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Botanical Artist Kristina Spitzner

September 2017

The RAT that Rocked Music

The Delicious Pawpaw

Meet Amy Kuchta

Southwest Michigan’s Magazine

WMU’s New Chapter Edward Montgomery takes the helm

up front encore

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2 | Encore OCTOBER 2015

“The day of my injury, me and my friends were preparing for the football season. I scored a couple of touchdowns. Then about two plays later, my dad saw me get hit and take a direct knee to my head. The paramedics came and took me to the local hospital. Once the doctors realized that my neck was broken, they decided to fly me on a helicopter to Bronson Methodist Hospital—they said Bronson had the best spine experts around. After fearing I may be paralyzed, I was able to make a miraculous recovery. I’ve never felt so happy to walk. You know, you realize how grateful you should be for everyday life. I’m so grateful to Bronson.” CJ, Three Rivers, Michigan To learn more about CJ’s story and the benefits of choosing Bronson for spine care, visit

contributors encore

Botanical Artist Kristina Spitzner

The RAT that Rocked Music

The Delicious Pawpaw

September 2017

Meet Amy Kuchta

Southwest Michigan’s Magazine

Andrew Domino

Writing about pawpaw fruit for this issue made Andrew interested in every kind of unusual fruit at local groceries, from persimmons to jackfruits. He learned that despite the variety of fruits on display at the supermarket, there are dozens more that will never be on store shelves. Andrew didn’t get to sample a pawpaw while writing the story, but he has been to the village of Paw Paw several times, which is an entirely different kind of fun. Andrew is a freelance writer and blogger who often writes about culture, finance and hobbies. You can see more of his writing at

WMU’s New Chapter Edward Montgomery takes the helm


encore publications, inc.


Marie Lee

marie lee

In interviewing both incoming Western Michigan University President Edward Montgomery and outgoing WMU President John Dunn, Marie wanted to get a sense of what made these men who they are today, so she asked what they were like as children. Dunn answered, “Independent.” Montgomery said, “Shy.” But both men showed a soft side talking about their childhoods. “They both told me stories about growing up, laughing and smiling a lot during the process,” Marie says. “They both have very strong, positive memories of being kids and emphasized that their childhoods greatly shaped the leaders they are today.” Marie is the editor of Encore and is always glad when she gets to write a story or two.

Adam Rayes


alexis stubelt

Photographer brian k. powers

Contributing Writers

andrew domino, marie lee, adam rayes

Copy Editor/Poetry Editor margaret deritter

Advertising Sales tiffany andrus krieg lee celeste statler


mark thompson

Adam, who worked as an intern at Encore over the summer, got to taste a bit of Kalamazoo’s rich music history by doing a story for this issue on ProCo, maker of the legendary electric guitar distortion unit known as the RAT. He also got to meet botanical artist Kristina Spitzner, whose interest in her art form was sparked by visits to London’s Kew Gardens. Adam is a native of Monroe and is majoring in journalism at Western Michigan University.

REGISTER NOW FOR COURSES AND TRIPS OLLI at WMU offers affordable courses and exciting trips for adults. View selections and register online at or call (269) 387-4200. 4 | Encore SEPTEMBER 2017

Office Coordinator hope smith

Encore Magazine is published 12 times yearly. Copyright 2017, Encore Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. Editorial, circulation and advertising correspondence should be sent to: 117 W. Cedar St. Suite A, Kalamazoo, MI 49007 Telephone: (269) 383-4433 Fax: (269) 383-9767 Email: 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 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.

encore editor's note

From the Editor On Aug. 27, Encore Magazine received a 2017 Community Arts Award

from the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo, humbly joining the ranks of many amazing folks who work hard to promote our area’s rich arts culture. As much as the current staff and contributors would like to take credit for this honor, it’s an award that recognizes 45 years of Encore’s commitment to promoting and highlighting the arts in the greater Kalamazoo area. Many may not know that an intention to focus on the local arts scene was the genesis of Encore. Encore was developed in 1972 by Phil Schubert as a program guide for performances at the recently opened Miller Auditorium. It grew into a full-fledged community magazine that highlighted not only the arts, but the personalities and organizations that make this area unique. We are very proud to continue Schubert’s vision and tradition. Encore is a bit of a rarity. It’s not often in communities of comparable size that you’ll find a monthly magazine of Encore’s quality and breadth. Recognition of the critical role Encore plays in keeping our community informed, enlightened and entertained has been reinforced by the continuing support we receive from our loyal advertisers and readers, to whom we are eternally grateful. I often tell people that finding stories for Encore is the easy part and that the hard part is deciding which stories to print. That goes for our local arts community — we can’t possibly publish enough about the many wonderful things they are doing. And as long as they keep making art, we'll keep doing our best to tell you all about it.

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FEATURE WMU’s New Chapter 21

WMU enters a new leadership era Edward Montgomery


Home Again


WMU’s ninth president takes the reins

Michigan native Kari Montgomery relishes her new role

The Evolution of John Dunn WMU grew a lot under his tutelage, and so did he

DEPARTMENTS 4 Contributors


5 From the Editor 8 First Things Happenings in SW Michigan 12 Five Faves The Kalamazoo Institute of Arts’ Belinda Tate shares her favorite works of art


Up Front



Little Black Box — The local invention that rocked the music world

The Precious Pawpaw — The delicious native fruit you may not know about

46 Back Story

Meet Amy Kuchta — Why she wants Big Brothers Big Sisters to be the ‘best agency in the country’

ARTS 34 Kristina Spitzner— Precision, detail and beauty lead botanical artist to a flowering career 38 Events of Note 43 Poetry On the cover: Edward Montgomery stands on the campus of Western Michigan University, where he became president Aug. 1. Photo by Brian Powers. Above: Mushrooms painted by Kristina Spitzner.

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First Things encore

First Things Something Historic

Exhibit highlights women’s fight to vote It doesn’t hurt to be reminded that it has been less than a century since women in the U.S. gained the right to vote, and the Ladies' Library Association of Kalamazoo and the League of Women Voters of the Kalamazoo Area are hosting an exhibit this month to do just that. Petticoat Patriots: How Michigan Women Won the Vote will be on display Sept. 12–19 at the Ladies' Library Association, 333 S. Park St. and is free and open to the public. On loan from the Michigan Women’s Historical Center & Hall of Fame in Lansing, the exhibit will feature interactive elements, explore current barriers to women’s full participation in the political arena, and have an Honor Roll for visitors to record the names of suffragists in their own families and communities. In conjunction with the exhibit, speakers Kevin Corder and Christina Wolbrecht will discuss “What Did Women Do with the Vote?” at 7 p.m. Sept. 11 in the Van Deusen Room of the Kalamazoo Public Library, 315 S. Rose St.

Something Classical Hear a masterpiece

World-renowned violinist Jennifer Frautschi kicks off the Kalamazoo

8 | Encore SEPTEMBER 2017

Lisa-Marie Mazzucco

Symphony Orchestra’s 97th season with a performance at 8 p.m. Sept. 16 at Miller Auditorium. Frautschi, a two-time Grammy nominee and Avery Fisher Career Grant recipient, will present a violin concerto by Sibelius. She began playing violin at age 3 and has performed with orchestras such as the Boston Philharmonic and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. She currently teaches violin in the graduate program at Stony Brook University in New York. In the second half of the program, the KSO will play Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique. Ticket prices are $24—$60, with student and veteran discounts offered. For tickets or more information, visit

encore First Things

Something Indie

Folk-rock star comes to Kalamazoo Famous

for fronting the folk-rock band Bright Eyes, singer-songwriter Conor Oberst will bring his soulful, politically charged music to the State Theatre at 8 p.m. Sept. 10. Bright Eyes was dubbed the “King of Indie Rock” and Oberst “the best songwriter in America” in 2005 by Rolling Stone magazine. Oberst, who is touring to promote his latest solo album, Salutations, has also performed with Mystic Valley Band, Monsters of Folk and the punk-inspired Desaparecidos. Tickets are $35 and available at

Something Educational Enroll in an OLLI class this fall

You could learn about aerospace through the ages

at the Air Zoo or explore the backstage operations of a theater. You might learn about Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 2 with the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra or the stories behind the No. 1 pop music hits from 1957—1967. Or maybe you want to learn about the history of Michigan at the Western Michigan University Archives or about the world of Jane Austen. These learning opportunities are available through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at WMU. OLLI offers classes taught by local volunteer experts in informal settings to mature adults — but with no tests. Some of the classes meet just once while others meet for several weeks. There are three OLLI sessions: fall, winter/spring and summer. The courses are offered at sites throughout Kalamazoo County, and the fees vary by course. If you’ve just got an hour, then check out OLLI’s Eclectic Hour on Fridays. Covering topics from rocks and minerals to inequity in Kalamazoo, the one-hour lectures are free and held from 11 a.m.–noon at The Fountains at Bronson Place, 1700 Bronson Way. To see OLLI’s fall catalog, visit or get a copy by calling 387-4200. w w | 9

First Things encore

Something Old

Tour historic sites in Marshall Love historic homes and buildings?

