I can’t thank you enough for selecting The Submission for your Reading Together program, and even more, for the hospitality you showed me. It was wonderful to spend a couple days in a city that combines the warmth of a small town with the vibrancy of a cultural center.
And what readers! I almost fell over when I met a book club who had spent four hours discussing my novel, give or take a little time spent on the carrot cake. And who caught a tiny change I had made between the hardcover and paperback versions. When I spoke, the audience’s energy was palpable and their questions stimulating. And seeing the student art inspired by The Submission and displayed at the library was among the most inspiring experiences I’ve had since publishing my book.
Both the community and the library staff have my admiration and gratitude for doing so much to support readers and writers. The ideas for programming for Reading Together were brilliant, and I wish I could have attended.
I’m working hard on my next book so I can get back to Kalamazoo...
Anyone who has struggled with grief may share in the disconnected and disorienting place it can be. The death of a loved one or good friend whether it is impending and expected, or tragic and sudden, can bring emotions that seem impossible to navigate.
This presentation looked at the variety of ways art may serve to navigate that experience and move through grief individually and as a community. The panelists wove a common thread through how art, whether a community memorial or a personal pencil sketch, may facilitate the grieving process.
Death and dying is such a phenomena that human beings no matter how matured are left dumbfounded; art as an expression of grief acknowledges the loss. This may be the first step to acceptance and healing. Art has the ability to acknowledge and share the grieving experience. Studies have shown that communities where people feel connected and supported have higher qualities of life and health. Perhaps there is a correlation between those societies and communities who create memorials to commemorate and thereby acknowledge the grief experienced by those directly affected. In so doing the memorial, the sculpture, the painting, by acknowledging the life and death experienced we are creating greater connection and a deeper sense of community.
~ Norm Hamann Jr, Reading Together Steering Committee
Knowing that not everyone is affected by tragedy in the same way it was important for me to find a balance between sentiment and honor. I feel it’s important for people to be able to mourn in their own time, openly if they need to, and for a community to acknowledge its history and its tragedies.
~ Brent Harris, sculptor, commissioned to create the Eric Zapata Memorial in honor of the Kalamazoo Public Safety officer shot and killed in the line of duty in 2011.
On Thursday evening, March 28, at 7 pm in the Van Deusen Room of the Kalamazoo Public Library, the Kalamazoo County Public Arts Commission will collaborate with Reading Together by presenting a panel of its past and present members to discuss how it is that public art could engender controversy.
All the internal discussions an individual might have with her/himself about a work of art—I like it, I hate it, I get it, I don’t get it, my kindergartner could do it, it offends me, etc.—have the potential to be heightened when it’s a work of public art. Here in Kalamazoo, classes are taught and conversations – formal and informal, are held on this subject. Who knew?!
And questions arise:
- What is art?
- What makes art public?
- What’s the purpose of public art?
- Who is the public?
- What input does the public have?
Big questions. The panel (speaking from the members’ own perspectives rather than on behalf of the Public Arts Commission) won’t be providing definitive answers. But it will delve into the questions, and provide some insights into those factors which influence the individual and community perceptions of public art. The moderator will be Sarah Lindley, a practicing visual artist and Associate Professor of Art and Department Chair at Kalamazoo College. She discusses these issues in her classes at K College.
The panel is composed of:
- D. Neil Bremer, Executive Director of the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo. He is a nationally known consultant in museum management and has been a performer since his undergraduate days at Western Michigan University.
- Lisa Brock, Academic Director of the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership at Kalamazoo College. She’s a historian with a PhD in African History whose previous experience includes 20 years in two arts institutions in Chicago.
- Billie Fischer, an art historian and semi-retired Associate Professor at Kalamazoo College. She’s been a highly regarded member of many local arts activities, including her membership in the Public Arts Commission since its inception in the early 1980s until 2011.
I hope you’ll be able to join us.
~Martha Aills, Member, Reading Together Steering Committee
Member, Kalamazoo County Public Arts Commission
Public Art and Controversy