The contemporary pop-up art environments of Pop-X, combating poverty with intensive social services, and Alex Haley’s mission to tell the world about Ypsi’s dating scene… on episode 30 of the Saturday Six Pack


This past weekend’s episode of the Saturday Six Pack, roughly speaking, was divided into three equally juicy, and satisfying, parts.

First, we talked with Omari Rush about Ann Arbor’s upcoming multi-day contemporary art event POP-X. Rush and I, among other things, discussed the stress that comes along with trying to launch a high-profile public art event in the shadow of Art Prize, and how this stress has been manifesting itself in his dreams. [If you don’t listen for any other reason, you should download this episode just to hear Rush explaining how, in a recent dream, he found himself being sent to a concentration camp, where an alligator-like creature had been set loose to hunt him down and eat him.] We talked about how the idea for POP-X had come about, how the artists were chosen for the inaugural event, which will center around a series of pop-up pavilions in Ann Arbor’s Liberty Plaza Park, and what measures had been taken to include the regular inhabitants of said park. Here’s Rush telling us about the contribution of Ypsilanti photographer Nick Azzaro, whose pavilion will feature the portraits of those folks I mentioned before, who can often be found in the small park at the intersection of Liberty and Division, in downtown Ann Arbor.


[For a schedule of events taking place over the ten days of POP-X click here.]

Next, after listening to a new song by our friend in Kenya, Dr. Pete Lason, we called the editor of at his home in Chicago and asked him to explain how Ypsilanti, of all places, wound up on his company’s recent list of “The 10 Best Cities for Singles.” [Our call starts at the 50-minute mark.] If you, like me, read the article and had questions about their methodology, you might want to check it out.’s Matt Carmichael does a pretty good job of explaining how it was that we came to be on the list, and he even indulges us a bit as we push the conversation beyond Ypsi, asking about things like the the STD rates of various retirement communities in Florida… Oh, and we learned that, in addition to writing The Autobiography of Malcolm X and Roots: The Saga of an American Family, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alex Haley also co-founded… So it appears as though, at least indirectly, we have Alex Haley to thank for our being listed as the 6th best place in the United States for single people to get laid.

[If you would like to listen to episode thirty of The Saturday Six Pack, you can either download it from iTunes or scroll the bottom of the page, where you’ll find the Soundcloud file embedded.]

And, after our freewheeling discussion about the local singles scene, we talked with Russ Olwell, the director of Eastern Michigan University’s Institute for the Study of Children, Families and Communities about the recent news that, based on the success of their programs to help families at Ypsilanti’s Hamilton Crossing, they’ve been chosen to run a national pilot study under the auspices of the recently launched Strong Families Fund. [The Strong Families Fund is a $70 million initiative launched by The Kresge Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and several banks in order to, among other things, bring increased social services into affordable housing communities to support low-income families as they work to climb out of poverty.] We talked about the findings of their research thus far, the successes they’ve experienced in Ypsi public housing up until now, and what we can expect from this new initiative, which has put four full-time social workers, roughly the same number of interns, and several EMU social work students on the ground in Ypsi’s Deborah Strong Housing complex. Here’s Olwell explaining how, by providing access to things like dental care, life skills coaching and the internet, he and his team are not only saving society money, but also putting families on the path toward self-sufficiency.


Then, as usual, things kind of devolved toward the end, as the New Belgium Trippels caught up to me, and strangers began walking in off the street wanting to talk about shimmying up light poles and the like. [note: I’m adding New Belgium’s Trippel to list of banned substances on the show, along with Short’s Soft Parade.]

And, here, because I want to show off my new They Live-themed Donald Trump t-shirt, is a photo of me from this last episode. The shirt, should you find yourself needing to have one, was produced by artist Mitch O’Connell.


Thanks, as always, to AM 1700 for hosting the show, Kate de Fuccio for documenting everything with her camera, and Brian Robb for running the board, making sure the bills paid, and insuring that the toilet paper stays stocked.

If you like this episode, check out our archive of past shows at iTunes. And do please leave a review if you have the time, OK? It’s nice to know that people are listening, and, unless you call in, that’s pretty much the only way we know.

Now, if you haven’t already, please listen for yourself, and experience the magic firsthand.

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  1. Peter Larson
    Posted October 15, 2015 at 12:38 am | Permalink

    People deeply reflected on the weight of their privilege after listening to this radio program.

