Artist to speak about embracing difficulties

Jordan Beck


As an art student, Phil Hansen was interested in the intricate style of pointillism, in which artists create detailed pictures with thousands of tiny dots, Director for the Center for Student Enrichment Rachel Harris said.

“But then he realized he had nerve damage,” she said. “He lost his way for a little while, until a neurologist told him to ‘embrace the shake,’ which inspired him to take a different approach.”

That “different approach” has led to artistic pieces far removed from Hansen’s pointillist roots and has inspired him to share his story as a motivational speaker, Harris said.

“[Hansen’s] primary message is to embrace the challenges that come your way,” Harris said. “Everyone has obstacles and challenges, but the trick is to learn how to work with them to achieve your dreams.”

President of Platform Personalities Mark Surrel, senior dual-major in biology and philosophy, said the group was first exposed to Hansen through his two appearances in the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference series.

Surrel said Hansen’s inspiring story and focus on creative expression made him an easy choice for Platform Personalities’ lecture series.

“We saw a gap in the kinds of artistic events that we had at NMU: a feeling that, campus-wide, there weren’t a whole lot of events that would inspire students to be more creative and artistic,” Surrel said.

One of Hansen’s series, “Goodbye Art,” focuses on artistic pieces made to be destroyed once completed, incorporating materials such as pine cones, matches and frozen wine. Another, titled “Influence,” consists of portraits painted onto Hansen’s bare chest.

Surrel said he feels Hansen’s presentation could resonate with almost any student, whether they’re majoring in an art-related field or not.

“The goal is to help build a more creative atmosphere on campus, and not just for art students,” Surrel said. “Anyone can make art and be creative, so I don’t want people to be intimidated if they’re not part of the ‘art world.’ Phil’s story isn’t just a story about art: it’s a story about overcoming limitations and embracing them to create better things.”

“Embrace the Shake” will be held at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 4 in Jamrich 102. Admission is free for NMU students with a school ID, or $2 for the general public.