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Climate Change on the Local Front

New Art at the KIA

March 2020

‘20/20 Imagination’ The Art of Aaron Shafer

A Poet Looks at Life, Love & Loss

Meet Jessica Mallow

Southwest Michigan’s Magazine

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New Art at the KIA

Climate Change on the Local Front

A Poet’s Look at Life, Love & Loss

March 2020

Meet Jessica Mallow

Southwest Michigan’s Magazine

‘20/20 Imagination’ The Art of Aaron Shafer


encore publications, inc.


marie lee


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sarah hill, brian k. powers, eric j. schaeffer, aaron shafer, robert west

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From the Editor W

e’ve got a lot of passion in this issue. In this month’s stories, we highlight some people who are truly excited about what they do and with great results — from making amazing art to leading others in musical endeavors to bringing change to the world. Our cover story on artist Aaron Shafer is inspiring not only because of the amazing work he creates, but also because he is entirely self-taught. From his stunning photography to his pyrographic creations (works that involve wood burning), Aaron’s artistic skills are very developed not only for one so young (he’s 29), but also for someone with a visual impairment. Shafer, however, has never let his impairment keep him from his passion for creating art that reveals the depths of his imagination. Another artist in this month’s issue is Margaret DeRitter, whom Encore has been so proud to have as our copy editor and poetry editor for more than eight years. She’s a wordsmith of the highest caliber, but it turns out she’s also a poet of considerable talents. Fellow poet Elizabeth Kerlikowske lets us get to know what passions are behind Margaret’s new book of poetry, Singing Back to the Sirens. We also introduce you to Jessica Mallow, the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra’s new executive director. She’s a houseplantloving Iowan who left Florida — and many of her plants — to take on the leadership role at the KSO, because, even though she was a professional opera singer, she found that her musical passion was not so much on stage as behind the scenes making things happen. Finally, Donna McClurkan, a writer who is passionate about fighting climate change, tells us about how efforts in the community to do just that are gaining momentum. It will take people who are passionately dedicated to this fight to deal with what the United Nations is calling a “climate emergency,” but Donna points out that even a community the size of Kalamazoo can make an impact on this globe-sized problem. Enjoy this issue, and thanks, as always, for being a loyal Encore reader.

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Writing about Margaret DeRitter’s new book of poetry for this issue gave Elizabeth the opportunity to ask her friend some nosy questions. After their interview, Elizabeth, who is also a poet, says she went home and, inspired by Margaret’s work, spent two days putting her own book together instead of writing her article. “I wanted the book to be as straightforward and honest as Margaret’s,” she says. Elizabeth’s poems and flash fiction have appeared most recently in Novelty, KYSO Flash, McQuinterly’s, Harbor Review, Pudding and New Verse News.

Chris Killian

When Chris stumbled upon an Instagram video showing artist Aaron Shafer’s pyrography, he knew there was a story there. “Knowing about his visual impairment, I was taken by the uniqueness of what he was doing and impressed by his skill as a fine artist,” says Chris. “I felt the greater community needed to know about this great young man and what he is doing.” Chris is a travel-loving freelance writer whose work has appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, Detroit Free Press, Grand Rapids Press and Kalamazoo Gazette and on radio station WMUK.

Donna McClurkan

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Donna is a Kalamazoo mother, garden farmer and climate activist who says she is “never not thinking about climate change,” which is why she wanted to write about local efforts to deal with the “climate emergency.” “In just six months in 2019, there occurred a groundswell of energy within our community around climate change: the formation of a coalition to unite local climate action groups, the youthled Global Climate Strike, and climate emergency declarations passed by three municipalities,” she says. “These initiatives, plus the Kalamazoo Public Library’s choice of a book on the climate crisis for Reading Together 2020 felt like a story that had to be told. The unprecedented collaborations being formed among organizations and community members around these issues speak volumes about our capacity and potential for resiliency and adaptation.”




FEATURE ‘My Imagination Is 20/20’

From photography to pyrography, Aaron Shafer creates amazing art despite visual impairment


DEPARTMENTS 5 From the Editor 6 Contributors Up Front


First Things — A round-up of happenings in SW Michigan


Five Faves — Curator names favorite new artworks at the KIA


Good Works


Back Story

Heating Up — Local efforts to combat climate change are gaining momentum

Meet Jessica Mallow — This professional opera singer is taking the helm of the KSO

ARTS 26 Siren Songs — Margaret DeRitter’s new poetry book explores life, love and loss 29 Poetry 30 Events of Note On the cover: Artist Aaron Shafer works in his studio. Photo by Eric J. Schaeffer

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First Things Something Purple

The Color Purple comes to Miller A revival of the Broadway production of The Color Purple that

earned a Tony Award in 2016 brings its raw emotion and beauty to the stage at Miller Auditorium April 7. Through a special promotion with Miller Auditorium, Encore readers can get a 15% discount on tickets. Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker, the play follows Celie, an African-American woman in the American South from the early to mid-20th century. The show originally ran on Broadway from 2005-2008 and was revived in 2015. Called a “ravishingly reconceived production that is a glory to behold,” by The New York Times, the show, which contains adult content, begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $38–$73. Get the Encore discount by purchasing through this link: tinyurl.com/yx6df227.

Something Moving

RAD Fest brings weekend of dance to Kalamazoo So. Much. Dance. That’s what’s on tap March 6-8 when the Midwest Regional Alternative Dance Festival — RAD Fest — returns to downtown Kalamazoo. More than 300 dancers, six live performances, eight master classes, a “screendance” film series, discussion panels, visiting artists and networking events are planned for the three-day festival. Live performances will be at 7 and 9 p.m. March 6, 7 and 9 p.m. March 7, and 3 p.m. March 8 at the Wellspring and Jolliffe theaters in the Epic Center, 359 S. Kalamazoo Mall. In addition, there will be RAD Hop events from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at five locations during the March 6 Art Hop including the Epic Center basement and third floor, Discover Kalamazoo, Consumers Credit Union and Down Dog Yoga. All are free except the event at Down Dog Yoga, which has limited space. RAD Fest will also offer a free screendance series. Screendance is a genre of dance where the choreography is created to be filmed. The series will be screened at 3:30 p.m. March 7 at the Kalamazoo Public Library. Tickets for the festival are $35 to attend two shows, $65 for four shows or $80 for a full festival pass. To order tickets, register for master classes and view the festival schedule, visit midwestradfest.org.



Something Literary Meet Jason Reynolds, award-winning author

An opportunity to hear New York Times bestselling author Jason Reynolds speak is offered at 6:30 p.m. March 18 at Portage Central High School, 8135 S. Westnedge Ave. The free event is sponsored by Portage CommuniTeen Read, a program inviting community teens to join in reading and discussing a favorite book and meeting the author. Reynolds’ Long Way Down (2017) was selected as CommuniTeen Read’s selection for 2020. Long Way Down, a novel in verse, was named a Newbery Honor Book, a Printz Honor Book, and the best young adult work by the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Awards. Reynolds writes novels and poetry for young adult and middle-grade audiences, including the books All American Boys, Ghost, For Everyone and Miles Morales-Spiderman.

Something Rockin’

Idol star Matt Giraud joins Academy of Rock for concert The Kalamazoo Academy of Rock has taken it up to 11 — 11 years of existing, that is — and will celebrate with a daylong event March 21 at the State Theatre, culminating in an evening concert featuring special guest Matt Giraud. The event will begin at 2 p.m., and more than 60 student musicians (ages 10-18) in 12 bands will perform throughout the afternoon and evening. Giraud, a former American Idol contestant who lives in the Kalamazoo area, will headline the evening concert, backed by a band and singers from the K.A.R. Tickets are $12-$25 and available at the State Theatre box office, 404 S. Burdick St., or online at Ticketmaster.com.

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Something Electronic

Synth pop to light up Bell’s If eclectic electronic music is your thing, then you’ll want to be at

Bell’s Eccentric Café March 20 for a night of synth-driven music by four acts, including three from Kalamazoo. Kalamazoo artists M. Sord and I Satellite, local band Tambourina and Chicago-based band New Canyons will offer an evening of electronic pop reminiscent of late ’70s and ’80s New Wave music. The show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $8 in advance or $10 the day of the show and available at Etix.com and Bell's General Store, 355 E. Kalamazoo Ave. M. Sord

Something Green

Create an animal-friendly garden Looking to make your green thumb a little more, well, green?