Well, you can get your fix at the 54th Annual Marshall Historic Home Tour Sept. 9 and 10. The tour will feature more than 20 structures, including six historic homes, each representing a different architectural style; two commercial buildings; and seven museums. Two of the homes on the tour were built for prominent local merchants the Cronin Brothers. The home of Jeremiah Cronin served as the inspiration for John Bellair’s 1973 novel, The House with a Clock in Its Walls. Guests can take the tour between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Sept. 9 and 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Sept. 10. Tickets, which are good for both days, are $17 if purchased in advance or $20 after Sept. 4. Parking will be available at the Calhoun County Fairgrounds, with free shuttle bus transportation to the tour sites. Visit or call (269) 781-8544 for more information.

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encore First Things

Something Ducky

Go for a fake run for a real good cause The annual Ultimate Extreme Ultra Point 1K, as in 0.1K, is back Sept. 23, and this Hospice Care of

Southwest Michigan fundraiser will make you feel ducky again this year with the inclusion of a Duck Derby raffle involving a Giant Wheel of Ducks. From 4–7 p.m., participants can run, walk or stumble down the “grueling” 329-foot course on the downtown Kalamazoo Mall and enjoy a parade, live music, and food and drink and see a giant caged wheel of plastic ducks that will be rolled down the 0.1K track at the kickoff of the event. In the Duck Derby raffle, every ticket purchased will correspond to a duck in the wheel with a number on it. Twenty-five lucky ducks will be selected, and the winning ticket holders will receive a prize. The prizes include Disney park passes, a year’s worth of flowers from Schafer’s, and more. Proceeds help fund Journeys, the Hospice’s grief support program for children, teens and their families. Tickets for the Duck Derby are $5 each and can be purchased before Sept. 8 at any of Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan’s offices or Kalsee Credit Union and Mercantile Bank branches. Tickets for the Point 1K are $25 each. Children 13 and under can participate in a Kids Fun Run for free. For more information visit

Something Theatrical

University Theatre stages Waiting To Be Invited It’s not just a lunch date, but an act of bravery that’s behind Waiting To Be Invited, the award-winning drama that will be performed by Western’s University Theatre Sept. 22–Oct. 8. The play tells the story of four middle-aged black women in the summer of 1964 in Atlanta who are traveling by city bus to a whites-only eating establishment inside a downtown Atlanta department store to test their newly acquired civil rights. Tickets are $10–$23 and available at

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five faves encore

Five Faves

Picks from the KIA Permanent Collection by

Belinda Tate

The Kalamazoo Institute of Arts is fortunate to house

a collection of nearly 4,750 works of art. Only a fraction of our collection is on view at any time, complemented by touring exhibitions throughout the year, in our 11 galleries. It was not easy to come up with a short list of favorite artworks, so these selections are made based on the works patrons can view right now.

Sleeping Woman Richard Diebenkorn Diebenkorn explored the creative possibilities of painting nonrealistic images as an abstract expressionist. He later returned to figurative work and Sleeping Woman shows this more representational style. His fluid application of paint and active brushstrokes reveal the expressionist quality he maintained throughout his career. Diebenkorn masterfully bridges abstraction and figuration, and in this painting he astutely balances color and geometry to portray the calm of a sleeping woman using bold, expressive brushstrokes. The painting has just returned to us after hanging in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition Matisse/Diebenkorn, which was featured on CBS’ Sunday Morning in 2016.

Marriage of Hiawatha Edmonia Lewis Sculptor Lewis’ exceptional artistry captured the interest of the 19th-century European and American art world, press and patrons alike. Because of her African-American and Native American (Ojibwa) ancestry, Lewis had to overcome many obstacles to become a success. Inspired by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem The Song of Hiawatha, her superbly carved sculpture Marriage of Hiawatha depicts the mythical Ojibwa warrior and his love Minnehaha, a Dakota woman. Several notable people visited Lewis’ studio in Rome, and Longfellow himself sat for a portrait with her in 1869. 12 | Encore SEPTEMBER 2017

Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993), Sleeping Woman, 1961, oil on canvas.

The Square Root of Paradise Miriam Schapiro

Edmonia Lewis (18451907), Marriage of Hiawatha, 1872, marble.

Schapiro used materials, images and techniques she believed were marginalized — such as “domestic crafts” like sewing and embroidery — to create vibrant and influential works incorporating feminist imagery. She elevated symbols of domesticity into the realm of fine art, as in The Square Root of Paradise, in which she uses textiles and paints to create what she called a “femmage” — a play on the words “feminine” and “collage.” Schapiro was a pioneer of the feminist arts movement and a leading artist of the Pattern and Decoration movement in the 1970s and ’80s.

encore five faves

Code Blue Helen Frankenthaler Frankenthaler was an abstract expressionist painter and is regarded as one of the most influential artists of the mid20th century. She created a “soak-stain” technique, which allowed absorbent, unprimed canvases to soak up layers of paint into the picture surface. She created the immense, color-washed Code Blue (on view in our lobby) on the floor of her studio, with large brushes, mops, brooms and buckets. I love this painting’s absorbing and evocative murky depth. Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011), Code Blue,1980, acrylic on canvas, purchased with National Endowment for the Arts Matching Museum Purchase Grant.

Bamana Chi Wara Antelope Headdress Made in Mali

Bamana Chi Wara Antelope Headdress, 20th-century piece from Mali, artist unknown.

Many modern artists, including Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, were influenced by the geometry of and interplay between positive and negative space in African art. This carved headdress combines the long, curved horns of an antelope with a small, humped body — perhaps that of an earthdigging aardvark — and represents Chi Wara, a spirit that Mali’s Bamana people believe taught humans to farm. Headdresses are worn by dancers in ceremonies to honor Chi Wara’s gifts to the Bamana people. This object was once owned by American sculptor Chaim Gross.

Belinda A. Tate is Executive Director of the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. Miriam Schapiro (1923-2015), The Square Root of Paradise,1980, acrylic paint and fabric on canvas, purchased with National Endowment for the Arts Matching Museum Purchase Grant. w w | 13

Up FRONT encore

Little Black Box

Exhibits showcase invention that rocked music world by

Adam Rayes


little black box born in a “cavernous basement” in Kalamazoo changed the music industry, and almost no one here noticed. Meet the RAT, a unit about the size of a box of Pop-Tarts that gives electric guitars a distortion sound effect. That box was and still is ProCo Sound’s crown jewel. The Kalamazoo-born company’s distortion pedal has become legendary, with the company selling tens of thousands of the boxes in more than a dozen versions. The RAT has been used by many well-known musicians, from The Police’s Andy Summers to Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain and The Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl.

Born in the basement When the RAT was created in 1978, ProCo was already a wellregarded company. Started in 1974 by Charlie Wicks, ProCo began out of the ashes of The Sound Factory, a music store founded in 1970

14 | Encore SEPTEMBER 2017

that shared a building at 131 E. Kalamazoo Ave. with a local recording studio known as Uncle Dirty’s Sound Machine Studios. When The Sound Factory failed, its founder, Wicks, created ProCo to focus on manufacturing speaker cabinets, PA systems and sound cables. According to several sources, those cables would go on to carry sound for Disney World in Florida, Carnegie Hall in New York, and many other venues. ProCo manufactured some of the less glamorous, more utilitarian parts required for music making, such as audio cables and snakes for microphones and instruments. But in 1978, in what ProCo employee Scott Burnham describes as the “cavernous basement” of the company’s building, Burnham struck gold for the company. “There was always a need to get a really good, raunchy distortion sound without it being too loud,” Burnham says. “I listened to all of the distortion boxes that were out there and I didn’t like any of them, and for some reason I thought, ‘Maybe I can do something better.’” It would appear that the world of rock agreed with him. Only 12 of Burnham’s original “Bud Box” RATs were built, but demand for more rose very quickly, and in the following year ProCo began massproducing the boxes. Wicks died in 2010 at age 65, and ProCo is now part of RHC Holdings, based in Jackson, Missouri. ProCo still has sales and accounting offices at 5278 Lovers Lane, in Portage, but all manufacturing is now done in Missouri and the products are sold to instrument retailers and sound contractors.

