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southwest michigan’s magazine

Singer-songwriter Ferron’s new path Steve Olweean’s quest for peace

t r u e s t o ry

We managed the family trust. They managed the family values. Talk about a happy reunion. In the fullness of three generations of marriages, births, deaths and naturally diverging interests, the heirs to a family fortune were concerned. Their once simple, single pot of money had grown so complex, so time consuming and so expensive to manage, that it was becoming a source of anguish rather than comfort for the family. The large bank that had long-served as trustee had churned through so many employees over the years, it knew little about the family, and cared even less. A trusted friend offered advice: call Greenleaf Trust. Meeting with the family, we listened carefully to their wishes that any new trusts should be structured in a manner that provided for current needs, while limiting withdrawals to ensure long-term capital. We took on their administrative headaches, and oversaw the intricate account transfers from numerous banks and holding firms. We reapportioned inappropriate investments so as to align risk and safety. And, over time, by creating educational trusts, generation-skipping trusts and related sub-trusts, we simplified and clarified “the rules of the road” so that the family’s intrinsic values would be upheld for generations to come. Family trust—in every good sense—was restored. We’re the first to say not every family portrait is all smiles. But with client satisfaction rates approaching 100%, and our unwavering focus on integrity and trust, it is safe to say that our clients appear to live happily, and harmoniously, ever after. To learn how Greenleaf Trust might help you to achieve financial security from generation to generation, call us. Good things are possible.

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southwest michigan’s magazine

singer-songwriter Ferron’s new path steve olweean’s quest For peace

publisher encore publications, inc. editor

marie lee designer

maria majeski photographer

erik holladay copy editor

margaret deritter contributors

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robert haight, gail martin

construction, many will be left as poetry editor green spaces. margaret deritter “We can sell the property to advertising sales/business manager neighbors for a very reasonable price, or krieg lee residents on the block can opt to create advertising representative garden space for vegetables or trees and celeste statler bushes and places to sit and enjoy the office manager surroundings,” Boring says. ron dundon Galilee Baptist Church, on North Westnedge Avenue, hopes to create a Encore Magazine is published 9 times yearly, September serenity garden on property at 430 W. through May. Copyright 2013, Encore Publications, Inc. All Paterson across from church. The rights reserved.St., Editorial, circulation andthe advertising correspondence shouldAdopt-A-Lot be sent to: Land Bank program leases www .com and properties for.encorekalamazoo use as green space gardens. 350 S. Burdick, Suite 214, Kalamazoo, MI 49007 Telephone: (269) 383-4433 “”When we heard that the property Fax number: (269) 383-9767 wouldE-mail: be available, we thought it would be a good place for a serenity garden,” The staff at Encore welcomes written comment from readers, and articles and poems for submission with no obligation to says William Roland, a church elder for print or return them. To learn more about us or to comment, outreach ministry and board chairman. you may visit Encore subscription rates: one year $27, two yearsit$53, three years $78. Current “We want to make aesthetically single issue and newsstand $4, $10 by mail. Back issues $6, $12 by mail. and Advertising rates on Closing date for pleasing a place forrequest. peaceful space is 28 days prior to publication date. Final date for printreflection, andprior members the church ready copy is 21 days to publicationofdate. will maintain the garden.” So far, there have been 12 AdoptA-Lot leases as part of the Land Bank’s Community Garden program.

a p r i l 2013


A Good Place for Writers 26 You can’t throw a rock and not hit a writer in Southwest Michigan and there’s a good reason for that. Fostering Global Peace Steve Olweean and his Common Bond Institute are fostering healing and peace in global hotspots.


Ferron Forges a New Path 40 The Canadian folk singer has settled down and created a sanctuary near Three Rivers.

Up Front

6 Vintage Baseball Local club plays ball the old-fashioned way.

8 Good Works Caring Hearts sews up a storm for others. 10 Update Years after she was Kalamazoo’s first female

mayor, Caroline Ham is still civic-minded.

12 Savor Locals’ love for tea is boiling over. 15 Photo Challenge You know you’ve seen it, but where?

Solve our picture puzzler and win a gift certificate to Oakwood Bistro.

special section


44 Sculpting Together Exhibit by married sculptors 31 Sarah Lindley and Norwood Viviano looks

At Home

Creating Amazing Outdoor Living Spaces

Landscaping Trends in Southwest Michigan

at industrial blight.

45 Lots of Funny Improv Festival draws comical people who like to make it up as they go. 46 Poetry 47 Events of Note Departments

17 First Glance An inspiring image from a local photographer. 54 The Last Word A family’s mythology, and furniture,

are handed down through generations.

On the cover: Designer Maria Majeski created the letterblock image for our cover using materials and assistance from the Kalamazoo Book Arts Center. Photo by Erik Holladay.

up front encore

Paw Paw Courier-Leader/Matthew Day

first baseball team in Kalamazoo formed in 1860 and was called the Champions, but Fusciardi thought it would be bit presumptuous to call his fledgling club the Champions. At least for now. While baseball was known in the 19th century as “the gentleman’s sport,” Fusciardi says modern-day vintage teams aren’t gender- or age-specific. Several of the vintage teams around the state have female players, and players have ranged in age from 13 to 76, Fusciardi says. “Anyone who wants to play and is able to play is welcome,” he says. “It’s half fun, half competition.” The Continental Base Ball Club will practice at its home field, Flesher Field on Ninth Street in Oshtemo Township, and compete on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. The club currently has four matches scheduled for this summer. The cost to join the team is $90, which covers the expense of getting vintage-style caps and shirts as well as old-style bats, bases and balls. Oh, and about those balls: Fusciardi explains that the vintage balls, called lemon peel balls, are made of the same material as their modChris Fusciardi, seen here ern counterparts but are hand-stitched and get softer with time. playing for the Paw Paw That’s a good thing for the vintage baseball players, since they catch Corkers, is bringing vintage baseball to Kalamazoo. the balls — pop flies, pitches and line drives — with their bare hands. “It does sting if you don’t catch them right,” Fusciardi admits. But it still counts as an out if a ball is caught by a fielder on its first bounce, since the rules the teams play by are Vintage baseball club seeks new members by Marie Lee from the 1860s. Those rules also stipulate that the balls are pitched underhand, and the game is played on a big, hris Fusciardi is 29 but he wants to play baseball by rules that grassy field “so there’s plenty of roaming room,” says Fusciardi. are more than 120 years older than he is. And he’s looking for other There is some old-fashioned terminology to get used to as well: like-minded souls to play with him. Pitchers are hurlers. Batters are strikers. The catcher’s position Fusciardi is the founder and manager of the Continental Base Ball is called a behind. Shortstops are known as short scouts or rovers. Club, a team that will play baseball the old-fashioned way — as in no The Continental Base Ball Club isn’t the first vintage baseball team gloves, no dirt infield, no lighted scoreboard. The way baseball was in Southwest Michigan. Fusciardi played for two years with the Paw played when the sport was known as “base ball.” Paw Corkers before deciding to form the Continental BBC. In addition, “It’s a way to play baseball and re-enact history all in one thing,” the House of David Echoes in Benton Harbor have played for more says Fusciardi. than a decade. South Haven boasts the Bark Peelers Base Ball Club, Now a retail manager, Fusciardi is a former history teacher and and there’s also the Douglas Dutchers Base Ball Club. sports writer who became attracted to vintage baseball after he saw An ideal roster is 15 to 20 players, says Fusciardi, but be forea press release on a vintage team in Grayling. warned: This is still a gentleman’s (and gentlewoman’s) game — there Apparently Fusciardi isn’t alone in his fascination. According to is no spitting, scratching or swearing as you might see in today’s the Vintage Base Ball Association, there are 20-plus vintage teams professional ranks. in Michigan, from Marquette to Wyandotte, including two teams “It's really just to have fun and entertain,” says Fusciardi. at Greenfield Village, in Dearborn. While many teams are indepen- dent, some are associated with a historical society, museum or state or local park. The Continental Base Ball Club will be linked with the For more information about the Continental Baseball Club, Kalamazoo County Historical Society. call Chris Fusciardi at (269) 267-6946 or e-mail him Fusciardi named the club for the Continental Base Ball Club that at formed in Kalamazoo in 1861 and lasted for about seven years. The

Wanted: Hurlers, Strikers and Rovers


6 | Encore APRIL 2013

encore up front

Dave, Teri and Stephanie all needed a change. When they first came to Borgess Run Camp, none of them could run more than a couple blocks without getting winded. But by connecting with new friends and expert trainers, a passion for running grew inside of them, and with it, their overall well-being. Now they are living healthier, happier lives. Just another way Borgess is making our community a healthier place to be. Watch their incredible stories or share your own at | 7

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GOOD WORKS up front

Creators at Caring Hearts ‘sew up a storm’ Tiffany Fitzgerald

Erik Holladay


Caring Hearts member Norma Hand of Lawton, right, stuffs a mastectomy pillow while Christine Hollaway of Kalamazoo, left, stitches one together.

Deanna Lang walks into a classroom tucked in the

back of Bernina Sewing Center on Portage Road, holding up a Ziploc bag full of tightly rolled fabrics. “Hey, ladies,” she says, motioning to the bag, “can anyone make something beautiful out of these?” The dozen or so women in the classroom, hunched over their sewing machines and pinning work, look up at the bag and start talking about who could do what with the fabric. It’s just another meeting for Caring Hearts, which meets at the shop the second Tuesday of every month. Among the cupcakes, coffee, chatter and hum of machines, these women create a lot of comfort. Lang started Caring Hearts about 10 years ago after a man at her church who was going through dialysis for kidney failure told her how cold he felt during treatments. She started making quilts to keep him and patients like him warm during the process. There were four members then; there are 18 now. They have sewn, knitted and crocheted thousands of handmade projects for neighbors in need.

8 | Encore APRIL 2013

On this Tuesday, Caring Hearts members are making heart-shaped pillows for mastectomy and heart-surgery patients, cloth dolls for patients at Bronson Children’s Hospital, walker bags, bereavement pillows for those who have miscarried or lost stillborn babies, receiving blankets for newborns, cotton hats for cancer patients and quilts for dialysis patients. Sounds like a lot, but the women of Caring Hearts do even more projects at various times of the year — Christmas stockings for veterans, tote bags filled with toiletries for the YWCA and victims of domestic abuse, and soft, knitted hats for newborns and preemies. Each project is tailored to the recipients. The heart-shaped mastectomy pillows have a soft vee to provide gentle support under the armpit or to hold against the chest after surgery. The bereavement pillows come with brochures to help grieving parents find healthy ways to mourn. The dolls are made to be written on so children can create their own designs and doctors can use them to show their young patients what parts of their bodies will have surgery. The walker bags are fitted with large pockets for carrying magazines and medications, and the cotton hats for cancer patients are designed to look and feel good.

