Since 1924, the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts has been one of Southwest Michigan’s finest cultural havens. As a community art school and museum, the KIA strives to “cultivate both the creation and appreciation of the visual arts.” Its impressive permanent collection features works from many celebrated artists, including Alexander Calder, William Merritt Chase, Andy Warhol and Helen Frankenthaler. The front entrance holds a massive, vibrant, red-orange glass chandelier created by none other than Dale Chihuly.
The museum also features exciting exhibitions. Through the end of August, one can observe the West Michigan Area Show 2013. Local artists from a 14 county region place entries and over $4000 in cash prizes are awarded. If you are considering a visit, be sure to also check out the traveling exhibitions as well, many of which will remain through the end of summer: Modern Twist: Contemporary Japanese Bamboo Art, A Precious Artistic Moment: Paintings by Catherine Hinkle, and For and Against Modern Art: The Armory Show + 100.
The permanent collection and exhibitions are only half the fun. The Kirk Newman Art School offers over 300 art classes, enjoyed by over 3,000 students every year. Courses include ceramics, sculpture, jewelry making, printmaking, photography, fibers and glass fusing. Their facilities are top-notch and provide cutting-edge equipment. Students are able to explore art in ways they might not otherwise be able to. The ceramics department houses electric, gas, salt, and raku kilns, as well as two off-site, wood burning, anagama kilns. If you are interested in sculpture, you can employ the use of clay, metal welding, and wood and bronze casting foundry. Printmaking covers Intaglio, photo etching, woodblock, lithography and serigraphy. In Fibers, play with 20 floor looms, spinning wheels, and use equipment for felting and dyeing. The list goes on.
The institution is also home to the Mary and Edwin Meader Fine Art Library, open to the public on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The library offers books, exhibit catalogs, DVDs, art related periodicals and artists files. Anyone is welcome to peruse the resources and KIA members can check materials out. On September 18, the library will be hosting a book discussion on The Way of the Dog.
If you are looking for fun, free activities for kids, take them down to the lower level galleries to visit the recently renovated UpJohn Mason Grandchildren Interactive Gallery. There are games, puzzles and books available. Grab an activity bag and enjoy and learn about the art by completing a scavenger hunt!
The KIA also offers art camps for children, team building workshops, certificate programs, and even scholarships. Over 200 awards are granted annually. They cover half or all of a child, young artist, or adult’s tuition. There are two types available, merit and need-based. One can apply via the kiarts.org website.
Finally, the museum’s Gallery Shop is a great place to find unique gifts. Buy cards, jewelry, clothing, sculptures and ceramics from your favorite Michigan artists. The gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
– Lindsey Hinkel, Contributing Writer