how we market ypsilanti

As most of you know, a few friends and I started something here in Ypsi a couple of years ago called the Shadow Art Fair. As rarely happens, at least for me, we were apparently at the right place at the right time. People, for whatever reasons, were ready for a broad, quirky, playfully counter-culture art fair. Maybe they were rebelling against Ann Arbor’s established, high dollar art fair, and all of its living room-friendly landscape paintings. Maybe they just longed to meet people doing interesting, handmade, non-corporate work. For whatever reason, people came out in droves to meet the collection of zine makers, fashion designers, musicians and artists that we’d pulled together. It far exceeded our wildest expectations.

There was, from the beginning, this ulterior motive, which was to draw people to Ypsi, but our primary focus has always been on the event itself. Each time, we make sure to keep a table free so that local merchants can leave coupons and the like, and I always make the opportunity known to store owners, but we never really put a mechanism in place to track what impact we had on the local economy, if any. We knew the Brewery did huge business during the events, and we knew that our vendors did well, but we didn’t know much outside of that.

What we did hear anecdotally, however, was encouraging. Last summer, Jim from Caf

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46 Comments

  1. egpenet
    Posted March 19, 2008 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

    Governemnt is NOT marketing.

    Do NOT ask the city fathers and mothers to market Ypsilanti.

    The best marketers of Ypsilanti are its citizens and its merchants. As you have proven with the Shadow Art Fair … and as the D.A.Y. has shown with its promotions and organizational efforts … a rising tide lifts all boats.

    COPAC, too, in the neighborhoods … with its underpinnings on public safety … has helped to raise awareness and stimulate retail and entertainment activity downtown and in Depot Town.

    I urge everyone reading this blog to read the Blueprint report on its entirety. The charts and appendices have valid numbers to study.

    After that toilet seat reading, START something, for Pete’s sake. Get something going in your neighborhood, business, somewhere here in town … get involved … volunteer … start painting, writing … take a pottery class … come downtown and get smashed so you can see ART … something!

    We have a great community of singles, gays, families, po’folk and middle class, who love Michigan, love Ypsilanti and love great music and appreciate beauty. We have it all!

    Put on your jacket, rain hat, etc. … and come downtown. Have an omelet at the Wolverine. Check out a book at the library. Read the first chapter at Bombadill’s. Buy some Chorizo at Dos Hermano’s. Go home and write to DTE to fix the damn burned out lights scattered throughout the city. Start picking up papwrs and blown trash around your place and think about folks coming here and all of us wanting Ypsi to look pretty and clean and cared for.

    As someone made very clear at the D.A.Y. meeting tonight … “Let me be clear … it all comes down to US … WE have to make it happen.” She’s talking about you and me, dear neighbors. And she’s right.

    G’night.

  2. Ol' E Cross
    Posted March 20, 2008 at 12:38 am | Permalink

    G’night EgP and I do hear you and you Mark. As I’ve alluded to in past, one of my problems is a nostalgia for the present. I buy a pair of boots and immediately start mourning the day they’ll wear thin.

    Marketing hip and hot is a tricky thing. How many of us cringed when we first saw the well-intentioned, and now accepted, “Hipsilanti” lightpost banners. Part of Ypsi’s allure, I’d suggest, is its secrets, like the freighthouse, SAF and local establishments. Once you market, you raise expectations. Expectations supplant surprise. Surprise is delightful. Expectations seldom deliver. Expectations also draw investors who expect return, whatever the cost of delivery. Marketing Ypsi as a land of opportunity will both cost us and pay dividends.

    On the other hand, I can appreciate the need for change/economy. I want to see more opportunity for local businesses to thrive. I want to market on their behalf. And, I want tax dollars to keep our parks, parks.

    To get to the point, and don’t get me wrong, I love the SAF and all the creative dollars it brings, really, it’s brilliant, but I would trade the SAF for one more Saturday at the old, unmarketed, unheralded freighthouse. What took place at the freighthouse, weekly, was, for me, bizarre and beautiful. What takes place at the SAF is more deliberate and successful. I, trully, love both and would like to have both, if I can, but if I had to pick…

    This all, really, is a question. I’m just not sure how we can market Ypsi as underground creative quirk and remain underground, or, as the land of opportunity without attracting crass opportunists.

    But, whatever the result, I’ve had some great years here, enough so where I’m planning to die here to be close to the memories, whether we become the next Birmingham or Inkster. Really, I’m just habitually clinging to what I have.

