Arts, Culture & Humanities

Black Arts and Cultural Center/Face Off Theatre Company

The Black Arts & Cultural Center’s Face Off Theatre Company is dedicated to fostering community, cross-culturally, through theatre. Face Off was founded by African-American alumnae of Western Michigan University in order to fill a void in local theater offerings representative of Kalamazoo’s diverse population. Face Off presents classic and modern pieces that explore issues within the black community. In 2016, Face Off was awarded The Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo’s Epic Award for work of high artistic quality that also enhances life in the community. Face Off attracts audience members from different racial, class, and ethnic backgrounds, allowing audiences to connect across various cultural lines. Each performance is followed by a talkback, encouraging the audience to engage with the work, the actors and, most importantly, each other. The company hosts acting and writing workshops for youth and every season includes a youth show. Face Off strives to do work that is authentic and culturally relevant and is always looking for opportunities for the community to grow and learn from one another.

For more information, please visit

Kalamazoo Institute of Arts / The Art of Connectivity

In 2016, the KIA added an assistant curator of youth and family programs, with a goal of the organization becoming a more inclusive, education-aligned community resource. This new position is part of an effort to connect with people who are not already part of the KIA family. The public response has been gratifying, with a significant increase in attendance.

With this position, the KIA was able to add more programs that empower parents to become learning partners with kids, such as:
• Art Detectives, a collaboration with Lift Up Through Literacy, utilizes stories, interaction with exhibits, and hands-on opportunities so as to encourage young people and their families to imagine, create and innovate.
• The Back to School Block Party, a collaboration with Kalamazoo Communities in Schools, features an introduction to the KIA’s redesigned Youth Interactive Gallery, as well as related activities that encourage participants to stretch their imaginations.
• A Dia de Muertos (or Day of the Dead) Festival, a collaboration with the Hispanic American Council, celebrates the Mexican holiday with traditional food and dance, while introducing festivalgoers to the KIA, its programs, and its activities.

Parents connect with their children and, together, they connect with art, the creative process, and the KIA. The KIA connects with a variety of new community organizations. That’s the art of connectivity.

For more information, please visit

WGVU Public Media/Kalamazoo Lively Arts

WGVU’s Kalamazoo Lively Arts series connects artists with the community through the creation and sharing of stories about the many artists and art forms helping to define Kalamazoo. In 2016, through 13 weekly programs, Kalamazoo Lively Arts shared the stories of more than 50 artists and groups, representing a wide variety of visual art, performance, and many other forms of expression. This series is designed to give the public a deeper look, striking a balance between entertainment and educational value.

To provide multiple viewing opportunities, expand the reach of the series, and give the featured artists and arts groups maximum exposure, WGVU broadcasts each weekly episode several times throughout its 28-county-wide coverage area, home to approximately 2.5 million people. This series is also shared via social media and uploaded to a dedicated WGVU Kalamazoo Lively Arts webpage at:

Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo & Fontana Chamber Arts / Third Thursday Jazz

Hot summer nights, great jazz, and Bronson Park are the winning combination that the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo, Fontana, and the City of Kalamazoo have created for their Thursdays in the Park — Mix & Mingle series. In its second year, this series welcomed jazz greats for lively, interactive experiences targeted at a younger, non-traditional audience, jazz that Kalamazoo has never before experienced in a summer outdoor concert series in Bronson Park.

World-renowned jazz guitarist, vocalist and band leader John Pizzarelli opened the season. Featured on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” and “Letterman”, Pizzarelli’s utterly cool and resonant sound wowed Kalamazoo with a standing-room-only performance (thanks to a summer thundershower!) at First United Methodist Church. It may have rained outside but there was hot jazz in the house. Kalamazoo native and local icon, singer and songwriter Nat Zegree brought screaming fans from tweens to seniors out to Bronson Park on a picture perfect evening in July. Performing a combination of jazz and contemporary favorites and work from his debut album, Zegree had the audience on their feet (and on the Rotary Stage) as part of a high energy performance. Possessing confidence, oozing with charm and an amazing voice, it was easy to see why Kalamazoo loves this favorite son.

Closing out the series in August was master drummer Herlin Riley. A regular at Jazz at Lincoln Center, Riley has recorded with artists such as George Benson, Dr. John, Harry Connick Jr., and toured with Wynton Marslis. Riley’s sound is timeless — a sound that has at its foundation the various musical styles that make the New Orleans sound unique. It’s gospel, it’s the blues, it’s the sound of celebration, the sound of life. He left Bronson Park pulsing with soul and celebration.

