The Creative Endeavors Thread: the Toast of Kalamazoo

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Things have been deceptively busy in my neck of the woods—some of them to do with creativity, others less so—and I don’t really have much to contribute this week. So I figured I’d do a kind of mini-spotlight on a locally regional (or regionally local?) creative resource.

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Michigan Avenue in the Haymarket District, with the Desenberg Building in the center

The Kalamazoo Institute of Arts has been open for almost a hundred years and offers a number of arts-related services to the Southwest Michigan community, including classes and a fine arts library. It also hosts a wide-ranging collection of primarily American art as well as an anthropological/archeological section (mostly Mesoamerican and Andean artifacts with a few Oceanic and African pieces) and a dedicated gallery for Asian art, usually hosting touring exhibitions.

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Untitled linocut by Elizabeth Catlett (1915-2012), c. 1983

I visited last weekend to check out a nicely-timed coincidence of exhibitions. The KIA made its permanent collection the centerpiece for “Resilience,” showcasing Black American art and which will run for much of Black History Month (through this weekend), and there’s an exhibition of past and present faculty and members that gives a nice cross-section of genre and media. Last but not least, there’s an exhibit on twentieth-century San Francisco figurative artist David Park (1911-60) that was rather eye-opening in terms of American art history (he was an early rebel not just against the mid-century dominance of Abstract Expressionism but also that of New York over the American art scene).

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“The Bathers” (gouache, 1960); Park painted a thirteen-foot roll of paper with gouache on his deathbed–just to keep busy–made available to exhibit visitors on a computer screen. Though the painting above wasn’t part of the sequence, his virtuosity with one of my most personally underrated media was astonishing.

Kalamazoo in general is an interesting place; about fifty thousand fewer people than, say, Ann Arbor, but it (well, downtown, at least) feels more like an actual city in a lot of ways, maybe due to the greater density and proliferation of urban architecture (the Desenberg Building in the Haymarket District is the only surviving Adler and Sullivan construction in Michigan). The art scene, perhaps as a result, feels a bit more organic, with cafes and restaurants throughout showcasing work from throughout the area (including the Studio Grill on Michigan, pictured in the header next to the Michigan News Agency, a fantastic little mix of old-school newsstand and used bookstore). There are art hops every now and again and I’ll definitely be hitting one of those in the future.

How’s your work going?