The Shadow is Dead. Long Live the Shadow…. Please join us as we celebrate the last Shadow Art Fair on July 20

I know what I’m about to tell you will make some of you very sad. And I’m truly sorry about that. But, nothing lasts forever…. And the Shadow Art Fair, after our big, upcoming event on July 20, will be no more.

Yes, after discussing this eventuality for the past several years, my fellow organizers and I have finally come to a consensus and decided to invoke the nuclear option. It’s been a hell of a run, but, like old Ben Kenobi, we’ve decided that the time is right for us to step aside so that others might flourish in our absence, experiencing the full intensity of the force, which has motived us these past several years, for themselves.

The reasons for our deciding to stop are pretty simple.

Screen shot 2013-07-02 at 1.24.54 PMFirst, the environment isn’t the same as it once was… When we started the Shadow, over half a dozen years ago, there weren’t other events even remotely like it. To my knowledge, ours was the first big “alternative” fair in Michigan. It was before Handmade Detroit, and all the others that have sprung up like weeds since we first came onto the scene, and the need for something new and authentic was palpable. And it’s pretty clear to me, and the Shadow’s other founders, that new things, if given the opportunity, will step in to fill the gap once we’re gone. We saw it a few years ago, when DIYpsi and Tiny Expo sprang up to fill the void left open when we decided to stop hosting the winter Shadow, and I’m sure we’ll see more of the same now that we’ve decided to bring the summer Shadow to a close. Nature abhors a vacuum, and good things, I’m confident, will rush in to fill the empty space.

Second, everyone is either moving away, or otherwise occupied… When we started the Shadow, there was a core group of five of us. Of that original group, I am now, at least organizationally speaking, the only one left. Tim Furstnau was the first to to go. He moved off to California a few years ago, after getting married to his next door neighbor. Then, earlier this summer, Melissa Dettloff left for Detroit. (An official exit interview is in the works, by the way.) And, as I type this, Jennifer Albaum, the woman who first introduced all of us to one another, is frantically looking for a way to cross Michigan’s Northern border into Canada. And, the few of us who do still remain are just too overextended to keep giving the Shadow the attention that it deserves. Molly Mast retired from the Shadow a few years ago in order to focus on her family business, and raising a family of her own. And, from what I understand, Chris Sandon, who joined the group to take the spot vacated by Tim, was featured on the the television show America’s Got Talent tonight, with his giant pooping cat, so he’s clearly got his hands full. And, as for me, I’ve got a few big projects in the works that I hope to be able to share with you shortly… Anyway, it just felt like now was the right time to make the call, and bring the band back together for one last Shadow, while everything’s still fun. And that’s the good news. For this last Shadow, Tim will be flying back in from California, Melissa will be coming in from Detroit, and we’ve called Molly back from retirement. So, it’ll be the whole gang that you’ve come to know and love over the years, curating one last show, which we hope will be enormously inspiring.

And, third, this will be our 15th Shadow, which means we’ve been doing this a hell of a long time… (I know it’s hard to believe, but Melissa actually went back and counted them.) It’s just time to move on and do other stuff, and take a break from the bad applications, the blown fuses, the anxiety, the stress, and all the nonsense that comes along with organizing such a successful and ambitiuos event.

Speaking of applications, this time there won’t be any. We just invited our friends to participate – people who had done great work in the past, who we wanted to hang out with one last time. So, it’ll be a big party – a celebration of everything that we’ve achieved thus far. And I hope the vibe reflects that. We want for this to be a positive event… a wake more than a funeral.

And, yes, I know that we could have just handed the whole thing over to someone else, but we didn’t want to see what we’d created evolve into something that we didn’t feel 100% positive about. We didn’t want to see commerce win out in the battle against meaningful art. We didn’t want to see corporate sponsorships, and higher booth fees. We didn’t want to see the Shadow become legitimate. So we decided to kill it while we still could. It’s that simple.