Watch for another great Thursdays in the Park series in Bronson Park. You won’t want to miss it!

For more information, please visit:

Kalamazoo Civic Theatre / Theatre Kalamazoo

In the fall of 1998, meetings between the leaders representing the Civic, the University Theatre of WMU and Festival Playhouse of Kalamazoo College catalyzed the establishment of a collaborative consortium of theatres in Kalamazoo County (Theatre Kalamazoo). The mission of the consortium is simple: To promote the diversity and richness of the many theatre offerings in Kalamazoo, and to foster a spirit of cooperation and support among the theatres in order to benefit all.

Over the past 16 years, with the support of the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation, the organization has grown to include the Black Arts & Cultural Center of Kalamazoo’s Face Off Theatre, Center Stage Theatre, the Civic, Fancy Pants Theater, Farmers Alley Theatre, Festival Playhouse of Kalamazoo College, The New Vic Theatre, Queer Theatre Kalamazoo, All Ears Radio Theatre, WMU Miller Auditorium, and WMU University Theatre. Due to these collaborative efforts, Kalamazoo benefits from more diverse theatrical seasons.

Consortium members promote other member-theatre’s productions in printed programs throughout the season. This consistent effort and presence increases awareness amongst current and potential patrons. Members of the consortium have access to update Theatre Kalamazoo’s website (which includes a calendar of all member events) and social media pages. The consortium also works to promote member-theatre events by having a presence at festivals and events such as the KIA Art Fair, Kalamazoo Pride, and the Black Arts Festival along with more traditional means of marketing. And, during the Annual New PlayFest, Theatre Kalamazoo’s signature event, messaging and graphics are created and provided to all theatres to distribute to their own audiences for consistent messaging and brand recognition of the event and of Theatre Kalamazoo as a whole.

Nearly 125,000 tickets were sold for productions at Theatre Kalamazoo member-theatres during the 2014 – 2015 season. It is the goal of Theatre Kalamazoo to strengthen each theatre as well as enhancing the cultural life in greater Kalamazoo by promoting the arts and enriching our community.

For more information, please visit:

Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra / Kids in Tune

Kalamazoo Kids in Tune is an orchestra, an after-school program, and as the students love to say, a family. A high-energy, musical family! Students spend four afternoons per week together learning to play instruments and jumping right into big symphonic music, including themes by Beethoven, Dvorak, Mahler, and the students’ all-time favorite, Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Major musical works are central to the program philosophy of inviting even the youngest musicians to share in the beauty and power of great orchestral music.

KKIT is a unique cross-sector collaboration developed by Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra (KSO), Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo (CIS), and Kalamazoo Public Schools (KPS). The program is free to the 85 participants, students in grades 1 – 6 at Woods Lake Elementary: A Magnet Center for the Arts. The partnership relies on the expertise of each agency. KSO provides the curriculum, professional instructors, and instruments through local and national grants. The site framework is funded as a 21st Century Community Learning Center through CIS, providing a site coordinator, after-school coordinator, youth development staff, transportation, and enrichment options, and additional individualized services such as food packs, health and mental health services. KPS provides facilities, evaluation data, access to KPS busses and federal meal program, and band instruments.

KKIT program days are filled with music lessons, orchestra rehearsals, and clubs of choice, bookended by a daily nutritious meal and supported homework time. Embedded mindfulness work helps students learn healthy observation, reflection, and kind self-evaluation skills, all critical to making musical learning fun and transferrable to academic learning. A six-week summer program keeps students playing and practicing with their KKIT family through the break.

KKIT students are not just excelling musically — they are missing fewer days of school than their peers, turning in completed homework more regularly, and re-enrolling in the after-school program at a rate of 90%.

For more information, please visit:

All Ears Theatre / Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo

All Ears Theatre (All Ears) debuted in January 2002 as a collaboration of local artists organized by the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo. Led by veteran radiotheatre producer Don Ramlow, All Ears presents twelve free performances each season in the style of radio’s golden age, a mix of classics, adaptations and original scripts, with stories ranging from mystery, to science fiction, to fantasy. Actors, musicians, and sound-effects artists perform on stage before a live audience at the First Baptist Church in downtown Kalamazoo. These shows are recorded live and then broadcast on WMUK 102.1 FM.