Retelling ProCo’s story Kalamazoo’s part in the history of the RAT and the rise of ProCo may well have faded into obscurity if it weren’t for efforts by Burnham and Craig Vestal, president of Portage Printing. Starting this month, the RAT will be featured in three exhibits at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum. Beginning Sept. 1, an exhibit on ProCo, put together by museum staff, with Vestal and Burnham’s input, will be installed in the museum’s Community Case, which offers rotating exhibits. A re-

encore Up front

could rent on this side of the state. Otherwise only Chicago and Detroit had stuff like that. Anytime there was a big show, they’d run sound for it.” Vestal says when he learned that Guitar: The Instrument That Rocked the World was coming to the museum, he pitched the idea of an accompanying ProCo exhibit to museum Director Bill McElhone. “When I heard about the traveling guitar exhibit, I started leaning on the museum, because very few people know what was going on in the ProCo building and what an interesting story it is,” Vestal says.

creation of the RAT will be on display in the museum’s interactive Innovation Gallery, a new gallery at the museum focusing on creations and inventions made in the Kalamazoo area, which is expected to open in October. And a traveling exhibit from the National Guitar Museum titled Guitar: The Instrument That Rocked the World opens Sept. 22 and runs until Jan. 7 and will feature a little bit of ProCo history. Vestal, who went to Loy Norrix High School with Burnham, says he knew many of the people involved in ProCo. “I was in a band then — half the teenage boys in Kalamazoo were in a band. It was just a thing you’d do,” he says. “There was a big rock ‘n’ roll scene, and these guys (at The Sound Factory) built the first big PA (public address system) you

Top: Craig Vestal, left, and Scott Burnham, worked together to create an exhibit about ProCo. Above, the logo for ProCo is still used today. Right: The RAT distortion pedal is used by many musicians, including Thom Yorke of Radiohead.

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“I listened to all of the distortion boxes that were out there and I didn’t like any of them, and for some reason I thought, ‘Maybe I can do something better.’” — Scott Burnham, designer of the first ProCo RAT distortion pedal

McElhone says he didn’t plan to have three exhibits with ProCo-related stories come together at the same time but is happy the museum is getting the opportunity to tell ProCo's story.

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Recently Burnham found himself staring at images of the interactive exhibit featuring the RAT, a sight he responded to by laughing, amazed that an accurate representation of his original design is being put in a museum. According to Burnham, the creativity and purpose that he believes made ProCo so great gave way to production of cables and RATs. “As time went on, (ProCo) turned more and more into a money-making operation, and to me a lot of the original purpose was sort of lost,” he says. “We wanted to build really good stuff, and slowly that declined into ‘We just want to sell a lot of stuff.’” Several attempts were made to reach ProCo and RHC officials about the company’s current operations, but no response was received. Burnham, who started working for The Sound Factory at age 18 and stuck with Wicks when he created ProCo, left the company 22 years ago, but both he and Vestal want the story of the ProCo they knew and loved to be shared with the community. “A lot of this stuff, it’s just going to go into the obscurity of history, I guess,” Burnham says. “Not if we can help it,” replies Vestal.

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SAVOR encore

The Precious Pawpaw

The native fruit you may not know about by

Andrew Domino

Brian Powers

The pawpaw tree’s small flowers, only an inch or two wide, turn from green to dark purple over the course of a few weeks, as the long, green leaves continue to grow. The flowers can also smell like yeast. Pawpaws are often pollinated by flies and beetles, not bees.

They’re the local fruit with a funny name.

Pawpaws are about 3 or 4 inches long and green and grow in bunches on pawpaw trees from the Great Lakes to Florida. In southern Michigan, the very northern tip of the oblong fruit’s growing range, the pawpaw’s growing season typically lasts through the summer, with harvest in early fall. And while the official tree and fruit name is

18 | Encore SEPTEMBER 2017

pawpaw — one word — the village, township and river in Van Buren County is two words (Paw Paw). A ripe pawpaw is about as big as a medium-sized potato, weighs just a few ounces and can be squeezed like a peach or pear. A pawpaw’s green skin has to be peeled away, like a mango’s, and a handful of black, kidney-shaped seeds are found at the fruit’s center.

encore Savor

The pawpaw’s green-yellow flesh has a creamy custard texture, and some people say it tastes like banana mixed with tropical fruit (a little mango, a little pineapple). But, despite its deliciousness, the pawpaw is a native treat that many people in our area are oblivious to. “Every year or two someone brings one (to us) and says, ‘What is this thing?’” says Mark Longstroth, extension educator at the Michigan State University extension office in Van Buren County. Longstroth is a fruit expert specializing in blueberries, but he’s knowledgeable about a variety of fruits, including pawpaws. Pawpaws can be eaten raw, or the flesh can be mashed to use in other products. A farm in Albany, Ohio, makes pawpaws into jam, salad dressing, ice cream and a wheat beer. Cid Abel, produce manager at PFC Natural Grocery & Deli (formerly the People’s Food Co-Op of Kalamazoo), says she’s heard about people making pawpaw gelato, though many people aren’t sure how to use the fruit, she says.

Pawpaw power Pawpaws are also rumored to have medicinal benefits. A 2010 report by University of Mississippi researchers found that pawpaw extract could inhibit cancerous tumors. Longstroth says he doesn’t know if cancer fighting was the motivation for a call he received several years ago from an individual who wanted to know where he could find four tons of pawpaw pulp. Longstroth told the caller that was impossible. “It would take every pawpaw grown in Michigan,” he says. Pawpaws will probably always be a specialty fruit, since they’re so delicate and don’t keep up with the modern agricultural schedule.

Left: Pawpaws growing on trees at Oikos Tree Crops. Above: Ken Asmus grows and ships pawpaw trees and seeds around the world. Right: A close-up of a pawpaw tree leaf.

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Brian Powers

Pawpaws don’t grow at the same time each year, Longstroth says, and they don’t ripen all at once, as apples or berries do. “It takes (pawpaws) two to three times longer to produce than a normal fruit tree,” says Ken Asmus, owner of Oikos Tree Crops, a Kalamazoo-based mail-order business that grows trees and plants and cultivates seeds to ship to customers around the world. Oikos does offer pawpaw trees and seeds but doesn’t have a retail location in the area. An apple tree takes about three years to take root, grow and have apples ready to harvest, and about five to eight years to produce the most fruit it can. In comparison, a pawpaw tree takes four to five years to have fruit ready to harvest, and almost 20 years until it is at full production.

Grab ‘em quick Pawpaws are sold locally at PFC and some farmers' markets. But if you want to find pawpaws on grocery shelves, you better move quickly. They have a very short window of time in which they are palatable. “Once you pick them, they start ripening immediately,” says Abel. “They really only keep for three to four days.” If a pawpaw isn’t eaten or turned into pulp immediately, its green skin gets black spots and eventually turns completely black, as a banana will. Even though the fruit inside is

still edible, its outside looks spoiled, and that keeps people from buying the fruit, Abel says. But when PFC has pawpaws for sale, they do well, with the store selling up to 30 pounds of the fruit in a week, at prices of $7 to $12 a pound (about $3 to $4 for a single, averagesized fruit).

Finding the fruit PFC gets its pawpaws from national suppliers, but Asmus says there are a few places to find wild pawpaws locally. He’s seen them growing on Westnedge Avenue near Markin Glen Park, north of downtown Kalamazoo and near the Kalamazoo-Battle Creek International Airport. Longstroth says there are wild pawpaw trees in Paw Paw, naturally, and in Benton Harbor as well, though harvesting wild fruit is more of a game than a science. And sometimes in the early fall, a vendor or two at local farmers' markets might have them. “It’s kind of like mushroom hunting,” he says. “You have your favorite spot and don’t tell anyone about it.” And while scientists and growers are regularly looking for new kinds of fruit to offer to shoppers looking for the next best thing, right now, Longstroth says, the agricultural industry is promoting the blueberry-like honeyberry, the almondflavored saskatoon, and other fruits. But the expense and time needed to develop a fruit sturdy enough to sit on store shelves nationwide means pawpaws aren’t getting much attention. “There’s more money to be made in a tech startup than in cultivating new fruit,” Longstroth says.

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WMU'S NEW CHAPTER stories by

Marie Lee


ne is an economist, the other a career educator. One grew up in a tiny town in Illinois, the other on the streets of Pittsburgh. One loved to play any sport he could find as a kid, the other started working at 13. While their backgrounds are different, these two presidents of Western Michigan University — Edward Montgomery (pictured above at left), who started Aug. 1, and his predecessor John Dunn (at right) — have one commonality: They will both be deeply impacted by their years at the helm of the university. While Montgomery is just beginning his reign in that role, Dunn is leaving after a decade of growth and change that he describes as “the best years of my life.” We meet with both men to find out it means to them to be “Bronco-in-Chief.”

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hen you talk with Edward Montgomery, Western Michigan University’s new president, every answer is punctuated with a smile and a laugh. But don’t be deceived. The 61-year-old who took the university’s helm on Aug. 1 has a serious side. After all, Montgomery holds master’s and doctoral degrees in economics from Harvard University. That’s serious stuff. His research has focused on state and local economic growth, wage and pensions, savings behavior and productivity, social insurance programs and unions. Again, serious stuff. He worked as deputy secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton and then as a member of President Barack Obama’s auto task force, leading the interagency White House Council for Auto Communities and Workers — serious, too. And he commuted to work in the infamous Washington, D.C., traffic. Now that’s really serious. But even a discussion of traffic evokes humor from Montgomery. “I will go from an hour to an hour and a half commute to about a three-minute commute — unless I walk,” he says. “But I don’t think I can walk slow enough to make it a back into an hour-and-a-half commute. But I could adjust.”

