the shadow loomed larger than we’d expected: over 1,000 people attend the shadow art fair

By most accounts, yesterday’s Shadow Art Fair was a resounding success. “Thanks,” to all of you who took part, either as vendors, volunteers, customers or curious, beer-sloshing onlookers.

I’m still kind of in a daze. Those of us who planned the event never doubted that it would be a success, but we had no idea just how well it would be received. The most conservative estimate I’ve heard thus far is that we had 1,000 people come through. I’ve heard some estimates that put it as high as 1,300 though.

The space was relatively packed from noon to 8:00 PM, only slowing a bit at around 5:00, at which time I finally left my skin-cookingly hot corner and headed over to buy some food. Matt and Rene, the owners of the brewery, had a few things left, but just barely. They said they’d been practically wiped out. (No word yet on how many of the 9,300 gallons of beer were consumerd.) They were, and I don’t think I’m going too far when I say this, giddy. (I suspect that more unique individuals came through the doors of the brewery yesterday than over the two months since it opened.) They said that they thought that this would be successful, but they just didn’t have any guess how successful.

While working our table, I had fairly substantial conversations with well over 100 people, about art, publishing, potential projects, our stuff, etc. As would be expected, most were from either Ypsi or Ann Arbor, but some had come from as far away as Detroit, Ferndale, and Royal Oak. (The mention in the “Metro Times” really helped.) And, the ages of visitors really ran the gambit too. I saw two newborns, and two elderly people toting around oxygen tanks. (I don’t believe there were any births at the event, like at Woodstock, but I suppose it’s possible.)

It was good to see old friends. Former Ypsilantians, Hillary and Steve Cherry (from the Hamtramck Star) made it out from Hamtramck, two separate groups of friends came out from Chicago, and Mike and Amanda (from Calibog) made it out from Los Angeles. (I think they’d come back to Michigan for other reasons, but I like to imagine that they flew out for out event.)

And, almost all the friends Linette and I have in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti showed up. We both agreed, after the event, that it was like our wedding. We just talked constantly for about 10 hours, barely having time to take a swig of beer or cram down a handful of chips. The whole day was full of weird little things, most of which I can’t really remember now. (Sorry if you and I had a great, interesting discussion and it doesn’t get mentioned here. It doesn’t mean that I didn’t appreciate it. It just means that my mind is/was completely overloaded.)

A guy from Singapore stopped by to say hello and buy a few things for a friend back home, who I believe he said was a film maker. He said that both “Crimewave” and “Found” had been big influences on her work and that he was happy to find us both here in one place. That was nice to hear… Linette and I also met a very nice couple from Indiana who claimed to be longtime “Crimewave” readers. They’d been nearby for something else and decided to come over to Ypsi and say hello. I guess they’d read about the event on the blog… And there were lots of other readers, all of whom were very well-behaved, polite, and clean. (No unpleasant surprises that freaked me out.) A few regular posters to our “Comments” section identified themselves, like the fellow who calls himself Ol’ East Cross, but most people just admitted, with a great deal of shame, that they were “lurkers.”

The Mayor stopped by to say hello, as did two of the candidates vying for her position. Quite a few people wanted to talk about the upcoming debate we’ve been planning, which was nice. (By the way, I was able to coerce fellow local blogger Sam Abuelsamid into videotaping the debate and posting it online!)

I know a lot of other interesting things happened, but those are the first to come to mind.

The one bad thing — A lot of us there as vendors didn’t have an opportunity to talk with one another because we were so busy. I was able to make one quick round, just checking up on everyone and getting their feedback, but I didn’t have a chance to actually look at their stuff, or talk about it. (If we do this again, there should be some kind of time built-in for us to talk and network — like a private, hour-long session afterward for us to mingle. Amanda (from Growing Hope) suggested it this time out, but I think we were all jus too exhausted.) This, at least from my perspective, was the only big failing of the day. I would have liked to have seen more cross-pollination between the groups. (I did get to have dinner with the CEO of Bulb Records afterward though, and I’m hoping that maybe some kind of project comes of it. I also got to meet Davey from “Found.” He was a nice guy. We traded some stuff.)

If you were there and have any feedback, please leave a comment. Almost everything that I heard was positive, but I really would like to hear criticisms as well, if they exist.

Most embarrassing moment — Having a discussion with an older white-haired woman about Iggy Pop, and mentioning that I’d had the chance a few years ago to see him and “his original band” play. To which she responded, “Oh, The Iguanas got back together?” referring, of course to Iggy’s real first band, formed in high school… It’s nice to be reminded from time to time that people around here actually knew the guy. Kurt, a friend of ours from Chicago who was sitting nearby, laughed as I tried pathetically to regain my credibility by reeling off other bits of obscure trivia and assuring her that I Indeed had known aobut The Iguanas.

