Couple Helps Others Redefine Normal
Theater During the Time of Covid
L. Marshall Washington
Leading KVCC through the pandemic and beyond
Expanded Arts Section
Meet Lia Gaggino
Southwest Michigan’s Magazine
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ENCORE EDITOR'S NOTE
From the Editor J
anuary can be a cold month in Michigan so we’re aiming to warm things up a bit with this month’s issue. And by warming things up, we mean introducing you to people whose good work will give you a happy glow on the inside. Dr. L. Marshall Washington, the president of Kalamazoo Valley Community College and the focus of this month's cover story, is one of those people. Washington, who has been at the helm of KVCC since 2018, sees the challenges facing higher education and his students as opportunities for the college to better serve this community. As he looks to revamp the school's technical education and to navigate rapid social change, he keeps an eye toward equity and making sure that access to education and success is available to all. Lia Gaggino, whom we feature in our Back Story profile, was a pediatrician for 30 years, but her work helping kids didn't stop with retirement. Her podcast, Pediatric Meltdown, is aimed at helping healthcare practitioners, parents and caretakers understand and navigate the mental and behavioral health of children. While the podcast has an adult audience, its purpose is to make kids' lives better, Gaggino says, by informing adults on topics from weight and body image to ADHD, autism and social development. Like Gaggino, Alexis and Justin Black are also using their life experiences to help others. Both are former foster kids who defied the odds and graduated from college, and now they want to inspire and encourage others to do the same. They co-authored the book Redefining Normal: How Two Foster Kids Beat the Odds and Discovered Healing, Happiness, and Love, which has evolved into a business venture for the couple as they are being sought to speak, have added a podcast and are working on different versions of their book for both younger audiences and advocates for foster kids. I hope you find the people featured in this issue as inspiring as we do and their stories as heartwarming. Thinking about how to make others' futures brighter is a wonderful, warm way to start out 2022. Thank you for reading Encore!
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Couple Helps Others Redefine Normal
Theater During the Time of Covid
Expanded Arts Section
Meet Lia Gaggino
Southwest Michigan’s Magazine
L. Marshall Washington
Leading KVCC through the pandemic and beyond
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The staff at Encore welcomes written comment from readers, and articles and poems for submission with no obligation to print or return them. To learn more about us or to comment, visit encorekalamazoo.com. Encore subscription rates: one year $36, two years $70. Current single issue and newsstand $4, $10 by mail. Back issues $6, $12 by mail. Advertising rates on request. Closing date for space is 28 days prior to publication date. Final date for print–ready copy is 21 days prior to publication date. The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by those interviewed and published here do not reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of Encore Magazine or the official policies, owners or employees of Encore Publications.
J a n u a r y 2022
FEATURE L. Marshall Washington
Kalamazoo Valley Community College's president invokes his passion for the community — and superheroes — in his leadership
DEPARTMENTS 3 From the Editor
6 Contributors 7 Five Faves
Historian Lynn Houghton on notable blazes and blasts in Kalamazoo's past
10 First Things A round–up of happenings in SW Michigan 12
Redefining Normal — Former foster kids co-author book and build a business to help others defy the odds
Meet Lia Gaggino — Her Pediatric Meltdown podcast is spurring conversations about kids' mental and behavioral health
ARTS 22 The Show Is On Again How local theater companies are keeping actors and audiences safe in the era of Covid-19
24 The Arts Spotlighting greater Kalamazoo's arts community 24 Theater 26 27
Visual Arts Music
28 Events of Note On the cover: The "Tower of Light" rises behind Kalamazoo Valley Community College President Dr. L. Marshall Washington as he stands in a courtyard on the college's Texas Township campus, which was designed by architect Alden B. Dow. Photo by Brian K. Powers.
"Browsers" by Elizabeth Kerlikowske
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"Inspiring" is how Maggie described the subjects of both stories she wrote for this month's issue. In "Creating a New Normal," Maggie profiles Alexis and Justin Black, Western Michigan University graduates and former foster kids, who are using their experiences to encourage others to defy the odds. “I was inspired by Alexis and Justin’s story. They have been through so much hardship in their lives but have not let it define them," she says. For this month’s Back Story, Maggie spoke with retired pediatrician Lia Gaggino, who is helping healthcare workers, parents and caregivers understand kids' mental health and behavioral issues through her podcast Pediatric Meltdown. “Talking with Lia was so fun! She knows a lot about pediatrics, and I love that she is continuing to help kids even after she retired,” says Maggie, a senior majoring in journalism at Western Michigan University and an intern at Encore.
After attending a couple of theater performances this fall, Marie wondered how implementing Covid-19 protocols was working out for the venues and performers, a question she explores in "The Show is On Again" in this issue. "It was interesting to find the differences in how the theaters are implementing Covid safety and what drives those decisions," she says. "With venues large and small, shows with large casts or small casts, and other considerations, there is no one-size-fits-all policy, but they do have one thing in common: resilence." Marie is the editor of Encore.
John Liberty John says the highlight of his interview with KVCC President Dr. L. Marshall Washington was when Washington shared his fascination with and collection of DC Comics superheroes. "It came at the end of the interview when he said, 'Let me show you a little piece of me.' It made him so relatable and real," says John. "Not a lot of leaders will let you see those more private sides of themselves, but Dr. Washington is a 'take me as I am' kind of guy." John is a former full-time journalist turned entrepreneur who has lived in Kalamazoo since 1998. He is married to a Kalamazoo Public Schools teacher, with whom he is raising two Kalamazoo Promise students.
ENCORE FIVE FAVES
Historian highlights notable fires from Kalamazoo's past BY LYNN HOUGHTON
ire has been a challenge everywhere for years, and more than one distinguished Kalamazoo landmark has been taken down in a blaze. In 1843, after Kalamazoo became a village, an ordinance passed requiring all residences and businesses to have two ladders and one bucket to fight fires. Three years later, the first volunteer fire company was organized, followed by three more. Cisterns, wells and creeks, especially Arcadia Creek, were a source of water to fight fires. As the community grew, so did the number of fire companies, and after a reorganization in 1870, firefighters began to get paid for their services. Here are just five of the notable fires that have changed Kalamazoo's skyline over the years:
Stevens Boarding House Fire April 15, 1869
elick Stevens came to Kalamazoo in 1862, starting a career in construction and real estate. He owned a large boarding house, with 30 apartments, on the block bordered by West Michigan Avenue, South Park Street, Academy Street and South Westnedge Avenue. Also located on the block were several single-family homes. A fire that may have originated in the chimney of the boarding house destroyed it and several other structures. Finding water to fight the fire was a major problem, since the cisterns in the village were empty. An attempt to run a hose from Arcadia Creek was too late. Plans had been in the works for the two years prior to the fire to build a public waterworks, and the fire sped up the project, which was completed that same year.
Kalamazoo High School Feb. 1, 1897
ost students walking to high school early on a Monday morning would not expect to see their building in flames. But that's just what Kalamazoo High School students saw on this winter morning. Gas created by new coal in the furnace was the reason given for the explosion that destroyed the school on the corner of South Westnedge Avenue and West Vine Street. Students, teachers and staff watched as the building's roof and tower collapsed, bringing down the bell. Students who witnessed the fire reported years later that they assumed all grade books were destroyed and they would get a week off from school, neither of which happened. School began four days after the fire at the YMCA, which was downtown at that time. It continued there until a new school opened a little more than a year later. w w w.encorekalamazoo.com | 7
FIVE FAVES ENCORE
Hall Brothers Chemical Co. Feb. 26, 1898
This company, which manufactured chemicals, medicines and
supplies, was formed in 1895. Less than three years later, its building on the southwest corner of North Church and West Willard streets would catch fire, leading to an explosion that killed 10 people, four of whom were firemen. It was the first time a Kalamazoo firefighter died in the line of duty. In addition, 27 people were seriously injured. For 10 days after the fire, articles about the blaze appeared in the Kalamazoo Gazette, including reports of an inquest, which came to no conclusion. The large amount of chemicals stored in the building ignited by the fire and the lack of a night watchman on duty contributed to the catastrophe. The business never reopened.
Burdick Hotel Dec. 8, 1909
he Burdick Hotel, which opened in 1854 as the Cosmopolitan Hotel and provided accommodations for visitors to Kalamazoo, was located on West Michigan Avenue between North Burdick and North Rose streets. The fire that destroyed not only this building but many others on the block began on the evening of Dec. 8 in the basement of the Star Bargain Store, next to the hotel. Before long, flames engulfed the hotel. Fortunately, all 160 guests escaped the fire, which went on for 15 hours and was fought by both the Kalamazoo and Battle Creek fire departments, with the Kalamazoo State Hospital water tower providing water to fight the blaze. The New Burdick Hotel, advertised as fireproof, opened in 1911. After business began to decline in the 1950s and 1960s and the hotel welcomed permanent and semi-permanent residents among its guests, it closed in 1971 and was taken down in 1973, to be replaced by the Kalamazoo Center, a hotel, office and retail complex (now called the Radisson Plaza Hotel at Kalamazoo Center).