Here, before we get too much farther, is how I first presented the concept of the Shadow on this site, back in 2006:

…The working title of the event is The Shadow Art Fair, and the focus is, to put it simply, on local people who make interesting things. We’re just starting, but we’ve got clothing designers, zine publishers, jewelry makers, artists, photographers, record labels and all sorts of other people lined up already. While I don’t expect that we’ll get even .25% of the half-million people that Ann Arbor Art Fair, now in it’s 46th year, will attract, I think that those that do come will have a damned good time, and find interesting, unique things that they’d never be able to find otherwise. Just as importantly, however, we’ll be giving people an opportunity to meet, network and discuss the world that exists beyond designer labels and blind (bland) mass-consumerism.

And, most exciting to me, I think The Shadow Art Fair is going to be the perfect little thing for Ypsi, a town, unlike many in America right now, that has been able to keep its unique identity in spite of the rising tide of suburban homogenization. If anyplace should have a DIY Festival, it’s Starbucks-free Ypsilanti. And, while I wouldn’t want this to come across as anti-Art Far, or anti-Ann Arbor in any way, I think that the event, if it comes off like I think that it has the potential to, will show Ypsi to be the kind of place that still values individual creativity and the work of inspired visionaries (in the tradition of Windsor McKay, Elijah McCoy, and Iggy Pop). So…

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

I know I said earlier that other things would come about to fill the gap once the Shadow passes, but that isn’t quite true. I’d like it to be, but it isn’t. Sure, there will be other art fairs, but I’d be lying if I said that they’d be the same. The Shadow has always been something different – something special. It wasn’t just an art fair. And I attribute that to the team that we had working behind the scenes to make the whole thing happen. We didn’t care about making money. We didn’t care about sales. We didn’t just pick vendors that had the most sellable work. Quite often, we didn’t pick “vendors” at all. Sure, we mixed in some people doing straight-ahead commerce, but, given the choice, we’d always opted for the interesting, and the experiential. And I think that’s what set us apart. Given the choice between the handmade lavender soap and the pooping wizard, we’d always vote for the pooping wizard. Unanimously.

Speaking of interesting and experiential, here are just a few examples of things you may encounter on July 20, when you walk into the final Shadow… Vinnie Massimino’s Fax Party. Just stuff some money into a box, and wait for your artwork to arrive by fax… Andy Claydon’s Heavy Metal Bicycle. Pedal your ass off and generate loud, fierce power chords, as the strings are hit by the spinning tire… Molly Mast’s Self-Service Head Measuring Booth. Ever wonder about the circumference of your head, and how you stacked up against your peers? Now you can find out… Naia Venturi’s Puppet Fortune Telling Machine. Have your fortune told by a puppet!… And that, as they say, is just the tip of iceberg. Seriously, people are going above and beyond this time, in hopes of making this the best, most-impactful Shadow ever.

So, in going through the Shadow archive tonight, I stumbled across the following video, shot by the folks at Concentrate Media about five years ago, and thought that I should share it for old times sake. Hopefully it conveys just a bit of the Shadow’s spirit to those of you who are reading this outside of Michigan.

There are, of course, people who need to be thanked…

A super big thanks to the visionary Ian Fulcher, who has been booking our Shadow bands for the past several years, the team at the Corner Brewery, the folks like Morgan Cox and Thomas Kula, who stepped in to take leadership roles when we were in desperate need of help, Mike Perini and our friends at WCBN, who always do such a good job of helping us to promote the event, all the participants who have joined us over the years, contributing their peculiar forms of genius, all the volunteers, and, perhaps most importantly, all of you who keep coming out, supporting what we do, and finding inspiration in it. Working together, we’ve made some incredible memories, and, I’d like to think, to some extent, we’ve also helped to put Ypsilanti in a better position for the future, doing our part to establish it as a forward-looking, arts-friendly community with an engaged population that can actually make big things happen when they put their minds to it.

I can’t remember the exact specifics, but, several years ago, I remember Linette telling me that she went to a public meeting about the arts in Washtenaw County, and heard a woman introduce herself as someone who decided to move to Ypsilanti after having attended an early Shadow Art Fair. She said that she’d been aware of Ypsilanti, but hadn’t, until that point, known what it was all about. And I think that’s incredibly cool. I love hearing stories like that. I know that the evidence is primarily anecdotal, but I’d like to think that we helped move the needle in the right direction.

