Find love this week while making art in Ann Arbor

A few days ago, I saw something online about an arts-based speed dating event coming up in Ann Arbor, and, knowing that a lot of you out there in the audience are sad and lonely, I thought that I’d mention it here. Following is my brief exchange with the person responsible for planning the event. If, after you read it, you feel as though you’d like to participate, you can register here. The event will span two evenings at the University of Michigan’s WORK Gallery (306 State Street, Ann Arbor), with “straight” people doing their thing on Thursday, November 3, and LGBT folks following them on Friday, November 4. Both events start at 8:00 PM. (For reasons unclear to me, the person that I interviewed did not want their name used on this website.)

MARK: What made you decide to put on an event like this?

ANONYMOUS: I am in the MFA program in Art & Design at UM. I am part of a seminar course in WORK Ann Arbor (the UM art gallery on State Street). Two friends are collaborating on this event with me… I wanted to facilitate a new way for people to get to know one another (i.e. a way for people to meet doing something more interesting than talking in a bar), specifically through creativity and imagination. I am single and have looked into speed dating but was not interested in the $25 events that are put on at bars and Ok Cupid and other online dating sites are frustrating and not that great. After I started advertising this event, I found out that other U of M graduate student organizations (the professional graduate schools) have hosted speed dating events in the past but they aren’t widely advertised and haven’t offered participants the chance to make art together.

MARK: I notice that your event is taking place at the U-M student gallery. Is there an official U-M connection here? This wasn’t perhaps set in motion because someone in University administration noticed that people enrolled in the Art School looked sad and lonely, did it?

ANONYMOUS: No one in the University administration had anything to do with the decision to hold the event or the planning. The Director of Communications of my department (Art & Design) did approve the event and gave me the A & D logo to put on the flier. A & D has also advertised the event on their website, as part of our Space Available exhibition. Other events during Space Available have included Argentine Tango dancing, free movie screenings with snacks & popcorn, painting protest posters, an art residency, a couple of short exhibitions, an art installation, a drag performance, and a write-in for young students. Here is more info about Space Available:

From Oct 14 to Nov 4, the University of Michigan’s Public Gallery, Work: Ann Arbor (click for details and floor plan) will be made available for proposals for multiple short term programs to take place at the space. For the 21 days, the Gallery will open itself to explore the potential and possible gestures a cultural space can provide, from exhibitions to inhibitions, from positivist communal acts to antagonistic institutional critiques, from performances to workshops, we are open to exploring what an cultural space can offer, do and be. The space is open for your consideration as a 24/7 space. Proposals could last less than a minute or span days, and happen during any 24 hour slot.

MARK: The concept of speed dating has always intrigued me, but I’ve never had an opportunity to try it out. Have you? Is it super stressful? Is alcohol generally involved?

ANONYMOUS: I have never participated in an actual speed dating event. I think alcohol is usually involved, but we won’t have any drinks at this event because there are strict rules about serving alcohol at events on university property. I’ve been part of an event in which creative writers and artists did a speed getting-to-know-you-let’s-collaborate event; it was a lot of fun and the experience is part of what led to The Subtle Art of Matchmaking.

MARK: Can you tell us a bit about the format of this event, and what people who plan to attend can expect?

ANONYMOUS: People will arrive at WORK around 8pm. We’ll give everyone cards with a list of participant names. We’ll have some snacks, drinks, and music as folks come in. Our MC will welcome everyone, distribute name tags and explain each art station quickly. There will be 10-20 art stations set up around the space with different (very simple) activities. Everyone will start at his/her assigned station, and each pair of participants will have about 5 minutes to talk and partake in as much or as little of the activity as they’d like. After 5 minutes, folks will move to new stations and meet new people. Couples can decide how much they want to interact with the activity together and how much they just want to talk. We hope that they will do both at the same time: we suggest that pairs introduce themselves, do the activity together for the first few minutes, and then talk a bit. Then we’ll give everyone time to mark on their dating card whether they would be interested in seeing the person again. At the end of the night, we’ll collect all the cards. Within 48 hours, we’ll go through all the cards and give contact information out to people who have selected each other. For example, if Morgan and Sarah both circled each others’ names on their dating cards, we would email Sarah with Morgan’s contact information and Morgan with Sarah’s contact information. People can circle as many or as few individuals as they want.