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ENCORE FIVE FAVES
The Church Fires
December 1925–July 1926
ithin seven months, three prominent downtown churches suffered the same fate: destruction by fire. First Congregational, on the southwest corner of the church square surrounding Bronson Park, was the first, catching fire on Dec. 29, 1925, followed by First Methodist, at the northwest corner of West Lovell and South Rose streets, on March 13, 1926 (pictured here) and then First Presbyterian, on the northeast corner of West South and South Rose streets, on July 6, 1926. Speculation ran rampant as to the causes or possibly who may have been behind the fires. More than likely the fires were caused by or related to malfunctioning equipment. Tragically, two firefighters died fighting the First Methodist blaze. All three churches were total losses, and all three were rebuilt at their current locations. (First Methodist Church is now First United Methodist Church.)
All images courtesy of the Kalamazoo Valley Museum.
About the Author
Lynn Houghton is the regional history curator of the Western Michigan University Archives and Regional History Collections. She leads the Gazelle Sports Historic Walks, a series of free architectural and historic walks at various locations in Kalamazoo County during the summer and fall, and is the co-author of Kalamazoo Lost and Found, a book on Kalamazoo history and architecture. She also participated in the PBS documentary series 10 That Changed America, about the history of architecture and urban planning. She has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history from WMU and a master’s in library and information science from Wayne State University.
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Please send your questions to:
THE BUSINESS AND ESTATE PLANNING
THE BUSINESS AND ESTATE PLANNING
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Yes. Most often when folks talk on trust planning, they are referencing a revocable trust. In fact, that is the case probably more than 99% of the time. A revocable trust under Michigan law generally is set up only to avoid probate--that’s its only benefit. However, there Please send your questions to: husband going into a nursing home.that I’ve told it is is anMy irrevocable trustisfor persons in your circumstances can been be established withtoyour assetsatotrust the extent they exceed protected possible for me create and protect my the assets from the spend Willis Law amount (which under Michigan law will cap at a little over $125,000). down at the nursing home. Is that true? 491 West South Street If the trust is irrevocable and the assets are effectively established in an Kalamazoo, MI 49007J. WILLIS, J.D., C.P.A., WILLIS MICHAEL annuity LAW income stream back to you per the terms of the trust, then in 269.492.1040 such Yes. a circumstance the trustwhen will no folks longer talk be considered Most often on trusta countable planning, they are www.willis.law asset, but instead an income stream and thereby exempt for Medicaid Please send your questions to: referencing a My revocable trust. Ingoing fact, that case probably more intois atheand nursing purposes. This is husband a sophisticatedis planning technique, I highly home. I’ve been told it is thanencourage 99% of you the time. counsel A revocable trust underthisMichigan law generally before implementing or possible toforseekme to create a trust andtechnique protect my assets from the spend is set only to avoid probate--that’s its only benefit. However, there anyup other Medicaid planning. Willis Law MICHAEL J. WILLIS, J.D., C.P.A., WILLIS LAW
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down at thepractice nursing home.and isyour Is thata certified true? 491 West South is andanCounselors irrevocable for persons Michael J. WillisStreet is the Managing Partner of Willis Law, Attorneys at Law, is licensed totrust law in Florida and Michigan, in registered ascircumstances public accountant that can be in the state of Illinois. Attorney Willis is rated as an A V -Preeminent Attorney by Martindale-Hubbell. This rating, according to Martindale, which has been rating lawyers for over a century, Kalamazoo,signifies MI 49007 established with foryour the Heextent exceed that an attorney has reached the heights of professional excellence and is recognized the highestassets levels of skill to and integrity. is listed in thethey Best Lawyers in America. the protected 269.492.1040 amount (whichYes. under Michigan law will cap folks at a little Most often when talkover on$125,000). trust planning, they are www.willis.law If the trust is irrevocable and the assets are effectively established in an referencing a revocable trust. In fact, that is the case probably more annuity income stream back to you per the terms of the trust, then in than 99% of the time. A revocable trust under Michigan law generally such a circumstance the trust will no longer be considered a countable is set up only to avoid probate--that’s its only benefit. However, there asset, but instead an income stream and thereby exempt for Medicaid purposes. is a sophisticated I highly is an This irrevocable trust forplanning personstechnique, in your and circumstances that can be encourage you to seek this technique or the protected established withcounsel your before assetsimplementing to the extent they exceed any other Medicaid planning. amount (which under Michigan law will cap at a little over $125,000). Michael J. Willis is the Managing Partner of Willis Law, Attorneys and Counselors at Law, is licensed to practice law in Florida and Michigan, and is registered as a certified public accountant If the trust is irrevocable and the assets are effectively established in an in the state of Illinois. Attorney Willis is rated as an A V -Preeminent Attorney by Martindale-Hubbell. This rating, according to Martindale, which has been rating lawyers for over a century, signifies that an attorney has reached the heights of professional excellence and is recognizedincome for the highest stream levels of skill and integrity.to He isyou listed inper the Bestthe Lawyersterms in America.of the trust, then in annuity back such Counselors a circumstance at theLaw, trust will no longer be Michael J. Willis is the Managing Partner of Willis Law, Attorneys and is licensed to considered practice a countable but insteadinanthe income stream and thereby exempt for Medicaid law in Florida and Michigan, and is registered as a certified publicasset, accountant state of Illinois. Attorney purposes.This Thisrating, is a sophisticated planning technique, and I highly Willis is rated as an A V -Preeminent Attorney by Martindale-Hubbell. according to Martindale, encourage to seek counsel before of implementing this technique or which has been rating lawyers for over a century, signifies that an attorney hasyoureached the heights professional excellence and is recognized for the highest levels of skill and integrity. is listed inplanning. the Best Lawyers in America. anyHe other Medicaid
its current position of $11.7 Million, to something closer to $6M, but NOT UNTIL 2026. In addition, all of the news related to capital gains taxes on death should be buried until the issue resurfaces. To paraphrase Attorney Alan Gassman (Forbes contributor), we had thought we were Noah, but instead found ourselves as Chicken Little. The sky is NOT falling – at least today!
Michael J. Willis is the Managing Partner of Willis Law, Attorneys and Counselors at Law, is licensed to practice law in Florida and Michigan, and is registered as a certified public accountant in the state of Illinois. Attorney Willis is rated as an A V -Preeminent Attorney by Martindale-Hubbell. This rating, according to Martindale, which has been rating lawyers for over a century, signifies that an attorney has reached the heights of professional excellence and is recognized for the highest levels of skill and integrity. He is listed in the Best Lawyers in America.
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FIRST THINGS ENCORE
First Things Something Rockin’
OUT, Purple Lemurs to play at Bell’s Grab a rare chance to hear two of Kalamazoo's local bands when OUT and Purple Lemurs perform at Bell's Eccentric Cafe's Back Room on Jan. 14. OUT, an indie rock band consisting of Isaac Turner, Chafe Hensley, Mark Larmee and TJ Larmee, headlines the show, with special guests Purple Lemurs and the Chicago band Mint Mile. OUT has released two full-length albums, Billie (2020) and Swim Buddies (2016). The show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $7 in advance, and proof of vaccination status through the Clear Health App, a completed vaccination card shown in person at the door or a negative Covid-19 test result obtained within the previous 72 hours is required for entry. For tickets or more information, visit bellsbeer.com/events/cafe. OUT
Library programs delve into Copper Country The
Steve-O comes to the State Theatre Comedian Steve-O, known for his irreverent, adult-themed humor, will bring his Bucket List Tour to Kalamazoo’s State Theatre at 8 p.m. Jan. 13. Steve-O (born Steven Glover) rose to fame through his performance stunts on the television series Jackass and its related movies, including Jackass: The Movie (2002), Jackass Number Two (2006), Jackass 2.5 (2007), Jackass 3D (2010), Jackass 3.5 (2011) and the forthcoming Jackass Forever (2022). His autobiography, Professional Idiot: A Memoir, was published in 2011. Tickets for the show, which is for audience members 21 or older, are $35 and available online at kazoostate. com or at the theater's box office, at 404 S. Burdick St. 10 | ENCORE JANUARY 2022
Women of the Copper Country, by Mary Doria Russell, has been named the 2021-22 Great Michigan Read by the Michigan Humanities Council, and the Parchment Community Library is hosting three events this month in support of the program. The Great Michigan Read aims to create a statewide discussion on the humanities themes of a selected book. This year's selection is a novel that provides an account of 25-year-old Annie Clements as she stands up for miners and their families during the 1913 copper strikes in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Parchment Community Library‘s three events in support of the Great Michigan Read program are: • A launch party from 4–6 p.m. Jan. 10. • A presentation on Michigan Copper: Formations and Shapes by Bill Mitchell of the Kalamazoo Geological and Mineral Society at 6 p.m. Jan. 18. • A presentation titled Show & Tell: My Copper Country Story by Theresa Payne of the Kalamazoo Geological and Mineral Society at 6 p.m. Jan. 26 that will feature items from Michigan’s Copper Country and the Calumet & Hecla Mining Co. For more information, visit parchmentlibrary.org or call 343-7747.