Because the group gets varying requests from local hospitals and other organizations, the members never know what they are going to work on; they just come in and start creating. “We do what’s needed,” says member Anne Hutchinson. “Basically, we come in and ask, ‘What do you need today?’” Many of the members joined Caring Hearts because of meaningful personal connections to the group. Member Linda Cook is particularly connected to the cotton hats she sews for chemotherapy patients. “I had chemotherapy treatments myself,” she says. “I lost my hair, and Caring Hearts were making cotton hats. I started coming and making hats myself. I figure I’ve made over a thousand. I love doing it because I get to give back using the skills I have.” To use her talents to give back is why Lang started the group in the first place, she says. Lang credits her mother for instilling a charitable spirit in her, her faith for guiding her into charity, and the other group members for Caring Hearts’ success. “The women who make up Caring Hearts are really the backbone of the group,” she says. “I’m just the background. They work hard and are very selfless ladies. What impresses me so much is, in spite of their personal needs or difficulties, they come and sew up a storm.” Lang might be a bit too modest, say some group members. “She sorts everything. She sets up everything,” says Kitch Rinehart. “And she delivers everything we make to those who need it." Everyone in the group says they plan on sticking around for a while. “We do so much in a small amount of time,” says Connie Pietrala. “And I like the women. They’re all really nice and great to be around. There’s a lot of laughing, and it’s a good time.” Caring Hearts welcomes donations of new batting, clean fabric in good shape, thread and sewing machines, and the group will take any volunteer who wants to help out — to knit, sew, cut, pin or stuff. Those wishing to donate materials can drop them off at the Bernina Sewing Center, 4205 Portage St.

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update up front

Erik Holladay

Caroline Ham, shown here at home, served on Kalamazoo’s city commission for 18 years, including a term as mayor in the early 1980s.

City’s first female mayor still busy today by

In celebration of its 40th year, Encore is taking a second look at some of those who have been featured in past issues of the magazine. This month we catch up with former Kalamazoo mayor Caroline Ham, who was featured in September 2003.

10 | Encore APRIL 2013

Tiffany Fitzgerald

A sk Caroline Ham what she’s been up to lately and she’s likely to say she hasn’t been up to much. “Just staying around the house, mostly,” says the now 80-something woman. But it doesn’t take long to realize that to this former Kalamazoo mayor, “staying around the house” means sitting on the boards of three area organizations and one local business while keeping up with local politics and staying close to family.

up front update She’s doing so much she doesn’t even consider herself retired. “People keep saying, ‘Oh, I thought you retired,’ and I say, ‘No, I said I could,’” she says with a laugh. “But then I kept talking to people around town, and they kept asking me to stay involved. ‘We need your history,’ they say to me. I can’t remember most of it, but I’m happy to help.” Ham served on Kalamazoo’s city commission for 18 years, concluding with a term as mayor from 1981 to 1983. In the 10 years since Encore featured Ham, her life has taken new directions. In 2004, she married former U.S. Rep. Paul Todd, who was chairman of the board at Kalsec, a Kalamazoo firm that creates natural flavors, antioxidants and coloring for foods. Todd was also active in the push to better educate families and women about family planning and reproductive health. Through her marriage to Todd and their mutual interest in local issues and politics, Ham became involved in Planned Parenthood and also started taking on board responsibilities at Kalsec. Together, she and Todd continued developing their participation in the Democratic Party, family-planning education and local business growth. Todd died in 2008, and Ham has stayed involved with the Kalsec board, now as an emeritus member, and is still on the board for Planned Parenthood too — although the local chapter merged into an organization called Planned Parenthood Mid and South Michigan and now meets in Lansing. Ham says that her journey into family-planning activism has been an enriching experience and one that was greatly influenced by Todd. “These days, family planning is an important public interest and, unfortunately, rather controversial,” she says. “But the support for family planning and informed education for women and families is really very important. Everyone I talk to seems to agree that there should be some support and education for women and families, so I think it’s important to try and get those resources to those who need it.”

Aside from her work with Kalsec and Planned Parenthood, Ham serves on the boards of Downtown Kalamazoo Inc. and Downtown Tomorrow, two organizations that focus on development in downtown Kalamazoo. She also is a member of the Kalamazoo Rotary Club, is part of a book group and keeps involved in downtown activities. She emphasizes that everything she does in Kalamazoo, whether in a development group or going to the symphony, keeps her connected with the community. “I do a lot with the downtown and the organizations that help growth and development,” she says. “And even though I’m not directly involved in the politics anymore, I read about local politics, watch some of the meetings and listen to what’s happening on the radio. There’s been a lot of progress in downtown Kalamazoo, and I like to do what little I can to encourage that progress further.” It’s clear that she holds Kalamazoo close to her heart. “I never thought I would live my whole life in Kalamazoo,” she says. “But I like the size, I like that we’re only an hour away from Lake Michigan, and I like that the downtown offers a lot of different things to do with your leisure time. I’ve been going to the Kalamazoo Symphony since I was 10, and even though I don’t get to go to everything Kalamazoo has to offer, I’m sure glad it’s there.” Ask Ham about the next decade and she’ll tell you she’s not sure what she’s going to do. But then she adds, “I’ll wander around, read the newspaper, try to stay active, visit friends and family around the country, and maybe renew my passport. Then again, I might not need a passport. I’m very content to stay at home.” And when Ham says she’s content staying at home, you know she could have some very busy years ahead of her. | 11

savor up front

Tea Time Tea’s popularity is heating up here by

Brian Lam

12 | Encore MARCH 2013

Richard Jordan


trend is brewing across the country, and Southwest Michigan is getting a taste of it: Tea consumption is on the rise as a new generation of consumers is choosing to sip boiled leaves instead of boiled beans. Kelly Zajac, owner of Tudor House Tea & Spice, in downtown Kalamazoo, has customers of all ages, but most are either seniors or young adults between 18 and 25, she says. The business has really heated up as tea has become trendy. “I started selling tea out of my house and would market through house parties,” she says. “Pretty soon, I started getting a lot of calls and realized I could make a retail business out of this.” While her customers cite health benefits as a major reason for drinking tea, Zajac says many of her regulars are converted coffee drinkers who claim the energy boost they get from tea is a more even “lift” than the erratic highs and lows from a cup of java. And, while many just love the tastes and aromas of tea, Zajac admits that when the star of television’s Dr. Oz Show recommends a specific tea, she’s bound to sell a ton of it. Liz Vincensi, who has worked at ChocolaTea in Portage for more than two years, echoes Zajac’s assertions. She’s seen business at the Westnedge Avenue shop rise as tea has become “the new ‘in’ thing.” “We get a lot of students from Western, K-College and KVCC that come here to drink tea while they study,” she says. In addition to a handful of indoor tables, ChocolaTea has an outdoor patio, which helps keep business steady in the summer, when tea sales tend to slow a little. Like Zajac, Vincensi says a Dr. Oz recommendation always results in a boost in sales. “Recently, Dr. Oz recommended a fermented dark tea called Pu-erh. We had so many people walk in the door asking for that,” says Vincensi. Like many teas, Pu-erh is credited with health-boosting effects. While many of these claims are not supported by scientific research, tea drinkers speak with conviction when detailing their personal experiences. Lydia Midgett, a 26-year-old child-care provider and longtime tea enthusiast introduced to the beverage by her father when she was a child, insists her good health is related to tea consumption. “When I was a kid, I was sick all the time. For the last three or four years, I’ve been drinking tea every day, and I hardly ever get sick anymore.”

Midgett buys several boxes of tea a month from health-food stores, but she’ll often pop into a coffee shop for a hot tea. Indeed, local Biggby Coffee shops carry more than a dozen types of tea for those who like the convenience of a quick tea. For those looking for a more traditional tea-sipping experience, however, several Southwest Michigan locales offer “afternoon teas” in the English tradition. Often misunderstood as “high tea” — which was actually the working-class term for tea consumed at hightop tables at a pub at the end of a workday — the tradition of afternoon tea supposedly started in the mid-1800s when the Duchess of Bedford regularly invited friends over for mid-afternoon tea and snacks. This practice caught on among other women of high standing and was eventually adopted by the rest of the English population. The resurgence of the afternoon tea in America is a throwback to that time period, with some people choosing to dress the part a la Downton Abbey. The W.K. Kellogg Manor House, on Gull Lake, has been hosting afternoon teas for almost 10 years. This year 10 teas for adults are




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planned between April and December. “Not everyone dresses up,” says Nicole Kokx, event coordinator, “but we get a lot of guests that show up in big hats and English dresses.” Kokx says the teas have gained popularity over the years. “We fill up now. A lot of people will make reservations months in advance. When we first started, the attendees were mostly seniors; now we’re getting a lot of guests from their late teens up to their late 30s." A few of the teas are annual mainstays. “We do a harvest tea every year,” says Kokx. “We do a local food pairing with the tea, have a speaker talk about putting gardens to bed for the winter, and then even set up an actual farmers’ market in the three-season room.” The Manor House also hosts two teas a year for children. The Royal Tea encourages young guests to dress up in gowns, tiaras and other fancy garb. They are treated like princesses, or princes in some cases, and always receive a lesson. The Mrs. Claus Tea features St. Nick’s jolly counterpart singing songs and taking wish lists back to the North Pole. The Henderson Castle, atop West Main Hill in Kalamazoo, also welcomes young tea drinkers. At its monthly Little Princess Tea Parties, girls dress up like princesses, eat treats and sip tea or hot chocolate. In the middle of the tea, owner Francois Moyet rings a bell and all heads turn to see Cinderella, her prince and other fairy-tale princesses descending the hall staircase. The royal characters sit among the amazed guests while Prince Charming reads aloud the story of Cinderella. After tea, the princesses guide everyone on a castle tour, and the event culminates in a royal ball. A talented Prince Charming alternates between singing and playing saxophone and piano as the little princesses dance with their role models and parents watch through camera lenses. For those looking for a themed afternoon tea but not of the princess variety, Stuart Manor House, at 7340 Garden Lane in Portage, offers several afternoon teas every year, each featuring a three-course snack and a speaker. Henderson Castle also offers a casual daily afternoon tea by reservation that includes light pastries and finger foods. Whether it be for taste, health or tradition, a spot of tea has become a lot easier to find in Southwest Michigan.

Where is this?

