Kalamazoo Collective Arts Center Focused On Including Young (and old) Culture Enthusiasts

May 17, 2014

Guitarists perform at a fundraiser for the KCAC in January 2013. The Kalamazoo Collective Arts Center is hosting a series of how-to workshops in June.
Credit Kasey Chaos

There are a few things that every great artist needs - tools, a place to work, and, most importantly, a place to show their work. But this list can come at a cost for those who are still working their way up the artistic ladder - both literally and figuratively.

Photographer Kasey Brown, better known by her artistic name of Kasey Chaos, has banded together with a small group of local arts enthusiasts to create the Kalamazoo Collective Arts Center.

The idea for the KCAC is nothing new. In the late 2000’s a small group of recent WMU grads rallied for the cause, but many of the original board members moved away. Chaos decided to get the group started again after she noticed a need for a venue open to all ages.

"I plan a yearly DIY fest called Hullabazoo, and last year we had [musician] Sean Bonnett in.  And 100-150 kids turned out and I was like 'Wow, they really couldn't have gone anywhere else to experience this - because the event is all ages and open to the public," she says of her surprise. "And it opened my eyes to how crazy that is in this community. We're so active in the arts and we don't have a spot for that yet."

In creating their vision, the Board is taking some pointers from The Division Avenue Arts Collective , a similar all-ages community arts space in Grand Rapids. They've been active in bringing together communities and age groups whose paths normally don't cross - something that KCAC supporter Bridget Dooley says is seriously lacking in Kalamazoo’s arts community.

"I'm pretty involved in the literary community in Kalamazoo, and I see this really thriving literary community and this really, really thriving music community, and not that much interaction between the two," says the MFA student. "But if you have a space that's shared for both sorts of events then you actually get those communities to interact with each other and I think that they can learn a lot from each other both with regards to their work but also with how they run events, how publicity works, etcetera."

The KCAC recently exceeded their $5,000 funding goal and will host a series of one day workshops in June. The Summer Skillshares will teach participants skills on everything from improv comedy to film photography, and are asking for a $5 donation as a class fee. In order to make it sustainable, Dooley hopes younger supporters help sustain the organization.

"...what I would like to see happen would be that the people who are benefiting from this space end up stepping up and taking charge of running it. Making sure that some of the younger people who are interested in this do follow through by taking authority over it and taking agency over it."

But the KCAC still needs a space. The board has its eye on the Vine neighborhood, Kalamazoo's unofficial 'hot spot' for independent art and culture. As the members begin scouting out spaces, Chaos is confident in the community will help them fund their project.

“As soon as we got started with the crowd-funding campaign there were so many people getting in touch with me in person and they were just like 'How do I get involved with this, how can I help?' it's crazy how receptive everyone has been thus far," she remarks. "I feel like everybody feels like there is a need for a space like this.”