Monthly Archives: July 2018

Art Stroll Returns to Downtown Vicksburg

Two years ago, the streets of downtown Vicksburg were full of the energy that art and music can conjure. The community will be offered that experience again as the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Cente , the VCAC, brings the Art Stroll back on Saturday, July 21 from 4 to 9 pm.

Downtown business and building owners will be opening their doors to showcase artworks from local talented visual artists and musical performers. Visitors to the VCAC Art Stroll will be provided an extraordinary opportunity to participate in a unique community art project at Oswalt Park. “A number of artists are collaborating right now under the cloak of secrecy to bring a special experience to the Village,” said Center Director Syd Bastos.

New this year, street performers will provide even more entertainment for kids and adults alike. “We’ve got some special street performances lined up to add additional excitement to the Arts Stroll experience,” said Amanda Wilson, VCAC staff member and coordinator for entertainment for the Arts Stroll.

The staff at the VCAC is busy settling the details of the event. You can follow the progress of their efforts on Facebook at, on the website at or stop at the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center for the latest information.

Cultural Arts Center Forms a New Board

vcac board
Back row left to right: Syd Bastos, Amanda Wilson, Rex Cummings, MIchaelene Glowacz, Lisa Beams. Front row left to right: Amy Snow, Mariann Tsilis-Barnard, Jodi Vanderweele-Noble, Jake Munson, Kristen Simpson. Standing in back from left: Syd Bastos, Amanda Wilson, Rex Cummings, MIchaelene Glowacz, Lisa Beams.

By Sue Moore

The old saying, “You’ve come a long way baby,” accurately describes the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center (VCAC) as it turns three years old. It’s ready to fly on its own, applying for nonprofit status with the IRS.

It was created through the Vicksburg Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and the efforts of its director at the time, Kathleen Hoyle. Her vision for the downtown included making the arts central to its development. In doing so, she called local artists together for a meeting in 2013 to determine what kind of interest there might be in a formal structure for the arts.

In August, 2015, it opened as the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center, located next door to Rawlinson’s Appliances at 200 S. Main Street. Growing pains included requests for grants from the Vicksburg Foundation that kept it alive initially. The DDA’s funds could not be used for this purpose.

Several paid directors were recruited along with volunteers but left because they needed steadier employment. “They were great contributors to the foundation of the arts center,” according to Syd Bastos, who took over leadership in late 2015. She was joined by Lisa Beams in early 2016. Together this dynamic duo has built the organization from the ground up, said village President Bill Adams.

Now it’s time to see the groundwork come to fruition, according to Bastos. She mailed the application for 501c3 legal status to the IRS in June and expects to hear of its acceptance within six months. In order to apply successfully, a new board of directors needed to be chosen and seated. This took place in April with Mariann Tsilis-Barnard as its first president.

“We hope to create a sustainable model to fuse with the vision of the community,” Tsilis-Barnard said. “It matters what we do next. We want to be a part of a happening place with a sense of pride from the community we serve. The board will follow nonprofit arts organizations’ proven practices to bring their ideas and experiences to the table. We will ask, ‘what are we?’ within the definition of arts, be it music, drama, design and visual.”

Although Tsilis-Barnard has only been a south county resident for one year, she has volunteered to get involved. She has a brother who lives nearby and thus she and her husband had been visiting often from their home base of Quincy, Ill. She has spent many years in the arts community there, first as coordinator of the Quincy Fine Arts organization and then as executive director of the Quincy Art Center. She is also a jewelry designer, an eco-consultant and event organizer. Now the couple has moved full-time to the Vicksburg area.

Others appointed to the board include: Rex Cummings, treasurer; Amy Snow, secretary and board members Michaelene Glowacz, Jake Munson, Kristen Simpson and Jodi Vanderweele-Noble.

Summer Palooza is August 2

paloozaToni Rafferty and her Schoolcraft Girl Scout troop members were part of Schoolcraft Library’s Summer Palooza in years past. Other organizations in Schoolcraft will also be presenting at the event in Burch Park on Thursday, August 2 from 5 – 7:30 p.m. There will be games, prizes, food, craft vendors and family activities for the whole community. The Palooza is sponsored by Friends of the Library.

Brian Brook Sculpture Unveiled at the VCAC

sculpture 3
Brian Brook proudly presents his metal sculpture that will be displayed in a park in the village, once the village council makes a decision. Until then, it can be viewed at the Cultural Arts Center at 101 E. Prairie Street.