Then take in “Plant This, Not That — Better Plants for Our Wildlife and Environment” at 6 p.m. March 10 at the Richland Community Library. In this free program, Master Gardener Nancy Lewis, of the Kalamazoo Garden Council, will discuss how gardens affect wildlife and the environment and how to choose plants that are animal-friendly. For more information, visit richlandlibrary.org or call 629-9085.

Something Good

Walk to end homelessness You can run, jog, walk by yourself or as a team and even bring

your crowd-friendly dog to the Walk to End Homelessness March 28, beginning at 10 a.m. at Homer Stryker Field, 251 Mills St. This annual 5K walk is a fundraiser for Housing Resources Inc., which works to end homelessness in Kalamazoo County by assisting socially or economically vulnerable persons with housing needs. On-site registration starts at 9 a.m. The event will be followed by a barbecue lunch at Bell’s Eccentric Cafe, 355 E. Kalamazoo Ave. For more information or to register, call 488-0913 or visit housingresourcesinc.org/events-2.

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Something Funny

Expect storytelling with characters and sound effects that bring all of Gabriel "Fluffy" Iglesias' personal issues to life when his “Beyond the Fluffy World Tour” comes to Wings Event Center March 12. Iglesias, a Mexican-American actor and comedian, is recognized as one of America's most successful standup comedians. He was featured in The Hollywood Reporter's Top 40 Comedy Players of 2018, alongside comedy giants Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock and Lorne Michaels. The show begins at 8 p.m., and tickets are $37, $52 and $72. To buy tickets or for more information, visit wingseventcenter.com or call 345-1125.

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Gabriel Iglesias to perform at Wings

Something Theatrical WMU company stages Tribes

Belonging, community and family are the themes at the heart of Tribes, to be staged by University Theatre March 13-22 at Western Michigan University’s Williams Theatre. The play focuses on Billy, the only deaf member of a loving but dysfunctional family. He learns how isolated he has been from other deaf people when he meets Sylvia, a young woman who has been raised as the only hearing member of a deaf family. Because of the mature content, Tribes is recommended for audiences 13 and older. Show times are 7:30 p.m. March 13,14, 19, 20 and 21 and 2 p.m. March 22. Tickets are $18$20 and available online at tickets.millerauditorium.com.

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Five Faves

Curator names favorite new artworks at the KIA by



art can be a uniquely exhilarating experience. People collect to decorate their homes or offices, for the pleasure of sharing with others and even as investments, hoping their art will accumulate value. Collecting art for a museum is a more complex, strategic and time-consuming venture. Acquiring even one piece of art can take months or even years. In the past, the importance of a museum might be tied to the number of objects in its collection. The Kalamazoo Institute of Arts has acquired more than 5,000 objects during its 95-year history. At the heart of what guides the KIA collecting strategy is the belief that the visual arts are for everyone — that they inspire, fulfill and transform. It is our objective to collect, preserve, study, interpret and exhibit significant works of art that support our mission to promote the appreciation and creation of art. With that in mind, we collect American art of the 18th century to the present, with a focus on paintings and sculpture; works on paper from any period and culture, including prints, drawings and photographs; ceramics and glass from and since the 19th century; works by artists of Southwest Michigan that satisfy the above criteria; and arts of select cultures, including Pre-Columbian, African, Oceanic and East Asian (Chinese, Japanese and Korean). More recently we have acquired even more works by women and artists of color. Although I’ve been at the KIA only since last spring, here are five of my favorite artworks acquired by the KIA since 2017.

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Portrait of Elaine de Kooning, Mary Abbott Mary Abbott was a dedicated

painter who was overlooked during her lifetime, largely due to her gender. She studied with David Hare, Robert Motherwell and Mark Rothko and was close friends with painters Elaine and Willem de Kooning and Perle Fine. Abbott’s canvases are vibrant reflections of her dynamism as a painter and the inner life of her subjects. In this painting, the artist chose to portray her friend in a chair with Mary Abbott, Portrait of Elaine de Kooning, 1948. Oil on canvas. Collection of the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts; Jim Bridenstine Acquisition Fund, 2019 her cat, turning the pages of a book. It is a complex portrait that depicts a mutual respect and the closeness of their friendship. Abbott conveys de Kooning’s mysterious, but clearly warm personality with the barest hint of a smile.

Untitled, Olga Albizu A master example of Lyrical Abstraction

and Abstract Expressionism, this Albizu painting was created during the height of her career. Considered one of the most important painters from Puerto Rico, Albizu was a student of famed abstractionist Esteban Vicente, founder of the New York Studio School. From 1948 to 1951, she studied in New York City with Hans Hoffman, renowned Abstract Expressionist and teacher. Her works graced RCA and Verve Records album covers during the 1960s. This painting is a stellar example of her painting technique and skillfulness with color — and I can’t wait to see this work in conversation with paintings by other masters of abstraction, Franz Kline and Frank Bowling, when we reinstall our permanent collection galleries in April.

Olga Albizu, Untitled, ca. 1965. Oil on canvas. Collection of the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. Purchased in memory of David and Muriel Gregg through the generosity of their estate, 2018


Lady Lotus, Hung Liu A Chinese-born American contemporary artist, Hung Liu explores female strength as she juxtaposes ancient and modern motifs from Chinese history. This work was inspired by a historical photograph of a woman who served as a concubine for Communist Party officials after the Chinese Revolution. Throughout the world, images of girls and women have often been commodified. Here, Liu combines the languages of photography and painting to restore the woman’s humanity, infusing the image with beauty, empathy and tenderness.

Untitled, Merton Simpson

Hung Liu, Lady Lotus, 2016. Mixed media on panel. Collection of the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. Joy Light East Asian Art Acquisition and Exhibition Fund, 2017

Satoshi Kino, Oroshi (Wind blowing down from mountain), 2016. Porcelain. Collection of the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. Joy Light East Asian Art Acquisition and Exhibition Fund, 2018.

Oroshi (Wind blowing down from mountain), Satoshi Kino Oroshi is a Japanese term that means “a wind blowing

strong down the slope of a mountain.” While oroshis are powerful enough to cause severe damage, the beauty of this work’s circular shape is a lovely — even idyllic — sculptural depiction of this weather event. This ceramic sculpture is dynamic, delicate, aesthetically pleasing and emotionally compelling. Even more remarkable is the artist’s method: Rather than hand-building this elegant form, Kino uses the more difficult potter’s wheel to produce his works.

Simpson was one of the few African-American artists to exhibit during the 1950s at both the Museum of Modern Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, both in New York City. He was a member of the artist collective Spiral, which was concerned with the role and work of AfricanAmerican artists in the art world and the civil rights Merton Simpson, Untitled, 1963. Oil on linen canvas. Collection of the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. Elisabeth Claire Lahti Fund purchase, 2018 movement. His Merton D. Simpson Gallery, in New York City, became a destination for collectors, curators and artists of African art. As it did for so many artists of the period, the global Abstract Expressionist movement inspired his paintings, exemplified in this one. The painting’s palette of grays, ochres and blues juxtaposed against brighter yellows and oranges illuminates the artist’s optimism that African art can inspire a refined visual language, while also demonstrating how abstraction can represent an artist’s social and cultural awareness. About the Author Rehema C. Barber joined the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts (KIA) in April 2019 as the Chief Curator. Previously, she served as the Director and Chief Curator at the Tarble Arts Center on the campus of Eastern Illinois University. She has also held positions at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, University of Memphis, and The Amistad Center at the Wadsworth Athenueum Museum of Art among others. She is currently working on the reinstallation of the KIA’s permanent collection and previously consulted for the Harvey B. Gantt Center and the Cincinnati Art Museum. Barber holds a B.A. in Art History from Roosevelt University, an M.A. in Art History, Theory, and Criticism from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a certification in Elementary and Secondary Art Education from the University of Missouri, Saint Louis..

