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ENCORE ARTS

television, Baumgart and her two brothers focused on books. That’s when, at 8 years old, Baumgart became enthralled with the idea of talking animals, she says. The wild animals, colorful flowers and abundant plant life in Rwanda had already sparked her imagination. “Today I try to make my animals look as if they might have something to say if one cared to listen,” she says. Reading The Chronicles of Narnia to her own children reignited Baumgart’s imagination, which had fallen dormant for years following her brother’s death. “I attribute having kids — and now (four) grandkids — to reawakening that urge to create and find joy and whimsy,” Baumgart says. Joy and whimsy are obvious in Baumgart’s artwork, whether a piece portrays the moon, birds, sugar skulls or “talking” animals, such as giraffes, elephants and cats that truly appear to want to share a secret with observers. When Baumgart first started ripping wallpaper, she created little animals, with the intention of making a children’s book. That book still exists, she says, as well

From left: Artist Renae Baumgart amid her works and papers in her home studio; an octopus she created from ripped wallpaper; and Baumgart meticulously piecing together a creation.

her dreams. She followed another path: obtaining a four-year degree in law enforcement. It was a bad fit, she admits, but one that wasn’t for naught. “I married a wonderful police officer,” Baumgart says, speaking of her husband of 31 years, Jim Baumgart, a retired Grand Rapids Police Department lieutenant. “It wasn’t all a loss.” Having three kids brought her full circle: back to art through The Chronicles of Narnia, a series of seven fantasy novels by C.S. Lewis. When Baumgart was a child, her parents, Dale and Gail Brock, read their children the series while the family lived in Rwanda, where the Brocks served as missionaries for two years. With no w w w.encorekalamazoo.com | 35

Profile for Encore Magazine

Encore January 2019  

Southwest Michigan's Magazine — How PlazaCorp is transforming Kalamazoo and saving its history, the art of ripped paper, meet Kristen Crandl...

Encore January 2019  

Southwest Michigan's Magazine — How PlazaCorp is transforming Kalamazoo and saving its history, the art of ripped paper, meet Kristen Crandl...