Are my investments aligned with my values?
Exhibit shows the inner working of toys As a kid, did you want to break open your Etch A Sketch to see what magical thing inside made it work? Or maybe now, as an adult, you just want to know how to stop your toddler's squeaky plush toy from, well, squeaking so much. Either way, the Kalamazoo Valley Museum has your curiosity covered with the exhibition Toys: The Inside Story, opening Jan. 22. This new exhibition, which runs until May 1, illustrates the simple mechanisms commonly found in toys. Get a close-up view of how the hero of Jack Gets Out of His Box actually escapes, find out what makes Elmo dance and Mr. Machine run, or play a giant game of Operation. Through these and other games featured in the exhibition, such as Hungry Hungry Hippos and, of course, a giant Etch A Sketch, visitors can relive a bit of their childhoods as well. Admission to the museum, which is located at 230 N. Rose St., is free. Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the museum is open for limited hours by advance registration. For more information or to register, visit kalamazoomuseum.org.
Craft Beverage Week begins Jan. 29
Talk to a professional.
It's no secret Kalamazoo has a plethora of
great spirits, brews and libations and people will get to sample those during Kalamazoo Craft Beverage Week Jan. 29–Feb. 6. Kalamazoo Craft Beverage Week is a weeklong series of events that celebrate the craft beverage industry in Kalamazoo County, including breweries, distilleries and wineries. Attendees will meet the brewers, distillers or winemakers themselves and learn about what it takes to develop these products The schedule of events and specials for the week was still being developed at press time. Visit kalamazoocraftbeverageweek.com for a full schedule. Please note: Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, some of these events may be cancelled or changed after press time. Please check with venues and organizations for up-to-date information.
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Creating a New Normal
Former foster kids help others defy the odds BY MAGGIE DREW
placed into foster care with a couple who later adopted her. “Foster care saved us,” Alexis says. “It got us out of that environment and exposed us to a healthy living situation, stability more than anything, and consistency. We both knew we wanted better, we wanted more, but we had no idea what it looked like. So, when we were taken out of our homes and put into foster families, we were given the opportunity to see that. I think most people need to see by example." What the couple say they learned through their experiences is that it is important for people who grow up in such emotionally toxic environments to understand that what they are experiencing is not normal and to reject the abusive patterns they've experienced and break the cycle of generational violence and unhealthy behaviors. "We want them to stop the generational patterns and to be aware of those because so many things can be normalized,” explains Justin. “If someone were to point one of those patterns out to you, you wouldn't even exactly know or be aware of them. It's like, 'That's what I do. That's what my family does.'” “Most people go down a certain pathway in their life, the one that’s set before them by their parents, family, society, whatever it Alexis, left, and Justin Black are using their experiences to help other foster kids defy the odds.
f the more than 400,000 children currently in foster care in the United States, less than 10 percent will graduate from college, according to fostercareforsuccess. com. Alexis and Justin Black are among that small percentage who have graduated from college, and they want to use their success at defying the odds to help others do the same. So they wrote a book together, Redefining Normal: How Two Foster Kids Beat the Odds and Discovered Healing, Happiness and Love, which has allowed them to share their story with others and opened the doors to much more. Alexis, 27, and Justin Black, 24, met at Western Michigan University in 2016 when Alexis (then Alexis Lenderman) was a junior and Justin was a freshman and both were a part of the Seita Scholars program, which supports WMU students who have been in foster care. They lived in the same dorm (which happened to be the same dorm where Alexis’s adoptive parents met in their first year at WMU) and bonded over their upbringings and experiences in the fostercare system. They married in August 2020. Alexis and Justin were both placed in foster care at a young age. Justin, who grew up in Detroit, entered the system at 9 and lived in several different homes with, and apart from, his family at different times. Alexis, who was raised in Flint, suffered from years of physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her biological family. She was
12 | ENCORE JANUARY 2022
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is,” Alexis says. “And you have to decide for yourself: Do you want to continue in that? Or do you want to diverge from that?” How the couple managed to diverge from their pasts is the focus of Redefining Normal, which they self-published. In the book, the couple share their stories and discuss how they worked to transcend their backgrounds, learned to redefine what love and healthy relationships look like, and overcame the toxic and abusive norms in their lives. The book, which was released in November 2020, quickly resonated with others. Alexis and Justin found themselves being asked to speak to audiences across the country, and they looked for other ways to share their message. They created a podcast and a blog that discusses in more depth how to live out their
message of living lives that are emotionally healthy, self-aware and intentional. They recently released a youth edition of Redefining Normal as well as a Christian edition that looks at their process from a faith perspective, and they are planning to release a version of the book for advocates of people who have experienced trauma. Their hope is that Redefining Normal will inspire people to break toxic cycles in their lives and become healthier people. For Justin, that change also involves breaking free of masculine stereotypes.
14 | ENCORE JANUARY 2022
The Blacks co-authored the book Redefining Normal which has brought numerous speaking opportunities for Justin, above, and Alexis, left.
“I try to be as vulnerable as possible,” Justin says. “There are so many false narratives around masculinity and manhood that I want to talk about, about how those roles have played in my life and how I had to debunk those ideas and things. "Men have reached out to me and talked to me about how that has helped them, my stories overall. I've had a few people who told me, ‘It sounds like you’re reading my story and what I’ve been through.’ I've been able to
speak to those people and help them in any way possible. And it's just been an incredible opportunity.” The couple has also developed two other related initiatives operated under the umbrella of their Redefining Normal brand: ROSE (Rising Over Societal Expectations) Empowerment Group, which is focused on closing the information gap for Black and Brown young adults and other marginalized groups and is based on Justin's experiences
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as a Black child in the foster-care system, and The Scholarship Expert, a workbook and planner that provides students with information on finding funding to graduate from college debt-free. Alexis, who graduated in 2019 with bachelor's degrees in entrepreneurship and global and international studies, manages the company full time, while Justin, who graduated in 2020 with a degree in public relations and African studies, works with Alexis part time and as a communications assistant for the National Association of Counsel for Children, a Denver-based organization that provides legal representation to children impacted by the child-welfare system. Inspiring others The Blacks say they have heard countless testimonies of how their stories and work are impacting others, including encouraging people to serve as foster parents for youth or go on healing journeys of their own. “The most impactful testimony for me was a mother that I know who has a couple younger kids,” Alexis says. “She told me that reading our story has given her the courage to go through her own healing journey and to have conversations with her husband about things she had never spoken to him about.” Where Redefining Normal will take the couple in the future remains to be seen, but both say they are committed to continuing to help people create change from within, especially those in the foster-care system. “Ideally you don't want a foster-care system,” Justin says. “You don't want a system that leads to people not having their biological parents, not having families, and being neglected. So, ideally we want to help foster youth reinvent the wheel to stop the cycle of abuse. “We want to be able to influence their lives and have families, communities and institutions be as self-reflective as possible. It's so easy to do what your family did or what was done for generations, but being uncomfortable and challenging myself is taking a harder way.“
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16 | ENCORE JANUARY 2022
Drawing Strength from Superheroes Leading KVCC, Marshall Washington is in ‘his greatest form’ BY JOHN LIBERTY
ressed in a blue pinstripe suit, blue-and-red bowtie and Kalamazoo Valley Community College lapel pin, KVCC President Dr. L. Marshall Washington selects the large boardroom near his office for a one-on-one interview. For more than 80 minutes, as he sits at a lengthy wooden table surrounded by minimally decorated walls, Washington talks about his childhood, family, career and leadership mentality as the community college emerges from the pandemic amid a tumultuous time for the workforce and higher education alike. Washington is only the third president in the college’s 55-year history, and he emphasizes the importance of humor and listening — all while holding a massive Wonder Woman coffee mug. “Sometimes people have got to see this — this is the president right here, big, long table," Washington says, gesturing around the room, but then, he says, “I’ll let you walk in my office and you’ll see the difference. I’ll let you see a little bit of who I am.” Across the hall and through his personal workspace, which includes a treadmill desk, is another meeting room with a smaller conference table. The walls and countertops of this room explode with splashes of the reds, yellows, greens and blues of comic book art, specifically, the figureheads of DC Comics, including Wonder Woman, Batman and Aquaman. Framed posters of these superheroes adorn the walls, including a DC-themed framed painting by one of Washington’s former students, depicting the college president as an assemblage of his heroes. Once seated in this room, Washington’s posture relaxes a bit. He gushes over the origin stories and character traits of the comic heroes he admires most. He excitedly recalls using money from his early jobs to buy his first comic books when he was 12 years old. He pauses, then laughs and confesses, “I’m a nerd. I’m a geek.” “When you see Dr. Washington coming, he has a bowtie on and a very nice suit — very representative of what a college president would look like and what people expect to see out of a college president,” says Von Washington Jr. (no relation), executive director of community relations for The Kalamazoo Promise scholarship program. “You definitely wouldn’t understand until going into his office that he has superheroes on the brain.” “He’s a fun individual,” adds Washington Jr., who has known Washington since the late 1990s. “He’s a private individual but one that loves KVCC President L. Marshall Washington in his superhero-themed meeting room at the college. w w w.encorekalamazoo.com | 17
