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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: Urban Folk Art Exploratory

Theresa Coty O'Neil

A painful loss in her personal life made Remi Harrington realize that she wanted to bring something meaningful to life in her community on Kalamazoo’s Eastside.

That took the form of the Urban Folk Art Exploratory, a grassroots organization that supports arts-based social justice. The Kalamazoo County Land Bankprogram was happy to work with Harrington to help realize her dream at 10 Mills Street.

A conversation with Remi Harrington

“The Urban Folk Art Exploratory is a grassroots nonprofit organization that I established in 2005,” Harrington says. “Our mission is to provide a voice to the Hip-Hop community, to activate social change through the arts. It was birthed out of the relationship I formed with the kids out of the Boys and Girls Club on the south side of Kalamazoo after a significant emotional event. My fiancé was killed in a car accident; I was so inspired by the kids and their families. It birthed my life’s work of advocacy and system designs work from that experience.”

Credit Urban Folk Art Exploratory
Urban Folk Art Exploratory
Dance Kids

Finding new ways to add meaning to life, Harrington has spent the past 17 years in advocacy, human services, and nonprofit administration. The Urban Folk Art Exploratory promotes the use of economic vitality, environmental sustainability, and cultural preservation of neighborhoods and communities.

“I understood inherently, even in my early 20's, that Blackness is not synonymous with poverty,” Harrington says. “My identity — the divine feminine Black woman, and all the things we represent - it was a huge component of how I was reared. When I started to work at the Boys and Girls Club, what connected me to the kids and the families there were the stories that resonated through the Hip-Hop culture, and that component of the Black experience represented our capacity to connect.”

Harrington partnered with the Kalamazoo County Land Bank to convert a former print shop on Mills Street in Kalamazoo into space for the Urban Folk Art Exploratory. The building will house a Community Design Center, a creative coworking space, an art gallery, an art shop, and serve as the headquarters for West Michigan Center of Urban Interventionism.

On June 5, 2021 from 1 to 7 p.m., Harrington will hold a membership drive at the Exploratory. The public is invited to attend to learn more about the organization.

Listen to WMUK's Art Beat every Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.

Zinta Aistars is our resident book expert. She started interviewing authors and artists for our Arts & More program in 2011.
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