Alchemy is the mythical process of turning lead into gold. But for some artists and writers in Kalamazoo, it means turning the ordinary into the extraordinary, the grit of life into art.
Sydnee Peters is co-director of the Alchemy Initiative project with Elizabeth Kerlikowske, the president of Friends of Poetry. Margaret DeRitter is a participant in the year-long project that includes workshops which concludes with exhibits and events beginning in February. Alchemy has about 50 participants from the Kalamazoo-area community.
“What interested me was the concept of alchemy. That’s how I came into it,” says Peters. “I knew that that would be a very compelling subject.”
Peters says the initiative brought in many of the participants from two prior events called Hours (2012 -13) and Home (2014-15). New voices were also welcomed. Participating writers and artists include Mindi Bagnall, Bonnie Jo Campbell, Marion Boyer, Michael Dunn, Marsha Meyer, Mary Brodbeck, Hedy Habra, Ladislav Hanka, Susan Ramsey, Lynn Pattison, Gail Martin, and many others familiar to the greater Kalamazoo community and beyond.
“We’re not just looking for people who are well known in the community,” Peters says. “We’ve also looked to people who are not known at all.”
DeRitter says Alchemy is different from its predecessors. “There has been a lot more interaction between participants, the writers and the artists.” DeRitter also participated in the Homes project. In Alchemy, DeRitter was involved in Alchemy as both a writer and an artist.
While many art exhibits and other events took place in 2016, readings will begin in February and continue through May 2017. An exhibition at the Netzorg & Kerr Gallery at WMU's Richmond Center for Visual Arts, along with a reception in conjunction with the Curtis Rhodes and Jack Carney show in the Monroe Brown Gallery, will take place on February 15. The exhibit is open to the public through May 26. For other events and readings, visit the Alchemy website for a complete schedule.
A book called Alchemy: A Writers’ and Artists’ Initiative, a collection of the works of all participants, will be available at the exhibit.
The Alchemy Initiative is supported by the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation, and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs Mini-grant Program. Other organizations involved are the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo, the Arts Fund of Kalamazoo County, the Kalamazoo Book Arts Center, and the Gwen Frostic School of Art at WMU. It also includes gifts from the individual artists, writers, friends, and supporters.
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