Author: Ryan Migeed

World’s 1st Dr. Seuss Museum Coming To Springfield

WBUR

Springfield—the hometown of Dr. Seuss—plans to open the first museum in the world honoring the creator of “The Cat in the Hat,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” and other beloved children’s books, the Springfield Museums in Massachusetts announced Thursday.

“That’s the right place,” Seuss’s stepdaughter Lark Grey Dimond-Cates says. “That’s where all his ideas come from.”

The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum, which its leaders estimate will cost more than $3 million when all done, is being developed by the Springfield Museums in the institution’s downtown complex. The first floor, scheduled to open in June 2016, will be a children’s museum, offering pint-sized recreations of local landmarks that inspired Seuss’s books. The second floor, which is expected to debut in 2017, will showcase Seuss art and artifacts.

“I think this has immense potential,” says Eric Lesser, a state senator from neighboring Longmeadow who chairs the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development. “It’s a very exciting opportunity for a couple reasons—with Dr. Seuss, you’ve got the opportunity for a cultural attraction and a literacy and education center.”

Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden at the Springfield Museums. (Greg Cook)

The museums’ Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden—a cluster of bronze representations of the Cat in the Hat, Horton the elephant, the Lorax and other beloved Seuss characters sculpted by Seuss’s stepdaughter Lark Grey Dimond-Cates—is already “one of the biggest attractions in western Massachusetts,” Lesser says. The Seuss museum, he says, will add to the memorial’s appeal and compliment the existing Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst and the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge—as well as the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield and the planned MGM Springfield casino.

“The opening of the sculpture garden [in 2002] really positioned the museums for a flood of visitors from around the country,” says Kay Simpson, vice president of the Springfield Museums. “They immediately started requesting we have a Dr. Seuss museum.” Now the institution aims to finally satisfy that demand.

Conceptual design for the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum's "City Zoo Interactive Display." (Springfield Museums)

Dr. Seuss was born Theodor Seuss Geisel in Springfield on March 2, 1904, and grew up in the city. After studying at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, he moved to New York in 1927 and worked in the metropolis until he settled in California in 1946. He resided there (living in La Jolla much of that time) until his death in 1991. (Seuss’s second wife, Audrey Geisel, still lives in La Jolla at age 93, but has “some issues with dementia,” so she hasn’t been much involved with museum plans, Dimond-Cates says.)

On the first floor of the Springfield Museums’ Pynchon Memorial Building, in space freed up when the Wood Museum of Springfield History there moved into a renovated and expanded office building nearby in 2009, will be an interactive 3,200-square-foot, Seussian version of Springfield.

“The places he saw in Springfield as a boy, some of the characters that he encountered, had such a profound effect on him that they are later manifested in the books he created,” Simpson says.

Conceptual design for Dr. Seuss's Neighborhood at the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum, including bakery, brewery and Seuss's childhood home. (Springfield Museums)

Designers from 42 Design Fab in Springfield, 5 WITS in Foxborough and Boston Productions in Norwood are developing kiddie versions of Seuss’s childhood home at 74 Fairfield St., the Seuss Bakery run by his mom’s parents, the Kalmbach and Geisel Brewery (nicknamed “Comeback and Guzzle”) run by his father’s family (the museum will highlight manufacturing machines, Simpson notes, not booze), the zoo (“He grew up next to the zoo and his father actually became a superintendent”), “the flowering dogwood trees in Forest Park that are believed to be the inspiration for the truffula trees in ‘The Lorax,’” and, of course, Mulberry Street, the real-life Springfield road located two blocks from the museum campus that inspired Seuss’s first book in 1937, “And to Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street.”

Initial conceptual sketches for the museum include an archway for the “City Zoo, G. McGrew, Manager” as in Seuss’s 1950 book “If I Ran the Zoo.” Which could be a sticky issue since the original book includes a number of racist caricatures. “That won’t be something we’ll be focusing on,” Simpson says. “It’s always a dilemma with any historical document. You actually see the stereotypes of the time. It’s very uncomfortable.”

