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Kalamazoo Institute of Arts preps for revolutionary new exhibits

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The Kalamazoo Institute of Arts held its director's circle dinner Thursday, June 27, 2019. (WWMT/Courtesy of the KIA)

Watch out art world, Kalamazoo's art scene is rising.

The Kalamazoo Institute of Arts will be the only Midwest stop for a nationwide tour highlighting a significant collection of Black American art from one of the country's leading art museums.

The Studio Museum in Harlem holds one of the country's leading collections of Black art: 2,500 works by more than 700 artists, spanning 200 years of art history in America. 2018 marked the museum's 50th year. "Black Refractions: Highlights from The Studio Museum in Harlem" has already exhibited in San Francisco and Charleston, South Carolina. This fall, Kalamazoo will be the only stop in this region. The exhibit will appear in other cities across the United States through 2020.

"This will be a big deal for us," said Christopher Schram, the director of advancement at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. "The fact that we will be de-installing our entire permanent collection galleries and re-installing them with work by black artists from our collection for the 12 weeks that these shows will be up, simply isn't done in the museum world."

Alongside the "Black Refractions" tour, the KIA will host two concurrent exhibitions also centered on Black artists. They are titled: "RESILIENCE: African American Artists as Agents of Change," and "WHERE WE STAND: Black Artists in Southwest Michigan." The dates for all three exhibits are Sept. 14 to Dec. 8, 2019.

"Together, these shows will offer an immersive experience that we hope will further our understanding of art as a mirror of our common humanity," said Belinda Tate, the KIA's executive director, who celebrates her fifth year on the job in September 2019.

"We will celebrate the creative contributions of these influential and groundbreaking artists as we double down on our commitment to the value of learning, culture, and the role art plays in our society as a stimulus for critical thinking," Tate said in June, when the exhibits were announced. "I know you'll find opportunities for close looking, deep learning, and new perspectives to help make sense of our world."

On Thursday, June 27, 2019, KIA held its annual director's circle dinner. Museum staff said the dinner was a thank you to its highest level donors, who help the museum sustain free programming, free admission for children, and a low $5 admission fee.

Schram said donors "make transformational gifts that really move the KIA's mission forward."

Part of that mission includes pushing the expectations of what art and art museums could be.

Schram said more than 25 local organizations partnered with KIA to create community-wide programming for the fall of 2019.

Tate said she and her KIA colleagues were especially proud of their community partners and their fall programming, which included exhibitions at Western Michigan University's Richmond Center, Kalamazoo Valley Community College's Center for New Media, and programs by the Black Arts and Cultural Center.

"I remain delighted to serve as caretaker of a dynamic institution that thrives through your generous support," Tate said. "Our goal is to continue to foster engaging exhibitions, programs, and classes that create an energetic community space for discussion, creativity, and inspiration for you."

The Kalamazoo Institute of Arts is a nonprofit art museum and school in downtown Kalamazoo, Michigan. For more information on exhibits, programs and classes, visit the institute's website.

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