The mission of Western Michigan University’s Lewis Walker Institute is to promote understanding of race and ethnic relations and to help build more equitable and inclusive communities through community-based creative endeavors, applied research and service. The mission of BIGthink is to engage people in projects involving forms of creative expression that promote critical thinking about who we are as individuals and as people who build their lives together with those around them. We are pleased to announce that the Lewis Walker Institute and BIGthink have agreed to collaborate in sponsoring Together, Kalamazoo.
The primary goals of Together Kalamazoo are: (1) to build self understanding through creative expression; (2) increase awareness of the different ways that creativity is expressed in Kalamazoo’s communities; and (3) promote appreciation of how the different ways that we express our creativity make Kalamazoo a cool place to live and a better community for everyone.
This project will involve two diverse groups of 40 middle school children (80 total) from throughout Kalamazoo County. Each group will twice meet separately between January and April, 2014 to create a modular visual art project of imposing scale that expresses understanding and appreciation of self and community. The “Myself and My Community” workshops will be directed by professionals from BIGthink, in collaboration with the WMU Walker Institute and participating youth-serving community organizations in Kalamazoo, Portage, and other locations in Kalamazoo County.
On May 31, 2014, the Kalamazoo community will come together in Bronson Park to celebrate the diversity of creative expression of its youth. At that time, the monumental sculpture created by middle schoolers from across Kalamazoo County will be unveiled in a multimodal celebration of the arts, diversity and creativity.
Together Kalamazoo can be understood as a project that provides children with an opportunity for creative expression, promotes understanding of self, appreciation of community, and ultimately, strengthens identification with and commitment to the Kalamazoo community by the youth participants and by others who come to know about this project. Research to evaluate the effectiveness of this project in accomplishing these goals is an integral part of this project. A combination of qualitative and quantitative research methods will be employed prospectively to evaluate its success.
Replication and Sustainability
It is the intention of BIGthink and the Walker Institute that the 2014 Together Kalamazoo project will be the first of a series of annual collaborations with similar goals. The projects to be implemented in subsequent years also will promote self-understanding and appreciation of community, but will do so by emphasizing a different and unique theme each year. Also, we expect that we will work with different organizations as community partners every year, thereby expanding the reach of our work to build community through creative expression throughout greater Kalamazoo over time.
Workshop Components and Celebration Finale
Participants, using various visual art structures and materials, will explore aspects of self-identity and community, while at the same time connecting with others who come from different backgrounds from throughout Kalamazoo County. Each workshop activity will produce finished components for large-scale visual display in a public venue. All components will be combined during the May finale/community celebration and installed by volunteers and participants with the facilitation and direction of BIGthink personnel.
BIGthink Teachers and Leaders:
The qualitative factor of any educational program is the teacher. BIGthink teachers are highly qualified with experience working in K-12 education and some with post-secondary education experience. BIGthink leaders are educated and skilled in the expertise required for installation, performance, fabrication, design, teaching, academic research, workshop presentation, computer technology, collaboration, logistics, operations and integrated teaching and learning. The organization has worked in a variety of physical environments, with many types of groups through the use of numerous traditional and non-traditional media and materials.