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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: Art drawn from nature

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Brent Harris
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Update: Due to a Covid delay, the artist's reception will now be held at the Kalamazoo Nature Center from 6-8 pm on Feb 11.

What better way to celebrate the reopening of the Kalamazoo Nature Center's newly renovated Exhibits Hall than with an art exhibit? Kalamazoo sculptor Brent Harris has curated “Art Drawn From Nature,” an exhibit of eight local artists working in different mediums. It opens on January 7th. 

Although you may be familiar with the artwork of Brent Harris, you may not know about how his interest in sculpting the human form came to be – in the back of an ambulance.

“I came out to Western [Michigan University] to study sculpture,” Harris says. “Actually, I studied psychology and moved into sculpture. After I graduated, that’s when I became a paramedic. I wanted to serve the community, to immerse myself back into the town I lived in. I still sculpted. I still had some shows… As a paramedic, just being involved with the human body, that seemed to be a natural progression."

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An interview with Brent Harris.

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Credit Corinne Rutkowski
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A print by Corinne Rutkowski

Once Harris decided to transition from his job as a paramedic to devote himself to his art, he purchased the foundry where he had apprenticed during his college years. He named it the Alchemist Sculpture Foundry.

“I use my figures to tell stories and clarify the world around me,” Harris says in his artist statement. “These stories range from gestural vignettes to personal and spiritual examinations, and socio-political study. The human figure is a universal shorthand which allows my sculpture to have an intimate connection with the viewer. I use these unconscious gestures to express emotion that is elemental. Something that hits us before it reaches our higher consciousness.”

Harris now teaches sculpture at the Kalamazoo Institute of the Arts, where he has gotten acquainted with other artists working in different mediums. He selected eight artists from this circle to bring their art to the Kalamazoo Nature Center exhibit. Artists will include Sharon Gill, Maryellen Hains, Anna Z. Ill, Courtney S. Nelson, Gayle Reyes, Corinne Rutkowski, Maria Scott, as well as sculpture by Brent Harris. Also performing at the January 7th reception will be Carolyn Pampalone Rabbers of Wellspring Dance Company.

“All the artists I’ve selected are inspired by nature,” Harris says. “We have artists, scientists, biologists—quite the expanse of people, a lot of talent.”

The Art Drawn From Nature exhibit will open at the newly renovated Kalamazoo Nature Center from January 7, with a reception from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., to February 11, 2022. Visit Kalamazoo Nature Center for admission rates.

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