By Sue Moore

Three years ago, Brian Brook, a celebrated Three Rivers metal sculptor and good friend of Don and Maureen Wiertella of Vicksburg, offered to create a work of art for placement in the village of Vicksburg as part of his giving back to the community.

He put out a call for materials for the work at the time, and came to the Vicksburg Farmers’ Market to examine and work on the pieces of metal dropped off for his work.

The result was unveiled June 14 in an event sponsored by the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center with village council members and art aficionados in attendance. Brook described the piece he created for the village in his comments to the group. The saw blade as the sculpture base is symbolic of the saw mill which cut a place out of the wilderness upon which Vicksburg is built.  The large gear is from the Simpson Paper Mill, as are some other odds and ends.  The plowshare and cultivator head are symbolic of the history of farming in the area. The flowers are meant to evoke a sense of growth from the pioneer base, farming and industry, to whatever may be envisioned in the future.  Some smaller round pieces came from an old Linotype type-setting machine in the office of the village’s hometown newspaper, the Commercial-Express.

Where to locate the sculpture is now in the hands of the village’s parks and recreation committee. Its members are charged with making a recommendation to the Village Council to accept the sculpture and find a suitable location. The committee, headed by village Trustee James Earl, debated placement in Oswalt Park and settled on a former fountain area that is currently a raised flower bed. In the meantime, the sculpture will be on exhibit at the VCAC.

Brook and the market managers in August 2015 sent out a request for historical pieces of metal that Brook could weld together and would in some way represent the community’s heritage. In the interim, Brook had serious health problems and had to quit his day job. He was doing counseling and had been the supervisor of psycho-social rehabilitation services in Van Buren County. His second job is creating metal art with a studio at his farm near Corey Lake, west of Three Rivers. He and his wife, Judi, who is a weaver, raise llamas. She uses their wool for her creations.

Brook began working with metal art as a student of Holly Fisher’s at the Smart Shop in Kalamazoo about 16 years ago. He likes the challenge of taking interesting pieces of metal and working with them to make a public sculpture. The result is likely to be somewhat abstract, he said then, as he won’t know what he is getting to work with until that day. The final result will depend on what is donated.

Cindy Krill has hosted his sculptures for sale at her annual November open house and sale at Prudential Nursery. Brook has also displayed at Kalamazoo Art Hops. Brook sells his work at seven or eight juried fine-art fairs throughout the summer and has pieces in public displays and corporate collections throughout the Midwest.

“I like the creative process. When I see something extra good, it gets me thinking how to incorporate it in a design. “I can get into a groove in creating a piece and time becomes a different dimension. This is the other side of my brain, and I have enjoyed putting it to good use with a sculpture for the Vicksburg community,” Brook said.

Wine Tasting at the Vicksburg Farmers’ Market

lawton ridgeBy Sue Moore

Lawton Ridge Winery is the newest vendor at the Vicksburg Farmers’ Market. “We have sought them out for several years,” said market Co-Manager Carol Meyer-Niedzwiecki. “They started as vendors at the Texas Corners Farmers’ Market five years ago, when legislation was passed that allowed sampling of wines at market venues around the state.”

Now, she said, according to Lawton Ridge owner Crick Haltom, “They are at Bank Street Market in Kalamazoo and enjoying great success.”

The rules governing wine selling at markets are strict but easy to follow, Haltom told the Vicksburg manager. Amy Manchester has agreed to be the official representative of Lawton Ridge at the Vicksburg market. She loves good wine and believes that Lawton Ridge has an excellent product after sampling several of its vintages. She and her husband, Rick, have taken several wine tasting trips to increase their knowledge of good wines. She will be answering questions about Lawton Ridge wines and how they taste.
Each week there will be four different wines to sample in one-ounce quantities.

Purchases of the wines can take place at the market but may not be consumed on the site. The samples may not be carried around the pavilion or the grounds either, according to Haltom.

The three wines featured in the photo will be for sale the first two weeks along with one other. Then four others will be offered for the next two weeks, with new ones to follow every two weeks. Lawton Ridge makes at least 18 different varieties so there will be plenty of choice, Manchester pointed out. The Two Handed red wine on the left in the photo and the semi-dry Riesling on the right just won gold medals at the Indy International Wine competition. The grapes are grown near Lawton or sourced in the southwest area of Michigan and may also be purchased at some local grocery stores but not sampled.