Inspired by comics The middle of three children growing up in Columbus, Ohio, Washington drew on the strengths of both his father, Nathanial, a no-nonsense welder and diesel mechanic for the state’s transportation department, and his mother, Barbara, a neighborhood health clinic receptionist. He describes his mother as caring and generous, a wonderful cook who regularly fed neighbors in need. Washington says his dad had the respect of the neighborhood and was viewed as a father figure for those without that presence in their own homes. His parents, now in their 80s, still live in the home of Washington's childhood. “They stressed going to school for all of us (kids). ‘You are going to go to school. You are going to do well in school, and if I have come off my job to come see about you, you’re going to hear about it later,’” Washington says, describing his parents’ standards. “I was pretty much OK for my parents. I liked school. I’ve always liked school. I was a little mischievous in terms of thinking, a little smart-aleck-y.” As a pre-teen, Washington delivered newspapers and volunteered at the nearby library, including making popcorn for movie nights geared toward younger kids. Almost as soon as he got paid, Washington says, he ran to the corner store to buy a new comic book. His collection remains intact today. “I have an extensive (comic) book collection that I love. I love Wonder Woman, Batman and Aquaman. (They) are probably my favorite characters. “I love the history behind Wonder Woman, as it relates to royalty and warriorism and the Greek mythology that comes out of her character. “For Batman, it’s really the evolution of Batman over the years and that this is just a
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regular type of guy who happens to be smart, a detective, and he knows how to put these gadgets together. “Aquaman gets the flack, but he’s still powerful. He’s a strong guy. He also has that background story being an Atlantian. There’s a lot of rich stories that are told there.”
Where life has led him Washington started his higher education journey by earning a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Ohio Wesleyan
pursue secondary education. This experience proved pivotal in solidifying his future. Washington remembers helping a single mother in her early 20s secure a grant to complete the school's nursing program, and as they talked through the earning potential of her new career, he watched the “light Below: Washington packs boxes of food for KVCC students who struggle with food insecurity for KVCC's Valley Food Share program. Right: Students Jenah Hadley, left, and Brooklyn Joslyn talk with Washington in the library at the Texas Township campus.
superheroes and what they represent. He draws strength from that fondness for comic books and superheroes. I think that makes him special. There’s a certain charm you begin to understand as he has so many difficult decisions he has to make on a daily basis and the extreme responsibility he has as a leader.”
University, in Delaware, Ohio, in 1991. It was there that, visiting the campus as a high school senior, he met his future wife, Tonja, while taking a tour of the school’s small living units, a dorm alternative where students helped to create educational programming and mentor younger students. After graduating, Washington went on to earn a master’s degree in education from Winona State University, in Winona, Minnesota, in 1992. In 1996, he came to Michigan to work at Kellogg Community College, in Battle Creek, as director of its Upward Bound program, a federally funded program that helps high school students from low-income families
come on.” He knew then that community college would be his future, and replicating that feeling for other students is what keeps him excited about his work, he says. “It’s almost immediate that I can see the change. I can see the change in some students after taking one or two courses. They get that confidence builder.” Around the time he came to Battle Creek, he first crossed paths with Von Washington Jr., then a children’s librarian at Willard Public Library. The two collaborated on programming to bring resources to marginalized communities. Over the next 20-plus years, the men saw their career paths go in different directions, with Washington obtaining a
doctorate involving educational leadership and higher education from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and ascending to become vice president of student services at KCC and Washington Jr. going from school librarian to principal at Kalamazoo Central High School to executive director of The Promise. Marshall Washington would leave Michigan to become vice president of the Harrisburg Area Community College’s Lancaster, Pennsylvania, campus and then president of New River Community College and Technical College, in West Virginia. But five years later, Michigan came calling. In July 2018, Washington took over as president of KVCC, with its more than 10,000 students, succeeding Dr. Marilyn Schlack, who retired after running the college for 35 years. Washington Jr. says Schlack, whom he often collaborated with in his role with The Kalamazoo Promise, was an “educational icon” in the area. Following Schlack is not an easy task, but it’s one Washington Jr. trusts to “Marshall,” as he prefers to call the KVCC leader. “He brings the same energy he had when we were much younger — and very idealistic — about how to help everyone in the community. I have appreciated his fresh perspectives, his dedication to making sure all students — not only Kalamazoo Promise students, but all students at Kalamazoo Valley Community College — get open, fair and just opportunities to advance themselves in education and their lives.
“For Marshall Washington, it’s undeniable that this is where his life has led him. This is where he is in his greatest form.”
Pandemic upheaval Before accepting the KVCC presidency, Washington says, he needed to ensure that his family was on board. He and Tonja, also a trained educator, have been married for 28 years and have three children, including two sons, Ethan and Jordan, who at the time were finishing their junior and senior years, respectively, of high school. Not wanting to uproot them, Tonja opted to stayed in West Virginia while Washington headed to Kalamazoo with their daughter, Lauren, who is now pursuing a master’s degree in speech pathology at Western Michigan University. A little more than 18 months into his new job, the global pandemic arrived. Tonja and Marshall intended to reunite in Kalamazoo by early 2020, as both sons were enrolled at West Virginia University. The family bought a new home one week before the statewide lockdown took effect in March 2020. Very quickly, the timing of the Washington family cross-country transition collided head-on with the critical needs of Washington’s role as KVCC's leader. “It was a kaleidoscope, changing all the time,” Washington says. “Having all those different perspectives, it did give me different ways of looking at this situation, even for how we knew we were going to manage it. I knew we had to manage it through a very human
touch. That meant, yes, obeying and abiding by the state regulations at the time, but also (acknowledging that) this is impactful to all families at all levels. I didn’t know everyone’s situation, but I tried my best to take into consideration the multitude of things that were going on. This was also impacting me as a dad and as a son to my parents, who are elderly (and) living in Columbus.” Washington credits Tonja with keeping the family calm during a time of uncertainty and change. “Looking back at it, we had all those things going on at the same time,” he says. “I have a wonderful wife who is able to manage a lot of things and keep things going. My hat goes off to her all the time. She’s made a lot of sacrifices in order for me to do what I do.” Despite the lockdown, Washington quickly made the decision to be present on KVCC's Texas Township campus, one of the school's four campuses (the other three are the Arcadia Commons Campus in downtown Kalamazoo, the Bronson Healthy Living Campus south of downtown, and the Groves Campus on Elm Valley Drive, near the main Texas Township campus). Despite the campus being nearly empty, Washington says, he wanted his presence to send an important message to students, faculty and the community — that they could count on KVCC to be true to its mission and that he could empathize with their challenges. The college provides many classes and labs that have primarily hands-on, in-person courses in industries such as health care, automotive repair, law enforcement, culinary and pastry arts, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning. A lot of ingenuity and flexibility was required to keep those programs viable during the pandemic. “People were still counting on us through this whole thing,” Washington says. “We had to deliver on the educational benefit of our mission. Being the person who was placed here by our board, I take that very seriously. Being here every day helped me do that and to understand some of the intricacies that were going on in the world that other folks were dealing with.”
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The early months of the statewide lockdown also provided Washington with an opportunity to more closely examine the college's multiple campuses and how those spaces were being used. He delved into the nuances of how KVCC’s programs worked to operate within the state’s guidelines and still provide meaningful education to students. He required decision-makers at the college to adapt and change at a faster pace than is typical for higher education. As a result, KVCC took a number of creative steps to deal with the curve ball of Covid-19, including: • Expanding its WiFi service so students were able to connect on more of the campus grounds and outside, including in green spaces and parking lots. • Creating mobile labs so students could learn outdoors. • Instituting a laptop and hotspot loaner program for students needing those for virtual learning.
