JumpstART Weekend gets ready to welcome everyone to downtown Kalamazoo for summer art and fun

What used to be Kalamazoo's Super Saturday grew to become the June Jubilee, and has expanded into something that should be called, what -- Wild Wednesday-Sunday? Wowzerz Weekend?

It's the JumpstART Weekend. Whatever you want to call it, it'll be extra-super as in-person events return downtown to kick off summer. Some haven't been in person since 2019, and those that were limited last year will return in full force.

The 71st Annual Kalamazoo Institute of Arts Fair will be back at Bronson Park. Art on the Mall will be back and bigger on the Kalamazoo Mall. The Do-Dah Parade will be do-dah-ing along downtown roads. And everyone will be showing their pride in person at the Arcadia Creek Festival Place for Kalamazoo Pride 2022. Concerts in the Park and Beats On Bates -- which were in-person last year -- will be back.

When the pandemic struck in 2020, events were canceled or became virtual. Some happened in 2021 in a limited manner. And it just wasn't the same.

"The thing I missed the most was just seeing everybody, all the businesses downtown, being outside," Bianca Washington-Ciungan, program director/theater manager of the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo, says. 

Kalamazoo Institute of Arts galleries will be open during the JumpstART weekend where people can see works like Mary Hatch's painting "Too Many Hats.".Having this sudden burst of life to kick off the summer "makes me feel like, 'Wow, these are shops down here, but there's also community down here.' That's really what I miss from that time," she says. 

The Arts Council had a smaller Art on the Mall last year, with fewer artists. People did come out, but it just wasn't the same without all of the JumpstART activity "poppin' off, " she says.

"I'm really looking forward to feeling all of those elements together in our community and as partners in our community, artists, art organizations, coming back together and seeing everything happen at the same time. That's the big shift."

Washington-Ciungan continues, "We're never going to get back to that 'normal,' that's in the past. Right now we're just working on the future, and trying to see how we can make the best out of what we have right now." 

Face-to-face, art-in-hand: 'Hold it and imagine there's soup in it'

Julie Devers, potter of Newgrange Pottery in Gobles is beyond excited to return to the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts Fair in Bronson Park.

An artist like Devers needs art fairs. "Need the income, need the face-to-face contact with people," she says. She did only one show last year, in Indiana. "It almost felt like a family reunion, you know, because you hadn't seen anyone, and just to say, 'This is what I have been doing,' showing your artwork, 'This is what I have been doing during COVID,' that was really kind of nice."

She travels to sell her pottery, but the Art Fair in Bronson Park, "That's where I know everybody, and it's going to feel even better, more like a family reunion seeing everybody again. Seeing them in my booths, letting them see my new work." 

During the pandemic, Devers didn't do virtual art fairs. She sells her work online, but she says her pots have more impact on a customer as objects on the shelves of her booth.

"They're pretty simple pots, but they're very quiet pots. And they don't photograph all that well," she says. "I'm an old-school touchy-feely potter," she says with a laugh. "You have to hold this to appreciate it. You have to turn it and look at the detail and color and the layering of the wood ash on the pots.... Hold it and imagine there's soup in it." 
Capt. Cat can be heard at Beats on Bates.
She's missed seeing all the other art as well, and chatting with fellow creative nomads of the art fair circuit. She missed the "face-to-face... the benefit of having that artist there, to talk to them about their process, talk about their inspiration, maybe share a story or two with them." 

JumpstART Weekend 2022 Events

Wednesday, June 1, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.: Beats on Bates brings live weekly music back to Bates Alley. Local rock band Capt. Cat will kick it all off.

Friday, June 3, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.: Kalamazoo Art Hop. Art, performance, and socializing will be found at stops from downtown to the Vine and Edison neighborhoods. This month's theme is "Let Freedom Ring." "It's a celebration of Juneteenth," Washington-Ciungan says. Of the 26 stops, many will be highlighting African American artists. "Juneteenth is a holiday which is just now getting the kind of attention to it that's needed, so we want to make sure we're representing that community as well," she says. 

Friday, June 3, noon to 8 p.m.; Saturday, June 4, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Kalamazoo Institute of Arts Fair. Now in its 71st year, it's the second longest-running art fair in the country. Over 100 jury-selected fine artists from around the region and the country will be selling paintings and photos, ceramics both functional and decorative, jewelry and clothing, sculptures and wall-hangings, and any other object that could be considered art.

The event includes live entertainment, food trucks, a beer garden, and family activities. Bonus: The KIA galleries will be free admission both days to the West Michigan Area Show and the opening of "Surrealish: The Absurd and Unexpected." 

Friday, June 3, noon to 8 p.m.; Saturday, June 4, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Art on the Mall. The Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo's soft-juried art bazaar on the Kalamazoo Mall will have around 65 area artists selling their work. There will also be an entertainment stage, with live musicians and DJs.
Pride returns June 3 and June 4 at the Arcadia Creek Festival Place.
Friday, June 3, 6 p.m. to 11:55 p.m.; Saturday, June 4, 2 p.m. to 11:55 p.m. - June 4: Kalamazoo Pride 2022. Returning loud, proud, and in-person to the Arcadia Creek Festival Place, past Prides have brought in over 8,000 people of all ages, genders, sexual orientations, and racial identities, its website states. Entertainment this year includes local theater and dance, comedians, bands and DJs, and the always-fabulous dragsters of Friday night's Mx/Miss/Mr. Kalamazoo Pride 2022 Pageant. Admission: $8 individual day passes, $12 two-day pass.

Saturday, June 4, 11 a.m.: Do-Dah Parade. Though having reached the age of 35, the Do-Dah has yet to grow up. Floats, marchers, and participants of all sorts will present sophisticated satires of current life in parade form, or just be outright silly and goofy. It reversed the parade concept last year by staying in place and having parade watchers walk alongside it. It reverses again this year back to parading around downtown.
Samual Nalangria will kick off Concerts in the Park at Bronson Park.

Sunday, June 5, 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.: Concerts in the Park. Live, free, weekly music returns to Bronson Park. Kicking it off for 2022 is the Samuel Nalangira Ensemble, playing the music of Uganda.  


Read more articles by Mark Wedel.

Mark Wedel has been a freelance journalist in southwest Michigan since 1992, covering a bewildering variety of subjects. He also writes on his epic bike rides across the country. He's written a book on one ride, "Mule Skinner Blues." For more information, see www.markswedel.com.