Goodbye from your friends at the Michigan Design Militia… We love you!



Last night was kind of overwhelming, and I’m still processing it. I’d known, of course, that people loved the Shadow Art Fair, but I didn’t know just how deep it went until I set up a booth in the corner and started talking to people about what the event has meant to them over the years. It would seem that a lot of people hold a special place in their heart for this little gathering of weird, beautiful, visionary makers that we call the Shadow, and I can’t tell you haw gratifying that is to hear.

I can’t possibly recount all of the conversations that I had last night, but here are a few highlights… Two successful artists told me that they wouldn’t have the careers they have today without the Shadow Art Fair. Another person told me that he moved to Ypsi because of the feeling that he got from the Shadow. One of this year’s featured artists shared with me that, seven years ago, at the age of 17, he’d scaled the wall in the beer garden and snuck in, as he’d wanted to be a part of what was going on, and wasn’t old enough to make it past the folks checking IDs at the front door. Another artist told me that she met her husband at an early Shadow Art Fair. And I heard from countless people that they’d begun making things themselves after visiting the Shadow Art Fair, and becoming inspired, which is really the thing that makes me the happiest. I love the thought that kids who came through the Shadow with their parents seven years ago, are now making zines of their own. I love the fact that more people in our community are canning their own food, making their own clothes, starting their own businesses, and getting more engaged with their neighbors. And I’m super happy that many of our artists these past few years are people who, when they first attended a Shadow Art Fair, hadn’t even thought of themselves as being creative. I really do think that the change I’ve seen this past seven years is significant, and I’m glad, that, to some extent, we were able to serve as a catalyst of sorts.

It’s also worth noting that, as good as the Shadow has been for this community, it’s probably been better for those of us who founded it. Yes, it was a ton of work, but I think I speak for the rest of the Michigan Design Militia when I say that we got more out of it that we put in. It was through the Shadow that I met some of the best friends I have in this world, and it’s through the Shadow that I’ve had some of the biggest, most memorable laughs in my life. For that, I will always be grateful. And the Shadow really made me love Ypsilanti all the more. This is a truly incredible little community that we’ve made for ourselves, and I look forward to seeing what the next chapter holds.

On behalf of Melissa, Jennifer, Chris, Molly, Tim and myself – the members of the Michigan Design Militia (pictured above) who came back together for last night’s event – I’d like to thank you for your unflagging support over the years. It’s your enthusiasm that has kept us going. And we love knowing that, in some little way, we may have worked together to make our community a better place.

Long live Ypsi, and the ability to make shit for ourselves.

[My post on why last night’s was the final Shadow Art Fair can be found here.]

This entry was posted in Mark's Life, Shadow Art Fair, Ypsilanti and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  1. Tim O.
    Posted July 21, 2013 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    Time to cry, indeed.

  2. double anonymous
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    You guys should open a bar.

  3. Edward
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    At a panel a few years ago of the Ann Arbor Film Festival founders I think they all said that it should have been killed a long time ago. Things run their course.

  4. Posted July 22, 2013 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    Edward, oh wow. That is really interesting as I have never even considered not having the AAFF around. I am sad to see SAF go but I understand and respect the decision. Wham! said it best back in the 80s–go out on top. (I guess it worked for George, not so much for Andrew :) )

  5. Posted July 22, 2013 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    By the way, there is nothing dirty in that last comment. He meant go out while at the top of your game so that no one can be all “they are past their prime!” and shit. Stop your dirty minds!!!

  6. Posted July 22, 2013 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    While writing an article on SAF last year (, I heard a lot of strong opinions about the shift from two SAFs to one and a lot of talk about what SAF meant to people in the community. I exhibited twice at SAF and both experiences were great. I’m not really an artist, but the venue gave me a chance to try some new things and make a handful of people happy.

    I was actually more upset about SAF going from two events to one than I was when I heard the whole thing was coming to an end. The big thing is, there are so many craft show options these days, each with personality. SAF used to be one of the only shows in town like it. And, of course, the amount of work that goes into pulling it off. It’s sad that there won’t be a SAF next year, but I prefer to think about the great things rather than mourn the loss.

    Thanks Mark and crew. Great work.

  7. Mike
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know how things like that work, but the six of you should try to have a baby together. Just think of its power, virility and cunning. It could catch fish in its bare hands, and build companies as easily as most people shit. (Some people really have to struggle to shit.) The point is, you should all put your ovaries and testicles into a blender and see what happens.

  8. Rob Hess
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    Thank you again for letting us come out and be a part of the final Shadow. When were thinking about whether or not we wanted to move to Ypsilanti, it was a trip to Shadow Art Fair that really put us over the edge. I am really deeply honored to have been a part of something so pure and creative and thoughtful and unique. My sincere thanks to you and all of the founders for putting it together and just know that the spirit of it lives on in the hearts of lots of folks, many of whom may never express it to you, and that it’s influence continues and inspires lots of great stuff in lots of great people.

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