Tell us for a chance to win a $25 gift certificate to Oakwood Bistro!

photo challenge winner 1) Go to and click on the Photo Challenge tab at the top. Fill out the form and submit your answer; or 2) E-mail your answer to Type “Where is this?” in the subject line. Include your name, address and telephone number; or 3) Mail your answer to Encore, 350 S. Burdick St., Ste. 214, Kalamazoo, MI 49007; include your contact information. One entry per person. The winner will be chosen in a random drawing of correct entries. Entries must be received by April 15, 2013. The correct answer will be printed in the May issue of Encore Magazine and on Encore’s website beginning May 3.

Congratulations to Jeffrey Alan Messer of Kalamazoo who correctly identified last month’s photo as the pedestrian walkway over South Street in downtown Kalamazoo. His name was chosen at random from the correct entries we received. Jeffrey won a $25 gift certificate to Food Dance.

Need a hint? Go to our Facebook page,, for weekly clues.

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encore first glance

See page 30 to learn more about this photo and its photographer.

building common bonds Steve Olweean travels globe promoting compassion and healing


Robert M. Weir

Developing a culture of peace by helping people and societies across the globe to reassess and shift their perceptions of ‘others’ is the mission of Climax resident Steve Olweean and his Common Bond Institute. To explain his mission, Olweean speaks of movies about invasions by outerspace aliens and says he wishes it were the current world he were describing instead: “They’re cliché scenarios in which the whole world is endangered. Faced with an alien threat, all human differences melt away and everyone cooperates immediately. Nobody has to come forward to explain why polarized societies have to work together. It’s obvious.” When people exit the theater, he says, they believe they’re stepping back into reality. But “which is fantasy?” he asks. “The movie, where total cooperation made sense and people actually worked as one, or the world of negativity and separation, which makes

people think that others are different and untrustworthy?” Olweean, who is a clinical psychologist, founded CBI in 1990. It is a nonpolitical, nongovernmental organization that creates educational conflict resolution and humanitarian relief programs in war-torn regions of the world. From his home office, Olweean and his colleagues, who include his children, organize international conferences and facilitate training programs to develop a culture of global peace. Olweean’s most recent work focuses on transgenerational trauma, which is inherited, unresolved emotional wounds within a society that fuel violence and war. He cites the Balkan wars in the late 1990s as an example of nations identifying themselves as victims in order to justify atrocities. At a Common Bond conference in St. Petersburg, Russia, people from Serbia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Croatia and Albania all expressed “a common feeling” that their communities suffered from that war. From his home in Climax, Steve Olweean, at right, runs Common Bond Institute, a nonprofit facilitating global peace and healing.

18 | Encore APRIL 2013

Erik Holladay | 19

up front encore “In any culture, you’ll find a victim identity, whether of martyrs or heroes, that is too often used to justify prejudice, hatred and cruelty,” Olweean explains. “Unresolved communal trauma creates the energy of fear and revenge that becomes entrenched in societies and is passed on from one generation to another.” Olweean gives the example of the Christian Serbs, who saw their forbears as martyrs for Christian Europe. They felt betrayed by criticism from their brothers to the west who had forgotten that, generations earlier, a majority of Serb men died in battles standing in the way of the Ottoman Turks who were invading Europe. The historical aspect of this story defines the long-term, distorted perceptions and inhumane treatment of others that stem from transgenerational trauma, says Olweean. He suggests that most national monuments in the world are iconic images to either victimhood or victory to which societies attach powerful emotions. “The original intent is to remember and honor the dead, yet we look upon our monuments with a heavy heart or with anger. Even among generations born later, these places instill a sense that something terrible was done by ‘them,’ the enemy.” Speaking as a psychologist, Olweean counsels, “To grieve the dead is necessary in order to regain balance in life, but perpetual mourning breeds animosity and is unhealthy for individuals and societies.” Olweean points out that America’s greatest icon is the Statue of Liberty, a symbol of hope, inclusiveness and compassion. “Hope for the future is the emotion we want to pass on to our kids,” he says. “We need more monuments to people like Gandhi, King and Mandela, who used compassion to promote a culture of peace.” The Common Bond Institute helps people connect through annual international conferences that have been held in Russia, Israel, Jordan, the U.S., Jamaica, Lithuania and Spain. Their purpose is to help participants, even from warring nations, recognize their commonalties and create a common bond, human to human. People who attend the conferences and those who make presentations are professionals from many vocations as well as average citizens; they generally number between 125

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Below left: Steve Olweean, third from left in the back row holding a child, poses with volunteers, refugees and medical students at a Syrian refugee camp near Irbid, Jordan. Bottom: Olweean has dual computers going at all times when he works from his home office.

encore up front

Erik Holladay

and 300, depending on factors such as travel costs and the economy, with some conferences drawing as many as 600 people. Olweean and his team of humanitarian volunteers in various countries coordinate the conferences via email, Skype, WebEx and telephone conversations. Promotion occurs through the CBI website, a large mailing list, online social media, published stories, publicity by partner organizations and extensive word of mouth within a global network of associations, institutes and universities, including Western Michigan University. Operating funds come from grants, charitable donations and conference registration fees, with participants from developed countries paying a full rate and people from developing nations attending free or through sponsorships. Because Common Bond is a totally virtual organization, Olweean says that the few days when the conference and training coordinators are together are vital. “When we show up on site for our conferences and trainings, whether here in the U.S. or other countries, we build in additional time for debriefing, intensive planning and development. The community and friendship building between us is phenomenal, and we’re always putting ourselves into this work. In the midst of continual turmoil, enjoying each other, lots of humor, and having fun together are essential. We simply couldn’t do what we do if we were just business associates or co-workers.” In its first 23 years, CBI has hosted more than 40 conferences. Among these are Conflict Resolution, started in 1993 and held annually in St. Petersburg, Russia, until 2008; Engaging the OTHER, with the first conference held in Kalamazoo in 2006 and co-sponsored by the Fetzer Institute; Women at the Edge; Ecology of War and Peace; Religion, Conflict, and Peace; Transforming Conflict; Practical Models for Peace; and Transgenerational Trauma. CBI’s first Transgenerational Trauma conference was held in Amman, Jordan, in September and has become the organization’s most significant priority. “This healing work in the Middle East is a long-term endeavor with a tremendous time commitment,” Olweean says. “It’s where most of my work over the years has led me.” Jordan is a poor country with 6.5 million people. More than 1.75 million refugees from Syria, Palestine and Iraq are streaming into the country, living in encampments and growing in number daily. “Yet,” he says, “Jordan has literally only four practicing psychiatrists and a handful of practicing clinical psychologists and essentially no mental health system. The refugees, including children, are severely traumatized. They’ve been tortured or watched loved ones be tortured and killed. They receive | 21

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food, shelter and clothing but next to nothing in mental health services.” Immediately following the Transgenerational Trauma conference, Olweean created a major trauma training and treatment program for these refugees based on the Catastrophic Trauma Recovery model he developed during the Balkan wars of the ’90s. More than 300 Jordanian medical students are being trained by CBI’s expert team to provide various levels of care, from 24-hour mobile phone crisis helplines to in-depth therapy. “This is about understanding and preventing more inherited trauma,” says Olweean, noting that another 800 trainees will be brought into the program over the next 18 months. This opportunity also helps the trainees. “Jordanian universities don’t have internship programs for human services,” Olweean explains. “Students leave, causing a national brain drain. By staying and working in their homeland, these young, highly-educated professionals are creating their own jobs, working in the camps, hospitals, clinics or private practice.” This Catastrophic Trauma Recovery model, which is endorsed by several accredited U.S. universities and implemented through an agreement with Jordan’s academic system, conforms with Common Bond’s core philosophy of providing on-site crisis treatment while developing home-grown professionals as service providers and eventual trainers. This approach also is consistent with Olweean’s upbringing and professional experience. He was born in Michigan City, Ind., into an Arab-American family who taught him acceptance, compassion and the value of caring for others. He was active in the civil rights movement of the 1960s and earned a master’s degree in clinical psychology from WMU in 1973. Olweean then worked as a psychologist and specialeducation coordinator for the Cass County Intermediate School District. He later worked at Douglass Community Mental Health Center, Borgess Mental Health Center and Battle Creek Adventist Hospital and in private practice. When the Common Bond Institute commanded greater attention, it became his sole endeavor. He involved his daughters, Jehan and Jessie, who performed various office duties. They attended their first conference with him in St. Petersburg, Russia, in the late 1990s while in high school. “They secretly went to convince me to do less work,” Olweean says with a chuckle. “Then they saw what we were doing and said, ‘We absolutely think you need to keep doing this work — but get smarter about how you do it.’” To that end, his daughters became skilled in conference organization and facilita- | 23

tion themselves. Olweean’s youngest child, Daniel, now 14, has also helped out at three conferences, including traveling to Jordan. In 2011, Olweean received the American Psychological Association’s Charlotte and Karl Bühler Award for an outstanding and lasting contribution to humanistic psychology. In May, he will be in South Africa presenting a televised seminar on transgenerational trauma. His work in this field is the topic of his current book project, and CBI’s study into this subject has received APA endorsement. Now in his mid-60s, Olweean is developing a team of visionaries and practical thinkers to shape the organization for the future. Their work will continue to bring global neighbors together in respectful dialogue, regardless of culture, religion, ethnicity or past injustices; help people see that fear, ignorance and unresolved trauma are their only true common enemies; and show that alien mindsets can be replaced with the common bond of cooperation.

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Noted as pivotal in fostering Southwest Michigan’s thriving writing community are, from left, Bonnie Jo Campbell, Diane Seuss and Conrad Hilberry, seen here chatting at Kazoo Books, one of the area’s businesses that supports up-and-coming, as well as established, local writers.