Edward Montgomery

WMU’s ninth ‘Bronco-in-Chief’ takes the reins

For Montgomery, coming to WMU is a return to something he missed during his time in D.C., something he calls “that Midwest culture.” Montgomery lived in Minnesota before his family moved to Pittsburgh when he had just finished second grade. In both cities, Montgomery recalls, the “neighbors came out to see you and say hi, and you were always bumping into people you knew, and people were always very friendly. For me, coming back to that is highly desirable.” Montgomery is not alone in this feeling. His wife, Kari, who grew up on a farm in Portland, Michigan, felt a strong pull to be closer to her family, including a sister and the aunt and uncle who raised the two of them after their mother died when Kari was 12. “People will ask, ‘What’s in Michigan?’ and I answer, ‘My home and my life.’ It’s where I was raised,” she says. That pull was also part of the reason the couple’s son, E.J., attended WMU, graduating last April. He has chosen to stay in the area, taking a job in Kalamazoo. (continued on page 26) 22 | Encore SEPTEMBER 2017

Brian Powers

Midwest roots

Brian Powers

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Brian Powers

up front encore


Kari Montgomery relishing her new role as WMU’s ‘First Lady’


hen Edward Montgomery accepted the presidency at Western Michigan University, there was no question that his wife, Kari, was happy about it. She would be returning to her native state, where she would be closer to her family and where her son, E.J., had attended college and recently accepted a job. But Kari says the move offered her more than that. “This is the first opportunity Ed and I have had to be involved in something together,” she says. “Ed had his campus life and his political life, and I worked full time in Bethesda (Maryland). I often had to pass on a lot of social functions because, with distance and traffic, it was difficult for me to get there. “But it’s going to be kind of difficult now to say, ‘Nah, I’m too far away,’ when I only live a few minutes away,” she says, laughing. “So I am very excited.” Kari, who worked at Michigan State University and in real estate in the Washington, D.C., area while helping to raise their son, E.J. and twin daughters from Ed’s first marriage, is ready for a new role in her return to Michigan. 24 | Encore SEPTEMBER 2017

Kari Montgomery, pictured with her husband, WMU president Edward Montgomery, is a Michigan native.

She says she will be able to spend more time with her family, including the aunt and uncle who raised her and her sister on a farm in Portland, Michigan, after her mother died of complications of multiple sclerosis when Kari was 12. “I grew up on my grandparents’ farm, which they bought in 1930,” she says. “When my mother got sick with MS, my aunt and uncle, who were in their 20s, bought the farm and took over raising my sister and me. They are amazing people to put up with two rotten kids. They’re in the their '70s now, and they do everything they used to do, but they are getting up there.” Kari left Portland at age 19 — “I hit the door running,” she says — and moved to Lansing, where she worked at MSU. It was there, in 1986, that she met Edward Montgomery, who was on the faculty in the department where she worked. “He was such a nice guy. We hit it off as friends immediately,” Kari recalls. “He had a Ph.D. from Harvard and I only had a high school

education, but he treated me like I was pretty smart. He asked me questions about my life instead of ‘Can you do this for me and have it done in 20 minutes?’ I liked him right away.” The couple married in 1994 and lived in the D.C. area. “I didn’t like it at all,” she admits. “I think Ed’s life was not very good for the first couple of years.” But even though the adjustment to D.C. was hard, having to leave the office she worked in for the past 10 years was the “hardest thing I’ve ever done,” she says. “I loved my work family. They were phenomenal people. I was there nine and a half hours a day. It was my happy place.” But now, back in Michigan, Kari is looking forward to returning to the things she did growing up, especially riding horses. “I’ve had horses from the time I lived with my aunt and uncle. I cut down two acres of burdocks to earn my horse,” she says. “When we were in D.C., I volunteered for a horse rescue in Maryland. I just like to stick my face in their necks.” While Kari won’t have any horses roaming around the yard on Short Road, she is looking forward to taking advantage of the many opportunities around the region to ride. Riding horses will also be therapeutic for Kari, who, like her mother, has multiple sclerosis. She says she is successfully managing the disease and is grateful she is still physically strong. “Some people with MS are wheelchairbound and have a lot of pain, and some people don’t,” she says. “Some people like me have to stay out the heat, which I learned the hard way, and I thank God I can still walk.” She credits her continuing ability to walk to her years of riding horses, which she has always done without a saddle. “I’m not a poster child for the way a horse should be ridden,” she says, laughing, “but it’s one reason I have such strong legs.” Kari says she is also ready to embrace her duties as the new “first lady of Kalamazoo.” “I have no idea what that means but will try to figure it out as I go. I’m very interested in students, and I’m a very approachable person, so I hope the students will feel comfortable saying hi to both of us.”

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An ideal challenge For Edward Montgomery, who admits he’s “ready for a new chapter,” taking over at WMU —with three sprawling campuses in Kalamazoo and more than 30,000 students, faculty and employees — presents a challenge well-suited for his experience in government and academia.

After a decade of growth under President John Dunn, the university has more to do, says Montgomery. “When I think about growth,” he says, “it encompasses two things. One is: How do we do the things we’re already doing better, striving to improve the quality of all the things you do? A university should always be looking for that kind of growth.

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Brian Powers

(continued from page 22)

“I think there’s also a challenge in enrollment. We need to think about how we keep access to higher ed for all the students from the state and region. We’ve got a good thing here, and we want to get it out to other types of individuals. We do a great job with 18- to 23-year-olds. But what about the 45-, 54- and 64-year-olds? Can we reach those individuals and make what we have accessible to them?” As an “anchor institution” in the region’s economy, WMU is critical to the area’s wellbeing, Montgomery says. “Our prosperity and ability to reach and prosper requires the region to reach and prosper,” he says, “and as we reach and prosper, if we are doing it right, we should bring the region with us. “If they’re not doing well, we can’t be doing well, and vice versa.” By key economic indicators, the area served by WMU is doing well. Unemployment is at 3.6 percent (as of May) and wages are rising, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. New jobs have grown roughly 2 percent. But the area has its challenges. A 2017 report by the Michigan Association of United Ways (the parent organization of the United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region) reports that 36 percent of Kalamazoo County residents and 59 percent of Kalamazoo residents live in poverty. (The organization’s “ALICE Study of Financial Hardship” uses a measure of poverty that includes families with adults who have jobs but are not bringing in enough income to pay for basic needs.) Many well-paying jobs in the region, from construction to health care, go unfilled


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because of the shortage of workers with the education, training and skills needed to fill those jobs. For Montgomery, the community's and university's fates are “intertwined.” “If the community is struggling, depressed and blighted,” he says, “then people won’t want to come here, faculty won’t want to work here, students won’t want to come here, so we need the community to be doing well to be a magnet to be attractive. “As a university we bring 24,000 incredibly talented, energetic smart young people to the table who are interested in their education but also interested in the world around them. Our faculty are wonderful resources that the community should be able to tap into. It’s good for faculty, too, because it gives them a natural lab, a place to apply and do things in their own hometown." Since he’ll be working with a board of trustees that includes key area business leaders, Montgomery says he is sure he will not be isolated in an ivory tower away from the area’s issues. In fact, he is determined that there will be ongoing interactions between the community and university. “Sometimes our job is just to get out of the way, sometimes it’s helping them to organize, sometimes it’s just being in this dialogue,” he says. “The mayor should be my BFF (best friend forever) because we are both good for each other, and we should figure out ways to make everything we do be in line. We have a mission as an institution, but that mission is made stronger by our community partners, not made weaker.”

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The Evolution of WMU’s John Dunn

“The best 10 years of my life” is how John

Dunn describes his decade as president of Western Michigan University. For a man who’s seen much in his 71 years, that’s saying a lot. Dunn’s era at WMU’s helm, which officially ended Aug. 1, was marked by growth, recognition and change: • A new medical school. • An affiliation that brought about WMU Cooley Law School. • $500 million in building improvements, including the replacement of Sangren Hall, construction of the university’s first new residence hall in 50 years, and the transformation of WMU’s first building on campus, the century-old East Hall, into an inviting alumni center overlooking the city. • Recognition by several national organizations for the university’s sustainability programs. • A groundbreaking program to help former foster children survive and thrive in college. But Dunn, whose long list of achievements has people on campus and off bantering about the word “legacy,” has also experienced growth of a different nature — his own.

‘I’m a better president than when I started,’ he says as he steps down

One characteristic of Dunn, says WMU Trustee Kenneth Miller, is that he shies away from putting the spotlight on himself. That quality is in evidence when Dunn is asked to describe himself as a child. The first thing he says is, “I am very proud of my mom.” Dunn grew up as one of three siblings in the small southern Illinois town of Pickneyville. His father, who was a coal miner and heavy equipment operator, struggled with alcohol, so “Mom was the go-to person” he says. “She worked three jobs. There was a time when she was a seamstress at a factory, waited tables and ran the kitchen at a golf course.”

