How to Make Your Own Museum

Photo By
Trisha Dunham
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Event
Annual Holiday Art Sale

Organization
Kalamazoo Institute of Arts (KIA)

Date and Time
November 30 from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm
December 1 from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm

Location
435 West South Street, Kalamazoo, MI 49007

What roel does the KIA play in the community?
When I first moved to Kalamazoo, the city didn’t have much of a downtown. People went there to work but drove back to the suburbs at night—the streets were so empty you could have shot off a cannon. To have a great city, you have to get people living and playing downtown. But it’s not enough just to have a few shops. Some downtowns look great, but there’s not much to them. So what makes a city thrive? Culture. Culture is what separates ghost towns from places like Kalamazoo. A city needs to have spaces like the KIA that provide opportunities to open your mind up to new things. I have to pinch myself when I look at our downtown today.

What made you want to get personally involved in the KIA?
It’s been a treat and an honor to be part of Kalamazoo’s renaissance. I feel fortunate to live in such a philanthropic town. I pitch in how I can, and I started focusing on the KIA because of how crucial high culture is to a community. People don’t know how extensive and impressive the institute’s collection is. I was stunned that it had works from artists like Degas, Warhol, and Van Gogh. To me, the KIA is a cornerstone organization. I’m not an artist, but as I became more and more involved, I found that engaging that side of your brain can make you a better person.

How can people support the KIA and local artists in general?
At the end of November and beginning of December, the KIA hosts its Annual Holiday Art Sale. The entire lobby, and even the art school studios, are filled with pieces from over 150 artists from every corner of the community. You can find paintings, jewelry, ceramics, photographs—everything you can think of. I’ve been able to buy some beautiful pieces for my home. I bought a couple of paintings last year and got to know the artist. This event is a great opportunity to talk to artists and learn about their work, processes, and inspirations.

How does the holiday art sale impact the community? 
The Holiday Art Sale is not only about picking up paintings; it keeps money in Kalamazoo by supporting local artisans and the KIA. It strengthens our community by helping to make the city a place where artists want to live. It brings culture to people by showing them the creative side of Southwest Michigan that they may not have seen before.

This art sale may be a person’s first introduction to the KIA. The KIA is one of the few art institutions in the country that has an accredited art school—the Kirk Newman Art School. Both my dad and my daughter have taken pottery classes there. It becomes an anchor point to keep people engaged in the community. I have three kids, and my dream is that they say to me someday, “We love it in Kalamazoo, and we’d love to stay here!” Institutions like the KIA create a vibe that helps the community resonate.

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