Photos by Robert Neumann.

Our 2012 Community Meeting last August, featuring author Peter Kageyama speaking on the love of cities, was followed the next day by a workshop to apply his message to the Kalamazoo County area.

The workshop resulted in group presentations on locally-based projects that could be quickly implemented, with two ideas selected to each receive a $500 grant from sponsor PNC. One of those was the Love Kzoo mural project to collect community responses — or "love notes" — to the question: What one word describes why you love where you live? And that would be followed-up with an artist creating a word cloud mural on a building.

The project team, which is being led by Kalamazoo Area Math & Science Center students Humza Khan, Tom Sandell, Naveena Thota, Dhara Patel, and Sam Peters (pictured above with members our staff and other advisors) recently provided this update:

It’s coming along quite nicely. We’ve really enjoyed working on this project and seeing why people love Kalamazoo. Since our last update, The Vine Street Neighborhood Association matched the PNC grant, so that has helped.

About 800 responses have now been collected, with the most popular words being: home, people, community, beer, diversity and fun. We also have some wonderful submissions that do not fit the one-word requirement, such as ‘Small town, big city feel,’ and ‘Fits like a glove,’ so the group is thinking about ways to use those ideas.

One of the words was idiosyncratic — we think that’s the perfect adjective for Kalamazoo — but we had to look it up first.

The team also recently met with Community Foundation team members Jessica Aguilera and Jeanne Grubb, and advisors Steve Walsh, from the Vine Neighborhood Association and Chafe Hensley, a local artist and graphic arts instructor at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, to discuss ideas for the mural and get guidance on how to choose an artist to create it.

According to Aguilera, "There are many great components to the mural project — it reflects the voice of the community, is creative and fun — but what I like most is that it has empowered local youths to lead a project that benefits the whole community."

"The group has received tremendous support from local organizations, businesses and community members," says Aguilera. "The community support is a ‘love note’ in itself.