Crowds flocked to a vacant house on Dequindre St. in Hamtramck this weekend, all seeking an experience more likely to be found in a botanical garden or conservatory. The house, named simply Flower House, was created by Lisa Waud of Ann Arbor and Detroit-based Pot & Box, and features an amazing large-scale floral installation created using American-grown fresh flowers and living plants.
Waud and a team of floral designers from Michigan and throughout the country came together to create stunning floral installations throughout every room of a vacant and dilapidated house, sometimes extending from ceiling to floor or wall to wall.
During the three-day sold-out event, over 2,000 attendees each had 20 minutes to make their way through all 17 rooms in the house and revel in the experience. Walking through the dreamscape and floating from room to room was completely enchanting, and absorbing your surroundings was a delightful challenge. Your eyes roamed around in sensory overload trying to take in each room as a whole while also trying to notice all of the beautiful details tucked into every nook and cranny.
The bedroom housed a bed made of moss and branches, the bathrooms featured the prettiest, sweetest-smelling toilets you’ve ever seen, and the colorful old kitchen cupboards were adorned with greens amid the plates and silverware. Tulips dripped from the ceiling alongside peeling paint, interwoven marigolds created a playful shower curtain, and vegetables cascaded gracefully over crumbling walls. To complete the scene, the house was enveloped in the crisp smell of thousands of flowers on a chilly fall day while the admiring gasps of awestruck onlookers created a chorus to accompany the dreamy beauty of Flower House.
With the installation now ended, the house and its neighboring vacant house will be deconstructed and the materials will be repurposed. The land will then be turned into a flower farm and design space, in a continuation of Flower House's success in growing fresh beauty from a tired landscape.
Amanda Schott is a Library Technician at the Ann Arbor District Library.
The October 21 University Musical Society performance by Abdullah Ibrahim & Ekaya at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor is a unique opportunity to hear voices of South Africa through this legendary jazz piano master and his extraordinary young group.
Whether you know the sounds of Soweto from Hugh Masakela’s horn, Miriam Makeba’s “Click Song”, the high harmonies of the Mahotella Queens, or the bell-shuffle-sweep of Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s joyous a cappella songs, Ibrahim sifts and swaps all of it! The soaring horns of Ekaya behind Ibrahim’s hymn-like chording and glistening vamps will take you places that only great music can go. Take this chance to hear why the great Duke Ellington launched this big talent with a 1963 Paris recording, and why Abdullah Ibrahim still delights audiences around the world 52 years later, at age 81.
Ira Lax is an Outreach and Neighborhood Services Technician at the Ann Arbor District Library
Abdullah Ibrahim and Ekaya perform at the Michigan Theatre on Wednesday, October 21 at 7:30 pm. Tickets are available online, by phone at 734-764-2538, or at the Michigan Theatre door.
The modern dance company Hubbard Street Dance Chicago will be visiting the Power Center for a one-night only performance on Tuesday, October 27th at 7:30pm. UMS is bringing this fantastic group to Ann Arbor as part of its 2015/2016 Dance Series, and I can’t wait to see them again!
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago provides an excellent introduction to modern dance, as they are much more accessible than many groups; they are also sufficiently excellent to hold the attention of any dance lover. Hubbard Street tends to bring a mix of fun and serious pieces, all of which are expertly danced and easy to follow. The program that they are bringing to the Power Center this fall is all choreographed by one person, William Forsythe. Although a program of only one choreographer’s work can be a dicey prospect, I have no doubt that Hubbard Street can pull it off with grace and beauty.
For those of you who are interested in a more immersive experience, Hubbard Street will also be offering a free master class at the Ann Arbor YMCA on Saturday, October 24th at 2pm. This is a great opportunity to dance and learn from some of the best modern dancers in the US. I have taken this class before, and it’s great fun! If you want to learn more about Hubbard Street, but aren’t ready to take a class, show up early to the performance at the Power Center--there will be a short talk at 7pm.
