a call to ypsilanti artists

I’m piecing things together here, so I may get some of this wrong, but it sounds as though the powers that be in Washtenaw County have initiated what’s being called a “Cultural Assessment” of the region. From what I’m told, the initial assessment, which was completed a few weeks ago, painted a picture of Ypsilanti as a dangerous place, pregnant with unwed mothers, and almost completely devoid of cultural life. As I understand it, a few Ypsilantians, upon hearing this, asked those heading the initiative to reopen the chapter on Ypsi and accept more feedback. The group apparently agreed, and this Saturday morning there will be a public forum on Michigan Avenue, during which people in the local arts community will have an opportunity to talk about the current situation here in Ypsi, and what we might be able to do to make it even better.

The meeting will begin at 10:00 AM at the “What Is That” gallery (at the intersection of N. Washington and Michigan Ave). My reflex is to recoil and roll my eyes when I hear about a group like this one, regardless of how well intentioned, trying to quantify what we in the arts community are doing, and figure out what we need. It seems simple to me – we need a tolerant community, inexpensive work and living space, and proximity to good bars, bookstores, theaters, coffee shops, art supply stores, junk yards, and markets. I appreciate that our local leaders realize that the arts are integral to economic development, and I like that they’re trying, but the exercise just seems a bit odd to me. Hopefully something good comes of it, though. And, in hopes of seeing that happen, I’d like to encourage anyone working in the local arts community to attend. And I don’t just mean those of you with well established photography studios, or ties to a gallery. I’d like for these people to see everyone that we see at the Shadow Art Fair – all the local collage artists, people working with recycled materials, fashion designers, t-shirt makers, etc. We need to show them that the arts aren’t limited to what they might see at the Riverside Arts Center… A flyer promoting the event can be found here. (Link will download a Word document.)

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  1. Andy C
    Posted March 14, 2008 at 1:54 am | Permalink

    I saw the flyer and was all set to go and suggesting painting the Riverside Park Gazebo. A good mural and some bright colors would do it wonders. I guess I had the wrong idea.

  2. mark
    Posted March 14, 2008 at 6:23 am | Permalink

    You should definitely go, Andy. I think that there may be some of that kind of brainstorming going on as well. Please do go. You voice would be a welcomed addition.

  3. Suzie
    Posted March 14, 2008 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    I think that beyond asking what the arts community needs, it is also to assess the community & culture of our area – with the idea that we can then market it better outside our region. It’s a regional thing, so I’d be shocked if folks said that about Ypsi. But if they did, then I’m glad this additional meeting is being held. They’re trying to get as much input as possible, so it may have already been scheduled.

    Incidentally, the keynote speaker (name escaping me…) for the kickoff session, when asked how to avoid the marketing/promotion becoming dominated by the “main municipality” of whatever region was in focus (in this case, Ann Arbor for Washtenaw County) – she said that in her opinion, it would be best, for whatever actions or funding came out of it, she wouldn’t spend any of it in Ann Arbor- otherwise it wouldn’t really be seen as regional.

    Also, in my humble opinion, there is more to culture and community than the arts. This isn’t the first or last time you’ll hear me say this. Our natural setting, parks systems, and freshwater lakes & rivers are a real asset to our culture & community, and really set us apart from other places.

    And now I’m off to drive to MA for the weekend for a friend’s wedding…

  4. Bonnie
    Posted March 14, 2008 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Maybe that plan I sent you a few months ago would be useful here?


  5. Fred
    Posted March 14, 2008 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    We have more tattoo artists than Chelsea and Ann Arbor combined.

  6. UBU
    Posted March 14, 2008 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    The government should buy you your own herd of unicorns to decapitate…

  7. egpenet
    Posted March 14, 2008 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    I think Suzie’s comment is right on … a Cultural Assessment is a much wider issue.

    What I wish is that the City had NOT torn down all those old industrial buildings on Water Street … which could be for galleries and studio space. I wish the 555 had NOT been smashed by the art educators and city inspectors. I wish Motor Wheel and the old Feed Mill Co-op were available for conversion into retail/gallery/loft/studio space.

    Problem with Ypsilanti is that we do NOT have a Soho or a Chelsea or a Brooklyn for artists to scramble around for next to nothing. We don’t need decent space, we need SOME SPACE.

