Poems found on the walls of the city

Glass Jars Conrad Kaufman Poem by Meredith Adams North wall of the Park Trades Center 326 W. Kalamazoo Avenue, Kalamazoo Photo by Sara Keller, June 2011

Glass Jars
Conrad Kaufman
Poem by Meredith Adams
North wall of the Park Trades Center
326 W. Kalamazoo Avenue, Kalamazoo
Photo by Sara Keller, June 2011


Over about a 10 year period starting in 1980, poems and pictures on walls across the city began to adorn Kalamazoo.

Thanks to the work of the Kalamazoo Friends of Poetry, poems went up on various locations. Each was chosen by the Friends for its readability when seen on a the side of a building.

Conrad Kaufman painted all of the murals in his distinctive style. Funding for the project came from the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo.

Although some of the poems have been lost as the city has changed and new owners decided against keeping the murals, many still remain.

Measure the Moon Conrad Kaufman 1996 Poem by Catharine Nagayda The Heritage Building 2300 Portage Street, Kalamazoo

Measure the Moon
Conrad Kaufman
1996
Poem by Catharine Nagayda
The Heritage Building
2300 Portage Street, Kalamazoo

The first mural, a poem on the back of the Heritage Building can still be found, today. So can the second to go up on the Barrister Building on Water Street.

A small reminder of the poem and painting at what was once the Koopson’s building remains, though the larger version is gone.

Others an be found on the back of the Parks Trade Center, Gordon’s Water  on Vine Street, and at Acme bedding. 

Choosing the walls that would wear the poems was something of an art. Friends President Elizabeth Kerlikowske says they had to the be right kind of wall. The poem had to be graspable in the time a car sat at a stop light.

For their work, the Kalamazoo Friends of Poetry was recognized as one of the five best small arts organizations in 2003 by the State of Michigan.

The poetry promoting organization ultimately decided to stop putting up new murals so that its funds could go into new projects like a reading series and a chapbook series.

Kerlikowske, whose organization once presented poetry on buses, says the murals were painted in the same spirit. “We wanted to bring poetry to people who may not seek it out. There is nothing like it for me when I see someone stop to read one of the murals. I feel like we’ve done a good thing.”

(Photos courtesy Kalamazoo Public Library and Friends of Poetry)

Coffee Conrad Kaufman East wall of Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan 222 North Kalamazoo Mall, Kalamazoo The poem in the bottom right reads: Each night you heard the wailing of the Saxophone Man Triumphant, Low, Longing Each note trembling Hanging from the awning of the old coffee shop But the downtown corner Is empty now, Lord knows What became of the man But if you close your eyes And listen Sweet, sweet music Spills onto the street Triumphant, Low, Longing At night you'll hear the wailing of the Saxophone Man Saxophone Man -Grace Arnold Photo by Patrick Jouppi, 2011

Coffee
Conrad Kaufman
East wall of Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan
222 North Kalamazoo Mall, Kalamazoo
The poem in the bottom right reads:
Each night you heard the wailing
of the Saxophone Man
Triumphant, Low, Longing
Each note trembling
Hanging from the awning
of the old coffee shop
But the downtown corner
Is empty now, Lord knows
What became of the man
But if you close your eyes And listen
Sweet, sweet music Spills onto the street
Triumphant, Low, Longing
At night you’ll hear the wailing
of the Saxophone Man
Saxophone Man
-Grace Arnold
Photo by Patrick Jouppi, 2011

Conrad Kaufman Lake Effect As on so many darkening days that dust the trees and ground with snow the house is quiet. Pine branches outside the window sway. Already, white rides the dogwood’s bare limbs. Limbs bear the weight of white and a chickadee. Julie Stotz-Ghosh (formerly on the former Smart Shop)

Conrad Kaufman
Lake Effect
As on so many darkening
days that dust
the trees and ground with snow
the house is quiet.
Pine branches outside the window sway.
Already, white rides
the dogwood’s bare limbs.
Limbs bear the weight of white
and a chickadee.
Julie Stotz-Ghosh
(formerly on the former Smart Shop)

If you walk through the city Conrad Kaufman Poem by Mark, 8 years old

If you walk through the city
Conrad Kaufman
Poem by Mark, 8 years old, 137 N. Park Street, Kalamazoo

murals-acme-1500

Twelve Photograph Composite of "Polar Loneliness" Conrad Kaufman 2008 Poem by Emily Kunz of Allegan, MI Acme Bedding Company 440 W. Kalamazoo Avenue, Kalamazoo Photos by Patrick Jouppi, May 2011

Twelve Photograph Composite of “Polar Loneliness”
Conrad Kaufman
2008
Poem by Emily Kunz of Allegan, MI
Acme Bedding Company
440 W. Kalamazoo Avenue, Kalamazoo
Photos by Patrick Jouppi, May 2011

(click to see larger image)