Author and Former Literati Bookseller Mairead Small Staid Narrates Travels in Italy and the Search for Happiness in Her Book of Essays, “The Traces”

WRITTEN WORD INTERVIEW

Mairead Small Staid and her book, "The Traces"

Happiness may be elusive, but the quest is part of the experience. 

“Happiness is the endpoint and the race itself, the finished vessel and its firing,” writes Mairead Small Staid, an author, librarian, a University of Michigan alum, and former Literati bookseller.

Her new nonfiction book, The Traces: An Essay, recounts the author’s time in Italy, studies the concept and feeling of happiness, and critiques art and literature. Staid’s chapters form individual essays that roam through concepts such as whether a person is different when in different places and look at sculptures and paintings by artists such as Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. Italo Calvino’s novel, Invisible Cities, is a focal point to which the book repeatedly circles back.

The exploration itself brings novelty and thus pleasure. Staid writes that, “Here lies another possible explanation for my happiness, this sustained and sustaining newness: it’s November, after all, and still each ordinary day—each breakfast, each cigarette—is tinged with cinematic light.” The fresh sights and circumstances can reinvigorate one’s outlook. 

New AADL Video Showcases Photographer Josh Lipnik’s “Up North: An Architecture Road Trip” Presentation

VISUAL ART INTERVIEW

Photographer Josh Lipnik features images of Northern Michigan architecture.

Photographer Josh Lipnik captures Fishtown, a historic fishing village in Leland, Michigan. Photo by Josh Lipnik.

Architecture aficionados who don’t want to leave their houses can now take a virtual road trip to Northern Michigan with photographer Josh Lipnik.

An Ann Arbor District Library video from Lipnik’s January 17 slide show presentation, “Up North: An Architecture Road Trip,” is now available for viewing.

In “Up North,” Lipnik travels through small Northern Michigan towns to find the marvelous facades, neon signs, elaborate Victorians, and architectural trends that time has left behind.

He offers his evocative pictures to tell the story of immigrants, industry, and the role of local resources and geology while reflecting on his time on the road.

Lipnik runs Midwest Modern, a platform for photography, research, and writing about architecture and design. He is also a graduate of the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning and The Ohio State University’s College of Engineering.

“The Plastic Bag Store” Uses Art to Raise Awareness About The Pervasive Problem of Plastic Packaging

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Brooklyn, New York artist Robin Frohardt at The Plastic Bag Store exhibit in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Brooklyn, New York artist Robin Frohardt employs humor, craft, and a critical lens to question our continual use of plastic packaging. Photo courtesy of UMS.

It’s an unnervingly perfect coincidence that when you emerge from the installation/play The Plastic Bag Store (TPBS) presented by University Musical Society (as part of its No Safety Net series), you see a cafeteria space with boxes of individually packaged snacks for sale on a rack.

Why? Because if there’s one thing TPBS achieves, it’s a newly heightened, re-calibrated sensitivity to the layers of packaging that surround us so constantly that we don’t even register them anymore.

In the show’s program – which is, fittingly, only available via a QR code – creator Robin Frohardt explains that the show was born in 2015, “after watching someone bag and double bag all my groceries that were already bags inside of bags inside of boxes. I wanted to highlight the absurd amount of packaging we are using and throwing away by making something even more absurd: a grocery store that only sold packaging.”

But the packaging in TPBS are fashioned to resemble typical grocery store fare: produce, seafood, bakery desserts, flowers, and salads, as well as boxes of familiar-with-a-twist items like Caps N’ Such cereal, Straws (instead of Stroh’s) ice cream, Bitz of Plastic Crap.

Friday Five: Nadim Azzam, Jacob Sigman, Doogatron, Shannon Lee, Kuwento Mizik

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Art for the albums and singles featured in this week's Friday Five.

Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.

This week features singer-songwriter hip-hop by Nadim Azzam, R&B hip-hop via Jacob Sigman, bedroom techno from Doogatron, classic country courtesy of Shannon Lee, and a classical-plus-world-music blend by Kuwento Mizik.

(Re)Introducing Djangophonique: Andrew Brown and Co. are putting a modern spin on a jazz tradition

MUSIC INTERVIEW

The four members of Djangophonic sitting on a couch in front of a brick wall.

Introducing rhythm guitarist Zach Croft, lead guitarist Andrew Brown, clarinetist Tyler Rindo, and upright bassist Jorian Olk-Szost, the core musicians in Djangophonique. Photo courtesy of the band.

“When I say ‘modern music,’” says Andrew Brown, “what I mean is, like, anything after 1956.”

Brown is the band leader and lead guitarist for Djangophonique, the crisp Ann Arbor-based quartet that’s made a name for itself reveling in—and updating—the 1930s and 1940s music known as “gypsy jazz,” or jazz manouche. It's a sound primarily associated with the French-Romani guitarist Django Reinhardt, but Djangophonique applies the style to a range of genres, from country music to swing.

In 2020, Djangophonique released a live EP, Jazz Du Jour, some of which was recorded at the Blue Llama Jazz Club, but it came out just before the pandemic began. “That kind of put things on pause for a while,” Brown says.