MARK: Did I imagine it, or are there crying babies on the flyer promoting this event? Was that done consciously? Do you want people thinking that, if things go well, they might meet someone at this event to have a screaming baby with?

ANONYMOUS: This is such a funny interpretation of the flier! We didn’t think of the images as crying babies. We had access to Victorian clip art scenes and thought the little kids were funny and charming. They’re innocent and earnest—first and foremost, we want our event to be like play, to be kind of like kids going to a party, meeting each other, and having fun. The pictures added to the design of the flier and were a way to organize the space. So not so much procreation as creating art with finger paint.

MARK: How difficult is it going to be to pull of the the LGBTQ version? It seems that the logistics would be quite a bit more complex.

ANONYMOUS: Not really. People get to self select based on who they are looking for. At the same-gender dating night, we’ll have women circulating with women and men with men. No harder than the opposite-gender/straight night. In terms of the “T” part of LGBTQ, a trans-man looking for a woman would go to the “straight” or opposite-gender night. A trans-woman looking for a woman would obviously go to the same-gender night and meet other women. Some folks who are queer, but date people of the opposite gender, they would go to the “straight” dates night. Folks who are gender-queer, well, we aren’t sure.

MARK: My personal interest in this is… and I understand that this might sound weird… has more to do with economic development than anything else. Several people that I know who are doing interesting things here in Michigan, are here because they’ve gotten involved with someone from the state. That’s what happened to me. My wife is from Canton, and we met while I was attending U-M, and she was at EMU. At any rate, it occurs to me that we might be able to stem some of the brain drain that our community experiences, if more of our young adults ended up finding love here, instead of heading off to Chicago or other big cities. A friend, many years ago, set up an event for people from the School of Social Work at U-M to meet awkward but well-intentioned techies from around the University. The hope was that they might find love, and perhaps not be so keen on moving after graduation. Anyway, I was just wondering if there might be an ulterior motive behind this effort of yours.

ANONYMOUS: We had no other motive than putting on a fun event for people to meet other interesting people they might want to date. Any other benefits that might come out of the experience for the community would be wonderful.

MARK: Why do you think it’s so hard to meet people here? Is it because people don’t have the time, that we don’t have enough opportunities to socialize, or is it just because we lack a critical mass population-wise?

ANONYMOUS: Well, we think it’s hard to meet people when you’re a grown-up no matter where you live. So much of dating is about timing — which is why an event like this can help, since everyone attending feels ready and interested in meeting new people.

MARK: Is there anything else that you’d like to add?

We would really like to encourage all interested people to pre-register and contact us with questions. We do have people signed up but would love more.

Those attending will be asked to contribute $7 at the door. Proceeds, I’m told, will be donated to the National Wildlife Federation, “in the name of love.”

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  1. Eel
    Posted October 30, 2011 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    Does that baby face look kind of like Mark’s face in the header?

  2. dragon
    Posted October 30, 2011 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

    Sounds great. I’ve been looking for a hot babe who’s only paying her way through art school so she can study pole dancing.

  3. K2
    Posted October 31, 2011 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    This sounds like a great event.

    If only it were open to the Single Curious, like myself.

  4. Mr. X
    Posted October 31, 2011 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    “The U-M School of Art and Design formally invites you to find a person to make a screaming baby with this Thursday night…..”

  5. Conspiracy Theorist
    Posted October 31, 2011 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    Don’t fall for it. It’s all a plot to fill up that new birthing center the U just built!

  6. Pop Control
    Posted October 31, 2011 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    With 7 billion people now on the earth, we should encourage people not to meet.

    Everyone, stay home.

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