• Creating a Post-Pandemic Task Force to communicate the college's reopening plan to students and faculty. • Holding a drive-through graduation in May 2021, in which more than 150 students participated. • And emphasizing to students the available financial and mental health resources at the college. Washington and KVCC faculty and staff even produced a series of informational and inspirational videos, including one where they sang the familiar Beatles song “Here Comes the Sun.” “Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have learned everything I needed to learn (so quickly), but the pandemic sped up that learning process,” Washington says. “One example of that would be understanding our police academy. We had to follow regulations from the state to run the program, and I wouldn’t get in the weeds usually, but I had to get into the weeds because I wanted to understand if this protocol would work or not and not just (hand) this protocol off to a vice president
who works with the (program) director, because ultimately I knew I was going to be held accountable by other folks. I was going to get a call from the grandmother regarding their child if they got sick.” Victor Ledbetter, director of KVCC’s Law Enforcement Training Center and a retired Kalamazoo Public Safety officer with more than two decades of law enforcement experience, says he worked closely with Washington in the spring of 2020 to get the police academy back up and running. “We were the first program allowed back at KVCC, and my success or failure would impact other programs, so I had to be sure that I could continue the academy without anyone getting Covid,” Ledbetter says, "and we were successful.” “Dr. Washington leads by example," Ledbetter adds. "It is not uncommon to see him at many community events, walking around downtown, visiting churches or other venues to simply say hello and to promote KVCC's partnership with the community. There are other presidents/organization leaders who don't do any of those things and you may not even know who they are or what they look like, but Dr. Washington came into this community with the intent of developing relationships with the community and continues to do so.”
Opportunities and possibilities During a time of great upheaval in the workforce and in higher education — an upheaval that began before the pandemic and has been greatly exacerbated by it — KVCC is finding itself uniquely positioned to face those challenges, Washington says. Career changes and staffing shortages across a variety of industries are creating opportunities for KVCC to reach potential students looking to pivot in their professional lives or workers looking to retool their skills. At the same time, KVCC is providing education that can jump-start a student's higher education trajectory. Washington describes listening to a humanities class discuss the history of zombies one day and then watching as culinary students produced honey from their beehives the next. “Every day is a little different,” he says. “That’s what we are at 20 | ENCORE JANUARY 2022
KVCC. That’s what I love about community college in general. We hit on all those spectrums, but we hit on them at different levels of age. “There are misconceptions that we work with people right out of high school, (but) we are truly multi-faceted, working with folks right out of high school and with students in high school in dual-enrollment programs. In some of our summer camps and athletic camps, we work with folks before they get in high school to give them experience on our college campus. Then we have adult learners as well, such as with our Michigan Reconnect program and Futures for Frontliners program that we’ve partnered (on) with the state.” (Michigan Reconnect is a state scholarship that provides free community college tuition for people 25 and older to earn an associate's degree or skill certification. Future for Frontliners, also a state scholarship program, pays for those without college degrees who worked in essential jobs during the pandemic to attend community college for free.) One of the challenges facing KVCC is declining enrollment. According to its annual report released in October, KVCC's enrollment for the 2020–21 academic year was 10,128, down from 10,911 and 11,385 in the 2019–20 and 2018–19 academic years, respectively. But KVCC is not alone in facing this challenge. Nationally, higher education enrollment numbers are declining, with community colleges among the hardest hit over the last two years, according to data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Community college enrollment dropped 5.6 percent in 2020. “These are the students who would normally be enrolling in droves during a recession and then go back to work as the job market improves,” says Doug Shapiro,
The Washington family, from left, daughter Lauren, son Ethan, Dr. Washington, wife Tonja and son Jordan. Courtesy photo.
executive director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “But this time it's like the entire crest of that wave got swallowed up by the pandemic, and what we're seeing here is two troughs, one after the other, instead. There was simply no upside from the recession, just a downside that we're seeing now from the recovery — or at least the recovery in the job market.” Washington says that KVCC is starting an important phase in addressing how the
college meets the community’s evolving needs as everyone adjusts to what postpandemic life might look like. He wants KVCC's long list of community and higher education partners to grow. “Right now we are doing a mission review process, and we’ve asked a constituent group and the community to provide input,” Washington says. “It’s important we all lean into that activity. The work that’s going to build on that is the next five-year plan. That’s going to involve the college community participating in that process and, of course, the (KVCC) board of trustees leading us in that work. I’m excited about those pieces. It’s going to answer, ‘What’s the next program we are going to bring on board?’” But before one gets the idea that the college's focus is only on today's higher education students, Washington says KVCC needs to connect more deeply with the community’s young learners, becoming a familiar resource early in their academic journeys. (continued on page 32)
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TheArts Spotlighting greater Kalamazoo's arts community
The Show is On Again
Theaters soldier on despite Covid-induced complexities BY MARIE LEE
t used to be the challenges of staging a theater production involved making sure that everyone was getting stage directions right and that cast members knew their lines. Thanks to Covid-19, putting on a show is a lot more complex these days. From requiring masks for performers and audiences, frequent Covid testing and proof of vaccination or negative Covid tests from cast members and audiences to the looming specter of having to cancel a show because of illness, local theater leaders and directors of recent shows say that while they have a lot more on their plates than before, it's worth it to have actors back in front of audiences. "Without the patrons, we might as well be singing in the shower," says Jeremy Koch, artistic director of Farmers Alley Theatre. "We want to perform for a live audience because the power and beauty of live theater is visceral. It must be experienced, and that's how it hits you in the heart and mind and soul." Farmers Alley "went as healthy and safe as possible" when reopening shows to audiences this season, says Koch. All employees and audience members must be fully vaccinated, and audiences are asked to wear masks during the entire show so that the actors can perform without masks. And in order to keep patrons from milling around before the show, the 110-seat theater doesn't open its main doors until 30 minutes before curtain, and its bar is closed. 22 | ENCORE JANUARY 2022
"We have someone at the door to have audience members trickle in," Koch explains. "We have multiple people checking them in and checking vaccination cards. Once they are checked in, they go into the theater, and then the next person is allowed in the lobby." For some local theaters, the policy of whether or not performers are masked and/ or vaccinated isn't determined by the director. Jay Berkow, who produced Western Michigan University Theatre's November production of Significant Other, says that his performers are bound by the university's policies when it comes to masks and vaccinations.
Clockwise from bottom left: The cast of WMU Theatre's Significant Other performs in clear masks; WMU's performance of Into the Woods was held outdoors; the cast 'mask wall' at Portage Northern High School's performance of Little Shop of Horrors; the costume design of WMU Theatre's Men in Boats (March 2021) incorporated beards into masks; and the cast of WMU Theatre's Midsummer Night's Dream (May 2021) rehearsed outside when weather allowed. (Photos courtesy of WMU Theatre and Denee Mulay).
"For Significant Other, which we did with clear masks, the cast did not need to be vaccinated, and if they weren't vaccinated, they needed to be tested (for Covid) twice a week," Berkow says. Like WMU Theatre, The Civic took its cues from Covid-19 policies set for educational environments, because one branch of The Civic is its Academy of Theatre Arts, which has classes for students ages kindergarten to adult. The Civic requires masks for everyone, regardless of vaccination status, including audience members. "The overall policy at The Civic now is that as long as the county remains at a high or substantial level of transmission for Covid, we will remain masked at all times, including performances," says Executive Director Laura Zervic. At the same time, The Civic is also doing vaccine-status and health checks, including taking the temperatures of anyone who comes through their doors for rehearsal or business, Zervic says. For Portage Northern High School's Nov. 12–21 performances of the musical Little Shop of Horrors, the cast performed without masks. To do so safely required regular Covid testing and diligence by the 69-member teenage cast and crew, says Denene Mulay, who directed and produced the show. "We stayed masked through the entire rehearsal process. There were no exceptions," Mulay says. “Then three weeks prior to the show, we started rapid testing the cast and crew. Every Monday we administered Covid tests to the kids. They would come in and were
given the little Q-Tip and had to do the swabs in the nose. Then they were released and it was a situation of 'no news is good news' kind of thing. We were fortunate enough to have no positive tests the entire time." The production also had a "mask wall" offstage with hooks labeled with each performer's name. Actors hung their masks on the hooks while they were on stage and then, as soon as they exited (the stage), put the masks back on. 'I was really strict,” Mulay says. “I didn't even let the kids go out on opening weekend to celebrate. I said, 'You guys just go home.’ I didn't want anything to throw us off. But there were no problems at all because they're so glad to be able to be back performing. It's like 'We'll do what we gotta do.'" For the most part, audiences have been receptive to theaters' policies requiring them to wear masks at performances. Farmers Alley's run of Murder for Two: Holiday Edition in December enjoyed sold-out shows, and the theater added another weekend of performances to the schedule. Portage Northern’s Little Shop of Horrors also had a strong audience turnout. Zervic, however, says The Civic, which is among the largest theaters in the city, with 500 seats, didn't experience the same enthusiasm for its Nov. 26–Dec. 12 run of The 1940s Radio Hour. "Our houses have been quite small for a number of reasons," says Zervic. "Some of it is that people aren't really familiar with our show, and we've had some people say they weren't coming back because of our policy requiring audiences wear masks. But I think, unfortunately, people aren't really ready to come back."
