Kalamazoo musician creates 'quilt' for community garden, album in memory of friend and gardener
“My last name’s Pixley-Fink and a lot of people like to call me Pixie, Pixie Funk, the P-Funk,” says Elisabeth Pixley-Fink. “So it’s pretty funky and pretty playful I’d say.”
That’s how Elisabeth Pixley-Fink describes her music. Pixley-Fink got a grant by the Kalamazoo Arts Council earlier this year to create a full-length album and a public art project. The art project is called the Red Clover Quilt.
“It comes from a process that we developed at the Growing Matters Garden, which is a Fair Food Matters project where I’ve been working for the past three years. So we are making paper with the kids that go to the garden. And it was a really simple process, just basically recycled paper and water and you put them through screens and then roll them out and you have your own new sheet of paper. So my idea is to do that same process but put red clover seeds in the paper. And then dry the paper and have each audience member be able to make a square of the quilt by drawing on that paper. And then we’ll put them together and plant them in the Growing Matters Garden so that red clover will come up in the spring. Red clover is a pretty common cover crop that can add nitrogen to the soil and enrich the soil.”
Pixley-Fink will take the quilt to her shows. The quilt is about helping the community feel more involved in Growing Matters garden, but it’s also in memory of one gardener in particular. Pixley-Fink is dedicating her upcoming album Bloodroot —which will be released in October— to her friend Andrew Wolf, a youth leader and community gardener who was killed in a bike accident two years ago.
“They’re songs full of grief, but also full of hope and life,” says Pixley-Fink. “In the happier ones his spirit is there and I’m filled with his life. And in the sadder ones, you know, it’s—he’s gone. And I think grief is like that, you know. It goes up and down and it’s a journey.”
Pixley-Fink collaborated with local musician Andru Bemis on her previous album Say Yes To Yourself. Pixley-Fink says Bemis brought the folky sound to the album, but she considers herself more of a soul artist.
“We have actually really distinct styles I think,” Pixley-Fink says. “But the place that we meet in the middle is this kind of somber, haunting place full of harmony."
Last year Pixley-Fink and Bemis went on a two month tour from Minnesota to Mexico. After that, Pixley-Fink stayed in Central America for a while where she studying clowning and theater of the oppressed. That’s a type of performance that works to create a conversation about social and political issues by letting the audience change the outcome of the play. Pixley-Fink says it inspired her to start more community art pieces.
“The audience was an integral part of the art and an integral part of the experience, and were able to critique and shape and participate inside of the art,” says Pixley-Fink. “And that’s really my goal in performing and being a musician is to have people ultimately be co-creating the art.”
Elisabeth Pixley-Fink and the Red Clover Quilt will be at the Tillers' Harvest Festival on Sunday.