Ypsi, Ann Arbor and the Arts

markm_001Concentrate Media has put a story up on their site about the differences between the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti art scenes. They talked with people on both sides of Carpenter, including yours truly, who they photographed drinking beer and playing Barbies with a bunch of little girls. The consensus, I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear, is that Ann Arbor has become the establishment, and Ypsi, for the most part, is where real risks are being taken. Here’s a clip:

…”If Ann Arbor is Broadway, then Ypsilanti is off-Broadway,” says Carla Milarch, the executive director of Performance Network in Ann Arbor. Milarch says the Performance Network at its inception was considered the fringe, the new kids on the block in Ann Arbor’s art world. But as the art nucleus of the city grew broader and broader, the fringe was pushed further and further out.

“That fringe used to be Washington Street,” she says. “Now it’s Ypsi”….

Ann Arbor’s base has grown. “Artists have been priced out of Ann Arbor,” says Mark Maynard, one of the organizers of the Shadow Art Fair, a one-day, twice a year, locally loaded art fest. “Ann Arbor is very well established, and it’s hard for new people to break in. Plus, renting is expensive. This works against them. It hurts them.” These things work toward Ypsilanti’s advantage – toward this idea of DIY art on the cheap, toward this idea of Ypsilanti as an art incubator, a gritty field to cultivate young, edgy, vibrant art.

“We have a huge opportunity here to start something… something bigger,” he says. “And the arts community is in place to start this something in Ypsi”…

I figure if I hype Ypsi enough, sooner or later I’ll be able to sell my house and get out.

That, of course, isn’t true… I think it would be funny if it was, though.

This photo, by the way, is by Dave Lewinski. He wanted to shoot me, “coming out of the restroom, zipping up (my) fly.” (I didn’t ask if he had the men’s or women’s in mind.) I politely refused, and suggested instead that he take photos of me sitting where I was, playing with dolls, and drinking beer. And, for what it’s worth, this was, to my knowledge, Clementine’s first hands-on experience with Barbie. We’d been holding back, not wanting to expose her to the impossibly-proportioned misogynistic image of female beauty. But, as the box of Barbie’s came with the daughter of a U-M Women’s Studies professor, I decided to put the guilt aside. In this photo, if memory serves, I’m asking the girls if any of them have a lighter, so that I can set her hair on fire.

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  1. Posted August 27, 2009 at 2:36 am | Permalink

    Great article. Just ran into an old friend who is renting a space at Spur and he was really excited about it.

  2. Curt Waugh
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    By the way, I saw Mark that day and went over to shake his hand. He looked at me with these freaky wide eyes, death-gripped a Barbie to his chest, said something on the order of “MY precious” and waved me away. The children wept.

    That was cold, man.

  3. Bob
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    Why the constant need to measure Ypsi against Ann Arbor? It’s kind of pathetic and pointless. Apples and oranges. Plus, the truth is that some of Ypsilanti’s best places are going downhill. The Elbow Room has lost almost all of it’s charm and the booking mostly sucks since it changed hands. The Tap Room made all those renovations only to be a complete letdown for those of us who had high hopes for its return to a great live music venue. TC’s is gone. The Crossroads festival barely attracts a crowd. Even the Corner Brewery has gone way downhill in terms of the quality of their beer. Lots of the faithful Corner folks are heading to the brewery in Milan. I think much of this Ypsilanti art scene is kind of in your own head Mark.

  4. Posted August 27, 2009 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    I bought our Clementine a Barbie and was almost disappointed by how plain it was. THIS is what my mother’s generation railed against? While she is still very tall and thin, I think she’s gone down a couple cup sizes or something. Even the shoes did not seem slutty. And she’s wearing permanent underwear.

  5. roots
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    I agree w/Bob on the apples to oranges comment…James makes a good point in the article noting the connection between the two towns, and that both add to the region. It’s not a competition.

    I don’t agree with Bob as to the rest of his comment. Sure, it’s a shame that a few Ypsi bars have lost some charm; however, if I’d moved to Ypsi for its bar scene alone…well…that’d be an absurd way to measure the entire town and its overall appeal.

  6. Posted August 27, 2009 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    I like Ann Arbor. It has infrastructure and capacity way beyond what Ypsi could ever have. Ypsi can’t support a theater like the Michigan Theater or do something like bring in the Royal Shakespear Company. That was what I was being interviewed about though. We were talking about young artists and I gave my opinion that Ypsi had a tremendous opportunity. I’ve been saying that since the Tech Center closed in A2, and I believe it. There’s totally a symbiotic relationship between the two. One isn’t better than the other

  7. Curt Waugh
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    Bob, speak for yourself and your vague “Lots of the faithful Corner folks are heading to the brewery in Milan.” You sound like the mainstream media (“lots of people are for the war, seriously, lots”).