28 | Encore SEPTEMBER 2017

Brian Powers

‘I was old young’

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Dunn’s sister and brother were 11 and 4 years older than him, respectively, and had moved on with their lives, so “I was on my own,” Dunn says. “Whatever I wanted to have for breakfast I had. It wasn’t that I was neglected. It’s just that Mom was working. I knew she cared deeply for me, but I was really quite independent. I grew up fast. I used to say that I was old young. “The level of independence I had as a child people now would think, ‘That’s not good,’” says Dunn. But there were advantages to growing up in a town of 3,300 with his father’s nine siblings nearby. “Whatever I did not receive from my father was more than compensated by my aunts and uncles,” he says. His grandmother also provided “great support.” As soon as he was able, Dunn began mowing yards and delivering newspapers. He was introduced to the world of credit early, buying his own bike on a “payment plan” of $2 a week. At 13, he worked at a movie theater, changing the letters on the marquee,

taking tickets, making popcorn and bagging candy. He also caddied at a country club on weekends. But it was a job at a filling station that left an impression that followed him through his professional career.

30 | Encore SEPTEMBER 2017

“The first guy I ever waited on — I was so proud, I was in my uniform and all ready to go, and I did everything right,” Dunn recalls. "I asked, ‘How much gas do you want? Do you want your windows washed or tires checked?’ I took his money, made change and counted it out the right way in his hand.” But as the customer drove away, there was a loud, sickening noise. “I had done everything right except pull the hose out of the gas tank,” Dunn says. The nozzle of the hose banged against the customer’s expensive new car. “I was highly embarrassed and apologized over and over. But the owner looked at the car and looked at me and said, ‘Well, that’ll happen,’ and drove away,” says Dunn.

From left: Dunn as an infant; laughing during an interview; and with his wife Linda and their first child, Matthew.

“I’ve reflected on that many times in my career — that sometimes people do things that are sort of a doofus act and that they didn’t mean to do it. It just happened. From a leadership standpoint, I do a lot with that. You remind yourself that their actions weren’t intentional, so let’s just move on. I learned a lot of good lessons working. I feel bad that jobs I had as a young person are not there for young people anymore.”

A Catholic at BYU As a youngster, Dunn admits, his aspirations didn’t include university president, but he did

Brian Powers

see himself becoming a teacher. Several of his aunts and uncles were teachers, and “in a small town you don’t have access to professions and opportunity, so you gravitate to what you know, and teaching was an honorable profession.” His first job after graduating from Northern Illinois University was as a health

teacher and coach in Lake Forest, Illinois, an affluent community on the shores of Lake Michigan. He took a side job working with a young boy, Peter, who Dunn says today would probably be diagnosed with ASD (autism spectrum disorder). While Peter experienced great gains working with Dunn,

a trip with the boy to Purdue University to see the work the university was doing with children with special needs changed Dunn’s trajectory. “I realized I didn’t know enough to be as helpful as I might like to be, and that led me back to graduate school,” says Dunn. He left Illinois for Brigham Young University, in Provo, Utah, to enroll in its special education program. The Irish Catholic Dunn was a minority among the school’s majority Mormon students. “It’s not a bad experience to be a minority in a setting,” says Dunn. “You learn and better understand why women, people of color and those in underrepresented communities might wonder, ‘Gee, did I not understand all the rules?’ or ‘If I was the best, why didn’t I get that award?’” Dunn has no regrets. It was a great education, he says, and he met his wife of 46 years there. Linda, as it turns out, was another one of the few Catholics on campus. “She married me because she had no other choice,” Dunn jokes. After graduating from BYU, Dunn worked first at the University of Connecticut and then Oregon State University. It was at OSU that he first worked on the administrative side of academe, becoming the chair of the Department of Exercise and Sports Medicine.

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He also successfully ran for a seat on the Corvallis (Oregon) school board. “I tell people who have aspirations in politics to make sure to be on a school board or county or city commission,” he says. “That’s really serving people at the most fundamental and local level. On the school board we dealt with religion in schools, family life curriculum (sex ed), school closures, budget

issues, disciplinary matters with students. You are dealing with families and children and someone’s kids, and you want to create an environment where people are heard. And you have to hear them and try to resolve conflicts. I was always on the negotiation teams, and it helped me much later in all my roles.” After 20 years in Oregon, the Dunns moved back to Utah, where Dunn worked for the


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32 | Encore SEPTEMBER 2017

University of Utah. Then they headed to Southern Illinois University. At SIU, Dunn rose up the ranks from provost to vice chancellor and interim chancellor. Then, in 2007, he reached the pinnacle of academic administration, becoming WMU’s eighth president.

Cheerleader-in-chief From his background working with people with disabilities, Dunn already knew a lot about WMU because of its highly regarded programs in speech pathology and audiology, low vision and blindness, and occupational and physical therapy. But he knew very little about Kalamazoo. “It was a great discovery and a very positive one,” he says. “When I came here, I had been reasonably convinced there wasn’t much I hadn’t already seen or experienced. But it was the best 10 years of my life.” Dunn admits at the end of his tenure, “In many ways I’m a better president than when

"I’ve reflected on that many times in my career — that sometimes people do things that are sort of a doofus act and that they didn’t mean to do it. It just happened. From a leadership standpoint, I do a lot with that. You remind yourself that their actions weren’t intentional, so let’s just move on." — John Dunn I started.” He credits this growth to his belief that “you never stop learning.” When you add up WMU’s student population, faculty and staff, Dunn was essentially the leader of a community nearly 10 times larger than the one he grew up in. With so many hats to wear, it can be easy to forget the “primary reason” you’re there, he says. Which is why, if he could whisper in the ear of John Dunn 10 years ago — or any new university president — he’d say, “You cannot connect to your students fast enough.” His outreach to students was a hallmark of Dunn’s presidency, when he was recognized as

Dunn with the first class of Seita Scholars, a program for foster youth, which he lists as one of his many accomplishments.

the “cheerleader-in-chief” for the Bronco student body. He says the students “need to know who you are, and you need to know who they are. “You can’t sit in an office and pontificate and make decisions independent of a lot of interactions and discourse. When you go to bed at night and hear the sirens, you worry. You want the people who attend and work at your institution to be safe and happy and feel they are being cared for and served.”

Dunn will be carrying his passion for students, faculty and staff into this school year, sticking around to be “available” to the university’s new president, Edward Montgomery, and to assist in the university’s fundraising and international development efforts. “He doesn’t need a shadow,” Dunn says of his successor, ”and I don’t want to be in the way. But if he needs background on

something or to know who the doofus was that did something, I can say, ‘That might have been me.’” But as a man who has seen much — both professionally and personally — during his 10 years at WMU, Dunn knows his evolution and WMU’s will continue. “Expect change,” he says. “It’s going to happen. Surprises are going to occur.”

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Arts encore

Flowering Career

Precision, detail and beauty in botanical artist’s work Adam Rayes

Brian Powers


Many artists can draw a flower, but Kristina Spitzner’s flowers are both

scientifically accurate and beautiful. Spitzner, who has a small studio in her Plainwell home, specializes in botanical art, producing extremely detailed representations of plant life. It’s an art form that is in demand for scientific illustrations but can also be appreciated as decorative art. Spitzner says she is one of only three such artists in Michigan. The 51-year-old watercolor artist says she prefers to use real-world specimens in their natural environment to create her art so that she can capture details such as the subtlest shades of color in a plant’s leaves. Michigan’s frequently changing weather, however, makes that difficult.

34 | Encore SEPTEMBER 2017

“When it’s summer I’m out a lot, I have a field kit (featuring a camera and several other tools for collecting and storing data on plant life), and I go out and do a lot of drawing and photography and I store up those things,” she says. “It’s always best to work from live specimens, and that is how we were taught, because you can look around it, you can turn it, and get more accurate colors.” The weather is part of the reason why there are so few botanical artists practicing in Michigan. It’s not just the weather, however, that makes this art form challenging. Even when Spitzner does have a live specimen to work from, much can change during her field work, such as a plant moving to follow the sun or wilting before her project is complete.


encore Arts

Seeds of a career Spitzner didn’t begin her career as a botanical artist. She graduated in 1984 with a graphic design degree from Ferris State University. She worked in that field for various publications and advertising agencies for 25 years, until graphic design became a digital medium. “I would have had to go back to school and start over in graphic design because when I studied that, we didn’t even have computers,” she says. “You’d cut with a knife and paste with glue.” A decade ago, Spitzner decided that graphic design wasn’t what she wanted to do anymore. Spitzner and her husband, Joel, had moved to Plainwell after years of other moves because of Joel’s service in the U.S. Air Force. “We moved back to this area (Plainwell) about 10 years ago,” says Spitzner, who grew up in Plainwell. “This (the Spitzners’ current home) was going to be temporary. It was a rental house, but I decided I didn’t want to go back to that corporate world of advertising and deadlines.” Her inspiration for a new career came from her past: The Spitzners had lived in London,

where Kristina’s love of botanical artistry was born. She often visited London’s Kew Gardens, a botanical garden that also has a gallery of botanical art. It was after the Spitzners moved from London that Kew Gardens began offering classes in botanical artistry. “I was trying to find a direction for my art,” she says. “I’d been doing watercolor for a while, but I wanted to do a more focused study and I came across an article for this program.” Kew Gardens’ program was a three-year distance-learning course in traditional botanical art in which a different master artist would teach each month. The program accepted only 25 students, and in 2010 Spitzner was one of them. At the time, the program wasn’t using video communication tools like Skype or YouTube for teaching online classes. “They had a whole list of assignments, and it came in a big box each month,” Spitzner says. “You’d do all of the assignments and mail it back, and then they would send back pages of critique. And then you’d cry and do it again.”