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A good place for writers

How Kalamazoo nurtures the urge to write and be read


Margaret DeRitter

Erik Holladay


hen Bonnie Jo Campbell was studying for a Ph.D. in math at Western Michigan University in 1995, one of her math professors noticed that she loved writing and suggested she take a creative writing class. That spring Campbell enrolled in a class taught by novelist Jaimy Gordon that changed the direction of her life. She gave up her plans to teach math, went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing, and in 2009 her short-story collection American Salvage was named a finalist for a National Book Award and a National Book Critics Circle Award. A year later, her novel Once Upon a River became a best seller. That same year, Gordon won the National Book Award for Fiction for her novel Lord of Misrule. And while it’s impressive enough that two Kalamazoo-area writers received that kind of national recognition, they weren’t the only ones. The Caldecott-winning illustrator David Small, of Mendon, was a finalist for a 2009 National Book Award for his graphic novel Stitches. Those three may be the best-known local literary writers, but the area is also home to many other novelists, poets and story writers, some of them highly recognized for their endeavors, others toiling in obscurity and hoping for that first published book. (That’s not to mention all of the playwrights, children’s writers, romance novelists and other genre writers in the area, but those are stories for another day.) Whether acclaimed or not, many of these folks see Southwest Michigan as a very good place to be a writer, a place where a generous and diverse literary community supports their art. “There’s just a sense here that writing matters,” says local poet Diane Seuss, the 2009 winner of the prestigious Juniper Prize in Poetry. | 27

The area's keen interest in writing might be surprising to anyone unfamiliar with its literary scene. After all, Kalamazoo is 700 miles from New York City, that bastion of culture. Yet its small-town atmosphere, political demographics and even its resemblance to some aspects of New York contribute to making Kalamazoo a seedbed where creative writing can flourish, say local writers. “One of the reasons I think it’s so rich and varied is there is no one influence,” says Kalamazoo poet Elizabeth Kerlikowske, who teaches at Kellogg Community College, in Battle Creek. “There are so many people doing so many things that one school of thought can’t predominate. In our town, nobody is the boss of me. I like that. It’s great. It’s freeing.” “As far as the political landscape, we’re like this little oasis,” says Seuss. “There are a lot of conservative people in Michigan, but Kalamazoo supports difference. I lived in New York City, and anything went. I was seen as this Midwestern innocent. But Kalamazoo is like this mini-New York. You just don’t feel embattled as a writer.” Seuss has lived in Kalamazoo for many years but grew up in Niles. “When I go back to Niles, I feel the difference. When I go into the grocery story, it’s like, ‘Who’s that and why does she look that way?’” says Seuss, who stands out with her long, jet-black hair and cleavagebaring clothes. “When you don’t feel embattled, that’s a setting for a feeling of creative safety. It’s like, ‘We want you.’ In Kalamazoo, you’re not marginalized unless you want to be.” Gordon voices a similar perspective, describing Kalamazoo as “an old hippie town, sort of like (New York’s) Greenwich Village,” whose liberal atmosphere is conducive to writing. But Kalamazoo also has a blue-collar dimension that makes it interesting, says the retired professor. Because it’s a relatively cheap place to live, it suits writers who want to preserve their time for writing rather than taking a 40-houra-week job. Gordon also believes that Kalamazoo’s underdog status relative to the literary capitals of the world breeds writers “who really appreciate what they’ve got and are not too inclined to complain. They’re not riled by a sense of obscurity.” That characteristic lets them continue to hone their craft without expecting quick recognition, she says. She even confesses that for most of her career she felt she deserved her obscurity. “I felt that way till I won the National Book Award because I wasn’t as prolific as I thought I should be.” Campbell, who has traveled the country regularly in recent years, notes that Kalamazoo is not alone in its interest in all things literary. “There are just plain more writers everywhere than there have been,” she says. But she’s also noticed that the urge to write and be read seems particularly powerful in Kalamazoo, and she attributes this phenomenon in part to Michigan’s economic circumstances. “A lot of writing comes out of social and economic struggling,” she says. “Michigan has been struggling with social and economic change for longer than most parts of the country. We feel that change and want to say something about it.”

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ACADEMIC INFLUENCE Motives for writing, of course, are as varied as writers. But to hone their craft, nearly all writers look to teachers and mentors, and many say the area’s colleges and university have been key to making Kalamazoo fertile ground for literary growth. WMU was the first university in the state to offer a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing and now offers a Ph.D. in creative writing. It publishes a literary journal, Third Coast, and has a literary press. Kalamazoo College offers a B.A. in English with an emphasis in creative writing, and Kalamazoo Valley Community College offers two creative writing classes and a creative nonfiction class. While all three institutions bring in nationally known writers to give readings or craft talks, it is the longtime faculty members who seem to have made the greatest impression on local writers. “I came to WMU in the 1980s to go to graduate school in creative writing,” says poet and KVCC English faculty member Robert Haight, whose third book of poetry will be published next month. “Western had such a strong, strong faculty: John Woods, Herb Scott, Stu Dybek, Jaimy Gordon, Arnie Johnston.” Campbell considers WMU “the main anchor” of the local writing world. She cites Gordon and Dybek, another fiction writer who taught for many years at WMU, as her key influences. Campbell says Dybek taught her how story elements come together. “Plus, he was sort of shrouded in the coolness of the national literary community,” she says, noting that he was well known as a Chicago writer because of his roots in that city and his focus on Chicago in his writing. (He teaches there now, at Northwestern University, though he keeps a home in Kalamazoo.) But Gordon was Campbell’s greatest influence. “Jaimy is such a powerful teacher of writers,” says Campbell. “I feel I owe most of what I do to Jaimy. She’s a ferocious intelligence, and to have her mind attending to my stories was very enlightening every time. I learned so much from her comments about the use of language that I still feel them echoing in my head sometimes.” When Campbell was encouraged by Gordon to join the M.F.A. program, she didn’t even know what an M.F.A. was. “I thought you just had to be brilliant and then you can write,” Campbell says, laughing. “These writing programs really speed up our learning.” Gordon credits Shirley Scott, chair of the WMU English department from 1989 to 1997, with expanding the department’s creative-writing component. “Under her tutelage, WMU’s creative-writing program really got going and added a doctoral program,” says Gordon. Another advantage of WMU’s graduate program is that it brings “new blood” to town, says Seuss. Traci Brimhall, for example, who is in her third year of study for a Ph.D. in literature and creative writing, has taught poetry at the Kalamazoo Book Arts Center and teaches creative writing at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. She also started an online calendar of poetry events. “I really love being part of not just the university but the community too,” says Brimhall, author of two award-winning poetry

ings they used to have, added an element to the literary quality of the city,” says Haight. “It’s really a shame that that’s gone.”

COMMUNITY SUPPORT This sense of community with other writers and with an active audience of readers comes through clearly when you ask local writers what makes Kalamazoo a good place to be a writer. They mention the numerous writing groups and community workshops that give poets and fiction writers feedback on their work. They cite printed and online literary journals like The Smoking Poet, Asylum Lake and Hear Here that showcase local writers. And they take note that dozens or even hundreds of people show up for literary readings. They credit poet Denise Miller, who teaches at KVCC and co-owns Fire Historical and Cultural Arts Collaborative, for bringing together writers of diverse ethnic backgrounds and providing a place for poetry readings and spoken-word, or slam, poetry. They talk about the poetry murals on downtown buildings, the annual Poems That Ate Our Ears contest for young writers, and the annual Artifactory event at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum that combines local history with poetry reading. They praise the Friends of Poetry organization for making these murals, contests and readings happen, and they laud the group’s longtime president, Kerlikowske, for being a fierce advocate for poetry. “She’s one in that Mount Rushmore of writers who think of writing as a community thing,” says Seuss. Local writers are also grateful to the Kalamazoo Public Library, Portage District Library, Kalamazoo Book Arts Center, Kazoo Books and Michigan News Agency for providing space for readings and workshops and promoting books by local authors. One place they miss, though, is the Athena Book Shop, which offered Saturday readings before it closed in 2006. “I always thought the Athena bookstore, with Susan Ramsey (working) there and the programs and read-

GENEROUS MENTORS Looking back on how Kalamazoo’s writing community developed into what it is now, Seuss says, “Maybe a big reason Kalamazoo is so juicy for writers is the generosity and egolessness of the founders of the writing community here.” She and Gordon and others who have lived here for decades point especially to the late WMU professor Herb Scott and retired Kalamazoo College professor Conrad Hilberry as the early builders of the community. Those two poets, they say, set a tone of generosity toward other writers that extended beyond their campuses. Scott, who taught at WMU from 1968 to 2004 and died in 2006, had a tremendous influence on local writers after he took over

Poet and retired Kalamazoo College professor Conrad Hilberry is credited by others as setting a tone of “generosity toward other writers” in the community.

the university press, now named New Issues Poetry & Prose. “He found himself in a potentially vibrant but not nationally visible poetry scene,” says Gordon, “and he tried to find the interface between that and the national scene. The press had been at WMU for years, but he reinvented it.” By publishing gifted local poets along with other poets from around the nation, he was able to inspire the local writers and lift their reputations, she says. Seuss was among those writers. “He published my first book, and to get your first book is so hard,” she says, but, as an editor, Scott was not as gentle as Hilberry. “He’d go through your poems — ‘No, no, yes, maybe,’” she says, gesturing as if she’s shuffling papers into piles. “‘I hate that line. Cut it.’ He was tougher, but he was generous in his way. He was a really great poet, and willing to devote a good portion of his energy to up-and-coming writers.” (continued on page 51)

Erik Holladay

collections. “There are so many warm and encouraging people here, people who are proactive in maintaining a writing community.” | 29

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inside Outdoor living spaces feature sofas, kitchens and fireplaces

This page: Outdoor living spaces can mimic those indoors with deep seating, area rugs and dining areas as designed by Bell Tower Outdoor Living Co. Opposite page: Homeowners are turning backyards into outdoor oases such as this pool area with waterfall and perennial plantings designed by Great Lakes Landscape. Preceding page: By strategically placing seating areas within a landscape, outdoor living spaces like this one created by Great Lakes Landscapes, offer several spaces for a quiet retreat.

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h, the perfect living room. Comfortable, cushioned sofas, a stone fireplace, a quiet nook for reading, music and lighting, just steps away from the refrigerator and grill. Imagine all this with no walls or ceiling. Welcome to the outdoor living space, a landscape concept that has come into its own in Southwest Michigan. Outdoor living spaces “are about getting out of the house and into the fresh air in an area that’s homey and comfortable,” says Joel DeVisser, landscape designer and vice president of DeVisser Landscape Services, in Oshtemo Township. Outdoor living spaces are like having an outdoor house, says Sherry Kuzma, owner and designer of Great Lakes Landscapes, in Schoolcraft. “Clients ask for things like outdoor kitchens, dining areas with large tables to seat eight or more, a big pool area and play areas for kids,” she says. “Essentially, we are creating outdoor

rooms and turning people’s backyards into retreats and, in some cases, resorts.” A number of factors are spurring homeowners to turn their yards into open-air places to play, eat, entertain and relax. DeVisser credits this trend partly to people’s growing awareness of nature and their desire to be out in it. “People are really getting in tune with nature, and it’s becoming popular in these cold-weather states to enjoy being outdoors when you can and as much as you can by making a space that lets you do that nearly threequarters of the year,” he says. Kuzma says the slower economy and the rise in popularity of home-renovation television shows have also made people seek sanctuary in their backyards. “A lot of people that used to travel now want to stay at home, so they are turning their yards into retreats,” she says. “Whether the space is large or small, clients | 33

want an area where they can entertain and have a party as well as just relax.” Shows such as HGTV’s Landscape Smart and Bodacious Backyards and as well as DIY Network’s Desperate Landscapes are influencing our inclination to move outdoors. “While the shows often feature outdoor spaces designed for places with nice yearround climates,” says Kuzma, “the development of new materials lets us recreate similar spaces here. They will be just as durable.”

