Up Front

Wonderful Wall Calendars

Locally made calendars are great for marking time
Wall calendar made by local artist Suzanne B. Siegel.

When it comes to how much we use them to keep track of appointments and important dates, the calendars on our computers and phones have nothing on the traditional wall calendar.

Despite all the conveniences of digital date keeping, 79 percent of us still use – and prefer – the wall calendar, according to a 2011 study by Promotional Products Association International.

There are myriad reasons. A wall calendar can be shared more easily, with each member of a household using it as a primary place to communicate his or her schedule to the others. A wall calendar also is a personal statement. Whether it has Far Side cartoons, Grumpy Cat pictures, tattoo art or scenic photos of Lake Michigan, a wall calendar is a visual way for an individual to express his or her personal taste.

This time of year wall calendar choices abound, since calendars are a popular Christmas gift. Many companies and organizations choose to give calendars as holiday appreciation gifts for clients and customers.

Craig Vestal, president of Portage Printing, says his company has printed and given away calendars since 1986. However, eight years ago Vestal chose to change the company’s calendar to feature historic regional photos from the John Todd Photographic Collection at the Portage District Library. The resulting calendar was so well received that the company has used historical images in its calendars ever since.

“All of a sudden, the calendar became a much bigger deal,” Vestal says. “Now it’s an event. People start calling after Labor Day asking when they can get them. We’ve probably given away 40,000 calendars since we started doing this.”

Portage Printing’s 2014 calendar features images picked out by staff members of Western Michigan University’s Archives and Regional History Collection. The images, as one learns reading Vestal’s narrative on the back of the calendar, just happen to have some connection to him or his family.

“Those connections were pure serendipity,” Vestal says. “I have lived here my whole life, first in Kalamazoo, then in Portage and now back in Kalamazoo. My family has been here since 1928 so we have a little history here.”

The Painted Sanctuary calendar produced by the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy is another locally produced calendar that has a popular following. The calendar features artworks created by the Plein Air Artists of West Michigan.

The Plein Air Artists are a group of painters who paint outdoors in natural light, explains Pamela Larson, SWMLC communications coordinator. “In fact, 95 percent of their painting has to be done outside,” she says.

“For the last five years we’ve opened conservation easement properties – which is privately owned land – to the Plein Air Artists,” Larson says. “The artists have access to these gorgeous private properties. A number of the artists have struck up some really wonderful relationships with the property owners and go back year after year to the same property.”

More than 70 works submitted for consideration for the 2014 calendar were narrowed down to 17. The organization prints 1,500 calendars and sells them for $10 each at locations throughout Southwest Michigan. Frames Unlimited sells them at all seven of its locations. In Kalamazoo, the calendars also are available at Nature Connection, the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts and Kazoo Books.

Another artist who has found the wall calendar a great way to share her work is painter Suzanne Blaine Siegel. Siegel, who describes herself as an “interpretive realist,” has showcased her luminous street scenes in a calendar for the past five years. Michigan News Agency owner Dean Hauck says Siegel’s calendars are a popular seller at her store, which is one of a handful of local shops that carry the calendar.

“There’s a story behind all the images,” Siegel says. “I take these real places and see them in an idyllic state.” One of the images in this year’s calendar depicts Kalamazoo College’s Stetson Chapel, pictured above, which was commissioned by a parent of a college alumnus.

Siegel says she creates her paintings from scenes that occur at “the blue hour.” “There’s a 12-minute period at sunset where the sun is six to 12 degrees below the horizon when I make my reference shots,” she explains. “It’s a glittering balance between natural and artificial light.”

Siegel will be the Michigan News Agency’s featured artist for the Dec. 6 Art Hop. Her calendars, which sell for $20, are also available at Nature Connection and the Spirit of Kalamazoo.

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“All of a sudden, the calendar became a much bigger deal. Now it’s an event. People start calling after Labor Day asking when they can get them. We’ve probably given away 40,000 calendars since we started doing this.”
–Craig Vestal, President of Portage Printing