To mark the 30th anniversary of Kalamazoo in Bloom—a county-wide beautification non-profit—each neighborhood in Kalamazoo has created a public art piece that will be on display Friday in Bronson Park during the Art Hop.
On Wednesday, artist Christine Gola was finishing up the artwork for her neighborhood in Stuart – about a dozen butterfly stepping stones she made with area kids like her next door neighbor 9-year-old Jacob Williams. Williams worked with other Stuart neighborhood kids to decorate the stones with yellow, red, and black gems—kind of like the ones you might put at the bottom of a fish bowl.
At first they were going to do all different kinds of butterflies:
"And I’m the one who said, ‘No, we’re going to do monarch butterflies because the Stuart Neighborhood Association is all about preserving things,” Gola says. “And because of change of environment and lack of milkweed—cause farmers hate it, gardeners hate it, and monarchs really need it—monarchs are not themselves endangered, but they are a threatened phenomenon because of their 2,500 mile migration to Mexico from Canada and Michigan every year.”
The art projects for the other Kalamazoo neighborhoods are mostly made out of recycled materials. Calhoun County artist Sabine LeDieu made bike racks out of old bike parts with children in the Edison neighborhood.
Oakwood neighborhood teens did a junk sculpture in the shape of a tree with the help of artist Leah Lawson.
“That has fan parts and doorknobs and telephone cable and wire. And it’s kind of fascinating,” says Monika Trahe, executive director of Kalamazoo in Bloom.
Artist Beverly Fitzpatrick and Vine neighborhood kids built a modular sculpture out of used water bottles and pinwheels. And Northside neighborhood children painted a three car toy train to promote the new literacy and workforce development center opening in the area.
Trahe says projects like this help bring people into neighborhoods that don’t get as much attention.
“A neighborhood like Northside—or two neighborhoods like Northside and Stuart. Because they border downtown, but not many people would go just a street over to go see what’s happening over there," says Trahe. "And they do have a lot of great things that do go on in those neighborhoods. And so by offering…when these art projects go back into the neighborhoods, and I think for example Northside’s is pretty big, that it will catch somebody’s eye.”
After this weekend, the neighborhoods will move their art to places like parks and in front of neighborhood associations until the end of the season.
Trahe says Kalamazoo in Bloom also designed a different animal topiary for each neighborhood. Trahe says you’ll have to keep an eye out for which one is your neighborhood’s. She’s not giving anything away.
“There’s a Hop-And-Find scavenger hunt that’ll be taking place this weekend and some of the answers are the actual topiary,” she says.
You can see the neighborhood art projects in Bronson Park this weekend. Neighborhood representatives will talk briefly about their projects there before the Sundays in the Park concert series.