    When you start a marketing campaign you usually have some goal in mind. I want to ask why we want to market Ypsi. Just want to be sure we’ll know where we’d like any campaigns to take us before we’re taken.

  3. MaryD
    Posted March 20, 2008 at 6:05 am | Permalink

    I am with you OEC, as I have said before, I too really miss those Saturdays at the freighthouse. But it isn’t a matter of either/or, we can SAF & the indoor, outdoor Farmers Market. RAC is great too and seems to be the darling of the city to date. Speaking of art, do not miss YHS’s “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” the 26, 27, & 28th of March at YHS. The high school kids have put out excellent work year after year for the 25 plus years I have attended, you will not be disappointed. The talent at the school is amazing.

  4. Posted March 20, 2008 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    I know I’ve heard this from someone else too, but how about the SAF spilling outside, maybe into Frog Island, and being bigger and accepting all who apply?

    That being suggested, it’s awesome the way it is. I agree, a GREAT thing for Ypsi!

  5. mark
    Posted March 20, 2008 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    Is the Freighthouse more important than the SAF? Hell, yeah. It’s true. I didn’t mean to suggest otherwise. All I was saying is that a static photo of the RAC on a City website probably wasn’t the best image we could put forward…. I wish I could say more, but I’ve got to run to work.

  6. Mark H.
    Posted March 20, 2008 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    One of the many opportunities for Ypsi that was sacrificed by the Water Street boondoggle/fiasco was the displacement of the budding artists colony in some of the old buildings south of Michigan Ave….buildings that the city leveled. But aren’t there some other buildings down there still standing? Are they suitable for artists use? Aren’t they standing empty now, and owed by the city? Must they stand empty forever? Or can a use be found? I think so. Artists need space, cheap. And such artists colonies can spur growth of many types in a community. (If you doubt me, think of Soho in NYC today versus in 1955). The city leaders have yet to kill all the potential that Ypsilanti has.

  7. Observer
    Posted March 20, 2008 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    Are you kidding? Nothing says excitement like a still photo of a building that no one under 40 has ever entered.

  8. Barry LaRue
    Posted March 20, 2008 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    Since I’m the facility chair of the Riverside I really don’t have anything to say about our web presence! I did want to mention that the “person vist” numbers at the RAC were gleaned from theatre and gallery folks.

    It is way more than 1,500 per year. If you calculate a theatre of 115 fixed seats, typically four shows per weekend and a 50% occupancy and about 35 weeks per year that’s 8,050 plus actors, crew, designers, director, etc. Easily that’s 10,000 visits. The gallery does a pretty good job of keeping track of folks. I’ll try to get a more exact number but I think it is around 15,000 NOT 1,500.

    As we launch our education program that number will increase and start things happening during the day, not just at night. As to demographics, yeah, we’d love to have more people under 40 at the center. Are there alternative theatre folks out there who need a black box to perform in? I would guess so. Tell them to give us a call! Leave a message for Maureen at 480-ARTS.

    I agree with many of the comments such that we need a broad range of stuff here in Ypsi. The Shadow Art Fair, the Beer Festival, Quirk Theatre at EMU, the Elbow Room, Riverside, etc. I say the more the better. Diversity is good…

  9. Posted March 20, 2008 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    I still just want walkable movies. Is that so much to ask? Since the Deja Vu has destroyed all that made the Martha Washington Theatre worth treasuring in turning that venue into a nightclub (or whatever you want to call it), we should try it elsewhere. I envy Royal Oak their wonderful art movie house. RAC? A film society in Ypsi would be a wonderful idea and the RAC would be a wonderful location.

  10. Barry LaRue
    Posted March 20, 2008 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    I spoke with folks at the Blueprint meeting that if a group would like to make a pitch to come in and show movies (really video projection) we’re all ears.
    There are some hurdles to overcome. Theatre requires set-up and rehearsal time so the nights that folks assume are “dark” (Sunday thru Wednesday) are usually rehearsals. It’s just the fact of life in live presentation. That being said, all our weeks aren’t rented and on those shows that do two weekends the middle dates could be used. Also, maybe asking the EMU film history class to show stuff at, say, 4 or 5pm so that there was enough time to clear the house and have a live performance at 8pm. Anyhow, it is tricky, but possible and all we need is a group to take it on. That’s how we work. The RAC doesn’t do shows, local groups like PTD or Susan Morris or the Michigan Classical Rep do. Call us.