    So, artists with teaching or odd job incomes can have an old garage somewhere or a spot downtown … but if you don’t have the bucks … there’s no place to hang.

    This is why many artists paint in their apartments and basements, and many of us have other businesses like Ebay and Amazon to bring in some cash in between gallery shows and comissions. Some of us have evn stooped to getting married to a productive member of society so we can eat.

    Anyway, culture is a wider target than art or craft or even some entrepreneurial effort. We neeed to look at the whole picture. I believe that a truly culturally active area will find a way to tuck in or otherwise nurture its lonely poets and struggling artists … somewhere.

    We shall see if Ypsi is up to the task.

  8. John on Forest
    Posted March 14, 2008 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

    I wonder why Deja Vu and the street walkers out on the east end of Michigan Avenue weren’t included in the listing of our cultural offerings along with unwed mothers and our dangerousness.

    Now on the serious side of this: I agree with Suzie on this being about more than art. But of course art should be included.

    Mark, don’t be so quick to bash RAC. In addition to the galary downstairs, there is also the theater upstairs that hosts PDT Productions on a regular basis. Ypsilanti has a long history (at least as long as the 16 years I’ve lived here) of active community theater.

    It would be good, too, to hear from a representative of the YSO and some other Ypsi music groups.

  9. amused1
    Posted March 15, 2008 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    I think the arts community of Ypsi struggles with the same PR problem as the City proper. There are a lot of arts opportunities that people just don’t know about. I really hope enough visual and performing artists attend the meeting to show the county just what’s been hidden away in the shadow of the tower.

  10. Andy C
    Posted March 15, 2008 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Bonnie-Thanks for the link, that’s a great report.

    Fred- Thirty-six percent of those ages 18 to 25, and 40 percent of those ages 26 to 40, have at least one tattoo, according to a fall 2006 survey by the Pew Research Center.

    John-Get over the fucking Deja Vu!

  11. mark
    Posted March 15, 2008 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Linette is at the session right now. Hopefully she’ll post some notes later. I’m home with Clementine… As for the RAC, I don’t know that I was “bashing.” I was just saying that we have people creating art that are outside of established “arts” organizations, like the RAC. I think the RAC is probably great for community theater. (I’d probably go if tickets weren’t so expensive.) I just think that theater is probably a small portion of the local arts scene. And, I don’t know that it necessarily speaks to large percentage of our population. Like, Doyle Hyett, I’d like to see it more inclusive. What you consider bashing, I consider constructive criticism.

  12. mark
    Posted March 15, 2008 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    And if we did take away the Deja Vu, where would all the naked women go to dance? You have to think about the ramifications of what you’re suggesting… I, for one, don’t want naked women dancing in the streets.

  13. egpenet
    Posted March 15, 2008 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    The Saturday County Cultural Focus Group at What Is That Gallery on Michigan Avenue was fabulous.

    I heard many positive things about the wider cultural and arts community, much of which echoed the Hyett/Palma Blueprint and the 20/20 interim report.

    Someone in the Blueprint research said they’d like an Ypsilanti Area culture where they could be busy 24/7.

    Well, it appears possible even now to be busy 24/7 male/female/adult/child … PROVIDED you know what’s going on, when and where … and DESPITE the fact that each organization needs to do a better job at cross-promotion with other organizations and businesses.

    In the works …

    1) a county-wide cultural calendar that coordinates a lot of info that is presently available from a limited number of resources ;

    2) an arts census … who is who, what, where … so there can be more mutual aid and cooperation, information sharing, and joint promotions;

    3) downtown businesses in the D.A.Y. are working hard to get the sidewalks shovelled and kept clean, operating regular and more extended houurs (per Blueprint), keeping the lights on at night, getting street lights repaired, and gearing up for Spring fixups and plantings;

    4) everyone is learning to think culture on a County-wide basis … communities and neighbors thinking of ways to promote one another … helping other downtowns to create a Washtenaw County “feel” to attract all of us who live here to get to know one another, share our unique communities and create an environment to help attract NEW residents and businesses.

    5) SPARK is a very big part of these plans.

