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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: Raising the walls of Jerico

Elemental Media
A young visitor experiences the Jerico Faire

Krystal Gast is the owner of Jerico, and Margot Champagne oversees events and marketing for the organization. Jerico is a collaborative of artists and makers, housed in three buildings built more than a century ago. Gast, who is originally from Flint, had been living in Seattle with her family for some years before deciding to return to Michigan. When she came back, her husband Jeb bought the buildings in 2014 for his own business. But with so much room remaining, what to do with the rest of all that square footage? Krystal Gast had an idea, and Margot Champagne soon joined her in growing a campus of designers, craftspeople, fine artists, baristas, welders, musicians, and more. Jerico has been awarded the 2022 Community Arts Award for Business Arts by the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo.

A conversation with Krystal Gast and Margot Champagne

“Jerico came together organically,” Gast says. “People asked, ‘Hey, could I have some space there?’ And we would make space for them. And then somebody else would do it and we’d make space for them, and it just grew and got bigger and bigger. We eventually realized that this is what we are doing.”

Located at 1501 Fulford Street in Kalamazoo, Jerico now is home to 23 shared or individual studios. Residents include Alyson Cameron Studio and Celery Press, Autumn Barry Rock Shop, Black Thread Studio, The Dapper Hammer, Hot Metal Artist, Kal-Tone Musical Instrument Company, the Kim Shaw studio, Trent Rex Tattoos, Weavers Unlimited, among others.

Rachel Skye Photo
Krystal Gast and Margot Champagne

As for ghosts inhabiting buildings that date back to 1898, “I’ve been spreading a rumor,” Champagne laughs. “There’s a story of a banjo ghost, because Star Brass Works—one of the original owners—was known for its famous secret recipe used in making brass banjo strings. And, if you’re here late at night, you’ll hear the banjo ghost.”

Jerico is also known for its fairs and workshops that gather artists and makers to share their work and expertise. The Jerico Faire takes place four times a year, and workshops happen throughout the year. Next up is the La Luna Community Listening Party on Monday, December 19, at 7 p.m. Participants are invited to bring recordings of their music.

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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