I don’t know that I’d say that what we did was transformative in any way, but I think that it was clearly positive, and I feel good about our contribution. In a period during which many struggling artists were being forced from Ann Arbor due to rising rents, we helped redefine Ypsi as a welcoming community, friendly to the adventurous and visionary. And I think that our community is better for it. Clearly we weren’t alone. The Dreamland Theater and others were standing right beside us, fighting the same fight, but I do think that we played a significant part, and, of that, I’m proud.

And, here, for the sake of history, are a few photos taken last night of the Shadow team working on what will be our final poster:




One last thing… Everyone in life should be so lucky as to work on a project with the likes of Melissa, Jennifer, Chris, Molly and Tim. My life is exponentially better with them in it, and I don’t believe, even in the biggest city in America, that I would have been able to assemble a funnier, kinder, brighter, and more hardworking team. This has truly been a group effort from the outset, and I cannot imagine having gone on this adventure with anyone else. I have laughed harder with this group of people than I ever have in my life, and I will miss having the excuse to spend time around a table with them. I just hope that we’re able to stay connected once the Shadow is behind us.

P.S. Even though the Shadow is going away, Chris and I will still be hosting Ypsi’s annual Krampus celebration, so don’t you worry your pretty little heads about that.

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  1. Andrew Jason Clock
    Posted July 3, 2013 at 1:35 am | Permalink

    Insert sarcastic comment about being a quitter here.

  2. anonymous
    Posted July 3, 2013 at 5:39 am | Permalink

    Rest in peace.

    And thank you.

  3. Edward
    Posted July 3, 2013 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    I hope, whatever takes the place of the Shadow, it costs less than 2-cents.

  4. karen
    Posted July 3, 2013 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    i hope something to do with roots music steps in and fills the void.

    the only complaint i had about shadow was it needed more roots.

  5. site admin
    Posted July 3, 2013 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    He wasn’t joking about the pooping cat being on America’s Got Talent. Here’s the link.

  6. Eel
    Posted July 3, 2013 at 10:13 am | Permalink

  7. grandma
    Posted July 3, 2013 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    You gals and guys had a great run. It will be missed, I’m sure.

  8. anon
    Posted July 3, 2013 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps it is time for a Maddow Fart Share.

  9. John Galt
    Posted July 3, 2013 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    There were never enough American flags. And I would have liked to have seen at least one vendor selling ‘Obama as the Joker’ posters.

  10. Posted July 3, 2013 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Mark and all…thank you for the hard work and dedication in putting on this fair year after year. I will miss it but I completely understand and respect your decision. Thanks for giving us a chance to say goodbye.

    I presume that at least one of your upcoming projects is the remake of the Hall & Oates video.

  11. double anonymous
    Posted July 3, 2013 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    Someone needs to get pregnant at the last Shadow.

  12. Mr. Y
    Posted July 3, 2013 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    Someone who was conceived at the first Shadow needs to get someone pregnant at this one. #circleoflife

  13. 734
    Posted July 3, 2013 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    Έχω τόσα πολλά ψευδώνυμα.

  14. Elliott
    Posted July 3, 2013 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    Where’s the best place to make a baby at the SAF?

  15. 734
    Posted July 3, 2013 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    I know a lot of us have the same area code, but “734” is my handle, and I’m kindly asking that you return it to me. Also, if you could post in English, it would be helpful. Not many of us speak Greek.

  16. Posted July 3, 2013 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    I’m happy you guys are ending it. Go on a high note!

    Like lo-fi music, graphic t-shirts, “Indie Rock,” and all other things mid-thousands, craft/art fairs just don’t fit into the paranoid, probable-police state, Yeezus sounding vibe of the NOW. The “now” = shoplifting things, avoiding student loan debt, driving without insurance, worrying about the NSA… Or, settling down and ignoring all the tension that’s exploding everywhere (see, Egyptian military coup happening literally this second, et. al).

