Posted by: Kath Usitalo | March 14, 2011

Enter The Kalamazoo Creative Zone

Squirrel by Tom, for Tom

I couldn’t resist the squirrel.

He’s not the most romantic gifts perhaps, but the little guy painted on plywood with the folk art feel was the obvious choice for TJ, who happens to like the bushy tailed critters.

Anne Anson in the MRC Artist Co-Op, downstairs from her stained glass studio

As with all of the works in this spacious studio and gallery the squirrel was signed by the artist’s first name only, “Tom.”

Tom is one of the many adults with some sort of disability who paint and sell their work at the MRC Artist Co-Op, where the mission is “Putting Abilities To Work.”

It’s just one of the dozens of creative endeavors at home in the Park Trades Center in Kalamazoo.

For more than a century the solid brick building on West Kalamazoo Avenue has served as a factory and warehouse; first for the Loose Leaf Binder Company, today for ideas and artistic expression.

Century-old wood floors and industrial fixtures of the Park Trades Center

The four-story home of painters, glass designers, jewelry makers, photographers, sculptors, and woodworkers is open daily, but it’s by chance that you’ll come across artists at work in their individual studios.

On my visit late one afternoon, one of a handful of doors that were open was at Anne Anson’s stained glass workshop. She’s a delightful lady who does large commissions (think soaring church windows), and she led me to the MRC, where I bought the squirrel ($16) and a painting of water and sky ($3, on sale for $1.50).

I also found a beehive of activity at Art on a Whim, where several women were working on hand-painted wood projects in Gretchen Leguizamon’s colorful studio and shop; that’s where I came across the stuffed monkeys in the March 13 Sunday Snapshot.

Hand painted chess set at Art on a Whim

This is home to the West Michigan Glass Art Center, where you can shop the gallery for decorative and functional glass pieces, take classes, and see demonstrations during special events and the monthly Kalamazoo Art Hop.

The gallery crawl is held each first Friday evening at various sites in downtown Kalamazoo, and it’s when you’re likely to find many artists in their studios at Park Trades Center.

Check out the directory at Park Trades Center and plan an excursion into a creative zone in Kazoo.

Visitor Info Clicks:

Kalamazoo

Pure Michigan

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