Also planned are vocabulary and literacy activities—a word-building wall, a book-making section—inspired by Seuss’s “Beginner Books” series, the first of which was 1957’s “The Cat in the Hat.”

Theodor Geisel at his drawing table. (Wood Museum of Springfield History)

When the museum’s second floor opens in a couple years, visitors will find a recreation of Seuss’s La Jolla studio—his actual furniture, lamps, inscribed books, examples from his wacky hat collection and the “unorthodox taxidermy” that he began making in the 1930s. “When Ted last visited Springfield in 1986,” Simpson says, “he was presented with a sign from Forest Park, which has the words ‘Geisel’s Grove.’ And actually that was a part of Forest Park that was named for his father. That is one of the artifacts that is coming with this collection.”

These artifacts are being donated by Seuss’s stepdaughters Lark Grey Dimond-Cates of San Diego and Leagrey Dimond of San Francisco, where she runs Thidwick Books (as in “The Big-Hearted Moose”).

“Lark and Leagrey just feel that Springfield is really special and important to Ted,” Simpson says. “The National Memorial is here. They see it as Ted is coming home.”

Even though Seuss ended up spending the majority of his life in California, there was never a proposal for a Seuss museum there, Dimond-Cates says. Springfield is “where it belongs,” she says.

Conceptual design for Mulberry Street mural at the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum. (Springfield Museums)

“Other children’s book series have kind of faded over time, but Dr. Seuss has seemed to keep growing in popularity. It’s a phenomenon,” Simpson says. More than 600 million copies of his books have been sold, she says. Random House plans to publish a new Seuss book, “What Pet Should I Get,” based on a rediscovered manuscript, in July— with at least two more previously unpublished Seuss books in the pipeline.

Seuss’s innovation was to make books that teach children how to read and offer moral lessons (“A person’s a person, no matter how small,” “I speak for the trees”) via wild wordplay and flights of fantasy, via “lots of good fun that is funny,” as the Cat in the Hat put it.

“The spirit that Ted put into that work, it’s so gentle and thoughtful and sweet,” Dimond-Cates says. “And those characters that he came up with—the Lorax and even the crummy, little Grinch—there was always a sweet message in those books. It was Ted. He was a sweet man.”

Sen. Eric Lesser tours, touts benefits of Sisters of Providence Opioid Treatment Program

MassLive

HOLYOKE — Following his appointment this week to a regional committee focused on health-related challenges in the Northeast United States, state Sen. Eric Lesser spent time Wednesday learning more about one of the Pioneer Valley’s busiest substance abuse treatment programs.

The Opioid Treatment Program run by the Sisters of Providence Health System staff in Holyoke provides medication-assisted treatment for opiate addiction for people suffering from addiction in all four counties west of Worcester. And as heroin and opiate addiction has seen a drastic uptick in recent years, the demand for the program’s services has increased significantly, according to Dr. Robert Roose, chief medical officer of addiction services for the Sisters of Providence Health System under Mercy Medical Center.

Roose, who was recently appointed to an opioid crisis task force by Gov. Charlie Baker, said that he helps run a 30-patient acute treatment unit for inpatient addiction services which admits around 200 new people each month.

He also oversees two outpatient opioid-treatment programs which serve a total of around 1,000 patients each day with one of the three FDA-approved drugs for treating opioid addiction.

As Lesser is now representing Massachusetts to the Council of State Governments Eastern Region Committee on Health, he said the program’s successes should be replicated to help everyone who is looking to break an addiction.

“We have a very serious epidemic on our hands. The opioid crisis has touched everyone, from all walks of life,” Lesser said. “There are treatment options available but we need to make sure the most people possible have access to those services. The other side is looking for legislative ways to prevent future epidemics.”

