A new exhibition titled “Off the Grid,” about the quest of people to achieve a self-sufficient lifestyle in the Upper Peninsula, will open Saturday, Oct. 17, at the Beaumier U.P. Heritage Center at Northern Michigan University. An opening reception featuring refreshments and hors d’ouevres is scheduled from 2-4 p.m. in 105 Cohodas Hall. Admission is free. Center hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
"This exhibit looks at many examples of people living off the grid in the U.P, both today and in the past," said Dan Truckey, director of the center. "We will also look at their lifestyle 'ancestors,' if you will: the Anishinaabeg peoples who never had a grid; the early European settlers who with the help of the Anish learned to survive in this region; and the shackers who lived on the cutover lands of the region and eked out an existence. Today’s 'off the gridders' owe a great deal to these early peoples."
Off the grid is a phrase often misunderstood. There are many stereotypes that get repeated: the hermit/miser who can’t live in real society or the neo-hippie trying to, in the words of the great Joni Mitchell, “get back to the garden.” While there are examples of both types living off the grid, more often than not it applies to people who have regular careers and the hopes for good living like anyone else. For philosophical and/or even practical reasons, they choose to strive for a lifestyle of self-sufficiency in areas related to food, energy, water, education, communications and even health care.
In their research, the Beaumier Center staff found that even the most dedicated “off the gridders” are not completely self-sufficient. The climate of the U.P. makes cultivating certain crops difficult, if not impossible. Lack of sunlight in the winter can make it difficult for someone to rely strictly on solar power. And even “off the gridders” love to stay in touch with their family and friends through modern communication devices such as cell phones and the Internet.
The exhibition will focus on various families and individuals who are attempting to live self-sufficient lifestyles, featuring photographs of their homes, artifacts and their own words describing what led them to want to live this type of life. There will also be interpretive panels on the history of people living off the land in the U.P.
For more information on the exhibition and the Beaumier Center, please go to www.nmu.edu/beaumierhertiagecenter or call 906-227-3212.