  11. Ol' E Cross
    Posted March 20, 2008 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    Mark, I agree with everything you wrote and know you weren’t saying the SAF has more import than the Freighthouse. I was just drunkenly spattering about the risk and rewards of marketing.

    A general rule of marketing is picking a single, cohesive message. I think what you, I and many love about Ypsi is its uncohesiveness. The SAF is cohesive and more naturally suited to marketing. The Freighthouse was a wonderfully random mix and mess and much more difficult to describe. If we could package Ypsi like the SAF, say, as the place for creative folk, it would be a good sell, and, I think the town would enjoy success. And I do understand the value of success for local biz. But, what we love about Ypsi is more akin to the disjointed Freighthouse markets. Hippies selling herbal soaps sitting next to old ladies selling yarn toilet paper covers is more difficult to finger a target audience and marketing message for. We could never hope to attract the numbers to a Saturday morn at the Freighthouse that the SAF attracts. But, as much as I enjoy the SAF, I think you and I were both more charmed by the Freighthouse.

    I’m really just using the SAF and Freighthouse as marketing examples, I love both and want to live in a town that has both. Having both is what makes living is this town a pure delight.

    There’s so many things we could market Ypsi as: a great place for artists or minority businesses or auto enthusiasts or historic lovers or urban farmers or so on and on…

    When I think of marketing the town, I just start to fritter and fret that it’ll change it … that we’ll pick a singular, market driven, identity. And, I worry that it’ll work, and we’ll become famous as “The Place for X” instead of a rare place where you can stumble from A to Z.

  12. mark
    Posted March 20, 2008 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for your comments, Barry. I appreciate your taking the effort… As for showing movies at the RAC, I really like the idea, but my guess is that, even if we could figure out the scheduling issues, the rental rates would be too high. From what I understand, the cost of renting the RAC is quite a bit. I’ve never verified that, however. As I think that the RAC has no paid staff, does no programming of its own, and owns the building outright, maybe I’m wrong. If rentals were affordable, my guess is that you’d have no problem getting together a group of people to show films on Saturday afternoons, or some weekday in the early evening. I’d sure pitch in on.

  13. mark
    Posted March 20, 2008 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    I hear you, Ol E Cross… I’ll even do you one better. Sometimes I fear that Ypsi will become too popular, and that a lot of what I love will fade away. It’s a risk. Then again, not being able to afford public safety personnel and trash collection is an issue. With some luck, however, we might be able to play it just right.

    As for marketing, my thought has always been that we should go with “inventiveness.” It’s a theme that ties everything else up in it. Iggy invented punk rock. Tucker tried to recreate the American automotive industry. McCay was a pioneer in animation. And, McCoy was probably the most successful African-American inventor and businessman of his day. That covers most of the bases you pointed to, and it’s pretty cohesive as far as message goes. The City gave Hyett Palma $50 K for less, in my humble opinion.

  14. egpenet
    Posted March 20, 2008 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

    Programming is the key.

    The bills HAVE to be paid … and then some.

    So, with creative programming, everybody is happy.

    It is oversimplified to say, but the RAC is a facility for rent. As Barrie pointed out, the staff does no programming.

    If certain “programmed” events sponsored by the RAC and covering the basic bills were organized/offered … then what was left of the weekly schedule, 24/7 could be made available at less than market rates.

    That’s what was great about the Freighthouse. A Farmers Market and a few other basic events appear (by the budget I am looking at) to have paid the bills and even a manager with benefits! Throw in the Jazz/Dances, some weddings, a few other things and there was a surplus.

    I must say that the bedget I am looking at was skimpy and probably not all that accurate. And there was no line item for maintenance, nor one for restoration, nor even a savings account from what I can tell. Hence, it has fallen into disrepair and isn’t even safe. All of this COULD have been foreseen. It probably WAS, but kept being shoved to a back burner. Anyhow …

    Programming is the key … and that takes active management.

    Other above comments about the RAC … such as no one under 40 has ever been in the place … isn’t really true. It IS an imposing edifice, and it was designed to be so. I’d really like to see an idea for an exciting signage and exterior lighting plan that would shout “Center for Arts” day and night to young and old, so when you went to a play or the gallery or a class, you didn’t feel you were entering a bank or a mausoleum.

    Something also needs to be done in the plaza with that section of the Detroit People Mover. Exciting lighting, colorful hanging banners, something that has movement, that says “Arts Here,” “Culture All The Time,” something a’la Christo’s Central Park “gates.”