For example, polymeric sand is reviving the use of interlocking pavers and bricks for patios, walkways and courtyards. The tendency for weeds and ants to take up residence in the cracks between the pavers had made homeowners hesitant to install them. “You just sweep this polymeric sand into the joints and activate it and it hardens up. It flexes with the weather, so it’s very durable, but it keeps the weeds and ants out,” explains DeVisser.

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With proper prepping, even existing brick and paver patios can be retrofitted with the polymeric sand, says DeVisser. Fireplaces and firepits are high on the must-have list for outdoor living spaces. We aren’t talking open campfires here: location-specific codes regulate firepits in urban and suburban areas, including their size, placement and construction and the materials that can be burned. For instance, both Portage and Kalamazoo require a permit to have an outdoor recreational fireplace. Kalamazoo requires that the fireplaces be commercially produced or have their design approved by the fire marshal. Knowing this, manufacturers of outdoor fireplaces have developed models that are increasingly functional while being lawabiding. Ashleigh Kosin, co-owner of Bell Tower Outdoor Living Co., in Richland, says one of the store’s biggest sellers is an outdoor coffee table that converts into a firepit. “It has gas logs with glass and granite and is a true centerpiece,” she explains. “It even

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has a drop-in ice pit that can be used to cool beverages when the table is not being used as a fireplace.” Finding comfortable and lasting outdoor furniture has also become easier. The furniture industry has developed products that are ideal for varying climates and have enhanced comfort levels, says Kuzma. Many people are investing in “deep seating” options — sofas, couches and sectionals that mimic what they might have indoors. Add touches like rugs, throw pillows and lanterns and you have a living room outdoors. “People have been a little leery about using furniture with cushions outside,” says Kosin, “but the main thing is to buy an acrylic cushion that has an outdoor fabric and that’s acrylic all the way through. The polyester cushions you find at the big box stores just don’t hold up like the acrylic.” Taking care of the furniture can be as simple as investing in covers for bad-weather days and bringing the cushions indoors during the winter. But if cushions do get wet during


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the occasional rainstorm, Kosin says, you simply unzip the covers and let them drain and dry out. Before you put time and effort into creating an outdoor living space, it’s recommended you consult with experts who understand not only the climate of Southwest Michigan but also the products available. “It’s important to work with local stores and companies who know what works in Michigan’s climate. A lot of the furnishings you see in catalogs are more suited for year-

’round climates and won’t hold up in Michigan,” says Kosin. Kuzma, who admits she’s a regular HGTV watcher, sees the same downside to the products seen on home decorating and renovation shows. “People want what they see on television but may not realize that it is developed for an entirely different climate than what we have,” she says. “But we do know what works here and will design lovely spaces based on their wants and Michigan’s reality.”

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Backyard Bliss

Landscaping trends across Southwest Michigan

36 | Encore APRIL 2013

1. Growing our own food


id you know 2013 is the Year of Bliss? It is, at least according to the Garden Trends Report released last fall at the Garden Writers Association Symposium in Tucson, Ariz. “Being in nature, either outside in a garden or park or filling your house with plants, adds immeasurable health and wellness benefits,” says Susan McCoy, president of Garden Media Group. That must be why more of us are seeking that bliss by looking in our own backyards. And to find that bliss, Southwest Michigan homeowners are sprucing up their outdoor spaces with some of the latest landscaping trends.

Natural-looking materials are high in demand for landscaping projects, such as the stone walkway and sitting area pictured on the opposite page, designed and installed by Great Lakes Landscapes, and the firepit, below, designed by DeVisser Landscape Services. Below right, fieldstone boulders are still popular for retaining walls and water features such as this one designed by DeVisser Landscape Services.

Vegetable gardens and fruit trees and bushes are becoming ornamental features in landscapes. Local landscapers say a frequent request they get is to create an attractive space that has the added bonus of providing edibles. Blueberry bushes are utilized this way; they provide color year ’round, from their spring blooms and orange and red foliage in the fall to crimson stems in the winter. Fruit and vegetable plants are being grown in lieu of such mainstays as grass and perennial shrubs. Strawberry plants are a great ground cover, and vegetable beds are being incorporated into retaining walls, says Sherry Kuzma, of Great Lakes Landscapes, in Schoolcraft. For shade, homeowners are choosing fruit trees such as peach and pear, which are more resistant to pests and require less chemical intervention than apple trees. For those who don’t need a full garden’s worth of edibles, container gardens and smaller raised vegetable beds are a good bet, says Ben Yost, owner of Farm N Garden, in Kalamazoo. Plant sellers are catching on to this trend; buyers can now get single vegetable plants rather than have to buy plants in cells of six, which are “more tomatoes than most people need,” says Yost.

2. Natural or natural-looking materials

Whether you choose to use limestone or flagstone or precast concrete that looks like those natural stones is usually a matter of budget — and maybe conscience. Limestone, flagstone and slate have to be harvested from an outcropping and then shipped, requiring more labor and cost, says Joel DeVisser, landscape designer and vice president of DeVisser Landscape Services, in Oshtemo Township. Many clients, he says, are opting instead for precast stone – concrete that is formed in stone shapes and has a natural look. The precast concrete can be used for retaining walls, steps, walkways and patios. “It is more expensive than standard concrete block but cheaper than real stone,” says DeVisser.

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But by far the most popular option for retaining walls is still real rock, as in the fieldstone boulder, because boulders are abundant in Southwest Michigan, making it a natural and affordable option.

3. Patios vs. decks

With such advancements as polymeric sand for interlocking pavers, precast concrete stone and stamped concrete, patios are surfacing as a popular option to replace wood decks. “If the space isn’t going to be overhead, a lot of people are going toward patios,” says Kuzma. DeVisser agrees, saying patios can have softer lines and curves than decks. But if your space is more suited to a deck than a patio, composite decking materials are a good option. Composite materials may be more expensive than wood but require very little maintenance. “When they first came out. they had a tendency to warp and fade,” says Kuzma, “but the new materials really hold up well. All you have to do is hose them off.”

4. Less work, more lounging

Low-maintenance outdoor spaces are high on our lists. That’s one reason more people are putting in native plants, from trees and grasses to wildflowers. Native plants are already acclimated to an area so they need less water and care and are more adaptable to the climate. Some of us are also looking to retire our mowers. Kuzma says fussed-over, lush green lawns are being replaced with vegetable gardens, sitting areas, easy-to-care-for plants, shrubs that don’t need to be trimmed as often and mulching material that requires little effort. DeVisser, however, laments the littler-lawn trend. “It would be sad if people went to smaller lawns,” he says. “Lawns are relatively low-maintenance compared to big flower beds. Plus, they help the environment by being a buffer to noise and producing oxygen.” That’s why Yost recommends turning lawns into meadows by simply letting your turf grass grow long. Yost says it won’t grow any taller than 6 inches and won’t violate any city weed laws. “This is a trend in municipalities and parks,” says Yost. “It’s budget-related. They can’t afford to maintain large lawn areas. It has less weeds, no need for water and will stay green in the summer.”

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5. Living outdoors

When we are outdoors, we want the comforts of indoors. Outdoor living and kitchen spaces are evolving to include fireplaces, comfy seating, bars, special lighting and wiring for sound and Internet. But even in open-air great rooms such as these, there is still a need for shade. Enter the cantilever or offset umbrella. Asheigh Kosin, of Bell Tower Outdoor Living Co., in Richland, says these umbrellas come in larger sizes and shapes than other umbrellas and can be easily relocated as the sun moves. “These umbrellas are a huge trend because they can cover the area you are dedicating to dining and lounging,” she says.

Kosin recommends that buyers look for a stable umbrella, especially given the strong winds that can blow through Southwest Michigan. “It’s important to invest in one that will stand up to heavy wind,” she says. “It needs a good heavy base and double wind vent.”

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arts encore

The ‘Girl on a Road’ settles down by


Kit Almy

n her 1994 song “Girl on a Road,” Canadian singer-songwriter and poet Ferron sings, “I remember the morning that was the closing of my youth, when I said goodbye to no one, and in that way faced my truth.” Ferron, who has sought truth through music for her entire career, now helps others do the same in a different way — through her work at the Recovery Institute of Southwest Michigan. Not many clients may know that peer recovery specialist Ferron Foisy, who released her first album in 1977, is one of Canada’s best-known folk singers and an early star in the women’s music movement who performed often at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. But it is her life experiences, including fame, that make her such a valued peer support specialist. Ferron grew up around Vancouver, British

40 | Encore APRIL 2013

Erik Holladay

Ferron has found a day job: The wellknown Canadian folk singer now works as a peer recovery specialist for those with mental health and substance abuse issues. She is seen here in the woods of the Fen Sanctuary, a retreat center she founded near Three Rivers. | 41

arts encore

Columbia. Early exposure to music through her mother’s French-Canadian family taught her that “music meant fun, meant love and laughter,” she has written. Music helped her survive a difficult childhood — she had an abusive stepfather, moved between various foster homes and left home at age 15. These difficulties inspired her to write songs. “I just remember that I was alive and I was inquisitive, and I was sick from all the wounding. I’m a Gemini, so it would be my way to use words to try to heal that,” she says. Born Debby Foisy, the singer changed her name after a friend dreamed that Debby was called Ferron. Shortly afterward, she signed up to perform in a bar using the new name and had to come up with a spelling on the spot. “I didn’t really know, but I made it up,” she says. The change marked a turning point for her. “I think the name changed and I followed along behind it,” she says, adding that she has a feeling that her early life was a dream, “and I’m awake from the dream right now.” Ferron has had a long, successful and prolific career, with 16 albums released to date. She has received a good share of critical acclaim and been compared to Bob Dylan

42 | Encore APRIL 2013

Erik Holladay

Ferron says music helped her survive a difficult childhood. Lately she’s been composing instrumental music on the computer.