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Heating Up

Local efforts to combat climate change are gaining momentum STORY BY DONNA MCCLURKAN PHOTOS BY SARAH HILL


s climate change and the effects of extreme weather are accelerating around the world, so too is the local response to what the United Nations has declared “the defining issue of our time.” The Kalamazoo Public Library has chosen to address climate change — and personal and collective change — through its Reading Together 2020 book selection of We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast, by Jonathon Safran Foer. And over the past few months local leaders from Kalamazoo County, Kalamazoo Township and the city of Kalamazoo took critical first steps by formally declaring the crisis a “climate emergency.” While the term “climate emergency” may seem dramatic, Denise Keele says the emphasis is appropriate. 16 | ENCORE MARCH 2020


“Absolutely, yes, the term is a wake-up call,” says Keele, an associate professor of political science and environment and sustainability at Western Michigan University. “And I’m seeing a growing interest in politics and activism because of our intrinsic desire to do something about it, to collaborate and connect with others to understand and make meaning out of what is happening on our planet and in our community.” Keele leads the Kalamazoo Climate Crisis Coalition (KCCC), which formed in July to unite local citizens and groups in response to climate and ecological crises occurring all over the world. The coalition encompasses nearly 30 affiliates, including local nonprofit organizations, schools, businesses, climate action groups, municipalities and faith-based organizations. Among its first efforts, the coalition organized a youth-led Global Climate Strike last September, which started with a march from WMU’s All photos: Scenes from the September 2019 youth-led Global Climate Strike in Kalamazoo, which helped to bring local attention and action on the global “climate emergency.”

campus and ended at the Arcadia Creek Festival Site, in downtown Kalamazoo. Hundreds of students from local schools skipped class — joining an estimated six million others in 150 countries — to protest government inaction on climate change. The too-warm, day-long event (it was 87 degrees, 16 degrees above average for that date) featured live music and a full lineup of speakers, mostly youth, some as young as 9. The overarching themes: The science is clear. We must act now. All of us. At the march, Kalamazoo Public Library community engagement librarian Karen Trout revealed KPL’s 2020 Reading Together selection as Safran Foer’s book. For 15 years, the Reading Together program has sought to engage the community through the common experience of reading the same book and exploring its themes together. Safran Foer will be on hand to discuss his book March 10 at Chenery Auditorium. According to Trout, by experiencing the same book, examining the book’s themes through a local lens and hearing the author of that work speak, people are able to embrace similarities and differences from a common point of reference.

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We Are the Weather is “a personal and realistic book on climate change, accessible on many levels, suggesting actions we can collectively take to save our home and way of life,” Trout says. KPL’s selection of the book was in response to a spring 2019 survey of almost 18,000 community members in which 40 percent chose “climate change” as the topic they’d most like to read and learn about. Following the Global Climate Strike, KCCC launched a series of weekly, one-hour educational programs called Fridays for Future. The programs are held at various locations in the community, and topics have included climate history, politics, carbon neutrality, and climate’s impact on the Great Lakes. Local governments are also heeding the growing clamor for climate action. Countries, states and cities experiencing increasingly frequent catastrophic weather events are under mounting pressure from citizens to adopt an emergency response. More than 1,300 local governments in 25 countries have declared a climate emergency and committed to drive down carbon emissions, according to The Climate Mobilization (TCM), a nonprofit that develops and advocates for climate-related policies. In June, Kalamazoo Township became the first municipality in Michigan to pass a resolution formally declaring a climate

18 | ENCORE MARCH 2020

Local Climate Change Events A Reading Together presentation by author Jonathon Safran Foer is set for 7 p.m. March 10 at Chenery Auditorium, 714 S. Westnedge Ave. The program is free, but registration is required to attend. To register and to see a schedule of Reading Together events related to climate, visit kpl.gov. A full schedule of Fridays for Future events, planned by the Kalamazoo Climate Crisis Coalition, is available at bit.ly/2SiNnRN. The series will conclude on April 18 with an Earth Day celebration from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Kalamazoo Farmers Market, on Bank Street.


Adults as well as youth were among the marchers in the September 2019 Global Climate Strike in Kalamazoo.

emergency. A Declaration Emergency also was passed by the Kalamazoo City in October, following the

of Climate unanimously Commission unanimous

recommendation of the city’s Environmental Concerns Committee. The Kalamazoo County Commission followed suit in December, passing its declaration by a vote of 9-2. The declarations are the first steps in the ultimate development of climate action plans.

“This is a special moment,” Keele says. “With the three emergency declarations, we took the first hard step of telling the truth. All three declarations call for regional cooperation in reducing carbon emissions. All call for full community participation and a just transition, prioritizing the most vulnerable in our community and ensuring they have a voice. “That is our work. Everything is changing. We are building something totally new. We have choices about how we will do that together. I cannot get over the excitement of that.” How will people choose to navigate these changes? That is a defining question for the defining issue of our time. Activists agree that it starts with education. In addition to the Fridays for Future series, the Reading Together program has a full slate of events planned on the topic of climate throughout the month of March.

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'My Imagination Is



The Art of Aaron Shafer by



he work is done in small increments, like each step a climber takes to reach a sky-piercing peak. To really appreciate Aaron Shafer’s most ambitious art project to date, you need to take a step back from it, and probably a few steps more, to fully appreciate how tens of thousands of miniscule nicks and notches and gently sanded burn marks come together to form the scene: a proud mountain reflected in a still lake nestled in a pine forest, the mixture of dark and light giving the impression it’s all bathed in the glow of a full moon. It’s both serene and haunting. When Encore visited Shafer’s studio inside the garage of his Texas Township home, the piece, which he calls Meet Me at the Mountaintop, was very close to finished, the tools of his work set out in front of an oak pallet turned on end and resting atop two cinder blocks. The pallet, rescued from a refuse pile, serves as Shafer’s canvas. He’s gone through four wood burners, three mini sanders and countless Dremel tips. Miniature magnifying glasses and sandpaper bits of several grits lie on a counter nearby, curled like dried fall leaves. He set a practice pallet on fire a few times just to determine how much heat it could stand before bursting into flames. Shafer sets a propane torch alight, takes the flame down to low and gently brushes a plank of the pallet with the blue flame, the wood changing color from brown to nearly charred, tiny puffs of smoke rising and disappearing, the scent of singed wood coming off this hardwood canvas. After a few delicate torch strokes and some careful sanding, an upside-down fir tree emerges, a mirror reflection of itself. The art world calls this art form “pyrography,” but watching Shafer work, wearing a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses, his face so close to the pallet he could kiss it, doesn't feel like witnessing an artist perform his craft. It feels like seeing a magician pull something from the ether. Aaron Shafer, with his cat, Ushikawa, in his Texas Township studio, and his signature pyrography work, Meet Me at the Mountaintop. Ushikawa, like Shafer, has unusual eyes (the cat’s are different colors). Photo by Eric J. Shaeffer 20 | ENCORE MARCH 2020

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Robert West Brian Powers

But the results are as real as wood and fire. As real as Shafer’s disability.

If Shafer, 29, were standing next to you as you stepped back to take in the fullness of Meet Me at the Mountaintop, he couldn’t see the entirety of his work. Not like a fully sighted person could. When Shafer was a teenager, his right eye started to develop a blind spot and tended to become cross-eyed and twitch when he would try to read. It got bad enough that he had to place a hand over his right eye to read at all. “Things went downhill pretty quick,” he says. At 17, he was diagnosed with Stargardt disease, a genetic eye disorder that causes the eye’s macula to degenerate, making the center of his field of vision “fuzzy” or “static,” he says. Both of his sisters have the disease as well. His most recent eye examination showed his vision to be 20/300. There is currently no cure for the disease, and treatments are few. It’s rare for those who have Stargardt disease to go completely blind, and Shafer’s condition seems to have leveled off, he says. Still, moving though life can sometimes be challenging for him. 22 | ENCORE MARCH 2020

Eric J. Schaeffer

Losing sight

He reads words by recognizing their shapes and fills in the middle letters by recognizing the first and last few letters. His cell phone is something like a second eye, a sort of digital magnifying glass that he uses to zoom in on all sorts of things most people take for granted. Saved on his phone’s photos folder are images of menu pages and receipts, screenshots of text messages. Text-to-voice apps also come in handy. Shafer will look you in the eye, but he won’t see your entire face. Without you really even

Top: Despite his limited vision, Aaron Shafer taught himself to be a photographer. Below: The symbolism behind Meet Me at the Mountaintop made this work a healing labor for Shafer.

noticing, he will move his eyes around, ever so slightly, so he’s looking just off-center of your face. It’s then he can see you. “I have to fake it all the time,” he acknowledges. “I look people in the eye, but I am not really doing that.” Still, his strategies cannot always be employed. Sometimes he walks past people he knows on the sidewalk or misgenders a

On this page: Shafer’s photography shows his elecetic interests and self-taught ability to capture people and places.

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person. At times, he has mistakenly entered the wrong restroom in a restaurant, or has come out of a restroom only to have trouble finding his friends. “It was all I could do to make my disability as invisible as possible,” he says. “I would do everything I could to avoid looking like I had a disability. I eventually got good at not being able to see well.” People will ask him, “‘Can you see this?’” he says, “but the right question is ‘Can you process the image?’ And the answer to that is usually ‘Of course, I can.’” Despite his disability, Shafer carries an undeniable optimism, a self-aware energy that encircles him like bark around a tree. As he says, he might be legally blind, but his “imagination is 20/20.”

