Fountain Street Church exhibit pairs art and poetry

By Jenny Adkins | 7/8/18 4:55pm


At the root of every creation is an inkling of inspiration, regardless of where it comes from. For Grand Rapids' Fountain Street Church, its summer exhibition is directing that inspiration through one creative medium – visual art – and using it to fuel another: poetry. 

“Poetry Inspired by Art” will fill the church’s Keeler Gallery with a variety of different pieces of art, poetry and guests during its first reception Tuesday. Fountain Street Church Art committee member Edgar Marty said that using poetry and art to inspire each other is a unique concept that has brought guests to Fountain Street Chuch’s summer exhibition for years.

“(We want to provide) just the experience of it,” Marty said. “To my knowledge, there are no other groups doing this kind of work. Last year, we even had a former poet laureate of Grand Rapids submitting work.”

Poets that submitted work to this year’s exhibition were able to base their work off of 19 selected pieces of art, according to Marty. While the collection of art was available for live viewing, Marty said the church implemented the website a few years ago to serve as a creative hub before and after the announcements of winning poems. 

“They can see the (art live), but they can also (use the database) to refresh their memory or write just based on the image they see online,” Marty said. “When the exhibit is over, we will add to the online records all of the poems that won in response to a specific piece.” 

This year’s exhibition is a collaboration between the church and other organizations, such as The Diatribe, Write616, Grand Rapids Poet Laureate Marcel “Fable” Price and the Nomad Gallery.

Marty said Fountain Street Church’s art committee has had a long-standing interest in supporting collaboration between art and poetry. Throughout its long history, that relationship has varied but poetry and art have always been intertwined.

“The Fountain Street Church has had an art committee for, as far as I can tell, nearly 60 years,” Marty said. “Some decades ago, the summer exhibitions at the church began to be dedicated to poetry and art. So, in some cases artwork was the inspiration for poetry and poetry was the inspiration for artwork.”

Planning for this specific exhibition began one year ago with selection which partners of the church would collaborate with, Marty said. After finalizing art selection in March, the reality of the exhibition hits the week prior when everything is assembled.

“You start placing things around the room and deciding where things will go,” Marty said. “Once things move from the floor leaning against the wall in the corners and on chairs to being (hung up) on the wall, presented the way it should, it’s a wonderful experience to see that.”

By putting on exhibitions like this, Marty said the art committee aims to expand their circle of artists and poets to create a community. With that goal in mind, the team aims to create each exhibition with a unique vigor that brings creative minds to Fountain Street Church. This year’s exhibition was especially ambitious in order to do that, but Marty said that very ambition always yields positive results.

“Sometimes (creating an exhibition) is a stronger feeling than others, particularly when the idea initially is, ‘Gee, how are we going to do this? What are we going to make of this?’” Marty said. “But it always comes together.”

The church will also hold another reception July 17. Part of the reception will include the presentation poetry and awarding of scholarship money, courtesy of The Diatribe. 

The exhibition will be up in the Keeler Gallery at Fountain Street Church until August 29. 

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