  14. Posted March 15, 2008 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    It sounds like the focus group went well. I really like the idea of cross promotion. At my cafe we have local artists hang their work every month. We usually have two or three artists each month, and our only requirement is that the pieces are family friendly. It really works out well for us because it keeps the look of the place changing and looking fresh, and the artists get to show their work in a nice comfortable atmosphere. We don’t get involved with the sale of items other than to refer a customer to the artist, but we have had several artists do pretty well with selling their pieces at their openings. I think it would be really cool to have some cross promotional items that would list what other businesses are hosting local artists and people could take an art tour of all of Ypsilanti.

  15. egpenet
    Posted March 15, 2008 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    Great idea.

    Had a meeting at your place the other day regarding the Freighthouse Benefit April 5th at the Corner Brewery. Your place is alwys a good spot for a meet.

    Thanks, Jim, for being a good host.

  16. amused1
    Posted March 16, 2008 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    Naked women dancing in the streets? Hmm, sounds like “Carnivale In Rio”. That’s considered a major cultural event. Maybe we should consider “Carnivale In Ypsi”?

  17. Posted March 16, 2008 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    “And if we did take away the Deja Vu, where would all the naked women go to dance?”


  18. Ol' E Cross
    Posted March 17, 2008 at 12:51 am | Permalink

    It’s still legal to have naked women visit your home to dance, right? Why can’t the naked women just go to homes of DV customers and dance there?

  19. amused1
    Posted March 17, 2008 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Um, sorry to take this off topic. Maybe it’s because I don’t know the history, but I don’t understand the issue with the Vu. What exactly have the owners and patrons of the Vu done to earn such strong feelings? They seem to maintain their property and I assume they pay their taxes. Is there a problem with patrons causing trouble? The place always seems really quiet to me. Among my friends it’s thought of as a rather humorous aspect of Ypsi rather than a red flag (or light if you prefer).

  20. Mar on Forest
    Posted March 17, 2008 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

    I often read over John’s shoulder when he is “Mark Maynarding” (I made a new verb!) I was interested in the RAC comments, and I feel compelled to balance John’s comments with my opposing view of the RAC. Yes, there is some theater for some of the community to enjoy at the RAC. I have enjoyed roles in RAC plays, and enjoyed being part of the audience at the RAC.

    I have a couple of observations. One, the plays done at the RAC are many times of interest to a limited audience. I haven’t seen any plays offered that would pull in folks from all age groups and cultures. Two, the plays offered seem to have very small casts. And the same actors appear over and over. A larger cast would allow more people to get involved. Why not double cast? More participants, more audience, more fun all around. I would love to see the RAC become more involved with our the needs of our communities children, as well.

    The gallery? It is always a treat to see the shows there. I know some of the artists who are able to hang at the RAC, and they are talented, wonderful people. It’s a great resource; however, in the style of the RAC theater, only a few people are able to be involved. Juried gallery shows would better benefit our community if a wider range of local artists, styles and even skill levels were presented to us, rather than just members of the close-knit RAC community. I enjoy the work of emerging artists as well as works of established artists, and believe our community’s children’s artwork deserves validation, as well.

    Jim’s Cafe Luwak is a very special place, because he allows a wide range of art styles to be shown. I never know what I will see there. I enjoy the fact that he often has several artists at the same time. I have been able to hang some things at the Luwak, and appreciate Jim’s welcome to local artists. I like to see the work of artists whose styles might not be suitable to the policies of other galleries.

    Thus ends my very first post on the “Mark Maynard” blog. To think it was prompted by the compelling need to disagree with my beloved.

  21. John on Forest
    Posted March 17, 2008 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

    Mark, on second reading, your comments about RAC were in a constructive vein. I take back my “bashing” comment and would have posted this retraction ahead of my wife’s post above except it’s her laptop and she pulled rank on who got to post first.

  22. John on Forest
    Posted March 17, 2008 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    Ed, second on your list of things “in the works” is the idea of “an arts census … who is who, what, where … so there can be more mutual aid and cooperation, information sharing, and joint promotions.”

    I have been harboring an idea along these lines for about six months. My idea is to have an Artist’s Website that all local artists could sign up on to link their individual websites to.

    The Artist’s Website would function as a hub of sub-hubs, where each sub-hub would be a specific local. In other words there might be an Ypsilanti sub-hub, an Ann Arbor sub-hub, a Chelsea sub-hub…or something along those lines. Besides linking to individual artist’s websites from the hub, each artist would put a link back to the hub from their website, forming a network of websites.

