Local Artists Reflect on Ann Arbor Art Fair


Ann Arbor Art Fair 2017

The poster for 2017's Ann Arbor Art Fair by Debo Groover.

The Ann Arbor Art Fair showcases the work of artists from around the country, but it’s also an important outlet for many local artists as well. Here, some working artists from the greater Ann Arbor area who are exhibiting this year share some thoughts on the event. The fair takes place July 20-23; for more information, see the Pulp preview article.

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Making the Most of the Ann Arbor Art Fair 2017


Ann Arbor Art Fair 2017

Looking down at the 1970 Art Fair from a cherry picker. Photo from artfair.aadl.org.

Whether you’ve never been to the Ann Arbor Art Fair before or you’re a veteran fairgoer, there’s always something new to learn that can improve your experience.

The top piece of advice from Karen Delhey, one of the event’s organizers: “Do your research. It’s really important to go on our website before you come out and make your plan of attack.”

Everyone’s interests and tastes are different, so Delhey suggests you figure out your own must-dos and must-sees ahead of time. Check out the list of artists to find your favorites or seek out potential new discoveries. And you might want to map your route before you head out as well.

The 2017 edition of the Ann Arbor Art Fair runs Thursday-Sunday, July 20-23, throughout the downtown and campus areas of Ann Arbor. One of the largest and most prestigious events of its kind, the fair showcases the works of more than 1,000 artists in individual artist booths. Other attractions include live music, artist demonstrations, and activities for kids.

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Tools Crew Live: Approachable Minorities


Downloads:
MP3 for "Bodies” + “Bet"
720p video, 480p video or 240p video

Tools Crew Live is an ongoing video series where we invite artists to perform with gear borrowed from the Ann Arbor District Library's Music Tools collection: aadl.org/musictools.

* This video contains explicit content. *

As evidenced by their name, Approachable Minorities make strong social statements couched in playfully pointed language. The Ypsilanti hip-hop trio -- MCs Drew Denton and TJ Greggs with DJ Marcus McKinney -- released its debut album, Afro-American, in April 2016, and Denton’s solo LP, The Ascension Theory, arrived in December.

Approachable Minorities have worked hard to promote their music through a series of concerts under the name Northern Threat Entertainment, but the group is largely still a Washtenaw County phenomenon. But any label or manager looking to sign a talented and motivated group of artists who are ready to put in the work to promote their art would do well to turn 2017 into Approachable Minorities’ breakout year.

Impressed by the ensemble’s creativity and energy, we invited Approachable Minorities and their friend Cole Greve to check out a bunch Music Tools from the Ann Arbor District Library, learn how to use the gear, and come cut a Tools Crew Live video. The group re-created two cuts from Afro-American -- “Bodies” and “Bet” -- on the library’s gear and performed the songs at AADL’s downtown branch on June 9, 2017.

We spoke with Denton about the group’s history, the stories behind the songs, and the challenges and rewards of learning new music gear from scratch.

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Piano Panorama: André Mehmari returns to Kerrytown


André Mehmari

André Mehmari piano playing blurs genres and styles. Photo by Flávio Charchar.

André Mehmari plays piano like it's an extension of his body. It's easy to imagine his fingers taking the place of the piano's hammers and directly pounding the strings that stretch from inside the keyboard and connect directly to his brain. His hands move like dancers, gliding over the keys with such grace and flow that it's hard not to stare at them as he fills the room with gorgeous melodies and blissful harmonic combinations.

Born in 1977 in Niterói, Brazil, a town across Guanabara Bay from Rio de Janeiro, Mehmari began studying piano with his mom at age 5, learned how to improvise soon after, and by 10 had written his first compositions. His wide-ranging, highly personal playing incorporates jazz, classical, and all forms of Brazilian music, and those styles spill out on the piano with stunning fluidity.

Mehmari returns to Ann Arbor to play Kerrytown Concert House on Sunday, July 16, two weeks shy of the one-year anniversary of his last concert there. He’s also playing the Toledo Museum of Art on Saturday, July 15, where he will get to perform in the Glass Pavilion on a super-cool Wendell Castle-designed Steinway piano as well as playing a percussive improvisation on original glass art that was crafted for the museum’s Hot Shop.

We talked to Mehmari about his technique, sui genris Beatles covers, and glass marimbas

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Have Instruments, Will Travel: Rob Crozier's music is as multifaceted as his career


Rob Crozier

Rob Crozier's bass -- and uke and guitar -- travels through many different genres, from jazz to Celtic.

Rob Crozier had to end our interview because he arrived at his job.

“I’m an entertainer. I do a lot of senior home gigs,” he said. “I go play ukulele and guitar, and I sing Tin Pan Alley, Broadway, old country, singalongs. That’s my day gig.”