The heroin epidemic’s resurgence in the past few years has led to a public health crisis throughout much of the Northeast United States, including Massachusetts. While the Bay State had 363 opioid-related deaths in the year 2000, by 2011 that number had grown to 642 by 2011. That figure was more than 860 in 2013, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

In 2013, President Barack Obama’s administration renewed the nation’s drug policy, transforming it to address the drug problem and addiction as public health issues. Treating substance abuse primarily as a criminal justice issue dates back to the declaration of the “war on drugs” in the early 1970s by President Richard Nixon and based on data collected over the course of nearly 40 years proved unsuccessful.

But even as attitudes has shifted toward care over punishment, another hurdle has been providing enough treatment options to meet the need. In Massachusetts, established a 16-member task force to work to identify best practices, and opportunities to expand treatment. Roose is among the members.

Lesser said he plans to take what he learned from Roose in Holyoke, including the fact that there is typically a two- to three-week waiting list for addiction-treatment services, to Beacon Hill.

“This crisis won’t be solved from our courtrooms and jails,” Lesser said. “We need to expand our treatment options and get people the help they need when they need it.”

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Sen. Eric P. Lesser Appointed to Region-Wide Health Committee

 

BOSTON—State Senator Eric Lesser was appointed today by Senate President Stanley Rosenberg to the Council of State Governments (CSG) Eastern Region Committee on Health.

 

In this role, Sen. Lesser will represent Massachusetts at national conferences to discuss health- related issues with residents and legislators from across the country, illustrating how the Commonwealth continues to be a national leader on health issues.

“I congratulate Senator Lesser on this appointment—his intellect, work ethic, and experience will be a tremendous contribution to the Council of State Governments,” said Senate President Stanley Rosenberg.

“As a state and nation, we face significant public health challenges, including a rapidly aging population and an opioid addiction crisis that is showing no signs of slowing,” said Sen. Lesser, who is also a member of the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Public Health and the Senate Special Committee on Opioid Addiction.

“I look forward to representing the state of Massachusetts to address these and other important public health issues affecting the Eastern region.”

The Council of State Governments is a region-based forum that fosters the exchange of insights and ideas to help state officials shape public policy. The nation’s only organization serving all three branches of state government, the Council offers state government officials the opportunity to build partnerships focused on collaborative problem-solving.

More information on the Council of State Governments can be found at http://www.csg.org/.

Op-ed: Together We Can Fight Substance Abuse

By Sen. Eric Lesser

MassLive.com

One of the most urgent problems facing our community is substance abuse, and in particular, opioid addiction. Nearly 1,000 people in Massachusetts died of unintentional opioid overdoses in 2013, more than double the number of motor vehicle deaths and a 46 percent increase over the previous year.

Here in the Pioneer Valley, public safety officials and community leaders have been working hard to fight back, whether through school outreach programs, specialized first responder training, or drug-related investigations and arrests. But addiction and overdose still remain a large problem, especially in Hampden County, where the rate of individuals with prescription drug abuse has exceeded the state average since 2009.

Given the escalating nature of this crisis, I wanted to share some of the work I’ve been doing at the State House to help reverse its direction.

First, I was recently appointed as a member of the Senate’s Special Committee on Opioid Addiction, which will investigate and recommend ways to better prevent, intervene, and treat opioid addiction across the Commonwealth. I’ll be sure to send updates about my work on this committee throughout the year.

Second, we know one of the primary gateways to heroin addiction is via prescription drug abuse. That’s why I’m sponsoring legislation to close the pharmacy shopping loophole, by requiring pharmacies to report their distribution of commonly abused prescription drugs within 24 hours, rather than the current 7 days. This will help pharmacists, public health officials and law enforcement to stop this dangerous practice before it becomes deadly.

Third, I’m sponsoring a bill to examine statewide bulk purchasing of Narcan, a successful anti-overdose drug. Unfortunately the price is skyrocketing, preventing police, firefighters, EMTs and other first responders from getting access to this lifesaving medicine. My bill would help save money by pooling resources and getting a better price from the manufacturer.

