Don’t be misled by the whimsical, almost happily childlike moniker “Art Hop.” Kalamazoo’s art festival more closely resembles “a long walk for pleasure,” which is the definition of a “hike” in Webster’s Dictionary.

Art Hop is a remarkably diverse, expansive yet in-depth artistic adventure for the senses! The event is a free evening of art exhibits and events spanning the entire community. New exhibitions take place the first Friday of every month, and details about the art — for viewing and for sale — are posted one week before the events, adding to the fun.

“More than visual arts – it’s a very social environment with all types of art forms – music, performance, and literary – that you can enjoy,” stated Deputy Director Beth McCann.

Exhibits and sites change monthly so there is always something new to see and do. November and December are the two largest events. December the event had 61 sites throughout the city.

A few of last fall’s displays included “Paintings and Poetry” by Patricia A Babladelis, with special guest Kalamusic and presented by Arcadia Ales; “Urban Garden,” a collection of photographs representing the beauty of the organic and inorganic world, sponsored by GreenStreet Marketing; and “Diekema – Hamann” recent works by members of the Kalamazoo Boogie Woogie Figure Drawing Lounge.

Most venues are fun and interactive, for a single visitor or a group. One need not be intimidated by not being “an artist.” For example, a lover of natural history would have enjoyed the display of “vintage-style prints, dating back to the late 1700s from Michigan maps to rabid cats, and everything in between.”

“These events put our name on the map! We’re on weekend itineraries all the time — the popular place to be in the region,” stated McCann.

Art Hop was started casually over 20 years ago with a couple of the local galleries. In 204, it expanded beyond downtown Kalamazoo into surrounding neighborhoods. Roughly 500 artists exhibit annually. Anywhere between 35 and 75 sites participate each month.

Stunning, colorful brochures accompany the events every month, appearing on the website seven to ten days before the event.

An exciting addition to the events is that a special beer – aptly named Art Hops – has been created by the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo, Arcadia Brewing Company, Imperial Beverage, and Millennium Restaurant Group. Every year, artists will be invited to submit an original piece of artwork, suitable for public consumption, to represent the Hops Beer! The winning artist will be awarded $500, and his/her design will be the face of Art Hops beer in all marketing and promotional materials for the calendar year.

A combination of donations and proceeds from the sale of Art Hops beer will benefit the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo and the Art Hop program.

The 2017 Art Hops beer winning design will be revealed at the January 6, 2017, Art Hop event – which leads up to Kalamazoo Beer Week (KBW).