Opposite page, top: Botanical artist Kristina Spitzner draws inspiration from her own home garden. Bottom: Echinacea purpurea flowers painted by Spitzner. This page, top: Spitzner's intricate and detailed watercolors adorn textiles and home décor items. Bottom: Hemerocallis hybrid painted by Spitzner.

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Arts encore

She completed the program four years ago and is now a member of the American Society of Botanical Artists, which helps her connect with other artists as well as sell her art through various galleries and to collectors across the United States.

Pillows, towels and more

Brian Powers

Spitzner also turns her art into textiles. She has her designs printed on fabric through Spoonflower, a

custom fabric manufacturer. The fabric can be sold by the yard or made into pillows, towels and other textile objects that she sells online through her studio, Redbriar, and vendors like Fine Art America, and VIDA. Locally, her works are available at Marketplace at Mezzo, in Otsego, and art fairs. Spitzner says selling her art in textile form gives her a very good return, especially because she doesn’t have to create new pieces for the textiles.

36 | Encore SEPTEMBER 2017

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Clockwise from opposite page, lower left: Spitzner’s watercolor Matteuccia struthiopteris; Spitzner applies detail to a drawing; a watercolor of trillium grandiflorum.

Selling work at “a few art fairs can fund the next project, if I’m going to do a big painting and need to be in the studio for a while,” she says. For the past year, Spitzner has been part of the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators,

Meet Encore’s Featured Artist of the Month Meet Kristina Spitzner and see her work during the Sept. 8 Art Hop. She will be showing her work from 5–9 p.m. at The Spirit of Kalamazoo, 154 S. Kalamazoo Mall. The musician Wailsharq will perform acoustic music.

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Left: Tulipa Webber’s Parrot, Kristina Spitzner, watercolor, 2017

working to get her art used in scientific publications. So far, her art has been included in educational and informational pieces for conservation or promotional projects for local organizations like the Kalamazoo Nature Center. Her art has also been featured in exhibits by the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators and the Society of Botanical Artists, in both the U.S. and the U.K. But ultimately, Spitzner says, she’d like to help her art form grow in popularity a little closer to home, specifically in northern climes. “I hope to spread appreciation of botanical art here to the north, where it is very rarely practiced.”

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Waiting to Be Invited — The story of four black women and their date with destiny at a forbidden lunch counter in 1964, 7:30 p.m. Sept. 22 & 29, Oct. 5–7, 2 p.m. Oct. 1 & 8, York Arena Theatre, WMU, 387-5360. Dixie's Tupperware Party — A fast-talking Tupperware lady educates her guests on the many alternative uses for the product, 8 p.m. Sept. 22 & 23, Miller Auditorium, WMU, 387-2300. Musicals

Rent — A group of impoverished young artists struggle to survive and create under the shadow of AIDS, 8 p.m. Sept. 1–2, 5 p.m. Sept. 3, Barn Theatre, 13351 West M-96, Augusta, 731-4121. Big Night Out — An elegant evening of music with the ladies of The New Vic Theatre, 8 p.m. Sept. 8, 9, 15 & 16, New Vic Theatre, 134 E. Vine St., 381-3328. Young Frankenstein — Musical comedy about the grandson of Victor Frankenstein who creates a monster to rival his grandfather's, 7:30 p.m. Sept. 22, 23, 29 & 30, 2 p.m. Sept. 24, The Civic, 329 S. Park St., 343-1313. COMEDY Crawlspace Eviction Season Opener — Improv and sketch comedy show, 8 p.m. Sept. 15 & 16, Epic Theatre, 329 S. Kalamazoo Mall, 599-7390. MUSIC Raekwon of the Wu Tang Clan — Rapper and hip-hop artist, 9 p.m. Sept. 1, Bell's Eccentric Café, 355 E. Kalamazoo Ave., 382-2332. George Clinton & The Parliament Funkadelic — American funk, soul and rock music collective, 8:30 p.m. Sept. 2, Bell's Eccentric Café, 382-2332. Soul-Filled Sundays — Jazz Time, music of great jazz composers, Sept. 3; Pat Zelenka, guitarist, Sept. 10; Dana Scott, singer, Sept. 17; Loren Johnson, folk and bluegrass, Sept. 24; all shows 5–7 p.m., Arcadia Ales Kalamazoo, 701 E. Michigan Ave., 276-0458. Downtown Music Jam — A pop-up event featuring local musicians, 6–8 p.m. Sept. 7, Kalamazoo County Courthouse steps, 227 W. Michigan Ave.,

38 | Encore SEPTEMBER 2017

Pigeons Playing Ping Pong — Psychedelic funk quartet, 9 p.m. Sept. 7, Bell's Eccentric Café, 382-2332.

Barbarossa Brothers — Bayou folk-rock group, 9–11 p.m. Sept. 22, Arcadia Ales Kalamazoo, 276-0458.

Double Strung — Acoustic country and gospel group, 6 p.m. Sept. 8, Kalamazoo Valley Museum, 230 N. Rose St., 373-7990.

In This Moment: Half God/Half Devil Tour — Rock/metal/alternative band, 7 p.m. Sept. 27, Wings Event Center, 3600 Vanrick Drive, 345-1125.

Nikki Rose — Blues singer, 7–9 p.m. Sept. 8, Arcadia Ales Kalamazoo, 276-0458.

That 1 Guy — Mike Silverman performs as a oneman band, using homemade instruments, 9 p.m. Sept. 28, Bell's Eccentric Café, 382-2332.

JD McPherson — Rockabilly singer/songwriter, 9 p.m. Sept. 8, Bell's Eccentric Café, 382-2332. Mall City Harmonizers 2017 Annual Show — The barbershop chorus performs "Hollywood Harmonies," 7 p.m. Sept. 9, Dalton Center Recital Hall, WMU, 615-8796. Conor Oberst — Folk-rock singer/songwriter, 8 p.m. Sept. 10, State Theatre, 404 S. Burdick St., 345-6500. Elliott Brood — Alternative country band, 9 p.m. Sept. 14, Bell's Eccentric Café, 382-2332. Zoo Wave — Classic tunes from the New Wave era, 7–9 p.m. Sept. 15, Arcadia Ales Kalamazoo, 276-0458. San Fermin — American indie rock band, 8:30 p.m. Sept. 15, Bell's Eccentric Café, 382-2332. Riversedge Summer Music Series — Green Light Music, The Copacetiks, Dacia Bridges, SlimGypsyBaggage and The Go Rounds, 4 p.m.– midnight Sept. 16, Arcadia Ales Kalamazoo, 276-0458. Sibelius & Tchaikovsky — Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra performs with violinist Jennifer Frautschi, 8 p.m. Sept. 16, Miller Auditorium, WMU, 349-7759. The Verve Pipe — Alternative rock band, 8 p.m. Sept. 16, Bell's Eccentric Café, 382-2332. Gilmore Rising Star Drew Petersen — The pianist performs, 4 p.m. Sept. 17, Wellspring Theater, 359 S. Kalamazoo Mall, 342-1166. Tauk — Funk, hip-hop, progressive rock group, 9 p.m. Sept. 21, Bell's Eccentric Café, 382-2332. Audiotree Music Festival — Artists include SuperDuperKyle and King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, 1 p.m.–midnight, Sept. 22, Arcadia Creek Festival Place, 145 E. Water St., Steve Earle & The Dukes — Americana music, 8 p.m. Sept. 22, State Theatre, 345-6500.