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TheArts Dames at Sea Jan. 14–30 The Parish Theatre
Start the new year off with a feel-good show that has catchy tunes and tap dancing as the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre performs the musical Dames at Sea. The show, directed by Tony Humrichouser, follows the cast of the next Broadway hit sensation, starring a temperamental diva, Mona Kent (played by Brittin Schumaker), as the naïve Ruby steps off the bus from Utah. With nothing but tap shoes in her suitcase and determination to become a Broadway star, Ruby, played by Ivy McCord in her Civic debut, lands a job in the chorus just before the producer announces that the theater must be torn down. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Jan. 14–15, 21–22 and 28–29 and 2 p.m. Jan. 16, 23 and 30 at the Parish Theatre, 405 W. Lovell St. Tickets are $17–$28 and available online at kazoocivic.com or by calling The Civic's box office at 343-1313.
Liberace & Friends Jan. 14–16 Farmers Alley Theatre
David Maiocco, who appeared in the title role of Liberace! at the Farmers Alley Theatre in 2018, returns in this tribute to the legendary performer famous for his charm, glitz, keyboard prowess and, of course, sequins. Backstage Magazine called Maiocco a gifted pianist who “makes that piano sound like the Philharmonic.” Joining Maiocco will be special guests Jeremy Koch, Sandra Bremer and Whitney Weiner. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Jan. 14 and 15 and 2 p.m. Jan. 16 at Farmers Alley Theatre, 221 Farmers Alley. Tickets are $45 and available at farmersalleytheatre.com or by calling the box office at 343-2727.
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The Old Man and the Old Moon Jan. 28–Feb. 6 WMU Theatre
A love story, a seafaring epic and a parable about facing change all come together in the musical The Old Man and the Old Moon, being presented by Western Michigan University Theatre. The show, created by PigPen Theatre Co., follows the story of The Old Man, sole caretaker of the moon, whose wife is drawn away by a mysterious melody. To find her, The Old Man must decide between duty or love. He chooses the latter, which takes him on a seafaring adventure encompassing apocalyptic storms, civil wars, leviathans of the deep, cantankerous ghosts and the fiercest obstacle of all: change. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Jan. 28–30 and Feb. 3–5 and 2 p.m. Feb. 6 in WMU’s Gilmore Theatre Complex. Visit wmich.edu/theatre for ticket prices and purchasing information.
Jan. 28–Feb. 6 Carver Center In the drama Art, a man's purchase of a completely white painting spurs a conversation between three old friends about the value of art, a conversation that takes a dark turn. The three friends squaring off over the canvas use it as an excuse to relentlessly banter with one another over past failures. As their arguments become less theoretical and more personal, they border on destroying their friendships. In the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre production, directed by Connar Klock, the three cast members — Christopher Schram (Marc), Ellen Bennett (Serge) and Rory Haney (Yvan) — are all making their Civic debuts. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Jan. 28 and 29, Feb. 4 and 5, and 2 p.m. Jan. 30 and Feb. 6. Tickets are $15 and available online at kazoocivic.com or by calling The Civic's box office at 343-1313.
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VISUAL ARTS Art Drawn from Nature Opens Jan. 7 Kalamazoo Nature Center
Fred Wilson, Untitled (Venice Bienniale), 2003, C-print.
Africa, Imagined: Reflections on Modern and Contemporary Art Opens Jan. 22 Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
The themes of escapism, social inquiry and cultural reclamation are at the heart of a new exhibition, Africa, Imagined: Reflections on Modern and Contemporary Art, running from Jan. 22 through May 1 at the KIA, 314 S. Park St. With works both on loan and from the KIA’s collection, the exhibit will juxtapose mostly West African works of art with European and American modern and contemporary works, exploring how the arts of Africa have been woven into this art of the 20th and 21st centuries. KIA hours are 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Wednesday– Saturday and noon–4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $5, or $2 for students and free for members as well as children through age 12, school groups and active military personnel. All visitors, regardless of vaccination status, will be required to wear a face mask when visiting the KIA. For more information, visit kiarts.org. Unknown, African, Dan Mother Mask, wood.
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Renovation and rebirth are the themes of this nature-focused exhibition of works by local artists that marks the Kalamazoo Nature Center's reopening of its Visitor Center Exhibits Hall after eight months of renovations. An opening reception will be held from 6-8 p.m. Jan. 7. Paintings, prints, vessels and sculptures by eight local artists will grace the renovated KNC Visitor Center until Feb. 27. The participating artists are Brent Harris, Sharon Gill, Maryellen Hains, Anna Ill, Courtney Nelson, Gayle Reyes and Corinne Rutkowski. KNC hours are 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday–Saturday and 1–5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $3–$5, or free for KNC members and for children 3 and under. For more information, visit naturecenter.org.
Todd Gray: Crossing the Waters of Space, Time and History Through Jan. 2 Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
Annual Group Exhibition Through Jan. 14 Ninth Wave Studio Vistas: Visions of China, Japan and Korea Through Feb. 6 Kalamazoo Institute of Arts Kirk Newman Art School Faculty Review Through March 13 Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
Stulberg: Bach Double Jan. 22 Miller Auditorium
Dongyoung "Jake" Shim
Pair the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra with two of the world's most talented young violinists and you've got a musical two-for-one. The concert, titled Stulberg: Bach Double, will open with special guest Jonathan Bailey Holland's homage to the city of Detroit, Motor City ReMix, followed by Stulberg International String Competition Gold Medalists Dongyoung “Jake” Shim (2020) and Keila Wakao (2021) performing Johann Sebastian Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins. The performance will conclude with the KSO performing Shostakovich's Symphony No. 9. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $5–$67 and available online at kalamazoosymphony.com or by calling 349-7759.
For more music events, see the Music section of our Events of Note, on page 28.
is published in partnership and funding provided by
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Please Note: Due to the COVID–19 virus, some of these events may have been cancelled after press time. Please check with the venue and organizations for up–to–date information.
and Keila Wakao (2021) perform Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins with the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, and the KSO also performs Jonathan Bailey Holland's homage to the city of Detroit, Motor City ReMix, as well as Shostakovich's Symphony No. 9, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 22, Miller Auditorium, WMU, kalamazoosymphony.com.
Western Brass Quintet — 7:30 p.m. Jan. 26, Dalton Center Recital Hall, WMU, with preconcert talk at 7 p.m., 387-4678, wmich.edu/ music/events/bullockseries.
Dames at Sea — A musical about Ruby, who steps off the bus with nothing but tap shoes in her suitcase and becomes a Broadway star, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 14–15, 21–22 & 28–29; 2 p.m. Jan. 16, 23 & 30; Parish Theatre, 405 W. Lovell St., 343-1313, kazoocivic.com.
Steve-O: The Bucket List Tour — Adultthemed comedian of TV's Jackass fame performs, 8 p.m. Jan. 13, State Theatre, 404 S. Burdick St., kazoostate.com; for adults ages 21 and up.
Liberace & Friends — David Maiocco returns as Liberace in this production of piano skill and funny anecdotes, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 14 & 15, 2 p.m. Jan. 16, Farmers Alley Theatre, 221 Farmers Alley, farmersalleytheatre.com.
