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Embrace Our Place
posted April 13, 2007

The first annual Embrace Our Place Festival at Calvin College will take place from Monday through Monday, April 16 through April 23, 2007, featuring an art show, a film, walking and cycling tours of Grand Rapids, breakfast open houses and environmental activities. The festival, sponsored in part by a grant from the Teagle Foundation, is a celebration of the impact of "place" or a particular community in the study of the liberal arts.

"Often, liberal arts education tends to focus on big universal concepts, and we think there’s a place for focusing on the particulars," said Calvin director of community engagement Gail Heffner. "What we’re trying to do with this festival is enlarge our imagination, to think about what Calvin does as an institution of higher education and to connect this to where we are."

With the help of several Calvin departments and offices, the festival will wrap its embrace around several perennial Calvin spring events as well as offering some new ones.

The events begin at 10 a.m. on Monday, April 16 with a free bike tune-up on the patio at Johnny’s, sponsored by two student groups, the Environmental Stewardship Coalition (ESC) and the Calvin Bike Club. The bike tune-ups (an ESC tradition) are being offered through 4 p.m. on Monday in anticipation of the urban bike tours that will happen throughout the week of the festival.

The week will also feature guided walking tours, and the first happens in the Eastown neighborhood at 3 p.m. on Monday with Calvin professor of philosophy Lee Hardy as a guide. The first urban bike tour, a trip from Calvin to 106 South Division, Calvin’s downtown gallery space, takes off at 5 p.m. from the flagpole in front of Spoelhof Center.

Embrace Our Place holds its official kickoff Monday night at 6:30 p.m. at 106 South Division. "That space has given us an opportunity to embrace the community of the Heartside district, and we’re happy to be included in events that do that," said Calvin director of exhibitions Joel Zwart. The kickoff will feature an hors d’oeuvre buffet and an exhibition of photography by five Calvin art students.

At 8 p.m., Monday, the celebrating shifts venues to the Ladies Literary Club, newly acquired by Calvin as a site for hosting cultural events where festival-goers can hear from city commissioner Rosalynn Bliss, be entertained by Calvin Improv and a spoken word show, and enter a raffle of gift cards to local businesses.

On Tuesday, April 17, following an Embrace Our Place community prayer and litany in the Calvin Chapel the festival events will focus on the environment. From 10 a.m. through 4 p.m. at Johnny’s Cafe, the ESC will host an "Earthkeeping" table, distributing information about recycling, public transportation, local foods and maps of local businesses. At 7 p.m. there will be showing of the film Addicted to Oil in the Robert L. Bytwerk Video Theater on campus.

Wednesday, the focus of the festival tilts scholarly with the "Engaged Scholars Showcase," a display of posters and projects highlighting faculty and student research and scholarship from 3:30 through 5 p.m. in the Fine Arts Center (FAC). At 7:30 p.m., also in the FAC, Calvin will hold its annual Honor’s Convocation, with an 8:30 p.m. reception following.

Thursday’s events include a walking tour of Garfield Park and Creston neighborhoods, both of which commence at 3 p.m. from the Spoelhof Center flagpole. Also launching from the flagpole at 3 p.m. is the second urban bike tour, a ramble through Grand Rapids, stopping at several points of interest.

From 3:30 through 5 p.m., in celebration of Earthweek, the ESC and experts from the West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC) will be installing a new rain garden between Spoelhof Center and DeVries Hall on the Calvin campus. From 4:45 through 6 p.m., locally grown foods will be served in the Commons Dining Hall and at 9 p.m., the Thursday events conclude with Jazz Vespers in the Fish House on campus.

The festival continues Friday, April 20 with the Calvin Environmental Assessment Program (CEAP) 10th Anniversary Celebration, held 3:30 through 5:30 p.m. at the Vincent and Helen Bunker Interpretive Center. The center will display posters highlighting 10 years of faculty research done under the auspices of CEAP, which was founded in 1997 to involve students in studying the campus environment. Chemistry professor Ken Piers will deliver a "State of the Campus Report."

Saturday, April 21, from 10 a.m. through 12 p.m., the festival will feature the Our Place Open Houses; five groups of students who are living in intentional communities will open their homes and serve breakfast to all visitors. "It’s a way to get students who will one day live off campus to consider intentional community," said Heffner.

The festival shifts back to the Bunker Center and again focuses on environmental issues from 1 through 3:30 p.m. for the CEAP Field Day. Visitors will be encouraged to visit a number of interactive field stations to learn about rain gardens, native plant gardens, wind energy (at the newly erected campus wind turbine), pedal power for electricity, tree identification and—by testing Ecosystem Preserve ponds—water chemistry.

Festival-goers can celebrate Earth Day, Sunday, April 22 at the Nest, located at 613 Lyon with an art show, "stitchy party," tree planting, potluck dinner, and a variety of neighborhood-based activities. See www.g-rad.org.

Embrace Our Place concludes with the sixth annual Community Partnership Celebration, held 5 through 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 23 at the Ladies Literary Club. The event, sponsored by the office of community relations and featuring an address by Mayor George Heartwell, will honor several collaborations between Calvin faculty and the college’s community partners.

Heffner is excited about the potential impact of the festival: "There are benefits to Calvin by us exploring the uniquenesses of our community. This festival is to help all of us to think about what it means that we are embedded in this city and about how this city and region shape what we do."

~written by Calvin staff writer Myrna Anderson

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