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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: Breaking boundaries

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Fran Dwight
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Kim Shaw
Kim Shaw

The Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo recently announced its new programs director – Kim Shaw. An educator, illustrator, and artmaker, Shaw has big plans for the greater Kalamazoo arts community. Programs she will oversee include Art Hop, Summertime Live, Concerts in the Park, Music in the Plaza, Art on the Mall, Blue Skies Busking, Creative Café, and programming in Haymarket Plaza.

A conversation with Kim Shaw

“I have been doing some soul-searching the last year especially,” Shaw says. “I thought about, where do I want to land in the arts community? I’m grateful to be able to connect in so many different realms. I started to think about our arts community—and one of the reasons I came to Kalamazoo is because it is such a supportive arts community—and being a part of the Arts Council feels like an excellent place to land and to grow.”

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Courtesy of the artist
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Kim Shaw
Illustration from the "Art Nouveau" brochure by Kim Shaw

Shaw spent her first weeks in the position, beginning with the December 2022 Art Hop, learning the inner workings of programs, about the history of the Arts Council, and developing initial ideas about what could be during the coming year.

“We have a plan for Art Hop in 2023,” she says. “The last two years have been bittersweet. They have been challenging for the arts in many ways in all different realms, with the COVID years and the impact that it had. The bitter part was that people were not able to get out into the community to show their work, to play the music, do theater, all of that. The sweet part was that there were a lot of makers at home writing things and drawing things and rediscovering themselves. So now we are at this place where we finally get out into the world a little more.”

Shaw says she feels those years have brought about a transformation in the needs and wishes of the arts community in what it wants to see in the future. After gathering information from artists as well as downtown business owners, the Arts Council decided to revise Art Hop from a monthly event to one that’s bimonthly. On the months that Art Hop won’t take place, the Council will offer workshops, special events, and shows.

In her personal art pursuits, Shaw has begun a project she calls Nouveau: An Allied and Trans Inclusive Art Experience.

“It’s been a love labor, something I have been thinking through and working on for almost a year,” Shaw says. “It has come through being a part of the LGBTQ+ community, and my partner is trans. It’s part of our daily life, having these identities, specifically with the trans community being out in the world in this last year especially. There have been some painful things happening as far as rights and considerations and love for all people in the world.”

During the life of this project, Shaw will work with 12 trans individuals to create life-sized pieces of gender-affirming art depicting their bodies and identities through an art nouveau lens. Anyone wishing to participate or donate is invited to contact Shaw via her website.

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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