    The comparison to Ann Arbor is entirely valid in the context of the article. We really share a common space for the most part. Is there really so much separation between the two? And our cultural identities are intertwined. There’s no reason to rail against each community picking out a niche.

  8. Kristin
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    Sorry about your tired old establishment work, Ann Arbor artists.

  9. Ypsiosaurus Wrecks
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    The comments about Ypsi being attractive because of it’s “edge” are in contrast to those who complain about the drugs and prostitutes. These things go hand in hand – steep socio-economic decline and the rise of illegal business. You can’t have it both ways – an edge without the ugliness.

    I like your blog Mark but you are coming across more and more as an idealistic schlepp. You talk about the sense of “community” you feel here but I’m not sure what you are referring to. The cool crowd that no longer exists to hang out at the freight house? Or is it the small, white, mostly middle class “artisitic types’ who hang out at the Corner brewery…?

    Do yourself a favor and compare the crowd at the Corner to crowd at the plasma center. FYI: the crowd selling their blood are much more representative of the average Ypsi resident – than your more hipster drinkers.

    When is the last time you actually spoke to a poor non-white person? Give it a try – maybe then you will have a valid basis for making comments about “community” here in Ypsi.

    I hope to God you and your friends actually draw some positive attention to this city so I CAN sell my house and get out.

  10. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    Why would we want to stand up and say “We’ve got it go’n on here in Ypsi”? Probably because of the traditional AA aditude of “EEEWWW, Ypsi!” and “I wouldn’t go to Ypsi, it’s dangerous” Well, I’ll tell you, if someone would try to open a good music store (again) I would never go to A2. As it is I go less than 8 times a year. The prices are too high, the parking/traffic suck, and oh so many A2 residents have their head firmly planted in their asses, in my opinion.

    We have all kinds of Art. Heinrich/White were doing art shows at Andrews/Scream’n Eagle & TC’s. The What Is It Gallery. Spur Studios (show me where to get affordable studio space in A2) Dreamland Theater. FOUR INDI COFFEE SHOPS! The Elbow, contrary to what Bob said, has made huge improvements since Andy took over. It’s true we’ve lost a little ground; TC’s is gone, Scream’n Eagle has lost it’s good stage (though it’s putting on killer Hip-Hop shows).

    Now I’m going to have a moment. What the hell is up with The Tap Room. I get angry every time I look at that stage. Will someone please tell those guys to get their heads out of their asses and let people have ticketed shows! I know they are worried about loosing buisness with a cover(though there never seemed to be a problem back in the day when all downtown bars had live music), but they can close that room off, for Christ sake! We want that venue back, and I don’t think that the musicians of the area should be forced to play for free to get it!

    Ypsi can be what we want it to be if we loose our inferiority complex. I have no problem saying I love Ypsi and loath A2. We’ve got lower prices, broader horizions, and the additude to back it up. DIY is our moto, and we live by it. Just look at the two art fairs. One has really cool, creative, localy sourced stuff. The other ain’t art and ain’t fair. Show your Ypsi Pride! Affordable galleries. Affordable bars. Affordable studio space. Affordable housing. Affordable social life. Fuck A2. Ypsi for life!

    Maybe comparing Ypsi and A2 is silly. But it doesn’t hurt to try and raise the bar…

  11. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

    Ypsiosaurus, I’m not quite sure what you’re getting at. That there are poor people in Ypsi? Or that you don’t like being around poor people? Either way you seem to have the typical Michigan attitude: screw this place I’m moving to the suburbs. Well, with Detroit as an example, that’s one of the biggest reasons our state is in trouble. If we don’t start standing our ground in Michigan, then all is lost.

    One of the greatest assets Ypsi has is that it’s a real place. A2 has this little halo of perfection that people see, a white wash. Did you go to Heritage fest? I saw a community of all colors and economic back grounds having a good time. Do you see that at A2 Art Fair? Not so much. I’ll take a diverse community with all that goes with it over 90% rich white snobs any day.

    I’m not really sure what your blood center comment was about, either. Poor folks and college students hanging out in the same place? Or, again, you just don’t like to see poor people? To say that that crowd represents Ypsi more accurately than those at the Corner is certainly true, but only in an off the mark sort of way. Corner is a high end bar. Go down to Michigan Ave and hang out. Or Mr. Mike’s. Or Haab’s. Or a local church. At any of those places you’ll see a broad spectrum of people. Wealthy, middle class, poor, white, black, tan. That’s the type of place I want to live in, and the type of place I’ll strive to make better. I’ve said it here before. If you don’t like Ypsi, please, go ahead and leave. Make room for those who are willing to stand up for their city.