But the band regrouped and last summer issued its first full-length album, Introducing Djangophonique, which garnered the quartet more and more attention. The group snagged some high-profile gigs, too, including the bluegrass-based Wheatland Music Festival, the Detroit Jazz Festival, and Ann Arbor's Top of the Park. While Djangophonique performs all over the area, its current home base is Ann Arbor's new North Star Lounge, where Brown is the creative director and the group has a residency most Wednesdays.

Selina Thompson's “salt: dispersed” is a powerful document of her monologue retracing the transatlantic slave route forced on her ancestors

FILM & VIDEO THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

Writer and performer Selina Thompson sits on a stage in a white dress with a large rock of salt next to her.

Selina Thompson's monologue salt and its filmed adaptation salt: dispersed document her story of taking a cargo ship across the ocean to retrace the journey of her enslaved ancestors. Photo courtesy of UMS. 

In 2016, Selina Thompson, an interdisciplinary artist based in Birmingham, England, went on a journey to retrace the path of her ancestors. That path was that of the transatlantic slave trade.

The writer and performer recounts her trip in salt, a monologue she first performed in 2017, and now in salt: dispersed, the film adaptation of her stage presentation. UMS is streaming the film for free through February 13 as part of its Renegade Festival's No Safety Net series, which focuses on theater and art installations.

Thompson's mission started in the U.K., boarding a cargo ship with another Black female artist, and discovering a story so powerful it takes the air out of your lungs. 

Report Ranks Ann Arbor as One of the Nation’s 10 Most Arts-Vibrant Medium-Sized Cities

PULP LIFE

Ann Arbor has been named as one of the 10 most arts-vibrant medium-sized cities in the nation.

Ann Arbor continually ranks as one of the nation's top cities. This time it's named a Top-10 arts-vibrant medium-sized city. Photo taken from WEMU-FM 89.1's website.

We’ve topped yet another list!

Ann Arbor always seems to lead the pack when it comes to being a Top 10 city—best college town, place to raise a family, city for retirement, most educated city—you name it.

And whether it’s livability, real estate, visitor bureau, college sports, or academic rankings, we love being told that where we live is the best

We can add another gold star to the city’s list of accolades: a new report has named Ann Arbor as one of the 10 most arts-vibrant medium-sized cities in the nation.

Friday Five: Iggy Pop, Sara Tea, Giraffe, John Beltran, DJ Emby

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Cover art for the music featured in this Friday Five.

Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.

This week features rock 'n' roll by Iggy Pop, indie-tronica by Sara Tea, fusiony jazz by Giraffe, progressive techno by John Beltran, and a dance mix by DJ Emby.

Fifth Avenue Press celebrated the release of five new books by Ann Arbor-area authors and illustrators

WRITTEN WORD

Book covers for the fall 2022 releases by Fifth Avenue Press

Last fall, the Ann Arbor District Library released five new literary works on its Fifth Avenue Press imprint, which focuses on works by local writers:

Northern Woods
by Amy Hepp

School’s out and first-grade teacher Emma Richards is desperate for a vacation. Two weeks in a gorgeous lodge in northern Minnesota is a perfect way to escape the congested city and the reality of her failed marriage. Much to her surprise, a registration error lands her in the middle of a 10-day canoe camping adventure through the rugged wilderness of the Boundary Waters with an eclectic group of campers including Mark, a handsome teammate who is looking to soothe the ache of his recent loss. Together, they face miles of open water, storms, bears, and steep portages in the Boundary Waters. But the biggest challenge might be opening their hearts.

Ann Arbor Adventures: Visit to the University of Michigan's Museum of Natural History
Ann Arbor Adventures: Visit to Matthaei Botanical Gardens
both written by Ashlee Edens and illustrations by Nicole Ray (Sloe Gin Fizz)
Ann Arbor Adventures is a picture book series that captures the magic of the city of Ann Arbor. In Visit to the University of Michigan's Museum of Natural History, a family of beavers explores the recently constructed building and learns about Michigan ecosystems, fossils, the solar system, rocks, minerals, and so much more. In Visit to Matthaei Botanical Gardens, a family of squirrels wanders through the conservatory looking at tropical plants and cacti, visit the outdoor gardens and bonsai, and explore the trails as they learn what blooms all year long.

Skip, the Stone
written and illustrated by Emily Siwek
A wave carries Skip, the Stone from the safety of the lake bottom all the way to the surface and he's not sure if he'll sink or swim. Embracing the unknown, the Petoskey stone’s true nature is revealed as generations experience the joy of discovery, the timeless nature of memories, and the unexpected delight of letting go.

My UnBEElievable Life
by Rebecca and Owen Wittekindt

This colorful, hardcover children’s picture book takes you into the hive as one worker bee tells you about her life. From the first stages of development and through all her jobs in the colony, you learn through whimsical verse all the amazing things bees do in their short yet productive lives.

On December 2, 2022, AADL hosted a reception at its Downtown branch to celebrate the release of the books; below is a video of the event where the authors talked about their work and their creative processes:

Friday Five: KUZbeats, cv313, Alex Anest's Electric Four, AGN7 Audio releases, Sebastian Wing and Gami

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Cover art for the music releases featured in this week's Friday Five.

Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.

This week features soundtrack electronica by KUZbeats, dub techno from cv313, jazz from Alex Anest, and drum 'n' bass from the AGN7 Audio label and Sebastian Wing and Gami.