will aid in data collection, help talk to school teachers, and perform data analysis.