  2. Kim
    Posted October 15, 2015 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    I liked the discussion with Olwell about the government metrics used to weigh the success of programs in public housing. Specifically, I liked the conversation around police calls, and whether or not a drop in 911 calls means a community is becoming more stable. I agree with him that emergency calls are not a good indicator. The last thing we need is for those people providing services in these communities urging residents not to get the police involved.

  3. anonymous
    Posted October 15, 2015 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    I like that Omari is being sensitive to the fact that people live in the space he’s taking over for Pop-X. Not everyone is as sensitive. The following comment was left this morning in another thread on this site.

    “Pop-X will be an excellent event. I, like Lynne, think it will make the neighborhood around Liberty Plaza a nicer place, at least for the time that it is there. There have been numerous crimes attributed to the people who sleep there at night, who clearly are not from the community, as they do not have a home address in downtown Ann Arbor. Many of them are coming into town just to cause problems. The removal of the benches is an added plus.”

  4. Krik
    Posted October 15, 2015 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    If they’re homeless, and sleeping in downtown Ann Arbor, they ARE from your community! Are you serious? Are you saying that, because they don’t have Ann Arbor addresses, they aren’t a part of your community?

  5. site admin
    Posted October 15, 2015 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    The commenter quoted above, if I’m not mistaken, was employing satire.

  6. Alice W.
    Posted October 15, 2015 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    I like the idea of Alex Haley traveling from one small city to the next making these lists.

  7. 734
    Posted October 15, 2015 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Your Trump shirt made Boing Boing today.

  8. Eel
    Posted October 15, 2015 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    Alex Haley, the author, died February 10, 1992. Maybe it’s a different Alex Haley that started

  9. facebook stalker
    Posted October 15, 2015 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    From Jean Henry:

    This is A2 today. Pop X instead of shanties or occupy tents. Public benches installed a decade ago at public expense– gone. Why? Pop X huts and photographs of the homeless displace that actual homeless in liberty square. They have been told they are welcome there still. It’s worth asking them if that is their experience. All of this is meant to encourage tourism, not art or a better community– to be perfectly clear. We should at least be honest with ourselves and call it art tourism not art. It ain’t art.

    Pop X is almost an unintentional (and very revealing) art installation about the blanding of Ann Arbor. People with money want to fund the arts. They’d be more effective if they funded affordable housing. Or an arts facility. More art happened in town when we had less money. That much is certain.

  10. Meta
    Posted October 15, 2015 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    From the blog:

    Livability’s parent company was co-founded by Alex Haley, and one of his famous sayings is one of our mottos: Find the good, and praise it. Even in communities like Chicago’s embattled Englewood neighborhood, there are good stories to be told and programs that are succeeding. Help get the message out like these residents are doing in your community, too.

    Read more:

  11. Jean Henry
    Posted October 15, 2015 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    I feel a need to amend my cranky statement. I walked through tonight. A few people are doing good work inside the shanties. My main problem is with the siting of shanties where the homeless congregate and their displacement. Particularly coupled with the removal of downtown benches. I’m not crazy about the idea of photographing people being displaced either, but I suppose it’s a step ahead (barely) of them being disappeared entirely. It reminds me of the penchant of McMansion developers to name their enclaves after the natural bodies or creatures they displace. I am considering buying a truckload of folding chairs at a school or church auction and passing them out to the homeless downtown and allowing them to position them where they will. I’d like to do so during a big football game. I understand the hard work and good will and funds harnessed to create Pop X. It is what it is. I’m not sure it is what Ann Arbor needs. I hope it leads to a different kind of investment in the arts in Ann Arbor. I would like it if collectively Ann Arbor started really thinking about what it means to remove things to make their town clean and welcoming– flyers, benches, people, buskers, hustlers, sex shops, occupy tents etc etc. What we’ve removed has had as much impact as anything we’ve added.

  12. K.
    Posted October 15, 2015 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    I agree with you on everything but the quality of the work, Jean. While I liked some of the pieces by young people, I found very little to like overall. It was really quite weak.

One Trackback

  1. By Being reminded of David Blair at POP-X on September 28, 2016 at 8:22 pm

    […] and you don’t feel like going to their site, or visiting in person, you can also check out the interview I did with festival director Omari Rush last year on The Saturday Six […]

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