Becoming a photographer

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While in his teens, with the disease rapidly degrading his eyesight, Shafer knew the hard truth that lay on the horizon. Every month seemed to bring a change, a step backward from clear vision, like being slowly sucked into fog. He wanted to get the most out of what he had left, so he moved to Colorado, “to a beautiful place,” as he says, where he lived alone in a cabin in the mountains. That’s where he began experimenting with his Nikon D1X digital camera. He never got to manual mode, instead using automatic features of the camera, but his initial efforts left him with mostly out-of-focus images. He kept learning, though, diving deep into what he could do with his camera, a tool that enabled him to zoom in and see things his naked eye could not, interacting with the world around him in a fuller, more meaningful way. In a way, the techniques Shafer utilizes to see a face or an object dovetailed almost seamlessly with his passion for photography, an art form that is as much about framing and composing an image as it is about what is specifically captured in the picture. “I have a relationship with my camera that 99 percent of people don’t,” he says. “Most people see a camera as an extension of their eye. For me, it’s like another eye.” In a very real way, his disability helped contribute to his almost instinctual ability to frame and compose pictures, he says, because although the center of his vision is dark, the perimeter is clear.

Eric J. Schaeffer

“I am always seeing and noticing the corners of what I look at,” he says. “It induces a compositional way of thinking. The most important parts of a picture are the corners. “Photography is quick composition. You have to know what you want your picture to look like. It’s the science of how your eye interacts with a two-dimensional thing. Where does your eye go first? Where does it go second? A well-composed picture is pleasurable to the eyes, like watching the balls in a pinball machine move around in circles.” As his skills grew, so did the diversity of his photography. With no professional training, Shafer has captured undeniably professional photos of musicians playing live, the creamy arm of the Milky Way, the grandeur of the American West, ethereal urban landscapes, and skateboarders and snow-skaters (who use a kind of mini-snowboard like a skateboard) hovering in mid-air. From 2014 to 2015, Schafer traveled from New York City to Los Angeles with a Kalamazoo-based production team to shoot still photos during the filming of Dirty Waters II, a film distributed across the country. During February and March 2016, he traveled across Quebec with Ambition Snowskates, creating content for an article released by Red Bull. He’s spent the last few years growing his portfolio, collaborating with musicians, dancers and models and running a photography business, Aaron Shafer Photography, in downtown Kalamazoo.

See Aaron Shafer’s Art What: The Healing Fire exhibit When: April 3, 5-9 p.m., during Art Hop Where: Consumer’s Credit Union, 125 S. Kalamazoo Mall (This was the location for the exhibit at press time, however, due to construction, the site for Shafer’s exhibit may be changed. Visit kalamazooarts.org or check the Art Hop brochure for an updated location.)

On Instagram: @TheHealingFire

His real passion now, however, is his pyrography. Perhaps it’s the excitement of something new, of seeing the stunning results of another type of fine art he’s had to teach himself how to create, he says. “I’d like to make a living doing this kind of art,” he says. “I put my heart and soul into what I do.” And his vision too. Recognition and reward are not what Schafer is after. During his years as a fine artist, he has seen success in the genres he’s thrown himself into, due to his persistence and patience with himself and his disability. He will be showcasing Take Me to the Mountaintop at the April 3 Art Hop, which is dedicated to using found and repurposed objects in recognition of Earth Day. Viewers of Shafer’s work would never know that the artist has Stargardt disease, or a visual disability of any kind. He didn’t plan it that way. It is what results when a person’s drive to get the most out of what they have supersedes any pitfalls or roadblocks in their way. Sometimes he can negotiate around them, and sometimes he bowls right through them. “It’s gotten to the point where I don’t care how broke I am. This is what I want to do,” he says. “I have work to do — my work, my craft, my vision of becoming the best I can be. That’s what I’m devoted to — the process of finding out what I am capable of and what I can become.”

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Siren Songs

Through poetry, Margaret DeRitter explores life, love and loss ELIZABETH KERLIKOWSKE

Brian Powers


26 | ENCORE MARCH 2020



Margaret DeRitter is pictured here at Hogsett Lake, the setting of two poems in her book Singing Back to the Sirens (inset). The lake is bordered by Kalamazoo County’s Prairie View Park, where she often launches her kayak.

any sirens inspired Margaret DeRitter’s new book, Singing Back to the Sirens. Sirens, as you may remember from high school lit class, are lovely women on a rocky isle who sing beautiful songs to lure sailors to their deaths. But DeRitter’s sirens lead her to awareness and resolution instead. “The title is about taking back my life and individual identity after the death of relationships with women I found alluring,” says DeRitter. “It relates to singing my own songs — writing poems about the joys and passions of my relationships and the grief I felt on losing them. I hope they’re written in such a way that they resonate with anyone who’s experienced love and loss.” Singing Back to the Sirens, published this month by Unsolicited Press of Portland, Oregon, is DeRitter’s first fulllength book of poetry. Her chapbook, Fly Me To Heaven By Way of New Jersey, was a winner in the 2018 Celery City Chapbook Contest, sponsored by Kalamazoo’s Friends of Poetry. Sitting in DeRitter’s living room in Kalamazoo’s Westnedge Hill neighborhood, she talks of how the book came about. “After hearing me read at the Kalamazoo Poetry Festival, Dean Hauck of Michigan News Agency asked me when she would see my memoir in poems,” DeRitter recalls. “That hit me, got me looking through everything I’d written. And I’m competitive. I was recently

joking with my friend Jennifer Clark about her fourth book and how would I ever catch up with her?” (DeRitter is, in fact, so competitive that after knee surgery last year she played extreme croquet with her writing group, using a walker.) DeRitter spent a summer figuring out which of her poems belonged in the book and where. It felt like the poems divided themselves into two sections, she says. The first section, “So Many Sang to Me,” contains poems about childhood, early crushes, coming out and other lesbian experiences, while the second, “Singing Back to Her,” focuses on the story of one relationship. “Some poems were written over a long period of time, but the second half I wrote within the past six years,” DeRitter says. In her carefully constructed, two-part text, sirens appear in the form of her mother, her childhood friends, her women friends, women who became more than friends, and the urge to create. Bonds to family seem as important to DeRitter as romantic love, and the Calvinism in which she was raised played a role in distancing her, to some extent, from family members. In her poem “How Calvinism Came Between Us,” DeRitter writes that her mother loved her “beyond measure,” but, when it came to DeRitter’s love interests, “couldn’t — wouldn’t — say girlfriend. / Didn’t ask much about those women either.” In a touching poem about ice skating with one of her older brothers during childhood, DeRitter recalls a “December evening — sunset blazing, / ice cracks booming, my fuzzy mitten / tucked inside his leather glove.” When he stops speaking to her later in life, she loses the “utter joy” of that memory — until they

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are reconciled: “My brother and I are friends again / and today, at last, I heard him say it: / The best skating experience of my life. / Mine too, Pete. / I remember holding your hand / and flying across the ice.” DeRitter’s religious upbringing brought her to Michigan in 1975 to attend Calvin College (now Calvin University), where she earned a degree in philosophy, with a minor in English. She worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area for eight years and at the Kalamazoo Gazette for 22 years, from 1988 to 2010. “Dateline Kalamazoo,” one of the best poems in her book, is about saying goodbye to what the newspaper once was: “We were an army then, carriers, accountants, / artists, designers, editors, reporters / the lady on the phone with a real live voice. / We called the new section Today, with no clue / about tomorrow.” DeRitter has been a feature writer, copy editor and poetry editor at Encore magazine since 2011, but poetry has become her prominent form of writing. “When I write a feature story for Encore, I am trying to understand the person I’ve interviewed, putting the pieces together to form a coherent story. I like the craftsmanship of that, but once I was no longer a full-time journalist I was grateful to have the time to write more poetry,” she says.