I’m also working with my colleagues to support local programs to combat substance abuse. In February, Senator Welch (D-West Springfield), Senator Humason (R-Westfield), Senator Downing (D-Pittsfield) and myself hosted a delegation of Senators led by Senate President Stan Rosenberg and Minority Leader Bruce Tarr on a tour of Western Massachusetts. One of our most important stops we made was to the Hampden County Sheriff’s substance abuse treatment facility, where lawmakers learned first-hand about treatment programs with a proven track record of success.

Finally, I’m working with my colleagues in the House and Senate on several additional bills aimed at combating opiate abuse. These include legislation requiring any drug manufacturer operating in Massachusetts to contribute to the Drug Stewardship Program, which provides safe take-back and disposal of unwanted prescription drugs. I’ve also co-sponsored a bill requiring all opiates in Massachusetts to be prescribed electronically to allow for better monitoring.

While substance abuse is a serious challenge, by working together, we can help make our neighborhoods safer and improve quality of life here in Western Mass and across the Commonwealth.

State Sen. Eric P. Lesser represents the First Hampden and Hampshire District. You can contact Sen. Lesser at 617-722-1291.

Sen. Eric Lesser discusses urban issues with Boston Mayor Martin Walsh at Boston City Hall

By Shira Schoenberg, The Republican

BOSTON – State Sen. Eric Lesser, D-Longmeadow, met Tuesday with Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, in an attempt to build relationships across Massachusetts’ east-west divide.

“It’s important for us in Western Mass. to expand those types of links and build those types of relationships,” Lesser told The Republican/MassLive.com. “The default is for it to be all about Boston, so any opportunity we can get for leaders in the eastern part of state to hear what our concerns are is an opportunity we should jump on.”

Bonnie McGilpin, a spokeswoman for Walsh, said, “The Mayor enjoyed meeting with Senator Lesser today and looks forward to collaborating with him on a number of valuable priorities for the future of Massachusetts.”

Western Massachusetts residents and politicians often complain that state resources are directed primarily toward the eastern part of the state. The issue has boiled up again recently with debate over whether, if Boston wins a bid for the 2024 Olympics, the games should be concentrated in Boston or should be spread statewide. This could affect, for example, which transportation projects are prioritized in the coming years.

Lesser said the topic of the Olympics only came up generally, in the context of ensuring that all parts of the state are treated fairly.

Lesser said he talked to Walsh about urban issues such as homelessness and economic development, and how lessons learned in Boston can be applied to Springfield, Chicopee and other cities in Western Massachusetts. They talked about Walsh’s experience growing the technology sector in Boston and how to incorporate the technology industry into a city’s economy. Lesser said Walsh was eager to learn more about communities in Western Massachusetts.

“He was very enthusiastic about wanting to continue a dialogue,” Lesser said.

Walsh also offered Lesser advice from his time in the state Legislature – for example, about how to stay in touch with constituents. Walsh was a state representative from 1997 to 2014, when he left the House to become the mayor of Boston.

Lesser, a former White House aide under President Barack Obama, won a seat in the state Senate in 2014 in his first bid for elected office.

Lesser said his first conversation with Walsh came when Walsh, a Democrat, called Lesser to congratulate him on election night. Tuesday’s meeting at Boston City Hall was set up by Walsh chief of staff Daniel Koh, who went to college with Lesser.

Sen. Eric Lesser Tours Ludlow Elementary Schools

LUDLOW – Sen. Eric P. Lesser (D-Longmeadow) visited three Ludlow elementary schools late last week to learn about their needs, vision, and long-term goals.

“I was inspired by all the students I met today—each school has its own unique energy that speaks highly of Ludlow and Western Mass as a whole,” Sen. Lesser said. “I learned a lot on my tour – and will bring those lessons back to Beacon Hill.”

The tour took place last Friday, and included stops at Chapin Street Elementary, Veterans Park Elementary, and East Street Elementary. Accompanying the Senator were Ludlow Superintendent Todd Gazda, Ludlow Education Association President Brian Bylicki, School Committee Member Jake Oliveira, and IT Specialist Anne Marie Corrieri.

Later in the day, Sen. Lesser filed four bills aimed at improving quality of living and stimulating economic growth in western Massachusetts.