Evelyn Hollenshead is a Youth Librarian at the Ann Arbor District Library.
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago performs Tuesday, October 27 at 7:30 pm at the Power Center with a talk at 7. Tickets are available online, by phone at 734-764-2538, or at the Ticket Office in the Michigan League.
When Piper Kerman, New York Times bestselling author of Orange is the New Black, gave the biennial Vivian R. Shaw Lecture last week at the University of Michigan, she drew a crowd which filled Rackham Auditorium and required live-stream video and overflow seating. Kerman’s memoir of her experience serving time in a women’s prison was adapted into a wildly popular, award-winning Netflix series by executive producer Jenji Kohan in 2013.
Kerman’s presence throughout the lecture was relaxed, yet pointed and, at times, refreshingly irreverent. She opened the lecture by describing life prior to her 13-month incarceration at the Federal Correctional Institute in Danbury, CT. As she chronicled her time behind bars, the themes of her lecture were clear: sisterhood and empathy, gender, power, and racial inequality. Her presentation raised awareness about some damaging stereotypes and stigmas of incarcerated women, as well as challenges that occur upon re-entry to society. Kerman encouraged the audience to use the show as a lens into the greater institutional and systematic oppressions of mass incarceration and how they impact women prisoners – specifically women of color. The Q&A session that followed touched on a variety of topics including popular culture and identity, the importance of arts within prisons, and how to donate books to incarcerated women.
While Kerman currently serves as a consultant for the show, she’s also adamant about supporting nonprofits and other organizations working to advocate for female prisoners, their families, and overall prison reform. Additionally, she teaches creative writing courses to female inmates and serves on the board of the Women’s Prison Association. She has been called as a witness by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights to testify on solitary confinement and women prisoners. She has spoken at the White House on re-entry and employment to help honor Champions of Change in the field. In 2014, Kerman was awarded the Justice Trailblazer Award from John Jay College’s Center on Media, Crime & Justice and the Constitutional Commentary Award from The Constitution Project.
In this talk, Kerman offered incredible insight and compassion as she both humanized female prisoners and advocated for thoughtful, intentional, and long-term policy changes.
The 2015 Vivian R. Shaw lecture was co-sponsored by the Institute for Research on Women and Gender, Women Studies Department, Michigan Law School, the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, the School of Social Work, the Department of Screen Arts and Cultures, the Department of Sociology, and the Screen Arts and Cultures Screenwriting Program.
Community contributor CristiEllen Heos Zarvas is the Meetings and Special Events Assistant for the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at the University of Michigan.
At the entrance to a 10’ x 10’ pavilion made of plywood and corrugated plastic at the edge of Liberty Plaza, I feel like I’m peering into some sort of mystical forest. Past the artificial palm fronds that frame the doorway, there are tall, mossy, finger-like artificial rocks awash in gentle blue light. Cottony clouds hang from the ceiling and recorded sounds of wind and woodland activity play softly.
A sweatshirt-clad, middle-aged man with a scraggly beard steps up behind me and I turn around. His expression is puzzled.
“Is there weed in there or something?” he asks.
“No,” I reply. “It’s an art installation.”
The pavilion containing Ann Arbor artist Nick Zagar’s forest landscape is one of eight pop-up structures comprising the Ann Arbor Art Center’s new POP•X exhibition in Liberty Plaza. Even at a cordoned-off POP•X preview event, it’s impossible not to confront the odd dichotomy between the plaza’s typical usage and the purpose it will take on for the next 10 days. Ann Arborites know the downtown park as a regular hangout for the homeless, the subject of repeated city council debate. Through October 24, however, it will be the site for POP•X, which organizers describe as the first step in a larger mission to create more publicly accessible art experiences in the Ann Arbor community.