Cloakroom — Indiana-based rock band, 9 p.m. Sept. 29, Bell's Eccentric Café, 382-2332. Mutual Live — Southern rock 'n' roll band, 8:45 p.m. Sept. 30, Bell's Eccentric Café, 382-2332. VISUAL ARTS Kalamazoo Institute of Arts 314 S. Park St., 349-7775 Exhibits

Kay WalkingStick: An American Artist — Smithsonian exhibition by Native American artist displaying her abstract paintings, landscapes, drawings, sculptures and diptychs, through Sept. 10. Our People, Our Land, Our Images — An exhibition of 51 works by 26 indigenous photographers, through Oct. 22. Women Warriors: Portraits by Hung Liu — Mixed-media, painted and photographic works show the power and perseverance of Chinese women throughout history, through Nov. 26. Circular Abstractions: Bull's Eye Quilts — Twenty-six quilts designed in the Bull's Eye pattern, Sept. 23–Jan. 21. Kirk Newman Faculty Review — Juried exhibition of work by artists who teach at the KIA art school, Sept. 30–Dec. 31. Events ARTbreak — Programs about art, artists and exhibitions: Imagine: A Picture of the Painter Howard Hodgkin, film, Sept. 5; Dancing for My Tribe: Potowatomi Tradition in Modern Times, photographer Sharon Hoogstraten describes her five-year project of creating portraits of Potawatomi Indians in regalia, Sept. 19; both sessions begin at noon, KIA Auditorium.

encore Events

Thursday Evening Unreeled: Film at the KIA — Our Fires Still Burn presents the lives of contemporary Native Americans living in the Midwest, 6:30 p.m. Sept. 14, KIA Auditorium. Book Discussion: Revolution in Color: The World of John Singleton Copley — Pam Boudreau leads a discussion of Jane Kamensky's book, 2–3 p.m. Sept. 20, KIA Meader Fine Arts Library. Get the Picture! Gallery Talk: Howard Hodgkin's First Portrait of Terence McInerney — Discussion led by Michelle Stempien, noon, Sept. 21. Thursday Evening Artist's Talk: "The Search for Resistance & Reconciliation" — Mixed-media artist Erica Lord discusses her work, 6:30 p.m. Sept. 28, KIA Auditorium. Other Venues Janean Gieseler: Photography — Sept. 5, Solo Gallery, Portage District Library, 300 Library Lane, 329-4544. Art Hop — Art at various locations in Kalamazoo, 5–8 p.m. Sept. 8, 342-5059.

LIBRARY & LITERARY EVENTS Kalamazoo Public Library First Saturday @ KPL — Family event with stories, activities, special guests and door prizes, 2–3:30 p.m. Sept. 2, Central Library, 315 S. Rose St., 342-9837. Friends Fall Bag-of-Books Sale — Fill up a bag with books, music and movies, 9 a.m.–3:30 p.m. Sept. 9, Central Library, 342-9837. The Influence of Bob Dylan on The Beatles — A talk by Beatles scholar Aaron Krerowicz, 6:30 p.m Sept. 18, Oshtemo Branch, 7265 W. Main St., Parchment Community Library 401 S. Riverview Drive, 343-7747 The Michigan Nightingales — Traditional gospel music, 2 p.m. Sept. 10. Front Page: Donuts & Discussion — A screening of the Sierra Club's Tapped: The Movie and discussion, 10:30 a.m. Sept. 16.

Mystery Book Club — Steven Mack Jones, author of August Snow, discusses his book and his writing process, 6:30 p.m. Sept. 18. Pho on the Block: Modern Vietnamese Food with a Twist — Chef Tien creates modern Vietnamese fusion cuisine, 6:30 p.m. Sept. 27; registration required. Portage District Library 300 Library Lane, 329-4544 Portage Cooks — A daylong event of foodie tips and tastes in our community, 10:30 a.m.–7:30 p.m. Sept. 9; see for schedule; registration required for most sessions. SciFi/Fantasy Group: Costuming and Makeup — Tony from Timid Rabbit discusses how to pull a costume together and apply makeup, 7 p.m. Sept. 11. Top Shelf Reads — A monthly book discussion for young professionals, 7 p.m. Sept. 11, Latitude 42 Brewing Co., 7842 Portage Road, 585-8711. International Mystery Book Group — Discussion of A Quiet Place, by Seicho Matsumoto, 7 p.m. Sept. 14.

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Events encore

Open for Discussion — Discussion of The Orphan Master's Son, by Adam Johnson, 10:30 a.m. Sept. 19. Must Be 21+: Adulting Life Skills — "Learning from Failure," led by Tracey Quada from KVCC's Student Success Center, 6:30 p.m. Sept. 25; registration required. Other Venues The Beatles: Band of the Sixties — A talk by Beatles scholar Aaron Krerowiczs, 6:30 p.m. Sept. 6, Allegan Public Library, 331 Hubbard St., Allegan; 7 p.m. Sept. 20, Ransom Library, 180 S. Sherwood Ave., Plainwell, Community Yard Sale @ Comstock Township Library — Outdoor yard sale for sellers and buyers, 9 a.m.–1 p.m. Sept. 23, Comstock Township Library, 6130 King Highway, 345-0136. Messages of Hope Community Performance — Youth relate their stories of hope through spokenword poetry, 6 p.m. Sept. 28, Cityscape Event Center, 125 S. Kalamazoo Mall,; registration required. MUSEUMS Gilmore Car Museum 6865 Hickory Road, Hickory Corners, 671-5089 Muscle Cars Plus Show & Swap Meet — Hundreds of special-interest vehicles, 9 a.m.–4 p.m. Sept. 10.

Ford Model A Day — Swap meet, Hall of Fame induction and seminars, 9 a.m.–6 p.m. Sept. 16.

Birds and Coffee Walk — A morning bird walk and discussion over coffee, 9–10:30 a.m. Sept. 13.

Cadillac-LaSalle Club Museum & Research Center Fall Festival — 9 a.m.–3 p.m. Sept. 23–24.

Native Pollinator Workshop — Learn about native bees from an expert, 9 a.m.–noon Sept. 16.

Kalamazoo Valley Museum 230 N. Rose St., 373-7990

Kalamazoo Nature Center 7000 N. Westnedge Ave., 381-1574

Binding Wounds, Pushing Boundaries: African Americans in Civil War Medicine — A look at the men and women who served as surgeons and nurses during the Civil War, through Sept. 2.

Butterfly Walk & Monarch Tagging — Join biologists from the Michigan Butterfly Network on a butterfly walk, 2–4 p.m. Sept. 5, 12, 19 & 26.

Eclipse 2017 — A simulation of the Aug. 21 solar eclipse, 2 p.m. Sept. 2 & 9, 3 p.m. Sept. 5 & 7, Planetarium. Did an Asteroid Really Kill the Dinosaurs? — Explore the impact that likely killed off the dinosaurs, 11 a.m. Mon.–Fri., 1 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, through Sept. 10, Planetarium.

Dinosaurs: Land of Fire & Ice — Explore the age of the dinosaurs, through Sept. 17. Guitar: The Instrument That Rocked the World — Touring exhibition with hands-on experiences, Sept. 30–Jan. 7. NATURE Kellogg Bird Sanctuary 12685 East C Ave., Augusta, 671-2510. Wild Edibles Workshop — Walk the trails looking for wild edible plants with Dr. Danielle Zoellner and Sanctuary staff, 9 a.m.–noon Sept. 9.

Hawks on the Wing: An Evening for the Birds — A deck party that includes interactive raptor identification with videos presented by Josh Haas, creator of the film Hawks on the Wing, to raise funds for KNC raptors, 4–8 p.m., Sept. 9; register at or call 381-1574 by Sept. 4. DeLano Open House — Tour the historic DeLano home, 1–4 p.m. Sept. 10, DeLano Homestead, 555 West E Ave. Queen Bee Pollination Program — Elizabeth Weigandt, author of the book Queen Bee, discusses the importance of pollinators, 2–3 p.m. Sept. 23. DeLano Farms Fall Fest — Artisan booths, blacksmith shop, wagon rides, games, music and cooking demonstrations, 1–5 p.m. Sept. 24, DeLano Homestead. Boomers & Beyond: Forest Decomposers — Hike and learn about the "fun guys" of the forest, 11 a.m.–1 p.m. Sept. 26.

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40 | Encore SEPTEMBER 2017

MISCELLANEOUS Kalamazoo Farmers' Market — 7 a.m.–2 p.m. Tues., Thurs. & Sat., through Oct. 31, 1204 Bank St., 359-6727. Portage Market — 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Sundays, through Oct. 29, Portage Senior Center, 320 Library Lane, 359-6727. Lunchtime Live! — Food trucks, pop-up vendors and live music: Kaitlin Rose, Sept. 1; Matt Gabriel, Sept. 8; Megan Dooley, Sept. 15; Mark Sala, Sept. 22; McFerrin and Borr, Sept. 29; 11:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m., Bronson Park, 337-8295. Kalamazoo Late-Night Food Truck Rally — Food trucks, artisans, booths and music, 9–11:45 p.m. Sept. 1, 201–299 W. Water St. (between Rose and Church streets), 388-2830. Haunted History of Kalamazoo Tour — The paranormal history of the city, 8–10 p.m. Sept. 2, 16 & 30, starts in Bronson Park, 220-9496. NSRA Street Rod Nationals North — Street rods, muscle cars and custom vehicles, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Sept. 8 & 9, 8:30 a.m.–2 p.m. Sept. 10, Kalamazoo County Expo Center, 2900 Lake St., 303-776-7841.