    Now, if I only knew how to do it. I don’t have the technical expertise to make it happen.

  23. egpenet
    Posted March 17, 2008 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

    Mar … PRECISELY! Average audinece size = 12. Let’s talk, soon.

    John … the census is a related part of the Arts Alliance “Arts & Culture” survey that Mark alluded to above. The powers that be in the County staged a Second hearing for Ypsilanti (stated above) because of the slanted focus group that was previously recorded.

    Let’s you and I meet, as well.

    In fact, my wife Bonnie and I should meet with you AND Mar. Bonnie is deeply involved in the Arts Alliance, and I am involved in a number of ways. Call me on 355-1332 and let’s set a date withion the next couple of weeks for a glass and a talk.

  24. egpenet
    Posted March 18, 2008 at 12:06 am | Permalink

    amused1 …

    My take is this. I live downtown and I need a number of currently unavailable entertainment, retail and other services within walking distance.

    Ypsilanti may not be large enough to have its own “red light” district like that infamous alley in Nashville, where all of the strictly adult entertainment is clustered. I am not opposed to something like that in Ypsi or on the outskirts … near the Legg’s … maybe even closer in.

    Anyway … we need more widely-appealing activities downtown to bring entertainment, retail, services and other benefits to those of us who live IN downtown and IN the surrounding neighborhoods.

    The VU ladies and their management ARE good citizens. But the VU patrons are mostly from Ann Arbor, out-of-towners, plus a few locals and EMU students. The ONLY reason the VU is here and NOT in Ann Arbor (where they really wanted to locate) is because A2 has an ordinance against this type of entertainment.

    There are related issues … the VU location complicates existing issues at the Bus Depot across the street, the VU attracts SOME folks (who are also attracted to drugs and crime) to hookups and hanging out … the pimps and working girls of the streets like the traffic the VU generates … even the staff turns over frequently because “all we are doing is jamming lap dances and selling sex, and it gets very boring, not my idea of a career,” one former employe told me.

    Us downtowners would rather have a legit theater or movie theater … plus there’s room in the building for other businesses and/or lofts. How’bout thinking that a different use for the building would be a BEST use. The VU is NOT the best use … IMHO … in my humble opinion.

    OEC, however, has a standing invitation to all of you lovely ladies to dance in his living room!

  25. Posted March 18, 2008 at 2:24 am | Permalink

    hello im an r&b artist from ypsilanti . my name is lawanda and im Lee Oslers daughter , please fell free to listen to my music and leave me a comment , and keep in touch , the album will be dropping soon , titled “First Born”

  26. mark
    Posted March 18, 2008 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Welcome, LaWanda. I’ll check your stuff out. I met your father about a dozen years ago, and really liked his artwork. Is he still in the area, and painting? And best of luck with the album. (Have you ever thought about doing a cover of “Back to Ypsilanti”?)

  27. schutzman
    Posted March 18, 2008 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    mark, are you still going to share linette’s notes from the meeting?

  28. mark
    Posted March 18, 2008 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    She’s been super-busy, Brett, but, yes, I do believe she is still planning to write something. I’ll ask her.

  29. schutzman
    Posted March 18, 2008 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    thanks, mark.

    much as the case with other local matters discussed here, the major problem i see involves the organizational physics which it falls upon the leadership to maintain, and the notion of finding a common ground which unites, say, Nelson Amos and Ypsitooth, seems like a rather tricky balancing act and, therefore, competent management would be required to ensure success for anything like an ypsilanti arts collective.

    there isn’t really much likelihood that an arts website would work, in my mind. i’ve listed all the etsy artists on my links page, but from a practical standpoint there are several distinct communities already in existence here that only peripherally intermingle, and i can’t imagine certain artists wanting to even be listed alongside others.

    and i agree with ‘Mar on forest’ regarding the RAC’s appeal to most people.

    and whatever is on LaWanda’s myspace page crashed my computer before i could see it.
    thankfully, i’m not a record agent.

  30. soundman234
    Posted March 18, 2008 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    “Comment from: LaWanda Olser [Visitor]”

    ms. osler spelled her own name wrong. maybe it was really mark who wrote this… har har

  31. Posted March 18, 2008 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    The ONLY reason the VU is here and NOT in Ann Arbor (where they really wanted to locate) is because A2 has an ordinance against this type of entertainment.

