Mimi’s Open Heart Sculpture

I am thankful for the beautiful spaces of my home and my work that flow with people and the opportunity they offer to witness as we celebrate happy things, mourn our losses, commiserate on worldly matters, or laugh out loud over the perfect madness of life on Earth

I am thankful for a community that rallies when one of us needs something we can not do alone

I am thankful when cancer fails at its job to wreck a life

I am thankful for the change agents who make loud noises about things and wake others up to the fact that the old system no longer works and it is time find a better way

I am thankful to the Universe that has coaxed and cajoled and led and dragged me towards the next and the next and the next small and large adventure in my life

I am thankful to the ever growing circle of family and friends who have arrived at my door on the road of love and for my chance to welcome them in

I am thankful for the gifts of music and art and word crafting and food creation that keep my soul skipping like a kid to their wild playgrounds

I am thankful for this new day where there is another chance for hard hearts and closed tight minds to open and stay that way

I am thankful for the rich and funny, small and large conversations I have had with friends, loved ones and strangers that brought baskets of ideas and inexplicable joy

And I am thankful for my life and the thousand things that allow me to dream something that is not there now and the ability to make them happen

A Song I Used To Know

A few years ago, when Betsy Ernst started talking about raising money so we could open our own Pottery Studio here at the Northport Arts Association I had one of those full body shivers. The kind that rattles your soul a bit and whispers in your ear, “Pay attention! This is gonna be good!”

The last time my hands were covered in slip and happily shaping things from clay was way back in the early 1970s out in Scottsdale, Arizona.

My good friend who had moved there from Morristown, New Jersey had gotten a brand new neighbor. When he introduced me to Sissy, she was unpacking her things after relocating from Asbury Park. Her former roommate back home was dating some musician named Springsteen. I wonder what happened to that guy. Sissy was a free bird, hippy-dippy chick like me and amongst her moving treasures were stained glass making tools and clay things.

She shared a lot of skills and we had a great time getting messy and making art. Life happened and things changed as they always do. Divorce. Moving North. Moving South. Remarriage. Kids. Work. Moving North again. Kids launching out into the world. Moving farther North. You know the drill. Somewhere along the road, things just filled in the space where clay used to live.

So here I am now, four days away from jumping into a clay class with the NAA teacher, Tina Greco and I am ridiculously excited!

When my kids asked me what I wanted for Christmas last year, I announced that I was going to take clay classes at the brand new NAA Clay Studio after the wedding season was over at Willowbrook. My son presented me with a clay tool set that has way too much stuff in it but I’m eventually going to use every single thing.

The point is that a lot of us left things that brought us joy somewhere back along the road and until the Universe drops a big sign in front of us, we sort of forget what we used to love.

Anticipating these classes is like remembering a song I loved. I can hum the tune, but I’ve forgotten the words. I’m thinking that when I get in there with Tina guiding me, the words will come back again and I’ll be singing some clay pieces to life with the same joy I had when I was 22.

It’s a great time to check out the classes at the Northport Arts Association! We’re growing more every day and the variety of classes is impressive! Renew your membership if you’ve let it lapse or get over here and join us!

Find your joy again and let’s see what’s been hiding in your artistic soul waiting to be asked to come out into the light.

NaPoWriMo 2022 #2 Emergence

out of hospitals

out of isolation

out of depression

out of rehab

out of all the places

where we have been frozen in our private winters

unmoving except for the mind

emerging slowly from our inertia

it will take a moment

standing on our unsteady legs

learning to walk in this new world


like spring

and we will not be looking

like the healthy blush of summer

until that time arrives

until then

for awhile

we’ll resemble

dirty piles of snow on roadsides

bits of paper blown into the fences of our hair

just cold, wet, gray of April

when you see us outside again

but look at that

just there

beneath that piece of newspaper

a flower bud

fighting its way up

to feel the sun again

give her a little time

and she’ll emerge

as a brand new

primordial forest

NaPoWriMo 2022 #1 Red Rocker

The last thing out

of the old storage unit

was the red rocking chair

and with that goes the final

physical tie to

this place on a map

where people used to find me

on some soft wind

maybe you can hear

me singing to my children

as we rocked

drowsy head on my shoulder

breath evening out

eyes slowly closing

“So goodnight you moonlight ladies…”

A Visit To Gene Rantz’s Studio

There’s a quiet beauty in entering a creative person’s maker space. 

A rough pencil sketch on a scrap of manilla drawing paper. Jars with carefully cleaned brushes that still hold just a whisper of Viridian oil paint near the ferrule. A box of pastel chalks; the pinks unused, while colors for shading nature rest as nubs and bits and powder. Tupperware boxes filled with used oil tubes that give away the color source of farm fields and rolling clouds out over the bay.

You can see which were the most beloved colors in the way the tubes had been rolled to get every last bit of Ultramarine Blue, Indigo, Prussian and Horizon. Just a few in the arsenal of blues that let him give the world what I now identify as a “Gene Rantz Sky”. 