Kalamazoo State Theatre 90th Anniversary Celebration — Live music, cake cutting, wine and cheese pairing and State Theatre-related art exhibits, 5–9 p.m. Sept. 8, State Theatre, 404 S. Burdick St., 345-6500. Suicide Prevention Walk — Join Gryphon Place for a 5K walk through downtown Kalamazoo, 9 a.m., Sept. 9, Bronson Park,; registration required. Eco Raft Race — Create a floating vessel from eco-friendly materials and race, 2–4 p.m. Sept. 9, Mayors' Riverfront Park, 251 Mills St., 337-8191. 54th Annual Marshall Historic Home Tour — Featuring more than 20 sites, including six historic homes, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Sept. 9, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Sept. 10, Marshall,, 781-8544. Intergalactic Prom — Dress in a costume representing whatever planet you call home, take a last look at Alien Worlds & Androids exhibit and enjoy a costume contest, food, dancing and rides, 7:30–10:30 p.m. Sept. 9, Air Zoo, 6151 Portage Road, 382-6555.

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Petticoat Patriots: How Michigan Women Won the Vote Exhibit — Ladies' Library Association and the League of Women Voters highlight the 75-year fight for women's suffrage, noon–7:30 p.m. Sept. 12–20, Ladies' Library Association, 333 S. Park St., 344-3710. Bangor Apple Festival — Farmers' market, kids' activities, vendors and entertainment, Sept. 16, downtown Bangor, 350-3759. Fall Expo & Craft Show — Crafters, artists and vendors from across Michigan, 9 a.m.–4 p.m., Sept. 16, Kalamazoo County Expo Center South, 903-5820. SPCA Seventh Annual 5K Doggie Dash — Walk or run the park trails to raise money for the SPCA, 10 a.m. Sept. 16, Spring Valley Park, 2600 Mt. Olivet Road, 344-1474. Weekend Flea & Antique Market — New and used items, handcrafted items and antiques, 8 a.m.–3 p.m. Sept. 17, Kalamazoo County Expo Center, 383-8778. Point 1K Spoof Run & Duck Derby Raffle — A 329-foot flat course plus family activities, music and Duck Derby raffle to benefit Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan, 4–7 p.m. Sept. 23, Kalamazoo Mall, 345-0273. Bronson Children's Hospital Walk & 5K Run — A 5K run and walk supporting the children's hospital, 11 a.m.–3 p.m., Sept. 24, starts at Bronson Methodist Hospital parking lot at John and Lovell streets, 341-8100. Harvest Fest — Pie baking contest, petting zoo, hay rides, scavenger hunt, storytelling and food booths, 11 a.m.–4 p.m., Sept. 24, Vicksburg Historic Village, 300 N. Richardson St., Tillers' Harvest Fest — Educational and community-building event related to local farms and food, 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Sept. 24, Tillers' Cooks Mill, 10515 East OP Ave., Scotts, 626-0223.

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Candle Relay to Benefit Community Homeworks — Attempt to break a Guinness Book world record for the most candles lit in succession, 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Sept. 30, Kalamazoo County Expo Center, 998-3275 ext. 205.

Mary Poppins: Movies Down Memory Lane Series — See the 1964 movie in a historic venue, 3 p.m. Sept. 30, State Theatre, 345-6500.

encore Poetry

Quicksand Where did all the quicksand go? When we were kids, it was everywhere, swallowing horses, wagons, the men wearing black hats who deserved it. The sheriff would ride up to the quicksand trap, a bad guy up to his armpits calling for help. A rope and a horse might drag him out. But sometimes help arrived too late and the camera returned to hands disappearing under muddy bubbles. Even in the new suburbs we knew it must be boiling after rains where houses under construction had dirt yards instead of lawns. Watch out for the quicksand,

we’d yell before entering the open ribs of the home through the wall studs. There must have been quicksand by the creek at the end of the street before they culverted it and laid a sidewalk over it burying any trace. Now the creek is gone, the woods are gone and the houses were long ago finished, sold and resold. The suburbs are safe and uniform as slices of Wonder Bread. These days only fathers get sucked under and disappear from time to time in the unforeseen quicksand of their corporate offices. — Robert Haight Haight has taught writing and literature and the visiting writers series at Kalamazoo Valley Community College for many years. His most recent book of poems is Feeding Wild Birds (Mayapple Press, 2013). When not in the classroom, he divides his time between the Lower and Upper peninsulas.

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BACK STORY (continued from page 46)

What’s been your biggest challenge?

I started working here in 2005, and even though I swore I’d never supervise people again, a program director position came open about nine months later. I did that until 2009, when I went to work for Communities in Schools. I came back (to BBBS) in 2012 as program director again and was hired as the executive director in spring of 2013.

There are really two equal challenges. The first is finding mentors, especially male mentors. Women are much more likely to volunteer, so it’s trying to find men who have the time to come forward and mentor a young boy. And then, of course, being a nonprofit, it’s a constant effort to make sure we have sustainable funding so we can keep the program running at the quality that we have it.

What do people say to you when you tell them what you do? First, they think we’re the Boys & Girls Club, so I correct them (she laughs). I get a lot of questions. There’s a very common misperception that we serve “bad” kids. I don’t think there are any bad kids. The kids we serve are just kids who have a need for an additional role model. The word “additional” is important because sometimes some other BBBS agencies will say, “No one cares about this kid, and he or she needs a mentor,” which is not very complimentary to the parent or guardian who has signed their child up for the program because they see that their child can use additional support. I try to help the community understand that these are not bad kids, (that) they don’t come from homes where no one cares about them. It’s really the opposite.

How have you approached this challenge? People don’t have as much discretionary time so we’ve expanded some of our models so there’s still one-to-one mentoring, but it occurs in different places. We have a number of Bigs in Business programs, where children are mentored on site at a business, which I love because it removes all the barriers for people who would like to volunteer. We bring the kids to the workplace, and, in addition to having a mentor, the kids are exposed to the workplace, which exposes them to and provides them with those soft skills they need. They are able to see how people dress at work, how they interact and all the different careers that encompass the business they might be at. It really expands their view of what’s possible in terms of careers.

When you were a kid, what did you want to grow up to be?

What do you like the most about what you do?

It’s funny. I actually I thought I’d be a Supreme Court justice or President of the United States, which is pretty obnoxious.

I like seeing the matches together — seeing the chemistry and their relationships. I love that we’re constantly putting caring people into kids’ lives and how excited kids get when they are matched. At match meetings — when you introduce the Big to the Little — the kids are super-excited, like it’s Christmas, and the Bigs are excited and the parents are excited. It’s neat to have all that positive energy.

What influenced you most in your life? My dad died when I was 8, and my mom really wasn’t able to parent effectively. When I was 13, I was removed from my home and ended up growing up in a group home situation until I graduated from high school. There were a number of people along the way who stepped forward and helped me believe in myself when I didn’t believe in myself. I know, looking back, there are about five or six people who are the reason that I am where I am today. Without them, I don’t’ know where I’d be.

Can volunteers really make a difference in a kid’s life in a few hours a month? They can, but it takes time. Our staff works with volunteers to help them stay engaged and coach them for success while helping them understand that it takes time. A lot of it is about planting seeds for the future.

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Amy Kuchta

Brian Powers

Executive Director, Big Brothers/ Big Sisters

Amy Kuchta describes herself as “focused, maybe a little intense,”

but she has to be. The 46-year-old oversees Big Brothers Big Sisters: A Community of Caring, the largest agency of its kind in Michigan, serving four counties — Kalamazoo, Allegan, Calhoun and Van Buren — and employing 23 additional full-time staff members. This year the agency expects to serve more than 1,100 kids by pairing them with adult mentors, says Kuchta. But Kuchta doesn’t just run the organization and manage the staff. She and her 15-year-old daughter, Laryn, serve as a “Big Family” to a 13-year-old girl named Chloe. “I want us to be the best agency in the country,” Kuchta says, “by making sure we’re providing the highest quality of services, serving as many kids as we can, making sure our matches are lasting and providing impact on kids.”

46 | Encore SEPTEMBER 2017

How did you get where you are today? I graduated from college with a history degree and I went to grad school to get a Ph.D. because I wanted to be a history professor. During the day, to make a living, I was working at a treatment center for kids. I really enjoyed that; hated grad school. I decided I was not an academic and needed to be working with kids. We moved to Indiana, where I worked doing investigations for the child welfare department in Bloomington and became the county supervisor for investigations for a few years. We moved here in 2004, and I stayed home with my daughter. When I decided to go back to work, BBBS had a part-time job doing enrollment interviews, and I thought, "Perfect! I can use my interviewing skills but for something a little more proactive and positive than child welfare," which tends to be stressful. (continued on page 45)




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Encore, Southwest Michigan's Magazine  

September 2017 -- WMU's New Chapter as Edward Montgomery takes the helm, the evolution of John Dunn, botanical artist Kristina Spitzner and...

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