All eight pavilions look essentially the same from the outside: unfinished wooden doorways at the front and back, with white silhouettes of trees crisscrossing the transparent sides and roofs. Inside, each pavilion is unique, tailored to the eccentricities of the artist or group who worked on it. Where Zagar fills his entire pavilion with his fantasy naturescape, artist Joe Levickas’ pavilion contains just a narrow band of illustrations of cartoon figures sitting down to a dinner party, like a surrealistic 50-person “Last Supper” stretching across three walls.
However, the most interesting pavilions at POP•X are those that directly engage with Liberty Plaza’s usual population and associated issues of economic disparity. Brenda Oelbaum’s somber installation uses black curtains to block out the light that streams into most POP•X pavilions, with a large mural inside presenting a quote Oelbaum’s grandmother adapted from Herodotus: “If we all put our troubles in bags and took them to the market to exchange them, upon seeing the problems of others we would gladly go home with our own.” Visitors are encouraged to write down their problems and leave them anonymously in a pile of small black pouches. Visitors may then read others’ problems and “purchase” them for a donation to the Ann Arbor Community Center or Mercy House, both charities supporting Ann Arbor’s hungry and homeless.
Just across from Oelbaum’s installation is a pavilion designed by the nonprofit Girls Group, which focuses on empowering young Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti women to stay in high school or college and avoid teen drug use and pregnancy. The group’s young participants have contributed a variety of works based on the concept of “home.” The most powerful work in the pavilion is a looping video of Dea Chappell, a fiery young Ann Arbor poet and high school junior, reading her poetry. “Welcome to black America,” Chappell almost sobs. “I can’t breathe…but black lives matter, right?” Standing by her untitled collage addressing themes of black sisterhood and protest, 17-year-old Skyline High School student Alexandra Cash tells me living in Ann Arbor has made her more aware of her “blackness.” “You can be really smart and get really good grades but still be on the lower end of the white kids,” Cash says.
Ypsilanti artist Nick Azzaro’s pavilion provides POP•X’s most direct statement on Liberty Plaza’s usual inhabitants, and one of the most powerful statements in the show overall. At the center of Azzaro’s installation is “The Statue of Liberty Plaza,” a figure built from hundreds of tiny plastic army men and other military-related toys, posed in the form of Lady Liberty. The figure wears torn jeans, stuffed with newspaper and corrugated cardboard. In one hand it holds a copy of Groundcover News, in the other a sign reading “HOW ARE YOU TODAY?” On the walls surrounding the statue are professional portraits of individuals Azzaro met while spending an average, non-POP•X day in Liberty Plaza. The portraits are larger than life and most of the subjects grin broadly as they look directly into the camera, a white background behind them. Azzaro’s work encourages visitors to gaze upon the “huddled masses” we might otherwise ignore as we walk past Liberty Plaza, and to find a welcoming expression and a human story there.
Adjacent Azzaro’s pavilion is a more traditional representation of Ann Arbor’s art establishment. The Ann Arbor Women Artists’ pavilion, a collaboration between 30 of the 64-year-old organization’s members, is a delightful Art Nouveau-inspired outdoor picnic scene. Ruffled tissue-paper grass surrounds a painted pathway through the pavilion, suggesting a river. Plates are heaped with clay and Styrofoam fruits and vegetables, and dragonflies made of wire and tissue paper float overhead. It’s lavish, lovely and certainly more focused on craftsmanship and aesthetic beauty than political commentary.
But that’s part of why POP•X works so well. I was initially unsettled by the idea of an art show displacing Ann Arbor’s less fortunate for 10 days. But while POP•X’s organizers set out to bring art to the whole community, they’ve achieved something even higher: bringing our community face to face with itself. POP•X doesn’t whitewash Liberty Plaza for the enjoyment of some artistic elite, nor does it shut out more traditional voices from our local art scene. It forces anyone who explores all eight pavilions to confront diverse aspects of a complex town that is too often described in generalizations. Here, a Liberty Plaza regular may wander through the Women Artists’ picnic wonderland, or one of the well-dressed socialites I rubbed shoulders with at the preview event may take a moment to look into the eyes or listen to the words of Ann Arborites considerably less fortunate than him or herself. POP•X is many things: fun, sobering, beautiful, contemplative. But most importantly it’s responsible and respectful to the full scope of the community it represents.