    Get some art OUTSIDE. Put up a lit arts in the city kiosk and keep it current with what’s happening throughout the city.

  15. Ol' E Cross
    Posted March 20, 2008 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    I share your fears as well as the pragmatic concerns. We probably need to pick a message and market. And, inventiveness is an admirable trait and can encompass a lot of what has and does happen in town. It’s a good message but is still limited. Most of what was sold at the Freighthouse was, frankly, far from inventive. The mix of old and new is what makes the place so damn nice. We could certainly build a marketing case for Ypsi as the place for invention but it’d be selective history. It’s persuasive but arbitrary, but then marketing always is, has to be. We could as easily start with unscrupulous profiteers like Tubal Cain and go from there.

    Marketing has to reduce and simplify to be effective. It’s just painful to try to reduce and simplify life in Ypsi. I think it needs to be done and you’re heading down the right track.

    I’m just fretting, clinging and curmudgeoning.

  16. HD
    Posted March 20, 2008 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

    To your pile of anecdotes attesting to the success of Shadow Art Fair in penetrating the regional consciousness, I would add this chance meeting last week of a Shadow Art Fair vendor and patron on an Ann Arbor sidewalk.

  17. John on Forest
    Posted March 21, 2008 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    OEC and mark, maybe the marketing word you’re looking for is DIVERSITY.

    Diversity describes everything about Ypsilanti. There is art (RAC, Dreamland, SAF, WIT, etc.), country urbanism or urban countryness (Elvis Fest, Farmers Market, Food Coop, etc.), history (firehouse, YHS, heritage festival, McCoy), Education (EMU et al…and by the way EMU has it’s own microcosm of art, history, and other things), Eateries and Entertainment, niche shopping, The Vu, and the list goes on.

    Ypsilanti is also diversified with respect to it’s inclusiveness of cultures. Black, White, Hispanic-Latino, GLBT, …

  18. mark
    Posted March 21, 2008 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

    Ah, yes, HD, Mr. Roos is everywhere. A friend was at some remote bird sanctuary not too long ago and who should be there, but John Roos. I also hear that he was in a barn somewhere, out in the country, dressed as a giant unicorn head not too long ago. And somewhere there’s video of him officiating a badminton game between enormous furries. I’ve seen it.

    As for Diversity, I think you’re right, JoF. Unfortunately, I think these days when someone thinks “diversity” they just think, “there are black people there.” They don’t think of the term outside of the context of race. Maybe I’m wrong about that, but that’s what it seems like to me.

  19. UBU
    Posted March 22, 2008 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    Mark, you are sooooo right…YOU and YOU ALONE put the hip in Hipsilanti! Forget the city, Congress should pass a proclamation saluting the Shadow Art Fair! It’s not like you get any press coverage, and I know there are many young people who have defeated thoughts of suicide just by knowing the fair is around! As a matter of fact, why not just go ahead and change the name of the city to Menardia?

  20. egpenet
    Posted March 22, 2008 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Menardia is something you prevent by using a condom.

  21. mark
    Posted March 22, 2008 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    It must be hard fitting in as an illiterate in Ann Arbor. I feel so sorry for you, Ubu… What I said was that that Shadow Art Fair was one of many things in Ypsi that would attract young(ish) professional and creative folks – entrepreneurs, artists, and the like. I mentioned Growing Hope, Wireless Ypsi, the solar city hall project, and lots of other things. As for the SAF, I think I’ve said it before, but I’m not the person that makes it great. It’s a community thing. It was just my idea. My friends deserve credit for pulling it off. And the artists deserve the credit for making it compelling. If you’d ever bothered to come out and see one, you’d know what I’m talking about. But you had axes to grind in Ann Arbor.

    And I thought that Menardia was like Priapism.

  22. UBU
    Posted March 22, 2008 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    I wish I could read your wise reply but if you say I’m illiterate I guess I am…

  23. mark
    Posted March 22, 2008 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Maybe illiterate was the wrong word. It’s more a problem of comprehension that you have.

  24. UBU
    Posted March 22, 2008 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    you are SO cute when you get mad! :)

  25. mark
    Posted March 23, 2008 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    If you think I’m cute now, you should see me when I’m slashing tires. I hear I’m absolutely adorable.

  26. egpenet
    Posted March 23, 2008 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    Hmm.

  27. mark
    Posted March 23, 2008 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Don’t worry, Ed. It was a joke. I’ve never slashed a tire in my life. I’ve never broken a window. I did once, after drinking, run through the halls of a UM classroom building late at night. That’s as close to vandalism as I’ve ever come.