So, to sum up, the consensus seems to be that it was a great thing for Ypsi, a great thing for the artists involved, and a great thing for the brewery. And, I’m happy to have been a part of it

I don’t want to talk numbers, but Linette and I did better than we’d expected, and we plan to pour all of the money earned into the making of new products. So, if you’re interested, stay turned. We should have some new stuff soon.

We weren’t the only ones who had good sales. Everyone seemed to have done well. At least everyone sold something and quite a few sold several 100$ worth of whatever it was that they were selling. (Artist John Roos should get some kind of award for being the most ingenious/entrepreneurial. He not only brought his paintings, and bags of the coffee that he roasts, but he brought an espresso machine. And the line for iced Vietnamese coffee didn’t subside all day.)

Now comes the real challenge. Can we leverage this and do even more? Can Ypsi get it’s shit together and really capitalize on the momentum that we all felt here yesterday? I don’t know that we have leaders willing to stick their necks out, but, on the off chance that we do, here’s a thought. How about tearing down the meaningless “Cool City” banners that we have flying around the city and hoisting the “Buy Indie in Ypsi” flag. (I hate to be the one to tell you all this, but any city that would announce itself as a “cool city” probably isn’t one anymore than the guy who wears an “I’m cool” jacket is.) And, while we’re at it, let’s pass a resolution to keep companies out of our historic downtown that aren’t locally owned and operated to some significant extent. (We can quarrel about this in another post, but I really do think that we should pass legislation keeping our historic downtown franchise-free. I think, in the long-run, that’s our city’s best chance for survival. More on that later though.)

OK, here are a few other things I’ve picked up around the internet about the Shadow Art Fair this evening.

Cyndy says: “(T)he Shadow Art Fair was a great success. It is going to put Ypsilanti back on the map… (T)he place will be known as the world’s premier center for indigenous art.”

Sam says: “(It) was packed… It was good to see so many people turn out to this event. Hopefully this will become a standard fixture on the Ypsi summer calendar along with the Beer Festival, the Elvis Fest, and many others. The city of Ypsilanti may be having some financial difficulties but this city is alive and well thanks to the efforts of an involved community.”

Murph: “The Shadow Art Fair was a smashing success… (The) organizers are a cultural force to be feared. One only wonders how this could be done more regularly throughout the year – it’s not as if the exhibitors have to pack up their RVs and drive up from Florida, as is the case with some local events that could be named. The Corner Brewery was packed, (and) not just with MySpace hipsters…”

Brooke: “There were 30 vendors in all, and I thought all the stuff was great. I had no idea there were so many great local artists… we had a great time… It would be really cool to participate in these fairs. Perhaps I’ll be able to get myself some items going for next year. It was quite inspirational.”

And, pictures from the event and the after-party can be seen on this person’s Live Journal page.

OK, and there was also this one kind of sad post on Live Journal: “I tried to go to the Shadow Art Fair a few blocks from my house today, but everything was so whimsical and indie (not to mention crowded) that I couldn’t even strike up enough of a conversation to ask to see some comics that were hidden under a homemade purse. I just don’t have anything in common with creative people. On the way home, I pricked my finger on a purple thistle.” (Hopefully not many others had this experience. My sense was that the vendors we selected were pretty accessible and down-to-Earth, but if that wasn’t the case, let me know.)

There were other little negative things said as well. A few people on the net mention how crowded it was. Someone complained of the heat. Someone else said that they were expecting for there to be more vendors. All of those people, however, liked the event and none of them, at least as far as I can tell, regretted having gone.

Some things happen at just the right time, and I think that’s what happened here. The community was ready for it. The artists were ready for it. Ypsilanti was ready for it. All the stars were aligned. I don’t know what it all means, but something is really happening. More than one person came up to me and told me that this was an important moment in the history of Ypsilanti. Several invoked the name of “Google,” a rather large company that recently indicated that it would be opening a 1,000-person facility somewhere in the Ann Arbor Area, saying that if they could see what we’d pulled together that they may be persuaded to give up the search for land in Ann Arbor and buy in Ypsi instead. (As the company is known for valuing creativity and innovation, it makes sense.) Quite a few people, from Ann Arbor, said that what they saw reminded them of what Ann Arbor “had been.” Almost everyone said, “You have to do this again.”