  12. Joanne
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

    Why anyone hated Barbie is beyond me. My friends and I didn’t want to be her. We just wanted to have all the stuff she had for her so we could play with it. The best Barbies are from ’59 to early ’90’s, before they became bland, with the same Stepford Wives smile, and all about Fairy Princesses garbage they now sell. You can find many old ones at Value Village, Salavation Army, garage sales, etc. I had many original fashions as well as a slew of items one grandmother sewed for me. I still have those and the six Barbies I grew up with.

  13. Kristin
    Posted August 28, 2009 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    Andy, you make me sad. What’s all this defensiveness about? Just enjoy your city and quit wagging your finger at your neighbors. It’s unseemly.

  14. kjc
    Posted August 28, 2009 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    haha. he lives in ypsi. he’s supposed to be unseemly.

  15. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted August 28, 2009 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    Don’t think of it as defensiveness. It’s pride. There’s enough people out there talk’n trash about Ypsi without residents joining in on it. I’ll say it again. Michigan’s biggest problem is hatred/disdane of our urban areas. Untill we all stand up and show pride in our cities, we are doomed to failure. I don’t wave fingers. I rant, rave, and respond when insulted. Someone needs to. Maybe I do step over the lines of civility now and then, but, well, I don’t care. If you’re an Ypsi resident and you’re going to talk trash about Ypsi on a mostly Ypsi blog, it’s to be expected. I’ve been called much worse than unseemly

  16. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted August 28, 2009 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, kjc. I’ll take that as a compliment.

  17. Ypsiosaurus Wrecks
    Posted August 28, 2009 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    Yeah Andy – you do seem kinda defensive and angry..

    I have no problem with poor people. I happen to work with low income residents of both ann arbor and ypsi.

    I am an ypsi resident – pay the exorbitant taxes and have a right to voice my complaint. If you disagree – oh well. Part of Ypsi’s motto is “diversity”.

    T-Shirt Idea….

    [Front] Ypsi Sucks
    [Back] Ann Arbor Blows


  18. Oliva
    Posted August 30, 2009 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    Speaking of unseemly: did anyone see the pages stapled to Ypsi phone poles showing Obama as the Joker? Done along Huron, anywhere else?

    From Toronto Star, 30 Aug. 2009:

    If you’re offended by the startling images of U.S. President Barack Obama smeared with clown makeup posted around Toronto, American libertarian radio talk show host and “alternative news” blogger Alex Jones says brace yourself.

    “People are getting more aggressive because they realize being nice isn’t getting them anywhere,” said Jones, 35. “This is just the beginning.”

    The self-proclaimed “freedom lover” from Austin, Tex., who runs American website infowars.com, launched a viral “Obama Joker” poster campaign last month, calling for people to put up as many posters of Obama as Heath Ledger’s villainous character from the Batman epic The Dark Knight as possible and to post videos on YouTube.

    Blech. (The “poster” shows the web address, infowars.com. I hate to give the owner any attention but did check it out.)

    I know people who voted for Obama are also frustrated, but it’s good to watch footage of people near the Inauguration, not so long ago given everything, and hear all the exhilarated, hope-drenched people saying, “It’s gonna take time–we need to be patient” and “We all need to get to work, do our parts.” It’s good to remember how much we promised to do. Doing it en masse would quickly crowd out the vile voices–so how to do it so it shows?

    At least the people who want change but are stymied by frustration and are even possibly having trouble combating fearful notions being stoked by bad-hearted people can fight those unwanted feeling by helping to encourage a passionate determination to correct the many false rumors re. health care reform, insist on real change, and get our legislators to pull it off–well and quickly. A monumental act that could change many, many lives for the good–and a great reason to be glad.

  19. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted August 31, 2009 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    I’m not saying that there should be no opinions on Ypsi. Clearly, there are huge problems that need to be fixed. But I stand behind the over all statement: If you’ve got a complaint about your city, step up and help fix it. Don’t run away.

  20. To Oliva
    Posted August 31, 2009 at 2:28 pm | Permalink


    I wonder if these flyers that you’re seeing are in any way tied to those racist handbills that were being distributed through parts of Ypsi prior to the election.

  21. Amanda
    Posted August 31, 2009 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    i got my first barbies at the point in which i was mature enough to have an honest conversation with my mother about why they were wrong and misrepresentative of women. after she was confident in my ability to do that, i was allowed to have them. when i was young i was also not allowed to watch disney– too sexist & violent. while i’m not a huge barbie person, i think i feel MUCH more strongly about keeping my kids from being exposed to violence, sexism, and blatant advertising in the media, film, tv, etc… disney has gotten better over the years, to an extent.

  22. Oliva
    Posted August 31, 2009 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    Oh my, I hadn’t thought of that.
    Creepy, eh?

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