A2SF's "The Future of the Arts Must Be Antiracist" explores the pitfalls P.O.C. face in creative communities
As a finale to its virtual Top of the Park series, the Ann Arbor Summer Fest (A2SF) had a vital discussion called "The Future of the Arts Must Be Antiracist" on July 7 about racism in the arts, streamed live on YouTube and other platforms.
While we’ve seen many discussions on race as of late, this one was particularly interesting because it addresses an issue that has been looming for a long time in Washtenaw County: the lack of racial diversity inside the local arts scene.
As a Black classically trained musician, I’ve had my fair share of feeling like an outsider in musical circles so I was delighted by this discussion. Lack of diversity is not unique to Washtenaw County, of course; it plagues all of society. But it was refreshing to hear the topic addressed in a city like Ann Arbor where there is such an influential arts festival like A2SF.
A2SF Programming and Operations Manager James Carter invited several prominent Washtenaw County Black artists and executives to describe their experiences working in the arts here. The panel consisted of Jamall Bufford, Omari Rush, Jenny Jones, and facilitator Yodit Mesfin Johnson, who talked about their backgrounds and described why it’s important to create a more inclusive environment for African-Americans in the arts.
For many Washtenaw County residents, one of the great joys of living in the area is the easy access to a plethora of hiking trails and nature preserves. Just moments from downtown Ann Arbor are areas where one can find peace and tranquility, look for birds and wildlife, and enjoy beautiful spring wildflowers and vibrant fall colors. Some of the larger and more well-known preserves are fairly popular -- you’re almost guaranteed to encounter runners, dog-walkers, and explorers in Bird Hills or at Argo Nature Area at any time of year. But, many of the smaller preserves in Washtenaw County are less trafficked and are the perfect place to find some moments of solitude and natural beauty, especially during times when gathering in crowded areas isn’t recommended. Unsure where to begin? Here are a few of the more remote preserves in the area that might be new to you.
There are infinite ways we’re coping with the global pandemic -- forcing our bodies and brains to do the things we want them to (or think they should do), or giving in to surprising and unexpected forces with predictable or weird or wonderful results.
For me, some of these things include:
Social media -- and a few physical letters -- showing me what’s outside my six-foot radius. A lot of bread. Some smoked meats. Walks and nature. More bread. Needlepoint, knitting, running, lifting heavy things, a few bike rides, pets. Light drinking, heavy drinking, loud music, total silence.
You know what your body and brain have asked for in the past and what you’ve given into and given it. Pre-pandemic, my body frequently wanted tasty treats and caffeine -- and frequently got it, so why would I curb those habits now?
But my brain was also asking for something unexpected to fill the downtime between working from home, parenting some kids, staying six feet away from other breathing things I’m not directly responsible for, and eating bags of chips:
The roll call of cell-phone games I’ve played in the past dates back to Snake on my old flip phone -- but it’s a short list. Some Angry Birds. Some poker app I downloaded after reading a Colson Whitehead poker book. Desert Golfing (recommend!).
That’s it. Cell phone games aren’t in my DNA the way regular video games are, so why is it that my brain waited eight days into quarantine to get me clicking and downloading and clicking some more?
I have learned some things about myself during this whole COVID-19, stay-at-home time. Time will only tell what I will do with this new information in the aftertimes -- a looming question we all share.
1. I am the type of person who will totally get dressed from the waist up for a Zoom meeting, and wear pajamas from the waist down.
This was a surprise. You see, in my mind, I have what I describe as the Head-Hands Theorum. Among your co-workers, I believe that it is best practice to pretend that their bodies consist of their heads and their hands. You know, the work parts. This is not to say you shouldn’t have compassion for the things that are going on in their lives. This is to say that many, many people would have found/caused less trouble if they were subscribing to the Head-Hands Theorum. I thought that one would need to have on real pants (or other downstairs clothing) to properly observe Head-Hands. But, alas, now I don’t know who I am anymore.
2. I am angered every time I see one of those “check on your extroverts” tweets.
For local cocktail lovers, finding good cocktails at a reasonable price can be a challenge. Lots of us enjoy a nice evening out, but a few $15 drinks can really add up.
