MAPEA 2022: Mapping Vicksburg and Kalamazoo

How does the color blue move?

What shapes and colors can I find around me?

What does our neighborhood look like?  

What do I find when I walk down the road?

What kind of buildings are there? What kind of life?

How do different spaces make me feel?

These were some of the questions we started with in our workshop series this summer.

In 13 workshops across Greater Kalamazoo, we explored different parts of town with kids and youth in summer camps and in classes.

As we explored our surroundings, we made an inventory of things around us to paint in our map and noticed the sensations produced by different places. A tree can cool as much as 5 air conditioners, so we stood under trees and felt the difference in temperature.

We looked at rivers and roads, parks and marshes, plazas and empty lots, listening to the sounds and the people around, looking at gardens and different accommodation for pedestrians and children, cars and trucks, animals and wildlife; a simple seeming exercise in taking note.  Here are our maps.

Carlos Fabian Medina directed stretching and movement exercises to begin the workshop with a wake up for our bodies. We set up a language of signature movements that we all repeated together as we trained our memories and observation skills before taking a walkabout.

As a multidisciplinary workshop, applying different ways of perceiving things and mixing things up was part of our purpose. With simple questions that might sound a little odd, we tried to look at things with a fresh eye.

Accompanied by local artists Brent Harris, Aerick Burton, Marissa Klee-Peregon and Brendan Barnes, we walked and talked, stopping to smell the flowers and to hear about local history or to look at building sites–history in action!

Where the participants lived locally, we tried to find out about their experiences of the lived environment and to hear about their views.

Above all, we tried to see our surroundings not just as a given, but as a place that we can become involved in changing too, especially with news of the climate crisis in the background.

Working with other artists interested in social art projects was also a great experience as we shared tools and tips and tried to flex our emotional intelligence in conversation with the kids throughout the adventures that inevitably occurred on our walkabouts.

After our explorations we came back to the park, camp, school building or studio to paint our map. We used a three-dimensional background to paint our slices of space. Each person started with a box that became part of a collective representation of our town when put together.

In this exhibition we have combined our two-dimensional maps from 2020 that were painted on canvas drop cloths, together with our 2022 three-dimensional maps on boxes. We used boxes to emphasize recycling, which required a lot of leg work to collect, but ultimately was an important exercise in seeing how reusing materials works out and was very effective in getting everyone involved.

We had many collaborators and donations who made this possible.

We are pleased to present the results of thirteen workshops with more than 230 participants made possible by generous help from:

Kalamazoo Community Foundation

The Koa Fund

The Mill at Vicksburg

Douglas and Son, Inc.

The Peoples Food Co-op

Kalamazoo Friends of Parks and Recreation

Kalamazoo Arts Council

Home Depot and Meijer’s

In collaboration with Kalamazoo Valley Community College,

Kalamazoo Parks and Recreation,

The Vicksburg Community Schools, and

Boys and Girls Club Kalamazoo,

Sponsored by the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center

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