Patrick Dunn is an Ann Arbor-based freelance writer whose work appears regularly in the Detroit News, the Ann Arbor Observer, and other local publications. He can be heard most Friday mornings at 8:40am on the Martin Bandyke morning program on Ann Arbor's 107one.
POP•X runs Thursday, October 15 – Saturday, October 14, 2015 from 10am to 8pm at Liberty Plaza Park, 255 East Liberty St., Ann Arbor. To learn more visit popxannarbor.com or the POP•X Facebook event page. POP•X is free and open to the public.
Friends, Romans, Countrymen…
For the first non-musical of their 86th season, Ann Arbor Civic Theatre will stage Julius Caesar, Shakespeare’s classic tragedy believed to be one of the very first plays performed at the Globe Theater.
Civic Theatre has a long history of Shakespearean plays. Their first production by the playwright was in 1957 with The Merchant of Venice, directed by Ted Heusel, who also directed (and starred) in Julius Caesar two years later.
For the past two seasons, Kat Walsh has brought Shakespeare to life for A2CT audiences with her well-received versions of King Lear and Twelfth Night. She is looking forward to bringing her version of this famous historical play to the University of Michigan’s Arthur Miller Theatre.
The talented cast is led by Tom Underwood (Caesar), Jeff Miller (Brutus), Kaela Parnicky (Antony), and Stebert Davenport (Cassius). U-M Assistant Professor of Theatre Robert Najarian staged the fight combat sequences and Katie Van Dusen is the music director.
Tim Grimes is manager of Community Relations & Marketing at the Ann Arbor District Library and co-founder of Redbud Productions.
Julius Caesar performances run Thursday-Sunday, October 29-November 1 at the University of Michigan’s Arthur Miller Theatre, 1226 Murfin Ave, 48109. For information and tickets, visit www.a2ct.org or call 734-971-2228, at the A2CT office at 322 W. Ann St., or at the door.
There are very few films that can leave a person full-on ugly-crying in their seat and contemplating gun violence, poverty, creativity, and Shakespeare simultaneously, but Jason Zeldes’ 2015 documentary Romeo is Bleeding manages it.
The film follows Donté Clark, a young poet and emcee from Richmond, California as he struggles to rise above the violence of his hometown and the endless turf war between North and Central Richmond, two cities with bad blood to spare.
The film can claim a whole host of achievements, but above all, it succeeds in truly masterful storytelling. The story of Donté Clark’s journey from aimless youth to poet and activist and the story of the decades-old turf war inherited by the inhabitants of Central Richmond and North Richmond are seamlessly interwoven. The entire film is given perspective and focus by following the timeline of a third story: the efforts of a group of Richmond’s teen poets, including Donté, as they create and perform a production of Romeo and Juliet—with a twist, of course, because if there’s one thing this film doesn’t offer, it’s predictability. The well-known rivalry of the Montagues and Capulets is replaced with the completely different, but eerily parallel, rivalry of North and Central Richmond.
That’s right. Plot twist.
It’s amazing how well these two ideas come together, as the timeless verse of Shakespeare translates so perfectly to the gritty, almost slam-style poetry that the kids of Richmond perform when they take the stage.
And while the film may take place hundreds of miles from Ann Arbor, there’s a lot of local interest, not only through the film’s homegrown director Zeldes, but through one of the documentary’s main characters: Donté’s teacher and mentor, Molly Raynor, an Ann Arbor local who learned her love of writing and passion for poetry at Ann Arbor’s very own Neutral Zone.
The film is currently on the film festival circuit and recently won its 10th award.