“I began studying poetry writing in 1998, in Diane Seuss’s poetry workshop at Portage District Library. Poetry requires you to get into a different mindset. You leave your analytical mind behind and let your creative, emotional

Poetry Reading When: 7 p.m. March 11 Where: This Is a Bookstore, 3019 Oakland Drive What: Margaret DeRitter will read from her poetry collection Singing Back to the Sirens. Also featured will be Jennifer Clark, reading from her poetry book A Beginner’s Guide to Heaven. The books (both published by Unsolicited Press) will be available for purchase and signing. side out more. Journalism influenced me to think in stories. This book is a story in poems.” Seuss, a Pulitzer Prize finalist in poetry, has praised Singing Back to the Sirens, saying, “Taken together, these achingly beautiful and gutsy poems represent an autobiography of love, from early crushes to coming out to a Calvinist mother in a New Jersey landscape and its sea-salt air to the speaker’s erotic coming of age — her first gay bar, first girlfriend — and finally adult love and marriage, and the

marriage’s startling dissolution against the mucky inland lakes and icy realms of Michigan. The collection is unflinching, honest and spare in its insistent description of grief’s volatility and its silences.“ Singing Back to the Sirens is not without humor, though, especially at DeRitter’s own expense. In “Thanksgiving Explosion,” for example, a poem about a painful domestic argument, these lines strike me as darkly funny and relatable: “and with that, my head exploded / every grievance spattered on the kitchen walls / the stove, the floor, the cupboards. / Do you really want to do this now? you asked. / Well, yes, yes, I wanted to do it now. / And I did it. Loud. And long.” DeRitter knows there can be pitfalls in writing about other people in her poetry but says she is aiming to explore her own thoughts and emotions in relation to others, not scrutinize others or hurt people she has loved. “I wrote about how they’ve affected my life, and I tried to be honest about my own feelings.“ “Doesn’t it take bravery to write about your feelings?” I ask. “I guess it does take a certain bravery to explore emotions,” DeRitter replies. “They can be really painful, but they also make me feel alive, so it seemed natural to me to write this book.”

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Losing the Sugar Maple April Comes Again to Hogsett Lake

I stopped weeding the garden after you left, though I tried to save the sugar maple, even when its trunk had split nearly to the ground.

and turtles are out by the hundreds warming their blood in afternoon sun: spiny softshells, red-eared sliders, painted ones with brush strokes of yellow on necks and legs.

I'd never known such abundant shelter. Adored that maple's graceful branches, its fiery autumn leaves. Knew the hostas would brown and wither without its summer shade.

As I guide my kayak past the shore, they slip from muddy beds, plop from weathered logs and broken docks, then pop their heads to inspect my boat.

The turtles are as big as pie plates, as small as teacups, some shells etched by propeller blades. One guy lets me get so close I'm sure he must be dead.

Some I spot beneath the surface swimming slowly beside me. Others race to escape my shadow, disappearing into weeds and muck.

And then I see him blink. He stares at me but never leaves his perch as I peruse his shell, his gnarled limbs, his courage. I wonder where he learned it. I prefer the camouflage of weeds, the shelter of mud, wish I knew how to relax in the sun, which kind of paddler to trust, how to outrace the shadows. — Margaret DeRitter

But when that tree dropped a branch on the kitchen roof, I knew it was time. Felt the thunder from the basement. The day the tree guys came I could hardly watch. Kept thinking of the squirrel that lived near the top. Next time I saw him his tail was short and spindly. He rarely runs the back fence anymore, and I can barely walk a block. It's a scary world—chainsaws, old age, arthritis. I planted a Kwanza cherry near the chewed-up stump. I'm hoping it blossoms next spring. In the meantime I've wrapped the trunk in crinkly paper to shield it from scald. It's dangerous to stop being dormant— that's when the sun can kill. — Margaret DeRitter These poems are from DeRitter’s new book, Singing Back to the Sirens.

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Silent Sky — A play based on the true story of astronomer Henrietta Leavitt, March 1, Kalamazoo College's Balch Playhouse, 129 Thompson St., for show times and tickets visit festivalplayhouse. kzoo.edu. Race — A provocative new tale of sex, guilt and bold accusations, 2 p.m. March 1 & 8; 7:30 p.m. March 6, 7, 13 & 14, Parish Theatre, 405 W. Lovell St., 343-1313. The Belle of Amherst — William Luce's classic play about Emily Dickinson's secluded life, 8 p.m. March 6, 7, 13 & 14, New Vic Theatre, 134 E. Vine St., 381-3328. Escape from Christiana: The Final Float — All Ears Theatre radio theater production, 6 p.m. March 7, First Baptist Church, 315 W. Michigan Ave., 342-5059. Lost in Yonkers — Neil Simon's Pulitzer Prizewinning work about two teenagers forced to live with a stern grandmother and developmentally challenged aunt in 1942 Brooklyn, 7:30 p.m. March 13, 14, 19, 20, 21, 26, 27 & 28; 2 p.m. March 15, 22 & 29, Farmers Alley Theatre, 221 Farmers Alley, 343-2727. Tribes — Billy, the only deaf member of his family, realizes how isolated he has been from his community, 7:30 p.m. March 13 & 19, 2 p.m. March 22, Williams Theatre, WMU, 387-6222. That Golden Girls Show! — A parody of the original show, with puppets, 7:30 p.m. March 19, Miller Auditorium, WMU, 387-2300. Man and the Moon — A transgender man and young girl bond over games of Go Fish in an oncology-unit waiting room, 7:30 p.m. March 20, 21, 27 & 28; 2 p.m. March 22 & 29, Queer Theatre Kalamazoo, 315 W. Michigan Ave., 280-9680. Balloonacy — Situational comedy about a man and his red balloon, 10 a.m., 1 & 3 p.m. March 21 & 28, Farmers Alley Theatre, 343-2727. The Adventures of Pinocchio — All Ears Theatre radio theater production, 6 p.m. March 21, First Baptist Church, 342-5059. Musicals Crowns — Face Off Theatre Company presents a musical about a young black woman understanding her complex identity through hats, 2 p.m. March 1, Jolliffe Theatre, Epic Center, 359 S. Kalamazoo Mall, 359-1046. Baby Shark Live! — Baby shark sings and dances his way through new and classic songs, 6 p.m. March 9, Wings Event Center, 3600 Vanrick Drive, 345-1125.

30 | ENCORE MARCH 2020

Frozen Jr. — A Civic Youth Theatre musical, 7:30 p.m. March 13 & 20, 1 & 4 p.m. March 14, 2 p.m. March 15 & 22, 9:30 a.m. March 18 & 19, 10 a.m. March 21, Civic Auditorium, 329 S. Park St., 343-1313. Irving Berlin's Holiday Inn — Musical based on the classic film, 7 p.m. March 14 & 21, 2 p.m. March 15 & 22, Vicksburg Performing Arts Center, 501 E. Highway St., 321-1193. Waitress — The story of a small-town pie maker, with music by Sara Bareilles, 7:30 March 27 & 28, 2 p.m. March 28, 1 p.m. March 29, Miller Auditorium, WMU, 387-2300. MUSIC Bands & Solo Artists Hayes Carll — Texas-native singer/songwriter, 8:30 p.m. March 5, Bell's Eccentric Café, 355 E. Kalamazoo Ave., 382-2332. Kalamazoo Fretboard Festival — Instrument designers, workshops and live performances by area musicians, 9:30 a.m.–6 p.m. March 7, Kalamazoo Valley Museum, 230 N. Rose St., for schedule see kvcc.edu/fretboard. Scotty McCreery — Country music star, 7:30 p.m. March 7, State Theatre, 404 S. Burdick St., 345-6500. Trifocal w/ Stormy Chromer, Biomassive — Trifocal is a trio fusing multiple genres with groove and energy, 9 p.m. March 7, Bell's Eccentric Café, 382-2332. 2nd Sundays Live: Whiskey Before Breakfast — Celebrate St. Patrick's Day early with Irish music, 2 p.m. March 8, Parchment Community Library, 401 S. Riverview Drive, 343-7747. Protomartyr — Detroit rock band, 8 p.m. March 13, Bell's Eccentric Café, 382-2332. Robert Cray Band — Fusion of blues, soul and R&B, 7 p.m. March 15, State Theatre, 345-6500. Indubious — Reggae artist from Oahu, Hawaii, 8:30 p.m. March 19, Bell's Eccentric Café, 382-2332. Ladies Night Part II: Kash Doll, Neisha Neshae & More — Rap and R&B, 8 p.m. March 20, State Theatre, 345-6500. M. Sord, I Satellite, Tambourina and New Canyons — Electronic synth, 8 p.m. March 20, Bell's Eccentric Café, 382-2332. Kalamazoo Academy of Rock with Matt Giraud — Student performances begin at 2 p.m., former American Idol contestant Giraud joins student bands for evening concert, March 21, State Theatre, 345-6500. Mustard Plug — Punk-influenced ska music, 8:30 p.m. March 21, Bell's Eccentric Café, 382-2332. 1964 The Tribute — Beatles tribute band, 7 p.m. March 27, State Theatre, 345-6500. Bob Mould — Alternative music, 8 p.m. March 27, Bell's Eccentric Café, 382-2332.

