Kalamazoo

May 1 Art Hop will be on the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo Facebook page

In the Before-Times, we would gather for the first Friday of every month at various spots around downtown Kalamazoo and neighborhoods, to eat free nibbles, drink wine, and peruse the art of local creatives.

There were discussions between the perusers and the makers, but they were dispersed, scattered.

It may be a struggle to find the upside in the way Art Hop is done during COVID-19, but we have found one. Now that it is virtual, the discussions can all be in a centralized place, on the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo's Facebook page.

The Arts Council will hold its second Virtual Art Hop from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, May 1.

With the ability to have comments and participation among viewers, artists and the Arts Council, all in one spot, going virtual has "opened up an opportunity for us," Bianca Washington, ACGK's program director/theatre manager, says. 

The first Virtual Art Hop "went great," she says. They had some worries going in -- the Arts Council had no idea what the response would be, and they had just a couple weeks to transform the Art Hop from real-world to virtual.  

They'd invited artists to simply post on the ACGK's Facebook page. Washington says, "When you do this kind of thing, it's like, I don't know how many people are actually going to get on this?" 

But then, "We were very pleased when five o'clock hit to see all these artists posting their work, posting these really cool videos of how they create their artwork." Around 56 artists posted their art in various mediums, ranging from a live singer/songwriter showcase from Carrie McFerrin, Ben Traverse and Sandra Effert, to painter Joe Richmond making abstracts by swinging buckets of paint over a spinning canvass

With more time to prepare, the Arts Council has received a lot of work after calling for submissions for May 1. The event is still open for artists to post on the day-of. 

In addition to submissions, the May 1 Virtual Art Hop will provide audiences for exhibits scheduled pre-COVID-19. Local artist Maryellen Hains curated a show at the Kalamazoo College Library, that now people can't view in-person. She's gathered info on the art and artists to provide a virtual experience of the exhibit. 

At the Virtual Art Hop, there will be works by KVCC's graduating students, normally viewable at the Center for New Media. There will also be a link to the graduate show at Western Michigan University's Frostic School of Art.

This Art Hop has "almost turned into a celebration of students," Washington says. She says she hopes that students, parents, and viewers will get a chance to have some of the experience graduating art students have in normal times. 

Washington says they want to encourage more Art Hop socializing on the social media platform. "We're looking to try to cultivate more of a discussion, and a place where artists and the public can go onto our page and actually talk to one another," she says. 

"Instead of looking at someone's art and just liking it, we're looking to have some engaging questions from the public and everyone who's involved.... Ask artists, 'What's the first thing you created that you can remember? What's inspired you?'"

It can almost be like socializing in-person. You'll have to provide your own nibbles and wine, however.

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.
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