Last Saturday, Betsy Ernst and I went to Gene’s studio at the invitation of Bill Rantz, Gene’s son. He wanted us to pick some things for the Gene & Judy Rantz Youth Foundation Scholarship program at NAA. We gathered books, paper, brushes, paints and other things our young students can use. 

We took our time looking around the studio while we chatted with Bill & Colleen Rantz and Lisa, from the estate auction house. Among the things left there, waiting … ready to get back to the making, there were books on art and books on philosophical meanderings. A small bird’s nest catching light by a window. A can of soup no doubt to remind him to stop and eat something. There were vertical stacks of sketches he’d done for practice at the Monday Night Figure Drawing Classes that Chris Woomer teaches. 

There were easels and work tables; an enlarger for architectural sized copies and dozens of large and small tools for bringing to life whatever his imagination could conjure.

We saw watercolors, oils and pencil drawings in every stage of completion that sat looking back at us as if to say they were on the way, but not there yet. 

My favorite things were the paint palettes. Covered in whatever dabs and smears and mixes Gene needed while he worked. Wood and hardboard and even a piece of glass held the primordial soup from which each creation emerged unique and beautiful. 

And the glove. That one hit me in the heart. The cloth glove that Gene had used so many times to blend and smooth and wipe a wet canvas that the paint had stiffened it. I stood it up on the worktable so I could take a picture and that was the thing that had me step away and shed a few tears. So real and so tangible, this simple glove awaiting the hand that needed it.   

And there were new supplies at the studio as well. Stacks of brand new canvases, watercolor paper, oil paint sets and lots of picture frames! 

So many of us were friends of Gene and his luminescent wife, Judy, who moved in the world like a human bundle of wildflowers. Losing them both, one after the other, was a stunning reminder that life is short and we’d better get on to making our own contributions to the world sooner rather than later. 

Now, it’s your turn.  On May 15, 2022, Bill Rantz will be holding a sale and auction of Gene’s studio contents. For artists looking to add to their supplies, the items I’ve mentioned will be available for sale. And for those of us who want a memento of our friend there will be an auction. Artifacts of a life well-lived; small treasures and tools; sketches and art pieces, wooden art boxes and work lights amongst the offerings. 

Part of the proceeds from the sale will be donated by the very generous Rantz family to the Gene & Judy Rantz Youth Art Foundation Scholarship Program at NAA.  We are grateful and we want the Rantz family to know that we will continue to hold Gene in our collective hearts.

I’m pretty sure that if Gene were here he’d say, “Ok. people. That’s enough. Get back in your studios and make something.”


You can donate to the Gene & Judy Rantz Youth Art Scholarship Foundation and the Gene & Judy Rantz Memorial Bench Project here:

And, please, take some time to visit Gene’s website and be with his art for a moment.

Are you a Plein Air Painter? Come on up to the top of the Leelanau Peninsula this July and join the Gene Rantz Plein Air Paint Out at the Northport Arts Association!

And, if you’re interested in the auction coming up this May 15, 2022, Check in at the NAA website for details.

Words & Photos by Mimi DiFrancesca Heberlein, V. P. NAA

Above Images from Gene’s studio by Mimi DiFrancesca

Gene & Judy Rantz
Christmas Cove Sunset by Gene Rantz Northport, Michigan

Poetry: Where The Stars Come From

Inspired by this photograph by Marc Nugent, Member/Photographer of the Northport Arts Association. We are studying the works in the Starry Night (Dark Sky) show currently hanging and writing poetry that emerged from our studies. Here is mine today. Fitting as we have just learned that fellow member/artist, Gene Rantz passed today, just a few weeks after his beloved wife Judy passed. They were a helluva love story….

Where The Stars Come From

I know where the stars come from

They’re the rising sparks 

That floated up 

From the bonfires of our love-

Each brush of fingers

Sparked and jumped

Every time we touched

I saved them all

And made a gift to the sky-

Selfish in the giving-

Sent to where I could still 

see them burning

You’re gone now-

Decades on

Still young and perfect

dancing with the embers

And I am still here

Looking up

Not so young or perfect

But, I have a million stars-

Evidence of us

It’s OK.

I’ve just loved you from over here

Poetry: From Nothing

from nothing                 by mimi difrancesca ©2021

the unseeable




dark matter-

that blackness 

beside the stars-

the infinitesimal space 

between the smallest of particles-

that is where I began

moving out from nothing

taking physical form for 

this brief dance

and then-

i will leave a shimmering trail

of light and spark

behind when i return 

to where i began-

i am something

from nothing

Poetry Day: Rogue Wave

Rogue Wave

out of nowhere

he knocked me off my feet 

and pulled me under

deep into his world

i never struggled-

happy to drown

in all that surrounded me 

i traded air for water

and separated from the world i knew

floating in filtered light

Rocking with the current 

until much later

When he was done 

and took me up again

To lay me on the sand

where I stared at the sun

and let it burn me 

until I hurt everywhere

inside and out

he was my rogue wave

there and gone

as if he’d never been at all

somewhere below

on the side of a shipwreck

i etched my name

in the soft wood

with a broken shell

proof that i was there too