and Bruce Springsteen. Rolling Stone magazine gave her 1984 album, Shadows on a Dime, four out of five stars, and her songs have been covered by various artists, including Bill Morrisey & Greg Brown, Sweet Honey in the Rock and the Indigo Girls. Her music has connected with fans too. In album after album, many of the same themes are addressed: loss, forgiveness, acceptance and the search for belonging. “Those songs (are) so precious and eternal in some way for a lot of people, and they’re steppingstones from one understanding to another to another,” Ferron says. “When I write songs, I’ll have a question that is perturbing me, and that question itself starts attracting the answer, but I don’t know how long it’s going to take (to find the answer), and I don’t know how it’s going to take form.” A few years ago, after touring full time for more than three decades, Ferron had reached a point where life on the road was too lonely. She was ready to put down roots and go to work at something other than performing, having earned a living as a performer since the late 1970s. “It was really time to step back from the stage and roll up my sleeves and get in there. And I’m in there — way past my sleeves,” she says. After a year of working for Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes, she has spent the past two years working at the Recovery Institute as a peer support specialist. Ferron works with people who are dealing with various addictions, based on her personal experience with alcohol addiction. “We’re all peers there. We all (help each other) try to stay clean,” she explains. She describes the process they go through as “recovery, uncovery, discovery. Those are the words I think of now, watching people.” Even in conversation, Ferron’s words are often poetic, and although she has not been writing lately, her observations of the experiences of others cause her to ponder questions about life.

encore ARTs

“What is it that everybody wants on this planet and cannot get?” she asks. “And why the anger, then, that we don’t (have it)? You only would get that mad if there was a promise. Where did the promise come from?” She thinks one thing everyone wants is to belong to something. “Break it down: It’s be-longing — longing for something,” she says. “I think the Recovery Institute tries to create a space where somebody could belong. They can be a member, they can come in, they can drink coffee, they can hang around and they can help. I’ve seen many people grow and change there just from that fact.” The staff members of the Recovery Institute have been contemplating how they can measure hope in their peers. “I don’t think that you can give someone hope,” Ferron says. “Hope is an action. That’s what I’ve decided. You can help people start acting on their own behalf or on someone else’s behalf, but to act is a manifestation of hope.” She has found an active, hopeful attitude in Southwest Michigan, which is partly why she lives here now. It might seem unlikely that a western Canadian who has traveled the continent and lived in such cities as Seattle, San Francisco and Philadelphia would wind up in Southwest Michigan. “I came to visit a friend and never left,” Ferron explains. In addition to the natural beauty of Michigan, “I think Kalamazoo is a very good town. A lot of the hearts of the people are very good. And there (are) lots of programs that are generous and thoughtful and are people-oriented. I like that I can feel it and I can see it and I’m part of it.” Ferron now lives on a farm outside Three Rivers with her partner and three Lhasa Apsos, two horses, goats, sheep, a dairy cow and a donkey. The property doubles as the Fen Sanctuary Center, where she has offered occasional retreats and writing workshops, including Fen Fest, a weeklong peace and arts camp that includes contemplation, creative practice and conversation. However, due to the time commitment of her job, these activities are on hiatus and she performs rarely now. For Ferron, having a day job — although fulfilling in many ways — has been an adjustment, and the nature of her work is emotionally draining. “I get lots of people in my head when I go home … all these spirits and their goals and their longings and their downfalls, and it’s very

real. It’s too bad I’m not writing, because I’m looking at (all of these things). “I hope I write again, but I don’t think I’m in the verbal place. But some part of me is stirred and is always working.” Ferron does have a CD coming out this year, the second intergenerational collaboration produced by the musician Bitch, a friend and admirer who wants to bring Ferron’s music to a younger audience. The album, Lighten-ing, is a companion to a film Bitch made about Ferron called Thunder. It features Ferron singing and playing her original songs and reciting her poetry, with additional instrumental and vocal tracks recorded later by various artists (the 2008 release Boulder involved a number of well-known women musicians, including Amy Ray and Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls and Ani DiFranco). “All I did was play the guitar and sing my songs and go home,” Ferron says. “And all the rest of it they did. I never even heard it till it was done.” She trusts Bitch and was happy to leave the production in her hands. “My inclination is different,” Ferron says. “If I stay in the room, I end up (affecting the result), holding it in a comfortable place for me. I was amazed because they’re doing it backwards.” Normally the drums and base tracks would be recorded first, followed by the singer, rather than the opposite. “It means I have to have pretty good rhythm.” Recently Ferron has been composing instrumental music on the computer, combining and manipulating different tracks. “They’re all computer loops,” she explains. “It’s a beautiful music that I’m finding. I’ve always dreamed of playing a kind of a modern symphony that was in my head, and it’s all reachable now with the computer world. “I keep working on that, and I’ve got 10 pieces. When I get it all cleaned up and right, I might bring it out. It’s just interesting to know that I’ve still got music in me. It has to come out, and maybe the words will start peeking out again.” | 43

arts encore

Abandoned factories give rise to couple’s art Margaret DeRitter

Tim Thayer


A detail shot of Sarah Lindley’s clay sculpture representing the closed RockTenn paper mill in Otsego.


hen Norwood Viviano was growing up in the Detroit area, his grandfather rarely mentioned the hot, dirty work he did for 30 years as a painter at a Dodge plant, but Viviano and his father often talked about the boom and bust of the auto industry and its impact on the city.

When Viviano became an artist, his hometown experiences began to inform his work, as he explored the effects of industry on communities and individuals. His wife, Sarah Lindley, a fellow sculptor and art professor, became interested in those concerns too, especially after the couple moved in 2005 from Kalamazoo to Plainwell. There they saw the abandoned paper mill and noticed how the townspeople still staked their hopes on the empty behemoth. “Despite the horrors of what the mill did to the environment (paper waste contaminated the Kalamazoo River), the town was still building its future around this building,” says Lindley. Renovations of the city-owned property have since begun, and it’s now partly occupied with offices and public-safety headquarters. City hall is expected to move in by fall, and portions of the mill complex are being demolished. “As industry shifts,” says Viviano, “a town is sort of forced to rebuild itself or respond to that shift. That’s the content we’ve been exploring in our work.” This spring the two artists will exhibit their work in Western Michigan University’s Richmond Center for Visual Arts. The show — their first joint exhibition in Kalamazoo (continued on page 50)

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encore ARTs

What’s So Funny? Improv Festival invites folks to find out


Marie Lee


hile on the surface the Kalamazoo Improv Festival is a weekend of merriment, mirth and improvised comedy, for the 15 or so performing acts it’s something more, says festival organizer Dann Sytsma, of the local improv group Crawlspace Eviction. “They come for the opportunity to hang out with other improv groups and work with people they’ve never had the opportunity to work with before,” he says. “Most aren’t paid to come and perform. The Chicago teams come back because they have a good experience. And new and upcoming teams want to hang out with those that are already very accomplished. Great connections and relationships form. It’s really amazing.” The festival is set for May 10 and 11 at Farmers Alley Theatre. This is the fifth year of the event, which began as a way to draw audiences to the now-defunct Whole Art Theatre in downtown Kalamazoo. In its early years, the festival was held in January, a typically slow month for performing-arts venues. When Whole Art closed and Crawlspace Eviction moved to Farmers Alley, the festival went with it. “Moving to Farmers Alley was like hitting a reset button,” Sytsma says. The most obvious change was that the timing of the Improv Festival moved to May. “When it was in January, I was always afraid the whole thing would get shut down if there was a blizzard,” says Sytsma. “It was a tough

sell to get performers to come to Kalamazoo in January. May is much better. The performers like it more, and it shows off Kalamazoo better. " The lineup for this year’s festival won’t be set until the middle of this month, but Sytsma says he expects several popular performers from last year to return and several new acts to be added. Many of the artists come from Chicago, recognized as the Improvisational Comedy Capital of the world because of its renowned Second City and iO (formerly ImprovOlympic) comedy clubs. It’s not that difficult to persuade groups to come to Kalamazoo’s Improv Festival, Sytsma says, because the area’s audiences have a great reputation. “Kalamazoo audiences appreciate improv,” he says. “They know what’s funny and what’s not. In Chicago, where the audiences are much more jaded, they only laugh if the improv is clever and edgy. (continued on page 50)

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poetry encore

Eliane Elias Plays Jobim


When she touches the keys the piano sprinkles drops of water over the audience. We hesitate

Katy’s bungalow’s the color of sky and grass and lemons. Our vet, just back from a month in Bucerias, says that she could live there, though she would not wish to spay dogs all day. Her daughter back in Michigan Skypes the fallen branches in their yard, the ice sheeted on her windshield. She Skypes back, a panning shot of the beach at sunset, their sweet casita. Do I resent friends in Aruba, Tucson, New Zealand and Maui? Let me count the ways. I want a swim-up bar with glamorous cocktails. Tequila. Rum. Things I don’t drink. I want umbrellas floating in them. Let men with garlands of bougainvillea in their dark hair hand me fresh white towels and orchids. I want to say papaya, banana, celosia, mango, feel sun heating me up the way I’ve not been hot in years. And if there are geckos and palmetto bugs in our room tonight, let that be the price of open air. I will dine right there on the beach again with you, eat opakapaka and feel my silk skirt drift against my legs. Tomorrow we will snorkel, startle ourselves with sound, our exhalations.

not sure we want to get wet, our hair, clothes, what will we do with ourselves and all the others watching? Her dress hikes up her legs the lightening flare of her thighs pressed against the bench as she bends over the keyboard asking for more rain. She slips off her shoes and pushes the pedals with her bare feet, her eyes flashing— she has seen these storms before, in Brazil, and she laughs shaking her head as we northerners straight as corn rows attempt to rein in our desire but the mist clings to us despite ourselves, our shirts soak through and under white linen our bodies sway like flowers in a shower, seeing through ourselves and one another, tossing our drenched hair, splashing every puddle.

— Gail Martin Martin is the author of The Hourglass Heart (New Issues Poetry & Prose). Her second book of poetry, Begin Empty-Handed, will be published later this year by Perugia Press. She works as a psychotherapist in Kalamazoo.

— Robert Haight Haight is the author of Emergences and Spinner Falls (New Issues Poetry & Prose). His new book of poetry, Feeding Wild Birds, will be released next month by Mayapple Press. He teaches at Kalamazoo Valley Community College and directs the college's visiting writers series.

46 | Encore APRIL 2013

Encore invites area poets to share their work with Southwest Michigan readers. For consideration, submit your poetry and a short personal profile by e-mail to or by mail addressed to Poetry Editor, Encore Magazine, 350 S. Burdick St, Suite 214, Kalamazoo, MI, 49007.

encore events

PERFORMING ARTS Plays The Love List — Two men develop a list of attributes for the ideal mate, and when she shows up, hilarity ensues, 8:30 p.m. March 29, 30, April 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, 20, 26, 27, New Vic Theatre, 134 E. Vine St. 381-3328. Broadway Bound — The third installment of Neil Simon’s semi-autobiographical trilogy is a tribute to family and the ties that bind, 8 p.m. April 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, 20; 7:30 p.m. April 11; 2 p.m. April 14, Civic Auditorium, 329 S. Park St. 343-1313. The 39 Steps — A fast-paced murder mystery and musical comedy based on the Alfred Hitchcock film, 8 p.m. April 12, 13, 18–20, 25–27; 2 p.m. April 14, 21, 28, Farmers Alley Theatre, 221 Farmers Alley. 343-2727. Something Old, Something New and Something In-Between — Fancy Pants Theater presents a series of three one-act plays directed by Robert C. Walker, 8 p.m. April 12, 13, 19, 20, 26, 27, 246 N. Kalamazoo Mall. 599-6437. Time Stands Still — Two romantically linked journalists covering the Iraq war must confront a conventional life when they return home, 8 p.m. April 19, 20, 26, 27, May 3, 4; 7:30 p.m. April 25; 2 p.m. April 28, Parish Theater, 429 S. Park St. 343-1313.