    I personally moved to Ypsi because of things like Shadow – like when the Ugly Mug still had theater seating and smoking. But everyone who was doing interesting ‘young’ things has moved or is settling down. Anything wrong with that? No. But like, I haven’t felt that vibe in Ypsi in ages. Does Shadow still fit in? Maybe, but do you really want to listen to Sufjan Stevens anymore? If you do, that’s cool, but that’s not me.

    Watching the video with Jennifer was fantastic – where *were* events like *craft fairs* 8 years ago? The Shadow *was* on the forefront. But now everyone has copped that style (“DIY”, making screen-printed objects, knick-knacks and bric-a-brac). I’m personally over “cute” “hand made” “art” “craft fairs” and that thing. Mark, you mentioned “things you can’t buy at Target” in the 2005 Concentrate video – now you can buy any of that style of stuff from Whole Foods and/or Target and/or Urban Outfitters.

    The one thing you can’t buy at all of those places? John Maggie paintings. The Shadow will always be better because of that.

    BUT! Bomb the SAF sea, surf the wave on the way out like it’s Apocalypse Now.

  17. Posted July 3, 2013 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    CORRECTION: the title of my project is “Vinnie Massimino’s Fax Party.”

    ALSO: I suppose the number one thing I meant to point on in my comment, but didn’t, is that because there seemed to be less and less underground/weird/new things happening in Ypsi when I left, and SAF is no more after July, and that I consistently lament that nothing ever seemed to happen (by the time I personally moved away), I would love to be proven wrong – so wrong – and that a whole new group of people starts doing cool new awesome shit in that city. Collectively, the SAF-committee threw down the challenge to say, “Do Something Better Than This.” I’m so excited for a new art/music scene to emerge from a bunch of young people in that city.

  18. Mannie Vissimino
    Posted July 3, 2013 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

  19. Stupid Hick
    Posted July 4, 2013 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    “And, yes, I know that we could have just handed the whole thing over to someone else, but we didn’t want to see what we’d created evolve into something that we didn’t feel 100% good about. We didn’t want to see commerce win out in the battle against meaningful art. We didn’t want to see corporate sponsorships, and higher booth fees. We didn’t want to see the Shadow become legitimate. So we killed it. It’s that simple.”

    The epitaph of a narcissist. Here I thought Mark Maynard stood for Community and the sustainable transformation of Ypsilanti, and now we learn that after 15 years he still doesn’t think there is anyone in Ypsilanti pure enough to replace him.

  20. Posted July 4, 2013 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    You need help with our pronouns, Mr. Hick. In that short quote, I use the pronoun “we” eight times. And I don’t use the word “I” once. It was not my decision alone. As I mentioned in the post, “we” struggled with it for years, and, ultimately, it was a group decision to end it. This was not my decision, and it wasn’t made lightly. But thanks for looking at it through your “Mark’s a narcissist” filter…

    Speaking of your “Mark’s a narcissist” filter, would you like to sell them at the last Shadow?

  21. Posted July 4, 2013 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    “Bomb the SAF sea, surf the wave on the way out like it’s Apocalypse Now.”

    Well said.

  22. Posted July 4, 2013 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    Patti, the project that you reference will be difficult with Pete living in Kenya, but I promise never to give up the dream.

  23. Jean Henry
    Posted July 4, 2013 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    Congratulations Mark! Legacy happens in surprising ways, but it doesn’t happen if you keep doing all the work. I’m sure happenings and art fairs will go on. Thanks to all. It was a great thing. I’ll tell Ada to take good care of all those shadow t’s. They’ll have the tinge of nostalgia now.

  24. Deep Cover
    Posted July 4, 2013 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

    The best Shadow moment didn’t take place at the Shadow.

  25. Mr. whY
    Posted July 5, 2013 at 7:35 am | Permalink

  26. Stupid Hick
    Posted July 6, 2013 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    OK, Mark Maynard, I don’t like being harsh but you beg for it. Look in the mirror and read aloud your quote with the eight WE’s, in your whiniest nasal English accent. Sorry but that’s who you are, son.