    That’s not true, egpenet. No municipality can completely ban “adult businesses” – it’s a free speech issue. A municipality may only regulate the “time, place, and manner” of the business. (Try City of Renton v. Playtime Theaters, Inc. 475 US 41 (1976).)

    Ann Arbor (I believe) and Ypsilanti both take the common approach of establishing buffers between adult businesses and various things that need “protection” (usually residential districts, schools, parks, etc.), as well as limiting them to industrial zoning districts.

    So adult businesses are no more “allowed” in downtown Ypsi than in downtown Ann Arbor. So why is the Vu in downtown Ypsilanti? Because it is considered an “existing non-conforming use” – essentially, if the use predates the zoning that would forbid it, it can continue to operate indefinitely. It can’t expand, however, or be restarted if it is “abandoned” or discontinued for a period of time. (Generally a year.)

    So the Vu is not in Ypsi rather than A2 because “Ypsi allows it and Ann Arbor doesn’t”; in fact, the two cities have pretty similar ordinances. I’d say it’s in Ypsi because of inertia – they’re never going to get another downtown location in Ann Arbor or Ypsi, so they’re sticking tight to the one they’ve got.

    (As always, actual lawyers are welcome to step in and expand/clarify/correct.)

  32. egpenet
    Posted March 18, 2008 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the correction and clarification. I was going off on what someone reported to me about Ann Arbor zoning.

    I would be curious to see a financial proposition made in favor of losing the VU’s taxes in exchange for a more rapid development of the N. Washington and Pearl area retail and entertainment businesses, lofts and offices.

    Losing the VU might solve as much as 100% of the negative perception issues at that intersection and close to 25% of the actual policing issues … the remaining 75% being the bus depot and the parking lot.

    What can we do/offer that the VU might take into consideration? Can the City offer them a better location with fewer prowling tow trucks and more conveniently located by the expressway?

    Do they own the building? Or, do they have a lease?

  33. austin
    Posted March 18, 2008 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    According to the city records they own it.

  34. mark
    Posted March 18, 2008 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    There was, a few years ago, a prostitute in Ann Arbor who blogged. I’m not aware of anyone in the local sex industry who does it now, however.

    I just thought that I’d mention that there was a gaping hole in the local blogosphere, in case anyone wanted to jump in.

  35. John on Forest
    Posted March 18, 2008 at 10:58 pm | Permalink


    I need your help. I can’t find your “links page” with all the Etsy artists.

    If some artists are too snobbish to want to be part of the project, that will be their loss, in my opinion.

    The main reason I came up with the idea, was out of my experience with my wife’s art webpage. While I can put all her art up for someone to find and buy on the web, I’m not getting much web traffic. Sure, I can work on improving my keywords; but, I’m not sure that’s the real issue.

    So, my idea is to multiply the power of the internet by making it so that a websearch that finds one artist’s webpage will provide that searcher with links to other artist’s webpages too. Why wouldn’t artists, who want to expand their exposure, want to participate?

    The other part of the Artist’s Webpage, is the ability to foster cooperation and collaboration among artists. If local artists can find the names of other artists in the area and see the type of work one of those artists does, then they will be able to make contact with someone if they are looking for a collaboration.

  36. John on Forest
    Posted March 18, 2008 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    Ed and Bonnie,

    You’re on!! I’ll be contacting you in the next day or two.

  37. Ol' E Cross
    Posted March 19, 2008 at 1:13 am | Permalink


    They are highly debatable but here’s my personal issues with the Vu.

    The first, I’ll be honest, is moral. I really don’t know if this is more of my puritan or feminist tendencies but I, personally, just don’t like the idea of 18 year old women being paid to take their clothes off for the ejaculations of fifty year old men … as much as I do rather like seeing naked women. I realize who has the power in those situations is of debate, but, given the wife I married, I tend to see women’s issues through her lens and am unable to buy into strippers as feminist empowerment. I may be wrong, but it is my bias.

    The second, is provincial. And, this one is big for me. From my years in Detroit, I developed a large shoulder chip over watching, say, men from the suburbs coming and having sex on Detroit city playground equipment in my local park or burning cars on my local streets to avoid paying lease miles and then watching the suburbs decry Detroit for things suburbanites came their to take advantage of. If Deja Vu had establishments in Saline, Dexter, and A2, I’d be much more at ease with one in the heart of downtown Ypsi.