Orchestra, Chamber, Jazz, Vocal & More Drum Tao 2020 — Internationally acclaimed percussion artists, 3 p.m. March 1, Miller Auditorium, WMU, 387-2300.

Love Is (Volume 3) — Winners of the Kalamazoo Bach Festival's Young Vocalist Competition perform with the BachFest Chorus and Kalamazoo College Singers, 7 p.m. March 4, First Congregational Church, 345 W. Michigan Ave., 337-7407. Kalamazoo College Jazz Band Presents Déjà Vu — Concert will explore the chronology of jazz styles, 8 p.m. March 7, Dalton Theatre, Kalamazoo College, 337-7070. Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth) — The KSO performs with violinist Daniel Rafimayeri, 8 p.m. March 7, Miller Auditorium, WMU, 349-7759. Kalamazoo Philharmonia: Sea to Shining Sea — Performing the music of far-flung American composers, 4 p.m. March 8, Dalton Theatre, Kalamazoo College, 337-7070. International Percussion Concert — West African and Taiko drumming, 6:30 p.m. March 10, Dalton Theatre, Kalamazoo College, 337-7070. Mark Lomax II Performs 400: An Afrikan Epic — 7:30 p.m. March 11, with pre-concert talk by Robert White at 7 p.m., Dalton Center Recital Hall, WMU, 387-2300. Southwestern Michigan Vocal Festival Concert — With Jonathan Talberg, guest conductor, 7 p.m. March 12, Miller Auditorium, WMU, 387-4667. Guest Artist Recital: Kontras Quartet — 8 p.m. March 13, Dalton Center Recital Hall, WMU, 387-4667. Crescendo Academy of Music Student Recital — 2 p.m. March 15, First Congregational Church, 345-6664. Ascension Borgess Free Community Concert — The Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra's Artists in Residence perform, noon March 16, Atrium Lobby, Ascension Borgess Hospital, 1521 Gull Road, 349-7759. Bronson Music in the Round — The KSO's Artists in Residence perform, noon March 18, Garden Atrium, Bronson Methodist Hospital, 601 John St., 349-7759. The Music of Julian Krein — 7:30 p.m. March 18, with pre-concert talk at 7 p.m., Dalton Center Recital Hall, WMU, 387-2300. Guest Artist Recital: Hsu/Kemper Duo —7:30 p.m. March 19, Dalton Center Recital Hall, WMU, 387-4667. Western Invitational Jazz Festival: Opening Concert — Featuring trombonist Elliot Mason, 7:30 p.m. March 20, Dalton Center Recital Hall, WMU, 387-2300. Western Invitational Jazz Festival: Closing Concert — Featuring University Jazz Orchestra, 7:30 p.m. March 21, Dalton Center Recital Hall, WMU, 387-2300.

Bravo! 2020 — Showcase of the best musical talent of local students, 7 p.m. March 26, Jolliffe Theatre, Epic Center, 359 S. Kalamazoo Mall, 343-2776. Guest Artist Recital: Hinge Ensemble — Boston-based quartet, 7:30 p.m. March 26, Dalton Center Recital Hall, WMU, 387-4667. Gold Company Vocal Jazz Festival: Opening Concert — Featuring vocalists Sara Gazarek, Amanda Taylor, Johnaye Kendrick & Erin Bentlage of säje, 8 p.m. March 27, Dalton Center Recital Hall, WMU, 387-2300. Gold Company Vocal Jazz Festival: Closing Concert — 8 p.m. March 28, Dalton Center Recital Hall, WMU, 387-2300. University Jazz Lab Band —7:30 p.m. March 31, Dalton Center Recital Hall, WMU, 387-4667. DANCE Midwest Regional Alternative Dance Festival (RAD Fest) — Features the works of 50 choreographers from all over the country, March 6–8, various downtown locations, wellspringdance.org.

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Ballet Arts Ensemble Spring Concert: Red, White & Blue —2 & 7 p.m. March 7, Shaw Theatre, WMU, 387-2300. COMEDY Gabriel Iglesias: Beyond the Fluffy World Tour — Stand-up comedy, 8 p.m. March 12, Wings Event Center, 3600 Vanrick Drive, 345-1125. FILM RAD Fest Screendance Series — Screening of 10 short dance films, 3:30–4:30 p.m. March 7, Central Library, 315 S. Rose St., 553-7800. The Sound of Music: An Interactive Movie Event — Sing along to this classic film, 7 p.m. March 14, State Theatre, 404 S. Burdick St., 345-6500. VISUAL ARTS Kalamazoo Institute of Arts 314 S Park St., 349-7775 Exhibits Kirk Newman Art School Faculty Review — Juried exhibition of works by KIA art school faculty, through March 8. David Park: A Retrospective — An exhibition of nearly 100 of the artist's paintings and drawings that span his career from the 1930s to 1960, through March 15. Natural Forms: Contemporary Works by Japanese Women — KIA collection works in ceramics and on paper from the KIA collection are paired with works from private lenders examining the history and innovations of Japanese ceramic making, through March 22. Young Artists of Kalamazoo County — Creative, colorful, whimsical art by students in grades K–8, March 21–April 11.

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UPCOMING SHOWS March 7 Escape from Christiana: The Final Float March 21 Adventures of Pinocchio 1 and 2

Join Us for a Live Performance!

All Ears Theatre presents 11 FREE shows in the style of radio's “Golden Age” (comedies and dramas) each season. Actors, musicians and sound effects artists perform on stage before a live audience! JANUARY – MAY 2020

April 4 Sometime in June April 18 The Incognito Detective Service


6:00 pm @ the First Baptist Church For full schedule, visit: KalamazooArts.org Funding provided by


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EVENTS ENCORE Events Sunday Guided Tours — Docent-led tours: David Park: A Retrospective, March 1 & 15; Kirk Newman Art School Faculty Exhibition, March 8; Natural Forms: Contemporary Art by Japanese Women, March 22; sessions begin at 2 p.m. ArtBreak — Weekly program about art, artists and exhibitions: Wellspring's RAD Fest Sneak Peek, talk and performance, March 3; talk by art school residents Heather Briggs and Ian Middleton, March 10; WAR: Women, Art, Revolution, video, Part 1, March 17; Part 2, March 24; Colleen Woolpert talks about her projects and current In-Depth Kalamazoo stereograph exhibitions, March 31; sessions begin at noon. Book Discussion: Kalamazoo Reading Together Book Selection — David Benac leads a discussion of We Are the Weather, by Jonathan Safran Foer, 2 p.m. March 4. Art League Lecture: A Fresh Look: Bruegel's Wedding Dance — Talk by Ellen Hanspach-Bernal, paintings conservator at the Detroit Institute of Arts, 10 a.m. March 11.

David Park: Painter, Father, Friend, Remembered by Helen Park Bigelow — Talk by the artist’s daughter, 6:30 p.m. March 12, with 5:30 p.m. reception. Symposium: David Park and the Bay Area Figurative Movement — A symposium with scholars, art aficionados and special guests, 9 a.m.– 3:30 p.m. March 13. Unreeled: Film at the KIA: Transformation and Creativity — View Virtual Memory, by Julie Goldstein, a collection of archival footage exploring photography and filmmaking and virtual and augmented reality, 6:30 p.m. March 20.

Richmond Center for Visual Arts Western Michigan University, 387-2436 Dwayne Lowder — Collection of works by former WMU art professor, through Mar. 8, MonroeBrown and Netzorg and Kerr Galleries.

17 Days (Vol. 12) — One artist's video work per day is played on 50-inch plasma screens, through May 1, Atrium Gallery. Visiting Artists’ Lectures — Lev Manovich, 6 p.m. March 6; Paul Catanese, 5:30 p.m. March 19; Naomi van Niekerk, 5:30 p.m. March 26, Room 2008. Other Venues Jean Buescher Bartlett: Book. Art. Object. — Letterpress printed and handmade books, through March 27, Kalamazoo Book Arts Center, 326 W. Kalamazoo Ave., 373-4938. The Infinity Between Zero & One — Solo exhibition by artist Ellen Nelson, Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo, 359 S. Kalamazoo Mall, 823-2324. Art Hop — Art at locations in Kalamazoo, 5–9 p.m. March 6, 342-5059. LIBRARY & LITERARY EVENTS Kalamazoo Public Library Page Turners Book Club — Discussion of Educated, by Tara Westover, 6:30 p.m. March 2, Oshtemo Branch, 7265 W. Main St., 553-7800. Women’s Month Art Show — Featuring Jamari Taylor, 2–4 p.m. March 7, Alma Powell Branch, 1000 W. Paterson St., 553-7800. Librarians Talking About Cookbooks —7–8 p.m. March 11 & 30, Central Library, 315 S. Rose St., 553-7800. How Can Plants and First Nations Help Us to Believe? — Talk by retired WMU professor Tom Small, 7–8 p.m. March 16, Central Library, 553-7800.

