Free Great Lakes activities, concert celebrate opening of ‘Wooden Boats’ exhibit

July 13, 2017  |  by Bonifas Arts Center

Anyone who loves the Great Lakes, both children and adults, can explore and celebrate these wonders at the free “Family Fun Day 1: Discover Our Great Lakes,” with activities merging science and art and a concert blending stories and songs, July 15, starting at 10 a.m., at the Bonifas Arts Center.

“Family Fun Day 1” will celebrate the opening of the Bonifas’ “Wooden Boats Afloat: Stories of Traditional Boatbuilding in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula” exhibit, on display through Sept. 7.

From 10 to 11 a.m., during activities led by experts from Michigan Sea Grant (MISG), kids can learn about Great Lakes science and boating through hands-on creative activities and also enjoy games.

MISG, a cooperative program of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, is dedicated to the protection and sustainable use of the Great Lakes and coastal resources to keep “the lakes and the region vibrant,” according to the MISG website. Learn more at

Next, a concert by Great Lakes musician Lee Murdock will start at noon. Murdock, fluent on the standard acoustic guitar as well as the 12-string, often sings significant, still-relevant stories from the past, his music combining ragtime, Irish, blues, and folk styles.

Since so much of Murdock’s art and work focuses on the history of sailing and boating, as well as current boating, the concert is a perfect addition to the Bonifas exhibit.

Listeners should expect songs about local waters and history, since Murdock loves tailoring part of each performance to the place where he sings—perhaps songs from or about the Green Bay region, Lake Michigan, and U.P. history—and he switches from one guitar to the other, often also including some a cappella songs, he said.

While moving through time and shifting focus—including ballads, work songs, and much more—ranging from “Our Vanquished Hero, Tecumseh” to “Let the Light from the Lighthouse (Shine on Me)” to “The Cumberland’s Crew” and far beyond—Murdock consistently, through stories and songs, asks listeners to truly imagine what people felt in the past, nearly insisting they feel at least some of their suffering and joys.

One of his songs, “What About the Water,” was inspired by a story he heard about the quest to clean Lake Erie in the 1960s and progress made in part due to stronger laws like 1972 amendments to the Clean Water Act.

Kaneville, the home from which Murdock frequently travels, is located about 50 miles west of Chicago and Lake Michigan. Murdock, like many who live near the Great Lakes, feels a real responsibility for the water quality, he said.

Murdock collects, writes, and arranges songs—inspired by fifteen generations of history and music—sometimes creating songs entirely his own, sometimes performing older songs in a more modern style, and sometimes discovering only lyrics and then composing music for them or singing them to a familiar, traditional melody, he said.

Murdock keeps touring, in part, because he loves learning new stories from those who attend concerts, he loves seeing how listeners are moved by the music, and he values the important interactions—personal and emotional—that can only occur when people gather, meet, and talk with one another, he said.

Learn more about Murdock and hear some of his songs at


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