In fact, Crozier's senior concerts are only one part of this Ann Arbor musician's many gigs. Multi-instrumentalist Crozier is also a jazz bassist, co-leader of the Irish-fusion group Nessa with his vocalist-flutist wife Kelly McDermott, a music educator, and the proprietor of Eventjazz, which provides live music for weddings, corporate events, and more.

And when you’re a full-time musician, sometimes you play gigs that wouldn’t make anybody green with envy, such as trying to entertain St. Patrick's Day revelers who are already three sheets to the wind at 8 am.

“I can play (the senior home) for an hour and have a really appreciative crowd that isn't vomiting, necessarily, or falling on themselves,” Crozier said, recalling a particularly harrowing St. Patrick’s Day show. “Green eggs and blllluuuuuurrrrgggh!”

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"Terror in Ypsilanti" recounts the true story of The Michigan Murderer


Gregory Fournier, Terror in Ypsilanti

In Terror in Ypsilanti, Gregory Fournier says the Charles Manson murders overshadowed the trial of serial killer John Norman Collins.

"Notice of a psychotic killer in their midst did not resonate with the Ypsilanti, Michigan community in the summer of 1967."

So begins Terror in Ypsilanti, the award-winning book by Gregory Fournier. Not only did this idea not resonate with inhabitants of our area, but the term “serial killer” hadn’t even been devised yet; nonetheless, that is exactly who was stalking young women in Ypsilanti.

John Norman Collins ultimately was suspected of the deaths of seven women over a three-year period. Fournier, who was teaching in Ypsilanti at the time, lived a block away from Collins and “had several negative encounters with him.” But it wasn’t until he “saw (Collins’) face plastered across newspapers that I recognized him.”

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Serious sentiments in "Spring Awakening" flip the script for A2 in Concert


Ann Arbor in Concert, Spring Awakening

In the musical Spring Awakening, a group of teenagers collectively face suicide, rape, homelessness, parental incest, and depression, all while they struggle to understand their burgeoning sexuality over the course of a school year. Adapted from a German play written in the 1890s, the musical hasn’t made many changes to the storyline, it just added some rock music.

This will be Ann Arbor in Concert’s fifth production since the organization began in 2012, and this is a very different show than anything else they’ve produced. Over the past few years, Ann Arbor in Concert’s credits have included Ragtime, 42nd Street, West Side Story, and, most recently, Hairspray.

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Controversy and Comedy: Michigan Shakespeare Festival 2017


Michigan Shakespeare Festival, The Taming of the Shrew

Michigan Shakespeare Festival's The Taming of the Shrew deals with the play's misogny without major script changes.

The Michigan Shakespeare Festival’s board votes on the plays for a specific season -- pitched by MSF’s Producing Artistic Director Janice L. Blixt -- 18 months in advance of the curtain being raised.

So in early 2016, when MSF’s board voted to approve Taming of the Shrew, Julius Caesar, and Chekhov’s The Seagull for 2017 (the season kicks off in Jackson on July 6), the company had no idea that it would be staging Caesar shortly after New York Public Theater’s production of the play (which depicted Caesar as Donald Trump) made national headlines and drew protestors.

“I expected Shrew to be the controversial show, where I’d be fielding questions like, ‘How are you dealing with the misogyny?’” said Blixt.

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High Octane: Summer Metal Fest 2017


Summer Metal Fest 2017

All good music begins in the garage. Music festivals, too.

“I did a show in my dad's garage last summer and started talking with one of the bands that played and started October Punk Fest last year,” said Ypsilanti-raised Ryan Wilcox, 37.

Wilcox has upped the mosh and morphed October Punk Fest into the Summer Metal Fest, which happens July 8 at the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds.

“This year the Farm Council Grounds was booked in October so we moved the date to July and changed the name,” Wilcox said. “I'm still deciding if I want to do both shows next year; I know for sure I will be doing Summer Metal Fest again.

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Manifesto Destiny: Melting Watch Press debuts with Beats-inspired poetry anthology


Melting Watch Press

Cousins Joe Provenzano and Mike Benoit aren't short on proclamations. Their new Ann Arbor-based Melting Watch Press was inspired by a shared love of the Transcendentalists -- particularly Walt Whitman -- and the Beats, and the duo aren't afraid to claim their place in that lineage.

“We really consider ourselves to be part of their tradition,” says Provenzano. The cousins believe in "the idea of writing things that we’re actually thinking, and taking ourselves away from academic pseudo-poetry and (the) shielding of ourselves and opening our hearts to the page.”

Melting Watch Press' first salvo against "academic pseudo-poetry" is Chattering of the Subconscious Toybox: A Radical Anthology of Emerging New Poets, an anthology featuring Provenzano, Benoit, and their friend Jake Camaj.

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