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Karen Matson

What is your official title?

I am the Director of the Center for New Media here at KVCC. I’ve been at KVCC for 21 years, and in this role since November 2012. The CNM has been downtown here since 2004.


What’s an average day in the ‘Zoo look like for you?

Well, in the summer there’s really not much going on. But during this down time I’m trying to figure out ways to get people involved in different gallery shows we host, you know, how to get the community involved. Another part of what I do involves a lot of interaction with the students. It’s engaging the students and the faculty, and creating a collaborative environment for them. I don’t want them to just come to class and leave; we want them to embrace being here and during the school year you can really feel that energy pick up.


What kind of projects are you currently working on?

We are working on redoing one of the galleries, we have those six big screen TV out there, but we are working on reconfiguring the gallery and planning some big gallery shows – a photography show for September, Art Hops of course. KVCC is a sponsor for Art Hop, and I think there’s something like, seven or so Art Hops a year and we participate in them all. We like to fill the galleries – we have 5 in the downtown campus – with student work. When we redo the gallery, we want to add in new lighting, and incorporate different types of art, like ceramics, animation and interactive media. There’s a really cool opportunity to combine student work with professional artists’ work. These are all things we’ve been thinking about…very exciting stuff.


Any upcoming events that you’re particularly excited about?

Well, always Art Hop! But I also love Western’s music season. They do a really great job, and I love jazz, so those concerts are fun to attend.


What do you love most about Kalamazoo?

SO MANY THINGS! One of the coolest things is in a town this size, there’s an extraordinary art scene, and it’s not just the fine arts, it’s the symphony, the theater, dance, visual arts, and it’s the support of all of these different art forms that’s so amazing. You know what’s great? I’ve been here since college, ok, and it was not the cool place to be back then as a young, single person trying to figure out my life, and now I see how it’s changed here – the festival site, the music scene, the restaurants, everything. This is a place for young entrepreneurs to foster a community of positive change. Downtown is amazing – DKI has done a great job.


What have you been doing with your downtime between summer and fall classes?

I’m working on KVCC’s Center for New Media website, collaborating with the Museum on some joint activities for upcoming months, planning and arranging student events/workshops/guest speakers for our students in the fall, plus all the other ongoing projects like scheduling, curriculum, budget reports, etc.


What can be done to improve our beloved Kalamazoo?

There should be more jazz! And I think the downtown area is a very cool place, so more affordable housing in the downtown area would be great.


What has been one of your biggest learning moments?

I think it’s adapting to conflict. There’s an art and a finesse to it. I don’t like confrontation, but you have to be able to get through it and do it in a way where you still feel comfortable and good about yourself. I think that’s been a challenge and a great learning experience for me.


What have you been jammin’ to recently? What’s on the iPod?

I love jazz. No country music, though, ever…not my thing. I do love going to Bell’s too and listening to the bands they bring in for concerts, like Cornfed Girls and Red Sea Pedestrians. The Union gets some great jazz too. But on my iPod would be artists like Miles Davis, Coltrane, Diana Krall, Yo Yo Ma Suites, Lyle Lovett, Steep Canyon Rangers, Adele, some oldies, and Chris Botti!


What is next up on your reading list?

Well, a couple of books I read this summer are Wild by Cheryl Strayed, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, and An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin. Quite literally on my nightstand right now are The Orchardist – Amanda Coplin, Predictably Irrational – Dan Ariely, Inferno – Dan Brown, and Kitchen Confidential – Anthony Bourdain.


How do you take your coffee?…or do you?

I have my own Keurig in my office, so I love that. But regular black coffee, 1 sugar.


What is your favorite app to use?

I love Shazam, Pinterest of course, and Whatsapp. I have friends who live in South Africa, so it’s nice to be able to text with them and keep in touch even though we’re on different continents.


Do you have a “go to” spot in Kalamazoo?

Anywhere with an outside patio, so obviously Zazios – it’s right across the courtyard so it’s perfect! But pretty much all of the venues downtown are great. Millennium restaurants are a favorite as well.


Are there any places in the ‘Zoo that you haven’t been to and are dying to go?

I enjoy the events and everything in the downtown area, but I have not been to the Celery Flats! I’ve heard they do shows and concerts in their amphitheater, so I’d like to check that out sometime.


What is the best reaction you’ve gotten to the name “Kalamazoo”?

I have friends in Ireland, and I was just in South Africa. They say “there really is a Kalamazoo?” Just like the shirts we have! They thought it was somewhere in South Africa because it would be the name of a city in South Africa.


Do you use your hand to describe where you live?

I definitely do. It’s such a fun way to show where you live! It sometimes takes people a minute, but they get it eventually.


Karen, thank you for taking the time to meet with us and sharing your thoughts! Be sure to follow us on facebook and twitter for updates.