Another new vendor at the Vicksburg Farmers’ Market on Friday from 2-6 p.m. each week until the end of September is Garrett Kaltenbach from Kalamazoo. He sharpens knives of all different kinds while a person does their shopping. “He has been increasingly popular,” Meyer-Niedzwiecki said, as “shoppers realize he is right there and can do the work in a short amount of time.”

Fresh fruit and vegetables are the mainstay of the market but it’s nice to have these extra added attractions, Meyer-Niedzwiecki said. ”The weekly Kids Plate program activities invite youngsters to try sampling fruits and veggies which will be offered through a mix of fun projects. The second Makers Mart is scheduled for July 6 when crafters are invited to display their wares.”

Vicksburg Alumni Breakfast

vix alumni
Vicksburg High School alumni members gather each year for a breakfast and lots of remembrances.

For 40 years or more, the proud graduates of Vicksburg High School who graduated 50 years ago or more, have gathered as a huge group for breakfast and chatter at the Lions Club B & B tent or Pavilion. It’s a good time for old friends and classmates to catch up on each others’ lives, especially the class celebrating its 50-year reunion. The oldest graduate, Ann Linton, passed away this spring at 107.

The event for hundreds of alumni is organized by the previous year’s graduating class. It begins at 9 a.m. at the community Pavilion and usually lasts until 11 a.m., when the B & B opens for lunch guests.

Pam Minarik of Three Rivers is the point person for the class of 1967 that is responsible for notifying graduates and accepting reservations for the breakfast. It costs $14 if paid in advance and $17 on Saturday, July 27 at the sign-in table for the breakfast. It has been catered for many years by a company in Paw Paw.

Artist in Residence Will Have a Showing of Her Work

During June, Penelope Anstruther searched around the abandoned Simpson Paper Mill property and buildings for metal objects that she could turn into her art work. She will have a gallery show for the public at The Mill on Thursday, June 28 from 7-8:30 p.m. Anstruther, from Oakland, Calif., is the Prairie Ronde Artist in Residence, living for a month in Vicksburg.

She is the second Artist in Residence that The Mill has sponsored. May Hong from New York City was here in May and painted a classic 50’ x 20’ mural featuring abstract mill-related motifs on one of the west walls in the old manufacturing plant.

Anstruther will be on hand to talk about her work. Guests should enter the property through the south gate on Highway Street and park in the lot closest to the west wing entrance.  After entering the building through the glass doors that were once the mill’s main entrance, guests should climb the stairs to the second floor and follow the way-finding markers to the space, located in the northwest corner of the building. All are welcome, but visitors need to bear in mind that the Mill is an active construction site with no elevators, minimal lighting, trip hazards, and a single portable toilet.

The Mill project is designed to be a celebration of people who create and innovate and do things. The Prairie Ronde Artist Residency is a logical offshoot of that thinking, said John Kern, who came up with this innovative idea for bringing in artists to create their work on site at The Mill. The residency web site points out that “Prairie Ronde” comes from the French phrase for “round meadow,” evoking the “islands of grasses and wildflowers that once dotted the landscape of southwest Michigan.”

“We’re just expanding on the legacy of Vicksburg’s eagerness to celebrate art and creative thought and recognize that we’re in a unique situation to provide artists with the time and space to do something that is truly special,” Kern said.

Applications to become a Prairie Ronde Artist in Residence were sent out across the country in early 2018. Artists have been housed on mill property, provided with a stipend and given access to every part of the mill to create.

Kern’s direction to the participants was this: “They need to exhibit a very clear vision of how they’ll use the space that we provide and they need to carefully consider ways in which they can give back to the community.  We don’t limit our thinking in terms of what an artist’s focus might be – in the coming months, our residents will include an author, a musical composer, and a visual artist. All of them are linked by a desire to use The Mill as their catalyst, but the outcomes of the experience are entirely of their design.”

“Looking forward, we’d like to see the Prairie Ronde Artist Residency grow to become an internationally renowned and highly sought-after residency that places Vicksburg prominently on the map as a place where people go to do interesting and creative things in a charming, historic village.  This is already starting to happen; Penelope, our second international participant, is here right now and the third is due here in a few weeks,” Kern said.