    “Of that original group, I am now, at least organizationally speaking, the only one left.”

    And who of that group would stop you, Mark Maynard, if you wanted to recruit others and carry on? Who has more influence here than Mark Maynard? To cast the demise of Shadow Art Fair as a group decision by people who cut their ties earlier (and in some cases no longer even live in Ypsilanti) is a cop out.

    If you’re tired out, or bored with it, just say so. That would have been a lot easier to accept than your sanctimonious “yes, WE could have passed the torch, but there is no one in Ypsilanti worthy of accepting it, because anyone else would become a corporate stooge, therefore WE are killing it, simple as that”. Is that not narcissism?

  27. Posted July 6, 2013 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    You have no idea what you’re talking about. I know I should just ignore your taunting, but, here, in case it helps you and others, is the remedial version of the above post, in easily comprehensible bullet points.

    1. The idea for the event was mine. That’s true. But I didn’t, by any means, own the event. I didn’t even name it. The name was thought up by Tim. And, while I did my share of the work over the last several years, most of it was done by others. Among other things, Jennifer handled volunteers, Molly handled money, and Melissa handled everything online, including our communications with our participants. Tim, Chris and I did a lot too, but our jobs were a little less defined. I did PR, handled the relationship with the Brewery, and some other stuff. My point is, the event isn’t mine to do with as I please, and it never has been. It’s always been a cooperative effort, as I thought I’ve made clear over the years. We all voted on everything. And, in this instance, we voted to end it.

    2. The last several years it’s been more of a struggle. Adding Chris to the team gave us a boost of energy, but, with the loss of Tim and Molly (for reasons outlined above), it became more of an effort to keep doing it. The last few years, and I don’t think anyone would mind my telling you this, our primary motivation in keeping the event alive was a feeling of obligation to the community. Sure, we enjoyed it, but, for the most part we kept doing it because we knew it was an important thing for our friends and neighbors. So, we kept doing the hard work. (I know, from the outside, it may not have looked like much work, but it was.) And, at some point, we all just knew it was the right time… And calls were made to Tim and Molly, asking if they’d come back for one more. They said yes, and we all started working on it.

    3. Could I have told them that I’d keep doing it without them? Maybe. I think that would have made me an asshole, though. And I’d like to think that I’m not one. I know I must fuck up on occasion, but I try to treat people fairly, and everyone else thought that it was time to move on. On the continuum, I’d say that Chris and I were more on the “let’s keep it going” side of things, but, over time, it just became clear. And, a few months ago, we all finally agreed to end it. It was a group decision. We knew that we’d run our course. We did what we’d intended to do, and we all realized that it was time to move on.

    4. So, yeah, this has been a long time coming. We’ve been talking about this day for years, and we’ve considered all of our alternatives. We thought about bringing more new people in. But, in the end, we just determined that it was time to go. And, like I said, we’d all be super happy to see others pick up the torch and run with it. We just think it’s time for the “Shadow” name to retire.

    In conclusion, I don’t really care what you think. I’m very happy with what we built, and where we’re leaving it… I think we did a lot of good, and I’m looking forward to celebrating that with my friends on the 20th, while you sit home, alone, staring angrily at your computer screen.

  28. Stupid Hick
    Posted July 6, 2013 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    “I’m looking forward to celebrating that with my friends on the 20th, while you sit home, alone, staring angrily at your computer screen.”

    What’s this, an archetypal fantasy a narcissist must indulge to lessen the sting of anonymous internet criticism? Sorry if I struck a nerve, but you deserve it.

  29. S.S. Boobyhatch
    Posted July 6, 2013 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    I’ve hacked into Mr. Hick’s laptop camera. You can access the feed via the following link.

  30. Webster
    Posted July 6, 2013 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

    Wouldn’t a narcissist do everything in his power to keep the event most associated with him up and running?

  31. Molly
    Posted July 9, 2013 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

    Mark – you sure were hairy in that Concentrate video! Thanks for writing this. You did a great job summing up the history of the SAF and our process. RIP, SAF. XO

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