Kalamazoo Institute of Arts 314 S. Park St., 349-7775, kiarts.org
Art — What starts as a humorous discussion by three old friends about an artwork takes a dark turn, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 28–29 & Feb. 4–5; 2 p.m. Jan. 30 & Feb. 6, Carver Center Studio, 426 S. Park St., 343-1313, kazoocivic.com. The Old Man and the Old Moon — The story of the moon’s sole caretaker, who must choose between his duty and rescuing his missing wife, presented by WMU Theatre, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 28–30 & Feb. 3–5, 2 p.m. Feb. 6, Gilmore Theatre Complex, WMU, 387-6222, wmich.edu/theatre. MUSIC Bands & Solo Artists OUT — Kalamazoo-based progressive rock band performs with special guests Mint Mile and Purple Lemurs, 8 p.m. Jan. 14, Bell's Eccentric Café, 355 E. Kalamazoo Ave., 3822332, bellsbeer.com. ABBA Mania — A band that pays tribute to the flamboyant ’70s band, 8 p.m. Jan. 29, State Theatre, 404 S. Burdick St., kazoostate.com. Orchestra, Chamber, Jazz, Vocal & More
Stulberg: Bach Double — Stulberg International String Competition Gold Medalists Dongyoung “Jake” Shim (2020) 28 | ENCORE JANUARY 2022
Vistas: Visions of China, Japan and Korea — Depictions of landscapes in Asia dating back thousands of years, in a variety of media, through Feb. 6. Kirk Newman Art School Faculty Review — Biannual exhibition showcases more than 40 Southwest Michigan artists, through March 13. Unveiling American Genius — Abstract and contemporary works from the KIA’s permanent collection, emphasizing stories that African American, Latinx and other artists have told about our cultures, art and history, through December 2022. Africa, Imagined: Reflections on Modern and Contemporary Art — A curated combination of modern and contemporary works to explore escapism, social inquiry and cultural reclamation, Jan. 22–May 1. Events ARTbreak — Program about art, artists and exhibitions: Encounter, talk by Leilei and Beibei Chen, twin sisters from China who engage with environmental and cultural issues through ceramics and painting, Jan. 11; The Resonance Project, multi-instrumental musician and educator Rufus Ferguson discusses his original composition, Jan. 25; both sessions begin at noon in the KIA Auditorium, with tickets available for online or in-person attendance.
Book Discussion: Two Trees Make a Forest: Travels Among Taiwan’s Mountains & Coasts in Search of My Family’s Past — Discussion of the book by Jessica J. Lee, 2 p.m. Jan. 19. Movie Night: Bill Traylor: Chasing Ghosts — Screening of a documentary about Bill Traylor, a self-taught artist born into slavery in 1854 whose art was influenced by major societal changes during his lifetime, 6:30–8 p.m. Jan. 20. Other Venues
Sweet 16 Exhibition — Celebrating the Kalamazoo Book Arts Center’s 16th anniversary with artists and colleagues who have been part of the organization, through Jan. 14, KBAC, 326 W. Kalamazoo Ave., Suite 103A, 373-4938, kalbookarts.org. Ninth Wave Studio Annual Group Exhibition — Featuring the works of 15 local artists in a variety of media, through Jan.14, Ninth Wave Studio, call 271-3161 to schedule a visit.
Art Drawn from Nature — Eight local artists exhibit paintings, prints, vessels and sculpture representing the natural world, to celebrate the renovation and reopening of the Kalamazoo Nature Center’s Visitor Center, Jan. 7–Feb. 27, KNC, 7000 N. Westnedge Ave. LIBRARY & LITERARY EVENTS Kalamazoo Public Library 553-7800, kpl.gov Page Turners Book Club — Zoom discussion of The Liar’s Dictionary, by Eley Williams, 6:30 p.m. Jan. 3; registration required. Reading Race Group — Zoom discussion of Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, by Isabel Wilkerson, 6:30 p.m. Jan. 11; registration required. Classics Revisited — Discussion of The Art of War, by Sun Tzu, 2:30 p.m. Jan. 20, Boardroom, Central Library, 315 S. Rose St. Dungeons and Dragons 101 — The basics of the game and demonstrations of play for those new to D&D, 1–2:30 p.m. Jan. 22 Central Library; 6–7:30 p.m. Jan. 26, Washington Square Branch, 1244 Portage St.; registration required. Urban Fiction Book Club — Discussion of Everybody Ain’t Your Friend, by Tanisha Stewart, 6 p.m. Jan. 25, Alma Powell Branch, 1000 W. Paterson St.; registration required.
ENCORE EVENTS Parchment Community Library 401 S. Riverview Drive, 343-7747, parchmentlibrary.org Great Michigan Read Launch Party — Highlighting The Women of the Copper Country, a novel by Mary Doria Russell, 4–6 p.m. Jan. 10. Parchment Book Group — Discussion of Ordinary Grace, by William Kent Krueger, 6–7 p.m. Jan. 10. Mystery Book Club — Discussion of Still Life by Louise Penny, 4 p.m. Jan. 17.
Michigan Copper: Formations and Shapes — A presentation by Bill Mitchell of the Kalamazoo Geological and Mineral Society, 6–7 p.m. Jan. 18. Show & Tell: My Copper Country Story — Presentation by Theresa Payne of the Kalamazoo Geological & Mineral Society featuring items from Michigan’s Copper Country and the Calumet & Hecla Mining Co., 6–7 p.m. Jan. 26. Portage District Library 329-4544, portagedistrictlibrary.info The library is temporarily offering services at 5528 Portage Road while the building at 300 Library Lane is closed for renovations.
to win a prize, through Feb. 25; cards are available online or at the library. MUSEUMS Gilmore Car Museum 6865 Hickory Road, Hickory Corners, 671-5089, gilmorecarmuseum.org Winter Wonderland — An outdoor driving experience with lights, music and decorations, 5–9 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, 5–10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, through Jan. 9.
Kalamazoo Valley Museum 230 N. Rose St., 373-7990, kalamazoomuseum.org
Toys: The Inside Story — Explore the inner workings of toys and create your own toylike combinations of gears, pulleys, linkages, cams and circuits, Jan. 22–May 1. Filling in the Gaps: The Art of Murphy Darden — Online exhibit on Kalamazoo resident Murphy Darden, who explores local history, civil rights and America’s forgotten
A world of cheese, curated wines, and accompaniments.
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Muffins and the Market — Discuss recent market trends and resources with librarian Warren Fritz, 9 a.m. Jan. 6 & 20; attend inperson or virtually, with registration required. International Mystery Book Discussion — Discussion of Snow, by John Banville, 7 p.m. Jan. 13; attend in-person or virtually, with registration required. Open for Discussion — Drop-in discussion of Shuggie Bain, by Douglas Stuart, 10:30 a.m. Jan. 18; registration required. Documentary and Donuts — Watch American Winter and take home locally made donuts, 6:30 p.m. Jan. 19; registration required. Richland Community Library 8951 Park St., 629-9085, richlandlibrary.org Adult Winter Reading Challenge — Read one book per continent and return the completed map for a chance to win a prize, through Feb. 25; map is available online or at the library. Winter Movie Challenge — Watch one movie per prompt from the challenge card and return the completed card for a chance
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EVENTS ENCORE black cowboys, darden.
Close to Home: The Walker Brothers — Online exhibit on Ryan and Keith Walker, who were afflicted with the rare genetic disorder Hunter syndrome, and their impact on family, friends and civil rights in Kalamazoo, kvmexhibits.org/2020/walkerbrothers. NATURE Kalamazoo Nature Center 7000 N. Westnedge Ave., 381-1574, naturecenter.org Visitor Center Reopening — Featuring the exhibit Art Drawn from Nature. See listing in VISUAL ARTS. Other Venues
Psyche: Journey to a Metal World —David A. Williams discusses NASA’s 14th Discovery mission, Psyche, as the first orbiter of an M-class asteroid, 7 p.m. Jan. 7 via Zoom; register at kasonline.org. Ranger Hike: Animal Tracks — Join park staff for a wintry hike to locate animal tracks
and learn how to identify them, 2 p.m. Jan. 9, South Westnedge Park, 9010 S. Westnedge; registration required, portagemi.gov/calendar. John Ball Zoo: Animal Adaptations — An up-close look at the physical and behavioral adaptations that animals use to survive, 10 a.m. Jan. 15, Schrier Park, 850 W. Osterhout Ave.; registration required, portagemi.gov/ calendar. Introduction to Amateur Astronomy — A five-part lecture series presented via Zoom by the Kalamazoo Astronomical Society: “Part 1: Our Place Among the Infinities,” Jan. 15; “Part 2: Discovering the Night Sky,” Jan. 29; “Part 3: Binocular Basics,” Feb. 12; “Part 4: Telescope Tutorial,” Feb. 26; “Part 5: The Art of Astrophotography,” March 12; all lectures 1–3 p.m.; register at kasonline.org. Kalamazoo Astronomical Society Online Viewing — Enjoy the wonder of the universe through the “eyes” of the KAS Remote Telescope, located in southeastern Arizona, 9–11 p.m. Jan. 29 via Zoom; cloud date, Jan. 30; register at kasonline.org.