    The third, is practical. If I’m wrong, let me know, but I don’t get the impression that clients at the Vu leave to shop at the Rocket or eat/drink at TCs. They have a single destination and then depart. Cum and go. I’d rather have businesses downtown that support all of the businesses downtown. And, I do think things like the summer Crossroads Music Fest would draw more folks if it wasn’t on the same block as a strip club. Right or wrong, it’s how things are in our culture. I can’t name an active, thriving downtown in Michigan with a strip club as an anchor.

    Finally, it’s parental. I just want to put off the stripper as career choice for my daughter who I take downtown a lot as long as possible. At least until she’s fourteen.

    Like I said, I’m not sure any of my views on this are intellectually defensible. My biggest emotional issue is probably provincial. If it’s all fine and good to have teenagers rub themselves naked for you for tips, I just think you should do so in your own frontyard.

  38. schutzman
    Posted March 19, 2008 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    John on Forest-


    as it says at the bottom, feel free to let me know if your wife would like her site added to the list. The most glaring omissions i’ve made involve artists whose only websites are hosted on deviant art, facebook, or myspace, as those platforms are not user-friendly and require membership to view much of the content. I will also be adding some local photographers to the list, as soon as I can find enough to warrant doing so.

    As for the collaboration, if it’s just a situation (such as with me) where one person is going through and harvesting links and putting them all together, then yes, you could put everyone’s name side-by-side and not think twice about it (note my inclusion of the aforementioned Deja Vu among the “Cultural Arts” section, for example). The main point I was trying to address with my comment, though, had to do with such a site being an “official” extension of some sort of Ypsilanti Arts Organization, which I can’t see happening due to the range of genres involved.

    get one of the elderly watercolor artists that exhibits at the historical society when they have their art shows, and then ask them how they feel about severed unicorn heads.

    To be clear, though: I do think the wide range of artists working in Ypsilanti is, most certainly, one of the city’s greatest cultural assets, and should be promoted. It’s just that I don’t understand 1) The point of this Washtenaw County study, or 2) What kind of organizational structure could possibly support the divergent interests of ALL local artists.

    I also don’t know, to begin with, how we’re defining the word “Art.”

    The only way, by my math, to get everyone to participate would require no fewer than three or four individual groupings, not counting the largely self-contained institution of Dreamland, and even then I think a lot of artists would still balk at participation- and not because they’re dour doras who don’t work well with others, mind you, but because they know that THEIR audience would have little interest in the other work presented.

    If this comes to pass, at the county level or via the usual suspects locally, the proposed website will just end up listing the RAC, possibly Dreamland, and then a whole bunch of wedding photographers.

  39. Hillary
    Posted March 19, 2008 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    schutzman: I agree with you totally that the county study is pointless, however, HATCH in Hamtramck successfully promotes comic book writers, painters, a game developer, and a woman who makes bizarre jewelry. http://hatchart.org/

  40. schutzman
    Posted March 19, 2008 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    Hillary, I think the main difference, here, is that when HATCH was formed it was probably because no such thing existed yet in Hamtramck. In Ypsilanti, however, we have a lot of people who already think that, for example, the RAC is the cultural center of the community, and all else must orbit around it, and so it’s hard for me to imagine all these pre-existing organizations and individuals finding a common ground to develop from.

    The whole point I was making, indeed, wasn’t that such a notion was impossible, but that it would be very difficult to do, because of the environment existing right now, which it would have to develop in/from. I’m all for getting artists together, and I would personally be interested in helping such a thing happen, but I’m saying that some of the well-intentioned ideas I’ve thus heard would be doomed to failure, in the eyes of many independent artists in the area, including myself.

    …and please, for the sake of clarification, note that i prefaced my initial comment with “much as the case with other local matters discussed here,” and thus I was actually referencing more than just this single isolated example of the arts.

    In the 6 years we’ve lived here, nearly every single stupid thing I’ve seen happen in Ypsilanti was the result of a small group of people trying to advance the agenda that “Their Ypsilanti” was “The Ypsilanti.”

