There might be something in the water in Vicksburg. There’s definitely something in the air—the sounds of concert-quality music wafting across from the football field where the high school band rehearses. Or from a folk group playing the Pavilion where the smells and tastes of the Farmers’ Market mingle with the relaxed crowd on Friday afternoons. In the cool mornings when the sky scaffolds pink to blue, a local watercolorist captures it from the boardwalk along Sunset Lake. “It’s not just making a living, it’s about the art of living here,” said Leeanne Seaver, arts director at the new Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center (VCAC). “Our Cultural Arts Center embodies the commitment of this community to promoting our quality of life and the arts in all their many expressions.”
Local artists and patrons have been meeting for months to envision a cultural arts center that would provide a mechanism for such expression. The effort has been sponsored by Vicksburg’s Downtown Development Authority. DDA Chair Steve McCowen said, “Vicksburg has always been known for its arts—from the high school theatre and music programs to the performances of the Gilmore Keyboard Festival to the annual Showboat. Our community is very proud of that tradition.”
The tradition continues with the launch of the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center (VCAC) at 200 Main Street adjacent to Rawlinson Appliances. A special “sneak peek” at the gallery at 7 p.m. on September 10 features folk duo Chris and Jamie Ross. The official grand opening is at 5 p.m. on September 25. Building owner Julie Merrill has restored the space to its former dimensions as Reuben Smalley’s grocery store circa 1880. It’s an ideal setting for a variety of art, music, literary, film, and theatrical performance. All are invited to attend and support area artists and performers. An award-winning line-up includes metal sculptor Raven Wynd; painters Kathleen Kalvig, Helen Kleczynski, Cindy Krill, and Carmen Sweezy; pottery by Dina Hadley and Lupe Smith; photography by Kim Marston; glasswork by Cathy Carter; and much more. Jewelry artist Joe Fletcher’s work will be spotlighted. His is one of a kind—each piece evolves from the shape, color, cut or polished stone used in the creation. Fletcher was most recently exhibited in Playa Y Oro, a downtown Kalamazoo Gallery, but he has now moved all his jewelry to the VCAC Gallery. “I was attracted to the VCAC Gallery after I had read the article in The South County News,” Joe said. “I live in Vicksburg and felt I would like to participate in the gallery as an artist and work with those having the same interest.”
The call for artists continues, and recruitment is going nicely. Legwork by DDA Director Kathleen Hoyle, who has produced art events all over southwestern Michigan, helped draw interest and establish credibility. Artist and sculptor Raven Wynd, whose award-winning work has been featured on-line at Tattoos By Raven on Facebook and in area shops, said the success of any gallery has a lot to do with who’s behind the effort. “Vicksburg’s Gallery has some great people like Kathleen involved, and Leeanne’s incredible enthusiasm is contagious.”
The September premiere event also showcases readings by authors including Kathleen Oswalt Forsythe with the Lake Effect Writers Guild. Contemporary jazz by Kalamazoo’s Nicholas Baxter and Jordan Hamilton underscores the finale of spoken art performance by Kelsey “KFG” Foster-Goodrich, winner of the All Talent Competition at The Mix.
For more information on volunteer opportunities, on how to become a VCAC featured artist, on the launch event, and the VCAC activities being scheduled for the rest of 2015, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website www.vicksburgarts.com.