There’s no doubt that we tapped into something very real. I suspect part of it is that people are beginning to tire of big box retailers like Wal-Mart. They want to deal with people who are directly involved in the manufacture of their goods, and we gave them that opportunity. And, they’re looking for ways to be less isolated. People, I think, want to connect with other people and to have meaningful conversations. This was an excuse to talk with neighbors and even strangers, and to open a dialogue with other creative people. It came together easily because it was the right time and place. Hopefully, something good will come of it.

Again, “Thank you for your support.” I need to sleep now.

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  1. egpenet
    Posted July 17, 2006 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    My wife, Bonnie, and I had a great time! No franchises necessary ANYWHERE in the City. And by the way, it’s Mercury retrograde from 07/05/06 through 07/29/06 … proof that good planning and creativity trumps the stars, Mark!

    And about “Cool Cities” … I’ve been loudmouthing about the failure of the downtown DDA … well, the deadline for 2006 Federal and State grants was March 21. Ypsi lost out again! We are designated as a “Cool City” and are eligible for preferential treatment versus other Michigan Cities. Boy! Do we need help!

    This is why the Riverside Neighborhood Association and some activist business owners in our neighborhood are going to do the job ourselves. More on this as we go along.

    Go Indie! Hey … how’bout IndieUndies?

  2. Sam
    Posted July 17, 2006 at 8:49 am | Permalink


    Congratulations to you and your cohorts on the success of the Shadow Art Fair. Maybe when the Freighthouse repairs are done, the Art Fair can expand into their as well. Maybe this could be done a couple of times a year too. I have moved more and more toward independents and away from big companies. Thanks to podcasts I have discovered tons of great indie music over the past year and a half. I have bought more music in the past year than I have in years and pretty much all of it is stuff you won’t hear on the radio anywhere. Everywhere media creators, watchers, listeners and readers are taking it back from the big companies. The Shadow Art Fair was a great local example of creators coming together to bring in the “consumers” (I hate that term in this context, but can’t think of a better one at the moment) and everyone benefits as a result. Long live the “Long Tail“!

  3. Tony Buttons Esq.
    Posted July 17, 2006 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    The Ann Arbor News ran the following article yesterday:

    Up Close and Creative

    Ypsilanti’s Shadow Art Fair showcases local talent

    By Tina Reed

    The Ypsilanti bar was crowded and noisy, but Melissa Dettloff’s
    attention was focused on the sewing machine she brought on Saturday.

    Dettloff was one of more than 30 artists who brought their proudly
    created — and proudly nonmainstream — work to the indoor art fair held only days before the beginning of the Ann Arbor Art Fairs.

    “I’ve gotten a really positive response here,” Dettloff said as she
    used her sewing machine to remake an old shirt into a new version, her third order of the afternoon. “They think it’s a neat idea I’m doing
    this here.”

    Her table held two sewing machines, spools of colorful thread,
    do-it-yourself kits for reconstructing clothing and prototypes of shirts

  4. ol' e cross
    Posted July 17, 2006 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    As has been noted by all, it was a great event. If my little girl had let me stand in one place longer, I might even have bought something.

    As an event, I loved it. 12 stars. Major props. But as a bellwether of Ypsilanti

  5. leighton
    Posted July 17, 2006 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    This was great thing for “Ypsi”, but it’s even more of a great thing for “indie”. It’s less of a triumph for the physical community than a victory for the independent creative community.

    The body of that AA Snooze article was OK. But if you grazed the paper, only looking at the photos and their captions, you’d think it was an event for Ann Arbor Artists and Ann Arbor buyers that happened to be in a neighboring town to the East. They are doing another article soon, thankfully.

  6. leighton
    Posted July 17, 2006 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    ^^ Michigan Radio will be doing the followup story, not the Snooze (they are to busy prepping their resum

  7. Jennyfurann
    Posted July 17, 2006 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    My husband and I just moved to Ypsi in December, and in my search to find out about our new home, I ran across your blog. Been reading it for a month or two – and it’s how I found out about the art fair! We went and it was a great event! This kind of this is EXACTLY what we have been looking for out of this area! (not quite so…yuppie as the typical art fair) Congratulations on the success.

    It would be nice if these artists / this type of art were a little bit more visible in the city all the time. I think the “average” person who isn’t necessarily on the hunt for it has a harder time accessing these unique groups. The shadow art fair helped reach out to everyone!

    I also know that Len (my husband) and I will be checking out the Corner Brewery again — I’m sure the event will have a strong positive influence on their business as well. Maybe they would be a good place to sell local art and music? A coffee shop in my home town used to do that – and they were quite successful at it…

    Anyway, congrats again – it was a great event! I’m sure next year will be even bigger and better.