After spending the last decade combing Ann Arbor and the surrounding areas for good drinks that I can actually afford, I’ve found some pretty sweet deals that don’t break the budget:
This account of a previous Brian Eno-focused Smell & Tell was originally published February 23, 2018. Michelle Krell Kydd hosts another Eno-themed Smell & Tell on Wednesday, February 19, 6:30-8:45 pm, at AADL's Pittsfield branch.
The temple bell stops --
but the sound keeps coming
out of the flowers.
--Matsuo Basho (1644-1694)
“This one smells like stinky feet!” is not something you want to hear at a perfume-smelling event.
But considering the spikenard essential oil in question was used to anoint the feet of Jesus, perhaps it deserved another whiff.
As the 40 people gathered in the fourth-floor conference room at the downtown branch of the Ann Arbor District Library took another hit of spikenard, something akin to turning water into wine started happening. As the molecules of oil on the sampler strips began to evaporate, people began describing the oil as having elements of licorice, red hots, mint, wintergreen, cough medicine, camphor, turpentine, violets, and fruit.
Welcome to Smell & Tell.
AADL 2019 STAFF PICKS: BOOKS, MUSIC, MOVIES & MORE
Below you will see that 41 Ann Arbor District Library employees composed 18,000 words listing arts and culture that made an impact on their lives in this calendar year. While movies, books, and music released in 2019 figured prominently among our picks, we never limit our selections to material from the past year. Not all timeless art can be discovered and absorbed in a mere 365 days, so we're like Master P: no limits.
Dan Thomas took two of his favorite things and made something better.
Full Metal Events - Comedy & Music “started off as strictly a stand-up show,” Thomas says. “But I also really enjoy music, too. Saturday Night Live inspired me to take those two pieces -- good stand-up comedy and musical guests -- and put them together.”
The show begins with a comedian, followed by a few songs from the musical guest, about an hour of stand-up, and then ends with the musical guest again.
Thomas makes it a point to feature a diverse lineup. “We rotate hosts and performers every show,” he says.
The musical talent is as wide-ranging as its performers. Past shows have included music guests such as Nappi Devi, Frank Grimaldi, and Mark Norman Harris, who does rap, folk, and comedy. Comedians have come from both near and far and include Samantha Rager, Connor Meade (who recently won first place in the recent Comedy Rumble), Marv Barnett, Brandi Alexander, Emily Sabo, Andrew Yang, and Tony Tale.
The show on Thursday, Dec. 26, features a lineup of nationally known performers.
Let’s Get Ready to Rumble: Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase features 30 female comics performing 90 seconds each
It started when comedian Bret Hayden decided to have a party.
“I wanted to have a Christmas celebration with my comedian friends, so I did it as a show and everyone showed up.”
That party has since blossomed into one of the fastest-growing local humor nights: The Comedy Rumble.
It's not your typical comedy night with an opener, warm-up, and headliner; instead, the Rumble is a lightning-fast show featuring 30 comedians doing material for 90 seconds each. The briskly paced routines are performed in front of a panel of professional comedian judges, with the top four vote-getters getting to do another quick set before a final winner is declared.
The show at the Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase marks the second anniversary of the Rumble. “We started at Cellarmen’s [in Hazel Park] in December of 2017,” Hayden says. “Since the first one went so well, I wanted to make it a regular event. After Cellarmen’s closed [in July], I talked to [Comedy Showcase founder] Roger Feeny, who knew me as a regular at the club. He was 100% on board and supportive, so we did our first show in Ann Arbor on October 30.”
The next one happens Wednesday, December 18, and this show is special because it is the second time the Rumble features female comedians only.
“About five or six years ago, when I first started in comedy, I could count on two hands the number of women comedians that I knew personally," Hayden says. "Comedy has always been overwhelmingly male, so I wanted to see if it possible to find 30 women comedians to perform.”
The clouds were racing overhead as the winds pushed me toward the Duderstadt Center, the imposing Art, Architecture, and Engineering Library on North Campus that is also home to the U-M Computer and Video Game Archive.
Looking up at the towering mouth of the glassy citadel, it's easy to imagine yourself as an avatar on a digital map, an adventurer about to set foot in a new world.
What challenges await inside?