For This

Black History 101 Mobile Museum — Over 5,000 artifacts of black memorabilia, 9–11 a.m. March 18, 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m. March 27, Eastwood Branch, 1112 Gayle Ave., 553-7800. ¡Hola! Hello! — For English speakers practicing Spanish and vice versa, 6:30 p.m. March 18, Washington Square Branch, 1244 Portage St., 553-7800. Classics Revisited — Discussion of The Talisman, by Sir Walter Scott, 7 p.m. March 18, Central Library, 553-7800.

Lost in Michigan — Talk by Mike Sonnenberg, author of Lost in Michigan: History and Travel Stories From an Endless Road Trip, 7 p.m. March 18, Central Library, 553-7800. Human Behavior and Climate Change — Discussion led by WMU psychology professors Cynthia Pietras and Wayne Fuqua, 7 p.m. March 23, Central Library, 553-7800. A Cherished Look at the Life of Toni Morrison — Viewing and discussion of the documentary Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am, 6–8 p.m. March 24, Alma Powell Branch, 553-7800. Norman F. Carver Jr., Architect of Form and Space — Discussion led by author Tim Hills, 7 p.m. March 24, Central Library, 553-7800. Celery City Chapbook Contest Reading — Friends of Poetry contest winners read their poetry, 7 p.m. March 25, Central Library, 553-7800. Reading Race Book Group — Discussion of How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi, 6:30 p.m. March 26, Central Library, 553-7800. Urban Fiction Book Club — Discussion of He's Your Ex for a Reason, by BriAnn Danae, 6 p.m. March 31, Alma Powell Branch, 553-7800.

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Parchment Community Library 401 S. Riverview Drive, 343-7747 Parchment Book Group — Discussion of Siri, Where Is My Son?, by local author Bruce Mite, 6:30 p.m. March 2. Vegan 101: Ten Easy Ways to Add More Plants to Your Diet — Hillary Rettig will help you get started eating lighter, kinder, healthier and more sustainably, 7 p.m. March 5. Creating a Model Community: How Parchment Came to Be — A three-part program presented by Cheryl Lyon-Jenness, 2 p.m. March 9; registration required. Rosie the Riveter in Song, Art, and Social Movement — Singer/songwriter Patricia Pettinga will use performance, stories and images to explore the origins and impacts of World War II icon Rosie the Riveter, 7 p.m. March 12. Mystery Book Club — Discussion of B.H. Underwood, by local author Bruce Mite, 6:30 p.m. March 16. Climate Change from a Faith Perspective — A Conversation Café featuring Pastor Nikki Smith, 10:30 a.m.–noon March 21. Yum's the Word: The Victorian Bakery — Hands-on baking with Maria Brennan at The Victorian Bakery, 512 N. Park St., Suite B, 6:30 p.m. March 25; registration required.

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Spring Book Sale —10 a.m.–3 p.m. March 28. Portage District Library 300 Library Lane, 329-4544 Finding Peace During War — Viewing of the documentary Peace During War, followed by discussion with previous gang members Michael Wilder and Yafinceio Harris, 7 p.m. March 5. Great Michigan Read — Discussion of What the Eyes Don't See, by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, 6:30 p.m. March 11; meet the author 6 p.m. March 25.

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International Mystery Book Discussion: England — Discuss The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evely Hardcastle, by Stuart Turton, 7 p.m. March 12. Richland Community Library 8951 Park St., 629-9085 RCL Mystery Club — Put your sleuthing skills to the test to solve a mystery, 6–8 p.m. March 4. Plant This, Not That: Better Plants for Our Wildlife & Environment — Learn how gardens affect wildlife and the environment, 6 p.m. March 10. Artist Reception — Meet artists Jeff and Theresa Heaton, 5 p.m. March 12. RCL Book Club & Dessert — Discussion of Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya, 7–8:30 p.m. March 12. Meet Michigan Author — Author Sarah Stewart and illustrator David Small talk about their new book, This Book of Mine, 7 p.m. March 25. Other Venues Reading Together: Author Visit — Author Jonathan Safran Foer presents his book We Are the Weather, 7 p.m. March 10, Chenery Auditorium, 714 S. Westnedge Ave., 585-8719.

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EVENTS ENCORE Poetry Reading: Margaret DeRitter and Jennifer Clark — Reading from their respective collections Singing Back to the Sirens and A Beginner’s Guide to Heaven and signing books, 7 p.m. March 11, This Is a Bookstore, 3019 Oakland Drive, 385-2847. Linda Gregerson — Poet, essayist and scholar, Gwen Frostic Reading Series and Anthony Ellis Scholarly Speaker Series, 11 a.m. March 13, Room 2500, Knauss Hall, WMU, wmich.edu/english/ events/frostic.

CommuniTeen Read: Author Visit — Meet Jason Reynolds, author of Long Way Down, 6:30 p.m. March 18, Portage Central High School, 8135 W. Westnedge Ave. Brad Leithasuer — Poet, novelist and essayist, Gwen Frostic Reading Series, 7:30 p.m. March 19, Room 157-159, Bernhard Center, WMU, wmich. edu/english/events/frostic. Poets in Print — Eloisa Amezcua and José Olivarez, 7 p.m. March 21, Kalamazoo Book Arts Center, 326 W. Kalamazoo Ave., Suite 103A, 373-4938.

MUSEUMS Gilmore Car Museum 6865 Hickory Road, Hickory Corners, 671-5089 2020 Lecture Series — My Lifelong Adventure with Wine, Ken Fischang, March 1; The Gale and Park Theaters: A History, Keith Martin talks about two former local theaters, March 15; Packard: Ask the Man Who Owns One, Chuck Lachman, March 22; The Silver Streak, John Butte talks about a 1926 Ford Model T that traveled the country, March 29; all sessions begin at 3 p.m. Under the Hood Weekend — Take a look at the engines in the Gilmore Car Museum, March 6–8.

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Filling in the Gaps: The Art of Murphy Darden — Art focused on black cowboys, Darden's personal experiences in Mississippi, civil rights heroes and Kalamazoo's African American community, through March 29. League of Women Voters: The First 100 Years — Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Kalamazoo Area League of Women Voters, through March 31. Wicked Plants: The Exhibit — Visit a creepy Victorian home and learn about the world's most villainous plants, through May 17. Patient No More: People with Disabilities Securing Civil Rights — An exhibit that shares stories of people with disabilities and their fight for civil rights, through June 7. Kalamazoo Fretboard Festival — See description under Music: Bands & Solo Artists, page 30. Sunday Series — The Right Stuff at the Wrong Time: First Lady Astronaut Trainees, 1:30 p.m. March 8, Stryker Theater. NATURE Kalamazoo Nature Center 7000 N. Westnedge Ave., 381-1574 From Sap to Syrup — Learn about maple sugaring on a hike to the sugar shack, 1:30 & 3:30 p.m. March 1. Regenerative Agriculture Discussion — Learn about agriculture practices in our region, 2–3 p.m. March 7. Maple Sugar Festival — Experience the maple sugaring process up close, March 7 & 8. Owl Prowl — Take a night hike and listen for owl calls, 8 p.m. March 12 & 26. Spring Tea Walk — Hike along the Kalamazoo River with a cup of hot tea, 2–3 p.m. March 22. 10 "Weedy" Plants to Watch For — Learn which weeds to pull and which could be useful, 3–4 p.m. March 28. Boomers and Beyond: KNC Deer Management — Learn how KNC maintains a healthy deer population, 11 a.m.–1 p.m. March 31.

