Dogwood announces 2017 headline artists

Published 12:14 pm Friday, March 10, 2017

What does an author hailing from the Windy City, a pianist born in Haiti and storyteller from Utah have in common?

They will be among the artists swinging by Dowagiac this spring for the Dogwood Fine Arts Festival, which will take place May 11-20.

Officials with the festival announced the schedule and featured performers for the 26th annual celebration Wednesday evening, inside its newly refurbished headquarters inside the Dowagiac Huntington Bank building. Headlining this year’s festival will be historic novelist Renee Rosen on May 19, pianist and composer Jean Prosper on May 13, and storyteller Sam Payne on May 17.

Renee Rosen

Renee Rosen

Rosen, the bestselling author of novels such as “White Collar Girl, What the Lady Wants: A novel of Marshall Field and the Gilded Age,” and “Dollface:  A Novel of the Roaring Twenties,” will be talking about her work and her love for Chicago as this year’s featured writer.

Rosen’s lecture will take place at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 19, at Southwestern Michigan College Dale A. Lyons Building theater. Tickets cost $20.

A reception and book signing will take place immediately after her talk at the Charles A. Zollar building. Tickets for this event cost $15.

A native of Akron, Ohio, Rosen fell in love with Chicago from an early age, frequently traveling to the Windy City with her mother. Since moving to the city, Rosen has made her hometown the focus of many of her stories, setting them at different points in Chicago’s colorful — and checkered — history.

For example, Rosen’s most recent novel, “Windy City Blues,” tells the story of a woman’s journey of self-discovery during the rises of the blues music industry in Chicago.

“She is very passionate about being accurate with the history that supports her stories,” said Jim Benedix, festival president.

Rosen is currently working her next story, about the Helen Gurley Brown and the resurrection of Cosmopolitan Magazine, slated for release in 2019.

Jean Prosper

Jean Prosper

A renowned pianist, Prosper will perform for Dogwood patrons during the festival’s annual concert, which will take place at 7:30 p.m. at the Dale A. Lyons Building theater. Tickets for the event cost $20.

Born in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, Prosper grew up listening to strictly classical- and sacred-style music growing up, at the insistence of his father, a famed evangelist. He and his family later moved to Montreal, Canada, where Prosper studied at Canada’s Royal Conservatory of Music.

In spite of limited exposure to other genres of music as a child, Prosper developed a love of jazz after meeting the sister of jazz great Oscar Peterson while still living in Montreal.

Prosper later moved to the U.S., where he studied piano at Andrews University and Indiana University.

While a master of several genres of music, including classical and gospel, Prosper excels best at his passion, jazz.

“We expect his performance to reflect his entire experience in music,” Benedix said.

Sam Payne

Sam Payne

Payne, a storyteller and musician who has performed across the country, will share some of his favorite tales with Dowagiac audiences at 7:30 p.m. May 17, at the Dale A. Lyons Building theater. Tickets cost just $6, or “less than a bucket of popcorn at the movie theater,” Benedix said.

Payne is a regular performer at the Weber Storytelling Festival, and has also been a featured artist at the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival and the National Storytelling Festival. He has also sang with famous artists and bands, including Foreigner, Toto, Air Supply and Marie Osmond.

“Other storytellers have provided an endless list of praise for his skill and talent,” Benedix said. “His work is something that everyone can enjoy.”

He co-directed the Soundcheck Series, an artist development program for independent songwriters, and currently hosts The Apple Seed: Tellers and Stories, a radio program that airs daily on BYU Radio.

Payne is also a children’s author, with books that have a regular readership of some 200,000 students.

Other events scheduled for this year’s festival include:

Merchants Art
Stroll Reception

7 to 9 p.m. May 11

Dogwood Festival Gallery

207 Commercial St.

Free and open to public

Klassics for Kids

1 p.m. May 12

Dowagiac Middle School
Performing Arts Center

57028 Riverside Drive

Free with registration

Youth Fine Arts Night

6 p.m. May 18

Dowagiac Union High School

701 West Prairie Ronde St.

Free and open to public

Youth Voices: The
Orphan Train Story

7:30 p.m. May 20

Beckwith Theatre

100 New York Ave.

Free and open to public