Even without theatrical sets, costumes, or props, All Ears performances are highly kinetic and very entertaining. Manual sound effects play a crucial role in every performance. Everyday sounds are reproduced using fans, saws, sandbags, plungers, children’s toys — whatever it takes. Futuristic noises such as spaceships and ray guns are imagined and then created by sound-effects artists utilizing unique, and often unexpected, sound sources. Children, in particular, are often fascinated by what they observe.

All Ears is not only a local gem, but has also garnerednational respect through participation in national radio-theatre conventions and has received significant awards and recognitions. All Ears is also a unique contribution to Kalamazoo’s historical, educational, and cultural scenes. So unique is All Ears Theatre that Kiplinger’s named it a “Must-See Freebie.” That is why audiences of all ages have come to love this artistic offering.

Education for the Arts /Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency


Education for the Arts (EFA) is a program arm of Kalamazoo RESA. EFA’s roots are based on the unanimous desire of the nine public school districts in Kalamazoo County to make arts education a learning and teaching priority. EFA’s mandate is to enhance arts education opportunities and programs for every Kalamazoo County school through the development, maintenance, and strengthening of partnerships between school districts, teachers, and the rich array of professional arts institutions in southwest Michigan. EFA is recognized statewide and nationally as a leader in K-12 arts education for demonstrated excellence in philosophy and practice, and for its experienced and dedicated staff. In 2009, EFA was honored to receive a Distinguished Service Award from the Michigan Art Education Association. EFA received the 2005 ArtServe Michigan Governor’s Award for Arts in Education. In 2006, EFA received the ArtServe Michigan Arts in Education Award. Further, three of EFA’s Excellence in the Arts high school instructors have been honored in recent years by their peers by being named Michigan Educators of the Year in the disciplines of dance, theater, and digital media/film.

Irving S. Gilmore International Keyboard Festival


Twenty-five years ago, the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation launched an initiative to honor the memory of its namesake by creating an international artist award and piano festival. In keeping with the manner in which Mr. Gilmore supported pianists during his lifetime, the award was designed to be non-competitive. Nominations and evaluations would be conducted without the knowledge of the nominees and the award would be completely unexpected by its recipient. In order to accomplish these objectives a new non-profit organization was formed. Today both this organization and its primary festival are known as “The Gilmore.”

The resulting Gilmore Artist and Young Artist Awards have furthered the careers of many deserving pianists and today are recognized as two of the most prestigious awards in the music world. A biennial international piano festival was created in 1991 to showcase Gilmore Artists and other world-class performers in and around Kalamazoo. By 2014, more than 31,000 seats were filled by people who enjoyed exceptional and memorable performances at the 17-day International Keyboard Festival.

In addition to the Artist Awards and the Festival, The Gilmore presents a Rising Stars concert series, and during non-Festival years, a Piano Masters concert series. Further, the Piano Labs education program offers keyboard instruction for students who might otherwise lack the opportunity. The labs are held at area elementary schools, the Kalamazoo Juvenile Home, and through KRESA’s Young Adult Program, thus ensuring their accessibility to the students. Moreover, piano camps, master classes, pre-concert talks, free family concerts, and classes for all ages develop keyboard skills and foster a lifelong appreciation for music.

Michigan Festival of Sacred Music


The Michigan Festival of Sacred Music (MFSM) was established in 2000, after a study conducted with support from the Irving S. Gilmore and the Kalamazoo Community Foundations concluded that such a festival was both desirable and feasible. The festival, initially one weekend long, is a biennial event, occurring in November in odd-numbered years. In 2004, the MFSM began to present “off-year” events during the intervening seasons, to increase awareness and visibility, and further its mission. In 2007, MFSM assumed co-sponsorship (with First Congregational Church) of the Messiah Sing, held on the Sunday following Thanksgiving. The “weekend” festival expanded to four days, then six days, and by 2009 it covered 10 days. This practice, which continues today, accommodates more events, while spreading them out less densely in a manner that makes multiple events easier to attend, creates more opportunities for collaboration with other organizations, makes more opportunities for outreach with artists,
and enables use of a wider variety of venues in more widely distributed locations.

MFSM offers events which represent diverse religious traditions, thereby promoting mutual respect and understanding through the sharing of music and associated cultural tenets treasured by these traditions, celebrating our differences and shared common values. In so doing, MFSM aspires to accentuate community harmony by encouraging individual and group participation from all segments of society. The “What’s Sacred to You?” initiative, begun in 2013, partners with humanservice and environmental non-profits, providing information booths for each MFSM event.