Public celebration set to highlight creativity, diversity and community

contact: Jeanne Baron
| WMU News
Photo of a student working on an art project.

A student works on the art project.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—The efforts of more than 100 school children and dozens of volunteers will culminate in the Together Kalamazoo Celebration of Creativity, Diversity and Community from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, May 31, at Bronson Park in downtown Kalamazoo.

The event reflects the diversity of creative expression that enriches local life and culture. It will feature music and poetry as well as installation of a temporary sculpture showcasing artwork the participating youths created during a series of March workshops. The artwork will be displayed on colorful hexagons assembled into five geodesic domes, each measuring 18 feet in diameter and 10 feet in height.

The celebration is free and open to the public, and in case of rain or high wind, will be relocated to the indoor tennis courts of the Student Recreation Center on WMU's main campus.

Together Kalamazoo is an arts-based youth development program created by WMU's Lewis Walker Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnic Relations in collaboration with BigThink, a Kalamazoo-based arts group founded by Lou Rizzolo, WMU professor emeritus of art.

Tim Ready, Walker Institute director, says the initiative is one of the institute's many youth development programs and is consistent with the part of the institute's mission that focuses on engaging in applied research and service to make southwest Michigan communities more equitable and inclusive.

"The Walker Institute does a lot of work on the racial and ethnic inequality that exists here and elsewhere," Ready says.

"Too often, people of different races, income levels and interests live in different places and go to different schools, and so they don't necessarily have the opportunity to recognize the creative genius in others. The art to be displayed in Bronson Park on May 31 will be a visual metaphor of how people from all over Kalamazoo have something beautiful to contribute and how Kalamazoo is enriched when we recognize and nurture the creativity in each other."

Schedule of activities

  • Starting at 1 p.m., the geodesic domes containing the children's artwork will be available for viewing, and food will be available for purchase.
  • From 1 to 2 p.m., event attendees will be able to make their own creations at an interactive art display in collaboration with artists from BigThink.
  • Starting at 2 p.m., young artists will be performing music and poetry. The program is being produced by Yolonda Lavender, a Kalamazoo recording artist, interim director of the Black Arts and Cultural Center of Kalamazoo, and a WMU senior majoring in sociology.

About Together Kalamazoo

Children participating in Together Kalamazoo were recruited from schools, churches, community organizations and mosques in the Kalamazoo area and attended three workshops in March at St. Joseph Parish in Kalamazoo's Edison neighborhood.

Under the expert guidance of art educators from BigThink, they learned to communicate through art what they want others to know about themselves, their favorite activities, and how they feel about the people and places that are most important to them.

In the process, they also learned about the different ways that their diverse peers express their creativity, which range from ballet to basketball, computer games to 4-H and hunting to hip-hop.

After completing the workshops, the young artists had developed a deeper understanding of how Kalamazoo County youths' different interests and modes of expression make the community a more interesting and fun place to live.

About the partners

BigThink has been using the arts for more than 35 years to promote peace, understanding and holistic thinking that integrates analytical and artistic understanding. It creates large-scale art installations around the world. Core members are professional art educators with deep WMU roots and include Kalamazoo Together's art education co-coordinators, Lou Rizzolo's son, Mark, and WMU alumnus Peter Middleton.

The Walker Institute's main mission is to engage in research, teaching and service, especially in Michigan and the Midwest, so as to promote an understanding of race and ethnic relations, an appreciation of diverse U.S. peoples and cultures, and more equitable and inclusive communities and institutions.

For more information, visit the Walker Institute at wmich.edu/walkerinstitute, follow Together Kalamazoo on Twitter at @2getherkazoo or visit the program's Facebook page.