In an interview with a local newspaper, Calvin English professor and recently-appointed Grand Rapids poet laureate Lew Klatt said this about the power of poetry: "...much of what we say to one another is reckless, superfluous or worn out. It is the task of poetry to resuscitate the tongue." And that's what Calvin's growing community of poets is about: penning words that make readers pause, pay attention to the world and reconsider old, broken ways of thinking, speaking and acting. "Poetry gives us space to think about what we're saying and how we're saying it," said Klatt.
While on Calvin's Ghana semester program in fall 2014, two students crafted a theater piece to address healthcare issues in a poor urban district of Accra. After interviewing residents of the hilltop neighborhood, they wrote and directed a play, inviting the entire community, including the local chief and municipal authorities, to attend. As middle school students performed the piece, the audience was so moved that nearly all the money needed to build a new local health clinic was raised.
Professor Pearl Shangkuan's vocal ensemble, the Women's Chorale, can conquer almost any piece of music in nearly any language. They pursue excellence in technique because when they sing well, they believe the Holy Spirit can move in the hearts of an audience that is undistracted by off-pitch voices and missed rhythms.
After her own daughter experienced bullying in school, Calvin communication arts and sciences professor Debra Freeberg felt compelled to contribute to the dialogue on this social issue. Her latest production You Make a Difference: No more Bullying! confronts the matter head-on. Says Freeberg, “Theater is about what it means to be human in a broken world. It disarms our prejudice; we feel empathy for the characters. It does it in a way that lectures just don’t do it.” Her latest production is just another example of the way in which theater has a clear and powerful impact.
Art major Chantelle Yazzie grew up on a Navajo reservation near Gallup, N.M., where the rates of obesity, heart disease and diabetes are very high. Concerned about the diseases besetting her grandmother and other family members, she created an art installation made out of sugar to raise awareness about the dangers of consuming too much sugar. "I make statement art to comment on social issues and bring attention to them—my goals are to stir up discussion on injustices that are right under our noses," she said.
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Dance is an important part of the life of Calvin College, with more than 300 students participating in two Dance Guild shows each year. David Lee talks about how dance changed him, and how he's using it to communicate with others about Christ's sacrifice.
Calvin's Artist Collaborative for first-year students is a program that seeks to raise a new generation of leaders in the arts. Classes, excursions to art galleries and events, a study abroad trip and collaborative projects will all help students explore how art can be used to create positive change in the twenty-first century.
Check out the Artist Collaborative program
For three weeks in the fall, downtown Grand Rapids is transformed into a giant art museum, with three-storey murals painted on the sides of buildings, sculptures installed in the Grand River and much more. Calvin students, art professors and alumni take part in this incredible event called ArtPrize, which awards the world's largest monetary prize for art. It's just one way in which Calvin participates in the renewal of its home city.
Art professor Mandy Cano-Villalobos created a large art installation that sheds light on widespread violence targeting women in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua. The piece included 400 white shirts embroidered with the names of women killed there from gang violence, drug trafficking and random murders. Calvin students and alumni helped with the project by taking part in "sewing circles," literally stitching compassion and care for these women into the shirts.
Through vibrant offerings in the arts—popular music concerts, films, festivals and more—Calvin invites you to engage culture in a way that goes beyond entertainment. You'll examine your responses to the music, paintings, films, poetry, plays and dance performances you take in: Why do you love it? Why don't you love it? How is the work of art challenging you to change your thinking or behavior?