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Kalamazoo Road Trip

Published in the Battle Creek Enquirer

On a recent chilly Saturday afternoon, we decided a change of scenery and perspective was required. Our short ride ended at the Kalamazoo Institute of the Arts. You enter the KIA through a light filled, two-story lobby gallery. It’s a wonderful  museum, just the right size for a couple hours of exploration. What I learned on this visit was that they also offer a whole series of art classes for all ages at the Kirk Newman Art School.  You can sign up for jewelry making and ceramics as well as that art appreciation class you’ve always meant to take. Some 3000 children take classes every year and lots of adults, too.

Art is such a wonderful thing. Where else can you wander into an exhibition with a collection of army helmets on wheels? Until March 4, you can see The Strange Life of Objects: The Art of Annette Lemieux. The artist uses a variety of mediums, painting, print paper and found items to tell her story.

If modern art isn’t your thing the museum has a great permanent collection on display in the lower level galleries.  I could spend an hour taking in golds and oranges of the Sunset at Greenwood Lake painted in 1876 by by Jasper Francis Cropsey. You can visit a special installation of Louis Comfort Tiffany’s (1848-1933) works.  Jewel toned vases, lamps as well as a painting, and jeweled brooches also come from the museum’s collection.

While the KIA has been around since 1924, their current facility on South Park Street is thoroughly modern with an auditorium, classrooms, gallery shop, art library and an interactive gallery for children of all ages.  The Kalamazoo Institute of Arts has art for everyone’s taste and is a wonderful way to spend a winter’s afternoon.

All that culture worked up our appetites. A trip to Kalamazoo for us usually ends at The Food Dance, one of the city’s many unique restaurants.  Food Dance is a celebration of locally produced food, prepared in wonderful combinations that make your taste buds dance. What makes this a restaurant choice for us over and over again is that they not only know where their food comes from, but who’s producing it. They visit the farms they buy from and get to know the farmers. It’s neat to know that the crunchy fresh field greens in my salad probably came from the Blue Dog Greens Farm. It’s a small farm nestled next the Black River in Van Buren County. They grow all kinds of vegetables and herbs from seeds they start on the farm.  That’s fresh.

Love is not too strong word to describe my daughter’s feelings for their classic mac and cheese —-rigatoni, grafton aged cheddar, cream, toasted bread crumbs. I like the Pecan Chicken Salad with red onion, field greens and Mindoro blue cheese. My husband usually orders the Bacon and Blue Burger served on a house-made brioche roll.  Food Dance has extended hours, Monday through Saturday opening at 7 a.m. and serving until 11 p.m. Breakfast is also a wonderful event on a Sunday and they serve until 3 p.m. We are usually tempted to take something home from their deli counter or the gourmet shop.

Chase away those winter blues with an afternoon of art for the heart and soul and celebration of local food for everything else.

If you go:

The Kalamazoo Institute of Arts

314 S. Park St. Kalamazoo

Food Dance

401 E. Michigan Ave.

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