Where does one find an academically strong, arts-oriented high school with big-city resources and small-town values?
The search brought Leeanne Seaver back her to alma mater, Vicksburg High School. “When we returned from New Zealand, where my daughter, Makena, started high school, we thought we’d have to move back to Denver or maybe even Chicago. We were thrilled to discover that what we wanted was right here in Vicksburg,” Seaver said.
Now graduated, Makena Seaver, VHS ’15, agrees that Vicksburg turned out to be just what she was looking for when they located to the area. “Makena began her freshmen year at Kelston Girls College—one of six students of European descent among 856 Polynesians in Waitekere, West Auckland.
“It was an amazing experience. That’s hard to beat for broadening her education, but we really couldn’t be happier with how it continued to develop here in Vicksburg,” Leeanne explained. The focus on music and theatre was the key. Makena dove right into plays, band, musicals, and she took advantage of the Advanced Placement Extended Fine Arts Program available cooperatively at Portage Central High School. “It was tailor-made for Makena, and it turned out to be just the right place for me, too,” Leeanne said.
Thanks to the strong values this community has placed on the arts, the Village’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA) made a commitment to promote the creative culture in Vicksburg. Seaver has been hired as Director of the Arts to lead efforts to establish an artists’ collaborative gallery, to enhance both visual and performing arts in the community, and to create a network of artists in Vicksburg and the surrounding area. There are currently over 60 members listed in the Arts Collaborative, representing a wide range of visual and performance arts.
Seaver grew up in the Vicksburg area but moved out of state after high school. She brings back her experience as an award-winning producer, published author and freelance writer, and photographer. Leeanne holds a masters of arts degree from the University of Denver, Colorado, where she worked in broadcasting for over 20 years. She co-founded and directed the national non-profit organization Hands & Voices, and continues to serve on its board. That combination of skills took her to New Zealand where she worked as a consultant in communication, public relations, and media. “I think my diverse background will lend itself to the challenge of showcasing the amazing creative brain trust in our community,” Seaver said.
Efforts have already begun on setting up the Vicksburg Village Arts & Cultural Center (VACC) that will focus on a wide range of activities. A top priority is launching a gallery to feature fine art painting, drawing, pottery, jewelry, leather, metal, fiber, wood and photography, as well as provide space for music and performing arts events. The VACC plans to hold workshops, demonstrations, a speaker series, and perhaps music classes in the future. A “soft opening” is set for on Thursday, September 10. It will provide an opportunity for invited guests to mingle and meet in a gallery location which is currently under negotiation.
There is an ongoing call for artists to exhibit and work in the gallery. For more information on how to become involved in the artist collaborative network, those interested are encouraged to email Seaver@VicksburgArts.com. The network will be open to artists in Kalamazoo and surrounding counties as well as the local community.
The Authority has spearheaded the endeavor to celebrate Vicksburg’s heritage by showcasing unique boutiques in historic storefronts and welcomes dining, event and entertainment opportunities to enhance quality of life in the region. For more information contact www.VicksburgDDA.com.