  8. Greg
    Posted July 17, 2006 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    I had a great time, though I drank too much and ended up in bed by 6:00pm. Yeah, it was packed; yeah, it was hot, but one can’t expect something like this to simultaneously garner attention and not be packed, right? I was really blown away by much of the stuff that was shown and I can see, considering the crowd, how someone might feel “that I couldn’t even strike up enough of a conversation to ask to see some comics that were hidden under a homemade purse,” especially if the person wasn’t assertive, which is what I assume. Everyone I talked to there was approachable, but they all had dozens of others vying for their attention; it was a difficult time to play meek and expect to get anywhere.

    I look forward to the next one; hopefully by that time I’ll have enough of my own junk finished to apply for a table.

  9. Kristen
    Posted July 17, 2006 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    Wow your optimism brings tears of joy to my eyes. I attended the fair and thought it was a truly inspiring event as well. We had some beer and I bought a couple of things (I wanted to buy something from everybody!) and I found everyone to be super friendly and chatty–Just good vibes all around.
    What is Bananatina?

    This was my first post! And my first time reading this blog! I do not believe in lurking-ha!

  10. grr
    Posted July 17, 2006 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    I was surprised by the turn-out, word must’ve really spread. The downside was that it was a bit crowded to take a long look at everything, mostly due to space constraints. Of course, you can never go wrong with fresh beer on site. :)

    Speaking of, additional bar help would’ve been good, but I think that speaks more to the success of the event than anything else.

  11. Brandon
    Posted July 17, 2006 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

    Thanks– this is exactly the sort of thing we need more of around here: grassroots community-building.

    I’ve posted a buncha photos from the fair and afterparty here. Video on Google Video to come shortly…

  12. Anonymatt
    Posted July 18, 2006 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    Sounds great. Congratulations on your hard work paying off.

  13. Shanster
    Posted July 18, 2006 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    Great job! Thanks for adding something positive to the community.

  14. Lisa
    Posted July 18, 2006 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    Hello –

    I’m a first-time blog visitor. It was definitely a great event and a great way to promote what is good about Ypsi – thanks to you and everyone who put it on. I ran into all sorts of great new and old Ypsi and Ann Arbor friends, and got some great stuff!

  15. Lisa
    Posted July 18, 2006 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

    And at the risk of starting a new topic…

    In regards to keeping Ypsi chain/franchise free, a variety of localities have passed formula business ordinances (including a neighborhood in San Francisco), which either ban or require neighborhood approval to locate a ‘formula’ business. I’m not sure how it would work with the laws in Michigan – a few people have mentioned that this might be more difficult in Michigan than elsewhere. I never looked into it because when I first mentioned the idea in Ann Arbor it wasn’t warmly received. However, it might be worth a discussion in Ypsilanti. If you’re interested I have all sorts of information about this and other options for encouraging local ownership of businesses.

  16. Kathleen
    Posted July 19, 2006 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    I despise franchises, so I’d definitely support any movement that would keep them out, and not just Ypsi, but any downtown type area. Michigan Avenue in Dearborn is becoming franchise heaven and it makes me sick.

  17. Collin
    Posted July 19, 2006 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    That sounds like it was awesome. I wish I could have been there. You might be better off, next time, to have the meet-n-greet an hour before the event. That way you would have a better chance of seeing what everyone has to offer rather than after the event. Plus you wouldn’t be exhausted.

    Congratulations to everyone who took part in the Shadow Fair. That’s absolutely fantastic.

    A bit off topic, but do you have any idea when the next Crimewave will come out? Clementine’s 2nd birthday reminded me that the original plan was to have it out before she was born.

  18. plantgrl5
    Posted July 20, 2006 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    Congratulations. I’m very glad we made the trip from Chicago. It was exciting to be a part of the first probably of many years of this sort of thing… I definitely spent more money than I had intended to but that’s good! It was crowded and hot and buzzing and fun and eclectic and the vendors were very, very friendly, and the ypsipanties feel and look great… next time give them out at the door as a hot souvenir! Stay small, stay crowded, people like to feel like they are part of something special…. and it is even better when it’s the real thing…


  19. Brandon
    Posted July 21, 2006 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    3 videos from the afterparty here.

  20. sonireducer
    Posted July 23, 2006 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    The Shadow Art Fair was Absolutely Fantastic. It far exceeded my expectations. My husband and I were both wishing just today that it was a regular event (more than yearly) and that more of the vendors had shopfronts here in Ypsi. It’s so wonderful that we now know about so many places to find DIY music, clothing, zines & art. I don’t know whose idea this was- but they’re a genius, I’m sure.

  21. mark
    Posted July 23, 2006 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    I actually hear that he’s kind of stupid, but I’m sure he’d appreciate your kind words. I’ll pass them along.

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