The First Week in Fishtown
Gabrielle Grobbel – Fishtown Preservation
I can’t help but feel at home as I am guided among the bustling Fishtown shanties for the first time. The worn docks and buildings speak of the strength of this ever-changing village, but also of the love that goes into keeping them there. I know as I walk through Fishtown that there is something special around me. I have already begun to develop a sense of admiration for those living and working here, and those who carry and contribute to its ever-growing history.
Growing up in the Detroit area, I have always loved the water. I would spend the summers going on boat rides on the lake, often jumping in for a quick swim. Sometimes we would wander around the coast of Michigan by boat, stopping at little marinas along the way. I loved being out on the water, and exploring the lovely little towns that populated northern Michigan. I especially looked forward to the famous fudge shops that littered most towns, and could not resist getting an ice cream cone or a small box of candy. Looking back at those memories brings joy but also a sense of relaxation. I can’t help but be soothed by the laid-back atmosphere of northern Michigan, and it is not difficult to understand why it is such a beloved place for those who live and vacation here.
I never lost my love for the water as I grew older, so I decided to study marine science in school. Attending Coastal Carolina University for three years now has allowed me to expand my passion for nature as well as my interest in ecology. I further developed my love for art as well, working in my university’s ceramics studio.
In between my academic studies, I have always made sure to find time for art. I practice pottery and sculpture whenever I can. The more I learn about science and the natural world, the more connections I make to creating art. I believe that art and nature go hand-in-hand, and complement each other in numerous ways. Clay is an art form that comes straight from the earth, quite literally. It is muddy and it is dirty and can be quite finicky, but it is also filled with meaning. Every touch shapes and bends its story, and creates a narrative, or a pot, that the observer can draw meaning from.
I found similar meaning in some of my science courses. After a marine geology lab my sophomore year of college, I came home from the field covered in mud after extracting vibracores from the earth to look at sediment layers dating back thousands of years. The natural world had shifted and eroded and deposited matter in such a way that with the right tools, a story could be told. Past ecosystems that were buried thrice over could be uncovered and used to understand how and why the landscape has evolved over time. Different types of dirt and organic matter served as indicators of what the past once held. It is amazing to me how much meaning can arise from such small sources, and what stories they can tell.
I think that “stories” will become a theme throughout my time in Fishtown. I am looking forward to getting to know those who visit and work here, and the families that have been here for generations. I want to dive deeper into the narrative that has shaped Fishtown over the years, and muddy my hands with the rich history that blends both nature and art.
Writing this blog will help me share my experiences during my internship with Fishtown Preservation Society, and discover some of the countless stories that are interwoven in the history of Fishtown. Judging by the speed at which the first week of my internship seems to be passing, I can confidently say that I am very excited to continue to work and learn here. I can’t wait to find my own little spot in the story of Fishtown.
Gabrielle Grobbel is the Fishtown Preservation Society Intern for the summer of 2021. She is a marine science student at Coastal Carolina University in South Carolina and is happy to be returning to her home state of Michigan and for the opportunity to learn more about the historical and beloved site of Fishtown and the life of the Great Lakes.