NANCEE & STEVE HOFMEISTER NovaSTAR Scholarship Donors
MISCELLANEOUS John Daley Memorial One One Run 2022 — A walk/run to raise money for Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Kalamazoo, 1–3 p.m. Jan. 1, Spring Valley Park, 2600 Mt. Olivet Road, runsignup.com. Kalamazoo Winter Market — Formerly the Bank Street Winter Market, features produce and artisan wares in a new location, 8 a.m.–1 p.m. Saturdays, through April 30, St. Joseph Catholic Church gymnasium, 930 Lake St., kzooparks.org/farmersmarket. Southwest Michigan Bridal Show — Resources and options to help plan a wedding or special event, 11:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m. Jan. 9, Wings Event Center, 3600 Vanrick Drive, swmichiganbridalshow.com. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Exhibition — On the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in partnership with the Society for History and Racial Equity (SHARE), 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Jan. 10–28, Portage City Hall Atrium, 7900 S. Westnedge Ave., portagemi.gov/calendar. Kalamazoo Reptile & Exotic Pet Expo — Buy, sell or trade a variety of reptiles, amphibians, small mammals and other exotic pets, plus supplies & food, 10 a.m.–3 p.m. Jan. 15, Kalamazoo County Expo Center South, 2900 Lake St., kalamazooreptileexpo.com. The Harlem Globetrotters — World-famous basketball team on their Spread Game tour, 7 p.m. Jan. 21, Wings Event Center, wingseventcenter.com/events.
AN EDUCATION IS SOMETHING THAT CAN NEVER BE TAKEN AWAY, AND KNOWLEDGE IS EMPOWERING IF UTILIZED
2022 Midwestern Synchronized Skating Sectional Championships — Teams compete for the championship, Jan. 25–29, Wings Event Center, usfigureskating.org.
MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Traditional Archery Expo — Try new bows and shop for archery supplies at this expo featuring traditional bowyers, dealers and traditional craftsmen, noon–6 p.m. Jan. 28, 9 a.m.–6 p.m. Jan. 29, 9 a.m.–2 p.m. Jan. 30, Kalamazoo County Expo Center, greatnorthernbowhunting.com. 2022 Chinese New Year Gala — Chinese Your giftsmusic to the Kalamazoo Valley Community dances, and entertainment, 7 College to make a difference. p.m. Foundation Jan. 29, continue WMU YouTube channel, In a year where we all learned to navigate a wmich.edu/asia/cny. new normal, we are ever more grateful for our
www.kvcc.edu/foundation www.kvcc.edu/foundation 30 | ENCORE JANUARY 2022
Kalamazoo Craftsupporters. BeverageTogether Week —weLearn dedicated make about local brewers, andonwinemakers life-changing dreamsdistillers come true a daily basis. at events hosted by local restaurants and retail establishments, Jan. 29–Feb. 6, kalamazoocraftbeverageweek.com.
Browsers Deer snoop around the house in search of the right sill, low enough, spattered with birdseed daily. Doe and button buck shoulder each other, slurp of seeds, coordinated eating machines, deep eyes with long, straight lashes. I want to kiss their foreheads, warm my hands in their ears, smooth the whitecaps of their coats, roughed up by brush. To sit with them on the hill at dusk, my pockets full of birdseed. — Elizabeth Kerlikowske Kerlikowske lives in Kalamazoo’s Winchell neighborhood, where deer are the gardeners. She enjoys public service, cooking and walking. Poems by Kerlikowske have been recently accepted for publication in Sleet Magazine, Passager and MacQueen’s Quinterly.
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Dr. Washington (continued from page 21) “What can we do to work with our preschool teachers and our families?” he asks. “Everybody wants their child to do well. I believe that. But at some point, where does that fall off? I want to reach families early to say, ‘The promise of an education is here. How can we help you latch on to that promise and at the end get that postsecondary credential that’s necessary for our world of work?'” As a professional with multiple degrees and the parent of children holding and pursuing four-year degrees and beyond, Washington says making KVCC a close partner with other institutions of higher education in Michigan is a smart move. KVCC has established relationships with Western Michigan University, Grand Valley State University, the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and others that make it easier for students to transition from KVCC to those universities. And in November KVCC announced a transfer partnership with Ferris State University. Students enrolled in the state scholarship programs Michigan Reconnect and Future for Frontliners can take up to 12 hours of credit from FSU before completing their associate’s degree at the same tuition rate as the in-district community college rate. “I’m for all folks completing as much education as you can,” Washington says, “because I believe that makes us better one generation over another, if we’re really trying to make a better society.” KVCC also aims to benefit its students and the community by working with the leaders of two local entities — The Kalamazoo Promise and the Foundation for Excellence, which has pledged millions
for community projects, including youth employment programs and other local educational resources. The Promise’s Von Washington Jr. says his frequent communications with KVCC's Washington revolve around understanding the varied needs and perspectives of the community. “We know students start and stop all the time,” Washington Jr. says. “Our conversations focus on that. Our students have a scholarship opportunity that’s unmatched nationally. We want to understand better what … the other barriers (are) that students face, Many of us could manufacture a list of what we think those barriers are. For some people, it’s just individual to them. Everyone’s life is different. "We talk a great deal about what we can do between the work that we do at The Kalamazoo Promise, the work the community does trying to support students and families overall, and the work KVCC does in educating those students — and how to bring all three of these things together for individual success.” Marshall Washington, with his more than 17 years in the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek area as an educator and community college administrator, says his job is not confined to KVCC’s campuses. Whether it’s noticed or not, he says, the success of KVCC and its students is felt in nearly every aspect of people’s lives here, from the quality of local medical care they receive to the character of future leaders the college produces. “This is not just our work,” he says. “It’s the community’s work.”
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ENCORE BACK STORY
Lia Gaggino (continued from page 34) every week through Streamlined Podcasts and she currently has nearly 70 podcasts available on Spotify, Stitcher and Apple Podcasts. When did you know that you wanted to be a doctor? I didn't really think about being a doctor until my senior year of high school. I loved my physiology class, and my teacher said, "Have you ever thought about being a doctor?" And it was, like, “Oh, that seems like a great idea!” So, it was really because of my teacher. When did you decide to become a pediatrician? I had a friend who was a midwife, and I went on a bunch of home births with her, and I really thought that's what I wanted to do. As I did rotations in my final few years of medical school, I realized that as much as I loved births, I really felt like I would be too worried about something going wrong at a home birth. I thought pediatricians were just, like, happy with their jobs and what's not to like about kids? It has just been such a good fit for me. What made you want to focus on adolescent behavior? I have struggled with anxiety my whole life, and there's some mental health issues in my family and extended family as well. I was from a family of all girls, and when I first started out, I was the only woman in my practice. I have two daughters as well, and I was very aware that body image and eating disorders are a concern for girls. I was doing an activity with a group of girls, and we were talking about nutrition, self-image, social media and how girls are portrayed. And we talked about how the American Girl Co. really focused on what girls could do and play and wasn’t sexualized at all. I wrote to American Girl and said, “Hey, if you ever want to do something about this topic, please call me,” and they called me. They wrote a really
lovely book, The Body Book: The Care and Keeping of You, and I was their content reviewer. I also was just interested in people's stories, and that’s really evolved over time. So much of emotional health has to do with our own experiences. What made you want to start a podcast? In May 2020, I was a guest on the podcast Mighty Parenting with host Sandy Fowler, and I really enjoyed it, so I thought, “Hey, I can do this too,” and that’s how it started. My daughter’s fiancé owns a podcast management company and helped with all the logistics of it. What do you hope your audience will get out of the podcast? Sometimes it's just a pearl. Maybe there's something that they might think differently about or will be like, “Oh, I could try that. Or that's interesting.” And awareness. I did several episodes around perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and postpartum and women of color. Also practical stuff, like how to ask about suicidal ideation, along with parents’ perspectives and patient perspectives. It's a pretty wide range of topics, but I hope that they'll find something that lights their passion. I just hope that people get as excited about the information that I can put out there as I do. I think the biggest thing is that it's important for people to have a purpose and mission in life. For me, I can't think of a better one than doing something that makes the world better for kids. — Interview by Maggie Drew, edited for length and clarity
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BACK STORY ENCORE
Host, Pediatric Meltdown podcast Dr. Jeannette “Lia” Gaggino is working to change the conversation
(continued on page 33)
about children's mental health with her podcast, Pediatric Meltdown. Gaggino, who was a pediatrician with Bronson Healthcare for more than 30 years, started the podcast in August 2020 as a way to share her knowledge of adolescent behavior and mental health with other health-care practitioners as well as parents and caretakers of children. "At the time I started as a pediatrician, treatment for mental health for children was
pretty limited,” says Gaggino, who retired in 2020. ”I wanted to focus on adolescent health, and a lot of adolescent health is behavioral health.” From a makeshift recording booth in a closet in her home, Gaggino interviews experts and parents about issues such as kids' weight, struggling in school, mood and anxiety disorders, social media, working and wellness. Gaggino posts new episodes almost
34 | ENCORE JANUARY 2022
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