On January 29th the Court Street Art Gallery (414 Court St, Saginaw) will kick off a new series of poetry events which will continue every 4th Friday of each month from 7:00-9:00 p.m., with a $3 door charge. Readers for this inaugural event will be Robert Fanning, Christi Griffis and Skip Renker, while guitarist Jim Pagel performs background music for an expected crowd of over 30 people who will gather in the exhibit hall.

Skip Renker, a retired English teacher at Delta College, will be reading from his book Sifting the Visible, while Robert Fanning, an assistant professor of English in creative writing at Central Michigan University, will read a collection of poems from his books Old Bright Wheel and American Prophet. Christi Griffis is a graduate student at UM Flint studying art administration and "wants to bring the arts to the public" by profession. The one-time editor of Saginaw Valley State University's poetry publication Cardinal Sins will read some of her newly written poetry.

Paolo and Sarah Pedini, owners of the gallery, decided to open their doors for poets to read their work because says Paolo, "I think poets and visual artists really 'get' each other and are not all that different … a lot of poets paint and draw and do photography and don't just write poetry and it’s the same for artists.  Both groups live as creative thinkers; they're doing it for their creative profession … trying to come up with something new and different, whether creating with words or doing it in visuals … there's a lot of shared struggle and shared victory."

Paolo, an artist whose work is currently on display in the Buckham Gallery in Flint, and Sarah, who makes contacts with artists and helps organize "figure drawing" and kids' art classes, enjoy putting on events for the art community. Says Paolo, "Ever since the space came available in June 2009, we jumped on it … we wanted to open it up for exhibitions." The gallery now houses an exhibit hall as well as several art studios, a photography studio and rooms for art classes. As of December 2009, Paolo and Sarah have expanded their facility by adding several more rooms that will be used for the art community.

Skip Renker says Paolo is "one of the movers and shakers of our society” and that anything that connects the visual arts and poetry is a credit to the arts community. Likewise, Christi Griffis praises Paolo and Sarah for all the hard work they are doing to bring the art community together in Saginaw as well as to the community at large.  A native of Saginaw, she is concerned about the recent surge in crime and insists that the art community can have an important impact on the children of Saginaw as it shows there is "another way of life and other kinds of opportunities." Says Griffis, "I think art is a good way to give you an outlet to not only express yourself, your frustrations, your hopes and dreams, but just see that there’s something else out there, another way to spend your time."

Robert Fanning is very excited about Friday's event as well and says Paolo's venue is a real necessity and a vital endeavor; the gallery creates a gathering place, a place of communion for the art community.  "When we go and hear a poetry reading we're there for the same reason, for nourishment, whether it’s spiritual or just to connect with other human beings." Fanning thinks painting, music and poetry are "a necessity… an avenue for self expression … something that sustains us as a culture, as a people."

Paolo, saying that there is plenty of parking across the street from the Court Street Gallery, hopes his premier poetry event will be well attended. He also hopes that the new Court Street Café (also across the street) will be open for business in time, so his patrons will be able to have a bite to eat before or after the readings.

© C.P. Chay, 2010