Nicole Williams is a Production Librarian at the Ann Arbor District Library and her cry-face is hideous.
Art is popping up at Liberty Plaza that aims to expand the reach of creativity in our community. The 2015 inaugural POP•X Festival, organized by the Ann Arbor Art Center, will run from Thursday, October 15 through Saturday, October 24, 2015. This 10 day visual arts festival will include nine 10’ x 10’ structures or “pavilions,” which will each house a collection of works focused around various central themes. The work in each pavilion is created by one artist or a collaboration of artists. Artists will be on site throughout the event and many will be facilitating interactive activities.
Here are the artists and clues to what you’ll find inside their pavilions:
- Chazz Miller: butterflies, transformation and vibrancy.
- Nick Azzaro: familiar faces.
- Ann Arbor Women Artists (AAWA): picnic wishes.
- The Girls Group: home.
- Joe Levikas: the dinner guest.
- Brenda Oelbaum: bag your troubles.
- Kate Robertson: voyeuristic spaces within spaces.
- Nicholas Zager: an interior landscape for the senses.
- The ninth is the Ann Arbor Art Center’s information pavilion.
This event is packed full of art opportunities for the whole family. Stop by anytime on Thursday, October 15 to paint a butterfly with artist Chazz Miller. Then watch for these butterflies to appear around town. Other events throughout the 10 day festival will include Pop-Up Theater, Art for Innovators (a lunchtime discussion series at AADL), Back to the Future Day, Nerd Nite artist talks, live music (daily from 5–7pm), Family Drop-In: Cardboard Challenge, and special activities geared particularly towards kids. And, sign up to participate in one of the Pop-Up Picnics on Sunday, October 18 with local “celebrity” mystery guests and conversation cues provided by CivCity.You can see the whole lineup on the POP•X calendar.
Anne Drozd is a Production Librarian at the Ann Arbor District Library.
POP·X runs Thursday, October 15 – Saturday October 24, 2015 from 10am to 8pm at Liberty Plaza Park, 255 East Liberty St., Ann Arbor. To learn more visit popxannarbor.com or the POP•X Facebook event page. POP•X is free and open to the public.
First Fridays Ypsilanti, the monthly art-walk that invites locals on self-guided art tours through the city, generated buzz this September using bees as a theme for artist inspiration. In honor of Ypsi’s third annual Festival of the Honey Bee, local cafés, restaurants, and galleries became temporary homes to some bee-autiful art pieces, ranging from the truly enormous to the wonderfully weird.
It seems as if no work was too big or too small, and no medium too strange for this art crawl, and the result was a veritable explosion of artwork branching out in unexpected directions from the unified bee theme.
Some artwork hung traditionally in frames, like the pieces on the walls at Beezy’s and Café Ollie, which ranged from collages of paper bees exploring paper leaves to photographs of real bees swarming in their hive.
Some artwork hung from the ceiling by string, like the bizarre (bee-zarre?) mixed-media piece “Lady Bug Lady,” a doll covered in glitter and spots, connected to the theme by a set of sparkly antennae peeking through the doll’s purple hair at the 22 North Art Gallery.
At the Bona Sera Café, a massive, lifelike black-and-gold papier-mâché bee looked like it had just flown in and settled on the brick walls.
And, of course, the art crawl wouldn’t have been complete without some truly solid bee puns, like the whimsical piece titled “Let’s Bee Friends.”
The bee-related installment came down at the end of September. Plan your visit for the next First Friday on November 6th.
Nicole Williams is a Production Librarian at the Ann Arbor District Library and is terrified of bees.
Here's a great article by Santi Elijah Holley in Tin House about Ann Arbor's own Literati Bookstore, which opened in 2013 and has been busy bringing indie bookstore culture back to downtown ever since.
From the article:
"Literati is not only a tribute to Ann Arbor’s rich history of art and literature; they have taken inspiration from the city’s past, in order that they might contribute to its future."