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Art Beat
A weekly look at creativity, arts, and culture in southwest Michigan, hosted by Zinta Aistars.Fridays in Morning Edition at 7:50am and at 4:20pm during All Things Considered.

Art Beat: Pen Dragon Calligraphy

Pen Dragon Guild of Kalamazoo

A flourish of the pen and magic unfolds: handwriting that conveys a special message to the reader. No one does it better than a calligrapher. This visual art form began when scribes put the word of God on paper by hand, and it continues today in Kalamazoo.

The Pen Dragons Calligraphy Guild does its part to keep the art form alive and flourishing. Marijo Carney, who founded the group, and Lisa LeBlanc teach many of its calligraphy classes.

“I learned calligraphy in college and decided that I wanted to teach classes and share that with others,” Carney says. “I had a very eager group of people who wanted to learn more, so I said, 'Well, then let’s start a guild!'”

A conversation with Marijo Carney and Lisa LeBlanc

The nonprofit was established in 1983. For most of its existence the group has met on the last Tuesday of every month at 7 p.m. at the Parchment Community Library. Classes are also offered at the Kalamazoo Book Arts Center in downtown Kalamazoo.

Credit Nicholas Anderson
Lisa LeBlanc and Marijo Carney

“I fell into the Pen Dragons,” Lisa LeBlanc says. “I did calligraphy in high school and then I lived my life and put it aside—until I went to see my dentist in 2006. He had some calligraphy up on the ceiling to keep his patients entertained. It turned out that it was his calligraphy, and it was very nice, and so we started talking about it. And he said, 'Oh, you should come to a meeting!'”

Along with meetings and classes, the Pen Dragons also have workshops led by internationally known calligraphers, “spotlight” events featuring local and regional artists, and occasional exhibits, including at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts.

“We have a wonderful art show coming up,” Carney says. “It will be at the Kalamazoo Nature Center in April and May. It’s nature-based. We’re calling it ‘Interconnections: People and the Planet.' Then we are bringing in Pamela Paulsrud from Chicago and her exhibit called ‘Tree Whispers.’ That’s going to be in June and July.”

The Tree Whispers exhibit is comprised of hanging columns of handmade rounds of paper resembling the trunks of trees. Each round features the calligraphy of an artist, writing about his or her memories of trees.

“Or their homage or a thank you to trees,” Carney says. “It’s like walking through a forest.”

For information on upcoming events, visit the Pen Dragons on their Facebook page.

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