Musicals & Opera Kiss Me, Kate — WMU’s University Theatre presents Cole Porter’s romantic musical, 8 p.m. April 11–13 & 18–20; 2 p.m. April 14, Shaw Theatre, WMU. 387-6222. Wicked — A musical tale of the two witches of Oz and how they grew to become Glinda the Good and the Wicked Witch of the West, 7:30 p.m. April 24, 25, 30, May 1, 2; 2 p.m. April 25, 27, May 4; 8 p.m. April 26, 27, May 3, 4; 1 p.m. April 28, May 5; 6:30 p.m. April 28, May 5, Miller Auditorium, WMU. 387-2300. Dance Spring Concert of Dance: PULL — Wellspring/Cori Terry & Dancers present new works as well as pieces from their repertoire, 7:30 p.m. April 17; 8 p.m. April 19 & 20; 2 p.m. April 21, Wellspring Theater, Epic Center, 359 S. Burdick St. 342-4354. Symphony Annual Concerto Concert — WMU’s University Symphony Orchestra, led by Bruce Uchimura, presents its final concert of the season, 3 p.m. April 14, Miller Auditorium, WMU. Carmina Burana — The Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra is joined by the WMU Grand Chorus, soprano Heidi Grant Murphy and baritone Nmon Ford to perform Orff's iconic composition, 8 p.m. April 19, Miller Auditorium, WMU. 349-7759.

Homeland — The Kalamazoo Junior Symphony Orchestra presents its spring concert, featuring Dvorák’s Symphony No. 8 and KJSO Competition winner Cullen O’Neil performing an Elgar cello concerto, 4 p.m. April 28, Chenery Auditorium, 714 S. Westnedge Ave. 349-7557. Chamber, Jazz, Orchestra & Bands Dalton Wed@7:30 — The WMU School of Music presents the University Percussion Ensemble, 7:30 p.m. April 3, Dalton Center Recital Hall, WMU. 387-2300. University Jazz Lab Band — The WMU group performs under the direction of Jon Ailabouni, 8 p.m. April 5, Dalton Center Recital Hall, WMU. University Concert Band — David Montgomery conducts this free concert, 3 p.m. April 7, Miller Auditorium, WMU. Spring Conference on Wind and Percussion Music — The Conference All-Star Band and the University Symphonic Band perform under guest conductor Steven Bryant, 7:30 p.m. April 11, Miller Auditorium, WMU. Mitsuko Uchida — The Gilmore Piano Masters Series presents this sought-after pianist playing a program of Bach, Schoenberg and Schumann, 8 p.m. April 13, Chenery Auditorium, 714 S. Westnedge Ave. 387-2300. | 47


Dining Out for Life

Choral Showcase — Featuring WMU’s University Chorale, Cantus Femina and Collegiate Singers, 8 p.m. April 13, Dalton Center Recital Hall, WMU.

The Art of China and Japan: Selections from the Collection — Works on paper, ceramics and sculpture, through June 9.

Tia Fuller Quartet — Fontana Chamber Arts presents this jazz ensemble led by saxophonist Tia Fuller, 8 p.m. April 20, Dalton Center Recital Hall, WMU. 382-7774.

Young Artists of Kalamazoo County — Art by kids from kindergarten through eighth grade, April 20–May 8.

Through the Eyes of a Child — The Kalamazoo Concert Band’s spring concert, 7:30 p.m. April 20, Chenery Auditorium, 714 S. Westnedge Ave. A Quiet Revolution — Fontana Chamber Arts presents renowned cellist Suren Bagratuni, joined by Lori Sims and Dmitri Berlinsky, 7:30 p.m. April 26, Wellspring Theater, Epic Center, 359 S. Kalamazoo Mall. 382-7774.

Thursday, April 25, 2013 Dine at any participating restaurant and at least 25% of your bill will help keep Southwest Michigan healthy. Kalamazo Bravo! Restaurant & Café Central City Tap House Comensoli’s Italian Bistro & Bar Confections with Convictions Cosmo’s Cucina Epic Bistro Kalamazoo Beer Exchange Mangia Mangia Mangia Pizza & Pasta Co. Martell’s Metro 411 Club North 11 Oakwood Bistro O’Duffy’s Pub The Union Cabaret & Grille The Victorian Bakery* The Wine Loft

Theo & Stacy’s Downtown Water Street Coffee Joint – Downtown Portage Chocolatea Fieldstone Grill Full City Café Jac’s/Cekola’s Pizza LoDo Company Sakura 2 Theo & Stacy’s Portage Battle Creek Arcadia Brewing Co. Plainwell Old Mill Brewpub & Grill Three Rivers Paisano’s Bar & Grill

@ Dining Out for Life – Kalamazoo (269) 381-2437 Presenting Sponsors

* 35% donation for pre-orders, 25% on event day Check back often for an updated list of restaurants. 48 | Encore APRIL 2013

Vocal, Opera & Radio GC II — A concert by WMU jazz vocal ensemble Gold Company II, 7:30 p.m. April 2, Dalton Center Recital Hall, WMU. All Ears Theatre — Live radio performances for later airing on 102.1 WMUK-FM: The Five Heads, 6 p.m. April 6; I Love Adventure, 6 p.m. April 20, First Baptist Church, 315 W. Michigan Ave. Miscellaneous Celtic Woman — Classic Irish tunes performed by the all-female group, accompanied by a six-piece band, the Aontas Choir and Irish dancers, 8 p.m. April 5, Miller Auditorium, WMU. 387-2300. Neon Trees — Recording artist Neon Trees with Karmin and twenty| one| pilots, 8 p.m. April 9, Miller Auditorium, WMU. 387-2300. Bach Festival — This annual festival includes Young Vocalists Concert, 3 p.m. April 21, Light Fine Arts Center, K-College; Bach-Around-theBlock Organ Crawl, 7 p.m. April 22, First Congregational Church; Bach Community Sing, 6:30 p.m. April 23, Light Fine Arts Center, K-College; visit for a complete schedule. VISUAL ARTS Richmond Center for Visual Arts, WMU, 387-2436 John Kollig — An exhibition of paintings and drawings, April 4–June 28, Rose Netzorg & James Wilfred Kerr Gallery. Sarah Lindley & Norwood Viviano — An exhibition by two Plainwell sculptors, April 25–May 23, Albertine Monroe-Brown Gallery. Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, 349-7775 Sight and Feeling: Photographs by Ansel Adams — Twenty-three of Adams’ photographs from the KIA collection, through May 19. Reflections: African-American Life from the Myrna Colley-Lee Collection — Fifty works of differing media from the collection of this costume designer and arts patron, through May 26.

ARTbreak — Japanese Tea Ceremony, presented by Paul Flickinger, April 2; Wasteland, Part 1, documentary on artist Vik Munizart's project using materials from the world’s largest garbage dump, April 9; Wasteland, Part 2, April 16; Artistic Notoriety: How to See Ianelli’s “Fountain of the Pioneers,” April 23; Ice-Age Art — Please Touch, April 30. Guests may bring a lunch to these noon sessions. Art & All That Jazz — An evening of music, art, food and drink, featuring music by Susan Harrison, 5:30–7:30 p.m. April 26. Miscellaneous Midtown Gallery — The Garden Show, with works by 10 artists; Michigan Glass Month Exhibit; guest jeweler Linda Kekic, 356 S. Kalamazoo Mall. Opens April 5. 372-0134. Art Hop — View the works of local artists at various venues and galleries in downtown Kalamazoo, 5–9 p.m. April 5. 342-5059. LIBRARY AND LITERARY EVENTS Kalamazoo Public Library, 553-7879/342-9837 Music at the Library — Bring your instruments for an acoustic slow jam co-sponsored by the Great Lakes Acoustic Music Association, 7–8:30 p.m. April 3; Community Sing-Along with musicians Michael Beauchamp, Kathy Nichols and Patricia Pettinga, 7–8:30 p.m. April 10, Central Library. D.E. Johnson — This Michigan author will discuss his newest novel, Detroit Breakdown, 6:30 p.m. April 16, Washington Square branch. Classics Revisited — A discussion of Selected Poetry of Emily Dickinson, 7 p.m. April 18, Central Library. Earth Day Concert — Family-friendly music presented by the Earthwork Music Collective, 2:30 p.m. April 20, Oshtemo branch. Portage District Library, 329-4544 Magic-Magic — A family-friendly magic show, 6:30 p.m. April 4. Classic Film — Laurel and Hardy’s comedy Way Out West, 2 p.m. April 13. Open for Discussion — A discussion of Rise to Greatness: Abraham Lincoln and America’s Most Perilous Year, 10:30–11:30 a.m. April 16. Loreen Niewenhuis — The author of A 1000-Mile Great Lakes Walk will discuss her book and her walk around the Great Lakes, 7 p.m. April 23.

Miscellaneous Good Eats: An Exhibit About Food — A juried exhibition of artwork, April 5–26, Kalamazoo Book Arts Center, Suite 103A, Park Trades Center, 326 W. Kalamazoo Ave.; Art Hop opening, 6–9 p.m. April 5. 373-4938. Edible Book Festival — The Kalamazoo Book Arts Center presents its popular exhibit of edible books, 6–9 p.m. April 5, Suite 103A, Park Trades Center, 326 W. Kalamazoo Ave. 373-4938. Gwen Frostic Reading Series — Poet and essayist Jaswinder Bolina and novelist Mandy Keifetz will read from and discuss their work, 8 p.m. April 11, Rooms 208–209, Bernhard Center, WMU. Poets in Print — Poetry reading by Rebecca Hazelton and Allison Benis White, with letterpress broadsides by local artists, 7–9 p.m. April 13, Kalamazoo Book Arts Center, Suite 103A, Park Trades Center, 326 W. Kalamazoo Ave. 373-4938. MUSEUM Kalamazoo Valley Museum, 373-7990 African-Americans in World War II — A photographic exhibit showcasing the contributions and efforts of this group during the war years, through April 14. From Here to Timbuktu — Journey through West Africa to Timbuktu in this hands-on exhibit, through June 9.