  28. mark
    Posted March 23, 2008 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    I also broke a door once. I was listening to the Pixies, got a bit too enthusiastic, and, the next thing I knew, the door to the terrace of our apartment was hanging by just one hinge. We fixed it though… Is it still vandalism if it’s on your property and you fix it?

  29. mark
    Posted March 23, 2008 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    This sucks. The more I sit here and think about it, the more things come to mind…

    I have also probably peed in inappropriate places. (Never in Ypsi, I’m proud to say.) And, I suspect I’ve littered. I’ve never done it intentionally, but I’m sure I’ve done it. I also threw a bottle out a window to kill a rat in college. Hopefully, I’ve picked up enough broken glass since then, that I wasn’t responsible for, to make up for it.

  30. mark
    Posted March 23, 2008 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    And there are occasions when I walk Freeda and forget to take a poop bag… Or, when I just take one poop bag and she poops twice. I feel guilty about those instances. I’d like to apologize to everyone I’ve hurt.

  31. mark
    Posted March 23, 2008 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Once, when living in the dorms, I hid dead fish in a friend’s dorm room.

  32. mark
    Posted March 23, 2008 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    I’m sure I have more to confess, but I swear that I’ve never slashed a tire.

  33. Paul Schreiber
    Posted March 23, 2008 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    Mark,

    When are you running for public office?

    Paul

  34. John on Forest
    Posted March 23, 2008 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    I’ve thrown apple cores or banana peels out of the car window onto public highway medians where they will slowly biodegrade, harming no one. My wife thinks I’m a litter bug, though.

  35. Father Ypsilanti
    Posted March 23, 2008 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    You are forgiven and absolved of all your sins, my son.

  36. Mother Ypsilanti
    Posted March 23, 2008 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    I told him he could say that.

  37. egpenet
    Posted March 23, 2008 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    This is all a setup so Mark can turn himself in to Cheif Matt, spend a night in jail, then do some art and get famous.

  38. mark
    Posted March 23, 2008 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    Easter is a pretty good day, I guess, to rise up, shake off the past, and announce my candidacy for Governor. Thank you all for your forgiveness and support… All I’m really missing is a law degree, and experience with prostitutes.

    Speaking of prostitutes, I just saw one on Michigan Ave, by Arthur’s – a skinny woman in sweatpants with open sores on her face. It’s sad any time, but I found it particularly sad today, on Easter – a day most people are spending indoors with their families… I think it’s been mentioned on this site before, but I wonder just how aggressive our Ypsi churches are in reaching out to these women and helping them. If there are large initiatives in place to help them, either on the part of churches or other non-profits, I’m not aware of them.

  39. Posted March 23, 2008 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    Hmmmm, I was just speaking to a very old Quaker the other day and he was telling me about a program in Detroit that he participated in that helped prostitutes, called Women, Incorporated. The idea was to get women off addictive substances and begin helping one another thru polarity therapy. No kidding. He said it was successful. But this was 40 years ago.

    I never see these prostitutes you all seem to see. Am I blind? How can you tell they are prostitutes?

  40. Jesus
    Posted March 23, 2008 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

    You have heard it was said, “Do not urinate in public.” But I tell you that anyone who is walking home from the bar and yearns to relieve himself on a lightpost has already committed a civil infraction in his heart.

  41. Ol' E Cross
    Posted March 23, 2008 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

    Breaking beer bottles in Ann Arbor and picking up broken glass in Ypsilanti?

    I think we have our next candidate for Citizen of the Year!

  42. egpenet
    Posted March 24, 2008 at 12:32 am | Permalink

    Face it … Mark wants to get busted, go to jail for a day or so, then come out with a few unicorn head paintings and get famous as a prisoner artist … so we can all feel sorry … and pay thousands for his tortured art.

  43. Guillaume Apollinaire
    Posted March 24, 2008 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    In the case of Mark Maynard, there are already plenty of reasons to feel sorry for his tortured art.

  44. Felix Feneon
    Posted March 24, 2008 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    And even more reasons to feel tortured by his sorry art.

  45. egpenet
    Posted March 24, 2008 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    Then, he should be locked up for a short time, so he can be a legitimate artist upon release.

  46. amused1
    Posted March 24, 2008 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    So how many bad jokes can we get out of this slogan?

    “Ypsi, come as you are”

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