  41. Hillary
    Posted March 19, 2008 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    Actually, the RAC would be a great partner organization for a group like HATCH. HATCH is having to create their own center with studio, gallery, and meeting space because no community art space exists. I think the artists would rather be artists and leave the 501c3 administration and building concerns to another entity, but there’s no room for a kiln at the coffee shop.

    I agree with you about the state of politics in the city and special interest groups. Hamtramck has more problems in this area than you can imagine, and HATCH has so many members that they are able to transcend the politic. (A similar group in the ’90s failed for yet unknown reasons.)

  42. schutzman
    Posted March 19, 2008 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    as for work (and gallery) space, i think a much better facility would be the grocery store in the water street development zone, or one of the half-dozen empty industrial structures there and elsewhere in the city.

    If the RAC was interested in fostering and promoting the local arts community, then they would have already done so, and Ypsilanti would be known as a cultural destination, and we wouldn’t be having this entire conversation in the first place.

  43. mark
    Posted March 19, 2008 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    I was involved in Gallery 555 when it was here in Ypsi, and I tried, somewhat meekly, to keep it here. I also tried, to the best of my ability at the time, to keep the paper mill from being torn down. I thought that it would have been a terrific space for the artists being evicted from Ann Arbor’s Tech Center. I wasn’t smart about doing either though. I wasn’t organized. And I was timid. I’d like to think that I’d do better now. And I’d like to think that our community is growing into some kind of a force to be reckoned with. We’ll see what happens the next time a fight starts brewing, though… I don’t know that a fight is necessary at this point, but I’d like to have a better understanding of the Riverside Arts Center, its charter, its finances, etc. I agree with Brett that we should begin looking at other buildings for artist space, but I can’t help but think that we could do a better job of utilizing the RAC at the same time, perhaps for showing films and hosting gallery shows for artists working elsewhere in the city.

  44. egpenet
    Posted March 19, 2008 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

    Just DO it!

    Start collecting names … visual artists, musical artists, dancers, writers, etc.

    Do a simple overhead drawing of the old grocery/555 space laid out with studios, etc.

    And do an exterior color sketch of the grocery/555 space with banners and an art fair in the parking lot … show lots of people and cars.

    Take the sketches and the petition around town to the downtown merchants, ask for some support, then go to the Planning Department, and work your way up the chain of command.

    Assume you’ll get lots of “NO” and make up your mind to keep going for it. If the city decides to go for Water Street development parcel by parcel … you may have a great chance. Also, nothing’s gonna happen too soon that you couldn’t have a year or two in that space.

    At the same time, start dreaming about the Motor Wheel space on Norris … and also try dreaming about what you could do with the Barfield space on Lowell.

    Don’t give up.

  45. Ol' E Cross
    Posted March 19, 2008 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

    Mark. I’m glad, at long last, to hear you admit it was your fault that Gallery 555 left and the paper mill was torn down.

    Once you “man up” and admit that Water Street, David Ware and Quinn’s closing were also your fault, I feel the healing can finally begin.

  46. egpenet
    Posted March 19, 2008 at 10:58 pm | Permalink


    Here’s a more complicated idea.

    I’m on the HDC Comission. We are very converned about the condition of many old garages, horsebarns and carriage houses in the city … some or many of which are not even being used. They need proper repair, etc., but they have to be done right.

    Those buildings are owned by somebody, but they are not in good use. They are being left to “self demolish by neglect.” We have a city ordinance that prohibits that.

    You get a group together to “stabilize” if not actually restore these old buildings and in exchange, they can be studio space in lieu of rent. You get a group together, and a benefactor or two for expenses, and come to the HDC with a plan. Call it: Habitat for the Arts.

    Try that.

  47. egpenet
    Posted March 19, 2008 at 11:10 pm | Permalink


    One more thing …

    The D.A.Y. … Downtown Association of Ypsilanti … local downtown businesses … met tonight and floated an idea to put “art” in ALL of their establishments as a way to attract people downtown … an “Art Walk” as they put it.

    How’s THAT for motivation. Crafters, that applies to yiou, as well. Musicians … google the word “busker” and come downtown when the weather turns and work our streets and corners … poets and story tellers, we’ve been invited to the new “What Is That” art gallery to meet. hang, read and perform.

    Get busy Mark … Ypsi is calling YOU!

  48. egpenet
    Posted March 19, 2008 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    OK … Neighborhood Associations!