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Spring Break Hands-on Happenings: A Patchwork of Stories — Make different crafts each day inspired by children’s books, 1–4 p.m. April 1–5. Music at the Museum — Free concerts as part of Art Hop: Delilah DeWylde and the Lost Boys, 6–8 p.m. April 5; Digeometric, a group that blends techno-jazz and psychedelic funk, 7 p.m. April 19. NATURE Kalamazoo Nature Center, 381-1574 Wildflowers After Work — Learn to identify wildflowers on a leisurely walk in the woods, 5:30 p.m. April 9, 16, 23 & 30. Birding Basics — Become a better birder on this guided walk, 2 p.m. April 14; bring binoculars and a field guide or borrow from the KNC. Earth Day Celebration — Free admission all day and a full slate of activities, including a 5k Trail Run, more details at

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Boomers and Beyond — A program for adults over 50; this month’s program focuses on the colors of a beech/maple forest, 11 a.m.–1 p.m. April 30. Kalamazoo Audubon Society, 375-7210 Yellowknife Spring — Kathy and Jim Bricker present a program on birds in Canada, 7:30 p.m. April 22, People’s Church, 1758 N. 10th St.

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— runs April 25 to May 23. It’s funded in part by grants from the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo. Lindley is an associate professor of art at Kalamazoo College; Viviano is an associate professor of art and design at Grand Valley State University. Her part of the show is titled Exit Allegan; his, Industrial Landscape, Use and Reuse. “I’m going to have a large-scale installation that’s based on the Kalamazoo River and the paper mills in Allegan County,” Lindley says. “Norwood is working on projects that relate to population shifts in major urban centers, including Detroit.” In Lindley’s work, paper mills are depicted as small architectural skeletons made of black clay, their forms based on photographs and city records. These structures sit atop pieces of paper pulp in the shape of the mills’ footprints. Running between the pulp pieces is a 35- to 40-foot element symbolizing the Kalamazoo River, its clay coils shifting and interconnecting — “almost like dreadlocks” — to represent the movement of contaminated sediment, says Lindley. Viviano uses computer-generated 3-D drawings to create glass sculptures based on abandoned Detroit factories and their surrounding landscapes. “They’re large blocks of glass with a landscape sitting right on top,” he says. “Underneath them I can put trans-

parencies from a different time period: aerial photographs of all the smoke billowing out of the factory, other industry around it as well as homes — that’s all gone now.” In addition to their individual work, the couple will display at least one collaborative piece, “Kohler Pile.” This large floor installation, featured in the 2011 Art Prize exhibit, evolved from their three-month residency at a Kohler factory in Wisconsin in 2010. “Kohler Pile” includes more than 75 black toilet tank lids, topped by miniature glass models of the Kohler factory that appear to sink into the landscape of lids. The piece references the fragility of factories in relation to the landscape and the ways industry can sculpt a landscape, says Lindley. “It’s a good example of us bringing our work together.” Richmond Center curator Don Desmett says he thought it would be great to see Lindley and Viviano’s works in the same space. “They’re well-respected artists outside of our region so it’s good for a place here to support their work. Although their work looks very different, they’re coming from a similar subject matter (and) bring pretty dramatic views to an urban landscape.”


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That’s not what Kalamazoo is. (Kalamazoo audiences) don’t just go along with it and laugh at anything — they’re smart and they laugh at stuff that is genuinely good.” The festival has several opportunities for aspiring improv artists to participate as well. Three workshops on aspects of improv performance are offered on Saturday, while Friday night has a free improv jam session, at 11:30 p.m., where the performers set up a few games and the audience can watch or play along. The festival will have five performances, including a “happy hour show” at 6 p.m. Friday “so people can get out of work and head right down there,” says Sytsma. Other performances will be at 8 and 10 p.m. both nights. Ticket prices are $10 for each show, or $25 for a festival pass that allows access to all five performances. Workshops are $15 each. Sytsma says the $25 festival pass is a bargain, noting that “we really like to be the entity in town that provides more affordable entertainment.” Besides, he admits, “ it feels odd if you charge too much for something that’s just made up.” For more information about the fifth annual Kalamazoo Improv Festival, visit

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WRITERS (continued from page 29) Both Scott and Hilberry saw it as essential to nurture other writers, says Seuss. “Con was all about welcoming everybody to the table. His attitude was that writing isn’t for the genius or the select few. Everybody can do it. Everybody plays.” Hilberry, who taught full time at “K” from 1962 to 1996 and then part time until around 2000, also would go into local schools to teach poetry. “He believed any kid in any classroom could get something from hearing a poem or writing one,” says Seuss. And with that big, expressive smile of his that would glow after you read, “you felt this beam on you like you could do it,” she says. When Seuss was just 15, Hilberry visited her high school in Niles. “He had read one of my poems I had dumbly submitted to an adult contest. He came and found me and said, ‘You got any more of these?’ Then he started sending me books, and he invited my mom and me up here (to Kalamazoo College) for lunch. He got me money to come to ‘K.’ Until then, I hated school. He said, ‘You can come to “K,” but you gotta get better grades.’ I got all A’s then.” Seuss not only graduated from “K,” but she began teaching there in 1988. Hilberry has been her writing and teaching mentor ever since, and she has been passing on his legacy of generosity. “She doesn’t just teach at K-

College, she also teaches for the community,” says Kerlikowske. “She’s just been tremendously influential and helpful.” PASSING IT ON Examples abound of local writers who’ve helped others, but Seuss’ name is one that comes up repeatedly when local writers are asked to name their influential teachers. Quilt maker Elaine Seaman took her first poetry workshop from Seuss in 1995. ”It was all so exciting and new,” says Seaman. “It was an epiphany. I had been making quilts that took forever to make. Through this class I found I could do art in a much abbreviated fashion, and it was still acknowledged as art and I liked that.” Seaman went on to publish a chapbook of poetry in 2004 and a full-length book in


2010. “Di actually helped me organize the poems (for the book), a lot of which were written in her workshops,” says Seaman. Susan Ramsey first took a poetry workshop from Seuss in 1991. That “non-threatening” environment led Ramsey to take many more poetry classes, and she went on to get an M.F.A. in creative writing from Notre Dame in 2008. Three years later, she won the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry for her first book, A Mind Like This. Like Seuss, Ramsey has been passing on the advice and encouragement she received. When Ramsey was still working at Athena Book Shop, she persuaded Campbell to try writing poetry. “I wrote and wrote a lot of stories and found some things weren’t fitting into stories,” says Campbell. “... I think I was having

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a little midlife crisis. I was 48. ... Before (American Salvage), my agent had dumped me. Susan Ramsey insisted I could write poems.” “She’s a powerful force for a lot of us,” says Campbell. Ramsey’s longtime student David “Bo” Rather would agree. Rather, a former football player who won a Super Bowl ring in the 1970s as a rookie with the Miami Dolphins, has taken about half a dozen creative-writing classes from Ramsey. “I love Susan,” he says. “She’s like family to me. I always kind of wanted to write but never sat down and wrote. The first two or three classes were really rough, but about the middle of the third session it kind of clicked.” Rather also has taken classes from local writer Danna Ephland and is grateful for all the encouragement he’s received. “If you ask a question, you’ll get an answer, and not a condescending answer,” he says. “They’ll tell you what it takes to be a good writer.” But even National Book Award nominees and accomplished poets need feedback on their work. “With writing, every time I start something new I feel like a knucklehead,” says Campbell. She attends both a fiction-writing group and a poetry critique group called Poetry Dawgs, formed by students of John Rybicki. The group took its name from Rybicki’s greeting to his students: “Yo, dawgs.” After 15 years or so, the group is still going strong, meeting at least once or twice a month and adding new members. Hilberry, who’s 85 now and working on a manuscript he hopes to get published before he dies, meets with six other poets Sunday afternoons at K-College’s Humphrey House. “Many were students of mine,” he says. “It’s a big, big help to have an occasion every two weeks where you’re supposed to have something written. It’s also a big help to have smart readers.” And so the best and brightest continue to give and receive, as do so many others who venture into the local writing world. “I think of the writing community as a circle,” says Seuss, “and what we pour into the middle of the circle is something we all can draw from. ... I’ve poured stuff into that, and I’ve drawn out more than I’ve poured.”

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THE last word encore


he oak secretary was ordered from the Sears catalog and stood in the corner of the living room in the tiny Ohio farmhouse the entire time I was growing up. And while my mother was growing up. And while my grandfather was growing up. Then, in the early 1980s, both of my grandparents had to move to a nursing home. The farm and the house were sold, the furniture distributed. I got the secretary. My charge: to refinish it. (Sorry, Antiques Roadshow!) The first challenge was to get it safely transported from Ohio to my home in Michigan. I was worried about the curved glass door and the beveled mirrors. My mother had a bigger concern. “Watch out for the left rear leg,” she said. “It’s broken.” As we put the desk into the van, she handed me the block of wood that had always been used to prop that leg up. Glancing at the piece, I couldn’t see any damage to the leg, but I figured it could be buried under the decades of black-coal and wood-stove residue that I would be removing. My husband and I took great pains to protect the broken leg. Stripping the wood of its accumulated grime, I found four perfectly strong legs on the desk. When I completed the refinishing job, I called my mom to report success. “Did you get that left leg fixed?” she asked. When I told her there wasn’t anything wrong with any of the legs, she laughed. “When I was little, my parents always told me not to play around the secretary because it had a broken leg. It must have just been a story they made up to keep me away from it,” she said. A few months later I went to Ohio to see my grandfather in the nursing home. I took along a photo of the refurbished secretary. He looked at it and said, “Did you fix that left rear leg?”

54 | Encore APRIL 2013

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“Dad-dad, there was nothing wrong with that leg,” I told him. “Why did you think there was?” My grandfather chuckled, just as my mother had. As a child, he told me, his own parents had warned him not to play close to the secretary. “They told me the leg was broken,” my grandfather said. Sometimes it’s history that binds generations together. Sometimes it’s mythology. Often, I suspect, it’s a little of both.

With undergraduate and graduate degrees in communications and a nursing degree, Kaye Bennett has spent about 40 years writing. Most of her career was in public relations at The Upjohn Co. (now Pfizer Inc.) and Bronson Methodist Hospital. Since retiring, she has been a freelance writer, which she describes as the “perfect pastime” because “it gives me a socially acceptable reason to ask really nosy questions, thus fulfilling my voyeuristic tendencies.”


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Encore April 2013  

Southwest Michigan's Magazine -- bringing you the great people, places and stories of Southwest Michigan.

Encore April 2013  

Southwest Michigan's Magazine -- bringing you the great people, places and stories of Southwest Michigan.