By John Kern
Born of a desire to meld the pleasures of small-town Midwestern living with Vicksburg’s long history of celebrating creativity and the spirit of doing, the Prairie Ronde Artist Residency is nearing the end of its fifth season.
Over that span, Prairie Ronde has hosted over 60 participants from around the world, from places as diverse as Taiwan, the Republic of Georgia, Israel, and all over North America. It’s showcased a range of talents from sculpture and paint to poetry, textiles, and soundscape.
Prairie Ronde is unique in that it is a fully stipended program that asks its residents to focus their creative thinking on the Mill, its surroundings and history, or on Vicksburg.
This season, with the assistance of key partners, the residency has broadened its focus to include more music and events designed to offer increased public visibility. Continuing those efforts will be a large part of the coming year’s focus.
The opening of the Prairie Ronde Artist Gallery, located at the corner of Prairie and Main Street next door to Mackenzies Bakery, created an opportunity for visitors to explore pieces from Prairie Ronde’s permanent collection and special displays. They included a showcase of works created by the 20 participants of an international e-textile symposium and 3-D mapping pieces created by local youth as part of the Kalamazoo County Parks and Recreation MAPEA 2022 summer program. The program was sponsored by the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center (VCAC) and headed by Kalamazoo artist, Natalya Critchley.
The e-textile workshops were a true departure for Prairie Ronde. Providing logistical support for 20 artists from all over North America challenged the residency team in ways that it had not yet encountered. The medium, a melding of traditional textile techniques with digital and electronic elements required the creation of temporary workspaces and the borrowing of at least two looms from the South County Fiber Arts group. Visiting artists and event organizers loved their experience in Vicksburg and are eager to return.
In November, art fans can attend Double Jinx, an evening exploration of pieces created by recent Prairie Ronde residents Colleen Woolpert and Rani Young, twins who worked together for the first time as collaborators to create a series of Mill-related art. The one-night-only show will occur on Monday, November 21 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the gallery on 101 E. Prairie Street.
In addition to hosting artists this year, the residency also worked with Kalamazoo-based muralists, DreamScene Placemaking, and the VCAC to create two small, community-oriented paint-by-number murals, currently located in Liberty Lane West and on the exterior of the Gallery, across from Oswalt Park. The murals enlisted the help of artists of all ages and fostered a true sense of community involvement.
Plans for the coming year include an increased number of public events in and around the gallery so that members of the community can have the opportunity to explore the ideas of professional creatives from around the globe.
For a closer look at the artists and their work, visit their website at prairierondeartistresidency.com or, if you’d like to receive email updates about coming residency events, click on the CONTACT button at the top of that page.
By John Kern