    Wherever it is you have your meetings … I assume the space is big enough to have a little art show, poetry reading, performance, puppet show for the kids … etc.

    We have a lot of talent here in Ypsi that wants to shine for you. That talent needs outlets. Spice up your next association meeting with some entertainment … a meet a local artist night … tie-in your meeting with a downtown walk … get your neighbors to once again feel a part of this city.

    As someone said at the D.A.Y. meeting tonight … Ypsi is Cool – ALL the Time!

  49. austin
    Posted March 20, 2008 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    along the line of thought of “buskers”… perhaps one of the downtown watering holes or coffee shops would entertain the idea of all day live music. The musicians could play for tips, sell CDs, and gain some exposure. The bar/coffee house would develop or expand their daytime bussiness. It may not work here in Ypsi because we don’t have the tourist trade or history like Nashville, but I do believe we have the venues and talent to pull something like that off

  50. amused1
    Posted March 21, 2008 at 12:35 am | Permalink

    Thanks for your thoughts on the Vu. It gives me more to think about. I do continue to believe that there remains a somewhat emotional reaction to the Vu that diverts energy and thought from other issues. I understand the concerns of parents and that the Vu clients may not be broader Ypsi consumers but feel there are more important dragons that need to be battled.

    Great to hear the DAY thoughts on placing art throughout the down town area. I heard a guy talking about DAY doing a youth art festival of some sort in town this summer. That could be very good for the city.

    Speaking of art, has anyone thought about converting the empty church on Forest near Dwight into an artists collective? I think it’s still for sale. Plenty of space, parking for gallery shows. Maybe even a small theater space in the church for showing film/theater? I’m not sure if it could be used for that given it’s in a neighborhood, but maybe it’s worth checking out.

  51. John on Forest
    Posted March 21, 2008 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    amused1 !!!!!!!!!!

    I had those exact thoughts about the Forest Ave. Baptist Church building. It’s zoned R1 so a variance might be needed (not undoable). One drawback is that I expect the property is pretty pricey for that use. But…

    I was also thinking, because it is so large, that there would be plenty of space for large equipment that most people can’t put in their basements: Kilns, table saws and other large wood working tools, welders and other metal working tools. The sunday school class rooms could be used for a variety of things including music practice rooms, public meeting rooms, artists studios.

  52. amused1
    Posted March 26, 2008 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    Hi John,

    Great minds eh? :) I wonder if it really is zoned residential? Usually churches and such have some other zoning code. As for the price, maybe they’d sell it cheap as an act of Christian charity. Anywho…

    Has anyone heard about the Washtenaw County artists census? It’s a census of all artists, professional or amateur, in Washtenaw County. My understanding is that they want to get a count of performing, visual and other artists in the county with an eye towards assessing available support for the arts. It’s supposed to take just a few minutes to fill out and could be very helpful.
    Mark, I hope you don’t mind if I add the link here: http://www.artscount.org. Help get the word out by letting your artist friends know about it. The census begins April 1 and runs through May 17.

  53. Posted April 4, 2008 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    hello this is lawanda again , first off i wanna say sorry to the persons computer who crashed . i havent had that problem , with anyone else , and i go there everyday tocheck messages and veiw comments and it hasnt happened to me either . second i have to say my page is for the matre music crowd , because there are some pics there for the mature crowd. im interested as to what this site is all about . As far as my musi goes i would love to do more shows in the ypsilanti area because thats my hometown . although my pics are a little sexxy , my music is diverse , and if youwere to check out my page or just google my name Lawanda Osler , and sorry for the mispelled name last message , you will find a full list of other sites i belong to besides myspace . I would love to hear some feedback on what you think my music sounds like. although my father has created a name for hiself and his music in ypsilanti , my music is nothing like his . I have my own sound and express my music much differently , as for doing the “Back to Ypsilanti ” song over , I think would be a bad idea , because our styles are so different from each other . My father still is singing and writing .And hes still doing his painting ,hes doing well.my email address is jewell2323@yahoo.com feel free to email me with any questions or comments

  54. Jack Farney
    Posted April 4, 2008 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    Do you play banjo? If so, I’ve got a place for you to play on Saturday.

  55. mark
    Posted April 5, 2008 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    To be specific, there’s a request in another thread for a person to play clawhammer this afternoon.

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