ENCORE EVENTS Other Venues Winter Tree Identification — Learn how to identify trees on a hike with park rangers, 2 p.m. March 7, Schrier Park, 850 W. Osterhout Ave., 329-4522. Birds and Coffee Walk — A morning bird walk and discussion over coffee, 9–10:30 a.m. March 11, Kellogg Bird Sanctuary, 12685 East C Ave., Augusta, 671-2510. Audubon Society of Kalamazoo — Katherine Greenwalk speaks on "The Secret Lives of Salamanders," 7:30 p.m. March 23, People's Church, 1758 N. 10th St., 375-7210. Dessert with Discussion: Heroes to Hives — Talk by Dr. Adam Ingrao of Michigan State University Extension, 7:30–8:30 p.m. March 26, W.K. Kellogg Biological Station Auditorium, 3700 E. Gull Lake Drive, Hickory Corners, 671-5117. Maple Syrup Open House — Kids' activities, wagon rides and tours of the sugarbush, 11 a.m.–4 p.m. March 28, W.K. Kellogg Experimental Forest, 7060 N. 42nd St., Augusta, 731-4597. MISCELLANEOUS

Where is Everybody? The Fermi Paradox — A Kalamazoo Astronomical Society presentation by Dr. Elias Avdi of MSU, 7–9:15 p.m. March 6, Kalamazoo Area Math & Science Center, 600 W. Vine St., www.kasonline.org.

Classic Archery Trade Show — Buy, sell and trade archery items, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. March 7, Kalamazoo County Expo Center, 2900 Lake St., 488-9780. Southwest Michigan Ballroom Dance — Monthly ballroom dancing, with DJ Dan Stratton, 3:30–6 p.m. March 8, with Barry and Susan Douglas teaching the rumba at 2:30 p.m., Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, 314 S. Park St., swmbd.org. Painting in the Park — Instructors give step-bystep instructions for painting, 6–9 p.m. March 12, Schrier Park, 850 W. Osterhout Ave., Portage, 329-4522. 2019–20 Freedom Speaker Series — Susan Reed, Sergio Cira-Reyes and Nelly Fuentes lecture on "Condors, Eagles and Allies: A Conversation About Movement Ecology and Immigrant Rights," 7 p.m. March 12, University Center for the Humanities, 2452 Knauss Hall, WMU, wmich.edu/ humanities. Kalamazoo Home & Garden Expo — New building trends, products and ideas, 9 a.m.–9 p.m. March 13 & 14, 11 a.m.–5 p.m. March 15, Kalamazoo County Expo Center, 375-4225. Healing Body and Spirit Expo — Psychics, mediums, aura photos, stones, crystals and more, March 14–15, The Valley, Wings Event Center, 3600 Vanrick Drive, 345-1125.

Kalamazoo Living History Show — Re-enactments, craftspeople, dealers and history buffs, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. March 21, 9 a.m.–4 p.m. March 22, Kalamazoo County Expo Center, 765-563-6792. Kalamazoo Dance — Monthly ballroom dancing at 8 p.m., with bachata lesson at 7 p.m., March 21, The Point Community Center, 2595 N. 10th St., kalamazoodance.org. Cooking for Heart Health with a Food-Focused Diet — Talk by Cory Barrett, of Kalamazoo Valley Community College culinary faculty, 1 p.m. March 25, Portage Senior Center, 320 Library Lane, 217-0569. Kalamazoo's Ultimate Indoor Garage Sale — Antiques, baby gear, toys, furniture and electronics, 8 a.m.–3 p.m. March 28, Kalamazoo County Expo Center, 903-5820. Spring Craft Show — Unique crafts, artists and vendors, 9 a.m.–3 p.m. March 28, Kalamazoo County Expo Center, 903-5820. Thunderbirds RC Club Swap Meet — RC airplanes, cars, trains, helicopters and boats, 9 a.m.–3 p.m. March 28, Kalamazoo County Expo Center, Room A, 823-4044. 5K Walk to End Homelessness — Sponsored by Housing Resources Inc., begins 10 a.m. March 28 at Homer Stryker Field, 251 Mills St., 488-0913.

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Kalamazoo Community Foundation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 Kalamazoo Institute of Arts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 Kalamazoo Public Library . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .19 Kalamazoo Public Schools . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 Kuipers Advisors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36 Lewis Reed & Allen, PC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 LFW Office Solutions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 Lift Restaurant & Lounge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 LVM Capital Management . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 Park Village Pines . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services . . . . . . . . . . .32 Portage Printing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36 Potter’s Restaurant . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Ray Financial Group . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 Saffron . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Stulberg International String Competition . . . . . . . . . . . 34 Trust Shield Insurance Group . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Tujax Tavern & Brewpub . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Vlietstra Bros. Pools & Spas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24


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ENCORE BACK STORY Jessica Mallow (continued from page 38)

kind of appreciation and culture for the arts that Kalamazoo has overnight. That culture develops over time from community support, philanthropy and people being willing to step up and say that it is worth it for our community to have this kind of arts or this kind of a symphony. “People have to care, and it's evident that people here care a lot.” How did you get where you are today? I majored in vocal performance for opera in college, but also I got a minor in marketing. I did a lot of internships for marketing in the corporate world. I never realized that there was a career path that could actually mold both of those things into one. My plan was always to be a full-time performer. Shortly after graduating, however, I was performing around the Midwest and fell into my first job with Orchestra Iowa, which had formerly been the Cedar Rapids Symphony. They had just gone through an enormous flood. The symphony was developing its re-emergence and was working to reopen their historic theater. I'll never forget the very first time we did a performance in that space with Harry Connick Jr., who had come to help us celebrate. Seeing the energy that the community had around this theater, this history, this music and how every single seat in that house was full, I was so moved that I helped to make it happen. I just thought to myself, "This is it. This is what I want to do — I want to bring this to people.” I was the executive assistant there for a couple of years, and if you've known any executive assistants, you know they wear a lot of hats and get their hands into the workings of everything from marketing and fundraising to special projects, board planning and forward thinking. It helped me learn early in my career what it takes to be in a leadership role. Looking at other leaders in our field at that point in time, I noticed that fewer than 50 percent had master's degrees. I didn’t want the barrier for my success to be the fact that I did or didn’t have a master's degree, and I wanted to learn more about this business

model. So instead of going back into vocal performance, I took a leap and I moved to Washington, D.C. and worked on a master’s degree at American University and worked for Washington Performing Arts and managed the American University Symphony. From there I went to Jacksonville (Florida) Symphony, where I was for 3½ years. What would draw someone from Florida back to the North? I am now in driving distance to my hometown, which my parents are very happy about. They've been asking me for the last 10 years to get off the East Coast and come back where I can visit them again more often. What does being the executive director of a symphony entail? We take all of the wonderful pieces and moving parts and help them to make sense into a vision. The music director is in charge of working with the musicians and the artistic product, while the executive director makes sure that all of the wheels turn and the administration comes together and helps set the course for what needs to be happening for the future of your organization, for all the pieces to work, between marketing and fundraising and finance and human resources, to sustain the operation so that you can continue to offer your product. It's very fun work. Do you still sing? I’m what you’d call a “pro amateur.” The voice is still there, and I'm happy to get it out for family or friends or if we are making music in a living room with other people. But in my early twenties I found out that helping other people make music was just as fulfilling to me. What’s on your bucket list? I am marrying Ben Gulley (a professional tenor) in August, and traveling is a shared passion of ours. I would like to travel to see Ben sing. He goes to some very interesting places with his career. So to be able to find a spare weekend here or there and tag along to some countries we'd like to be in together is high on the list. — Interviewed by Marie Lee and edited for length and clarity

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Jessica Mallow

Executive Director, Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra

If you want to know how Jessica Mallow became

executive director of the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra at the tender age of 30, you have to start with her dad. When she was growing up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, her father, Rick Mallow, would take the young Jessica to the symphony. “My father was the classical music lover in the family who took me to the symphony at a very young age and showed me what it's like to appreciate classical music and to be part of that,” she says. “If he hadn't been willing to purchase a ticket and send a young kid to see a performance like that, this would have never happened.” Mallow, a former professional opera singer, took the helm of the 84-member KSO in December, just in time to help usher in its 100th season this coming September. Mallow says the fact that the KSO is celebrating a birthday that’s 70 more years than she’s been on Earth is telling. “It's one of the reasons I was the most excited to come here,” she says. “You can't create the (continued on page 37)

38 | ENCORE MARCH 2020

Kalamazoo Public Schools are reaching higher!

ar graduation rates  Rising 4- and 5-ye dle school and high id m , ry ta n e m le e g in  Ris vement school student achie of students taking r e b m u n e th le b u o  More than d last 10 years e th in s e rs u co t n e Advance Placem ition and mandatory tu ge lle co e e fr : e is rom quirements apply)  The Kalamazoo P ency & attendance re sid (re s e at u ad fees for KPS gr mise scholars ro P 0 0 0 2, an th re o M grees have completed de 0 students 50 2, ly e at im x ro p ap  Growth of e last 13 years (25 percent) over th

For enrollment or more information please contact Kalamazoo Public Schools at



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