Pulp Bits is an occasional round-up of Washtenaw County-related arts and culture stories from various publications and podcasts.
Some highlights include profiles of Ann Arbor's Third Place [MusicFest] (May 25-28), Ypsilanti's ÆPEX Fest (June 1-4), Ypsi's IFFY film festival (June 2-4), a pandemic-inspired exhibit at U-M's Museum of Natural History, a new children's book courtesy of Chelsea's Barn Sanctuary founder, Ann Arbor chalk artist David Zinn discussing his work, and upcoming events at Ann Arbor's Top of the Park festival and next season's UMS schedule.
All that and much more below:
Leaping out of indecision, or into a new love, or over a chicken coop—these were some of the jumps storytellers shared at The Moth’s GrandSLAM championship on May 12 at The Ark in Ann Arbor.
In the first Ann Arbor GrandSLAM since 2019, nine storytellers who were previous winners of the regular StorySLAM events each received five minutes to tell a true personal story, without any notes to guide them. Three groups of judges—naming themselves Quantum, The 229s, and The Bullfrogs—secretly rated each story, not even revealing the scores after a winner was determined. Amir Badghdadchi, a past GrandSLAM winner, was the host and kept the energy high.
With this year's theme being "leaps," the GrandSLAM invited the audience to listen to "stories of springing into action, clearing hurdles, impulsive decisions or concentrating everything they have on a single bound. In short: busting a move."
On January 1, AFC Ann Arbor announced the first signing for its 2022 women's team: Emily Eitzman, a University of Michigan college student who made her debut in 2019 with the semi-pro soccer club as a 17-year-old student at Saline High School.
But Eitzman never stopped working with AFC Ann Arbor despite her two-year playing gap for the team.
And AFC never stopped working for Ann Arbor and the greater Washtenaw community.
This is the fifth year we've compiled Ann Arbor District Library staff picks, featuring tons of recommendations for books, films, TV shows, video games, websites, apps, and more.
The picks are always an epic compilation of good taste, and last year's post was more than 35,000 words—incinerating phone data plans and overheating computers as the massive page loaded.
In a sincere effort to keep your electronics from catching fire, we've split up the hundreds of selections into four categories:
And since we've saved your phones and laptops from the flames, tell us what you enjoyed this past year in the comments section below—doesn't need to be something that came out in 2021, just some kind of art, culture, or entertainment that you experienced over the prior 12 months.
Lisa Barry, the longtime host of WEMU's Art and Soul as well as the local edition of NPR's All Things Considered, passed away unexpectedly on November 30 due to heart complications, according to a blog post by the Ypsilanti radio station's general manager, Molly Motherwell.
She wrote a bit more about Barry today in a post, remembering her as the "heartbeat of WEMU." Mothewell wrote:
Her positive attitude and vibrant personality were her trademark and were well known to all who had the good fortune to cross paths with her. She was a beacon of joy in our community, not only the community of WEMU listeners but the community at large.
All About Ann Arbor compiled numerous social media posts from Barry's colleagues, friends, and associates paying tribute to her, including this one by her fellow WEMU broadcaster Jessica Webster:
Normally, you might come into the library, talk to someone on staff, get some recommendations, perhaps share a few of your own, and we'd go on our merry ways, content we could engage in a positive social interaction while discussing whatever book, movie, TV show, music, or more that came up.
Art is life and life is people.
But we've not seen most of you since March 13, the last time the Ann Arbor District Library was fully open to the public—and to the staff. While many AADL staffers have returned to the buildings to do important behind-the-scenes work since the summer, many others have been working from home since the closure. And we miss being able to share what we're currently loving not just with patrons but also with each other.
So, to staffers and patrons alike, these are the movies, TV shows, music, books, and more that helped the AADL crew get through 2020.
Astronomy at the Beach (AATB) is the Great Lakes Association of Astronomy Clubs (GLAAC)'s signature annual event. Held each year at Island Lake State Park near Brighton, Michigan, and attended by thousands, this year’s two-day event on Friday and Saturday, September 25-26 has been moved online because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Adrian Bradley is president of GLAAC and an avid amateur astronomer and photographer who especially loves nightscape photography. He is also a member of the University Lowbrow Astronomers, the local astronomy club partnering with AADL to provide and maintain the library's circulating telescope collection.
We chatted with Bradley about this year's Astronomy at the Beach lineup.
It looked bleak in March and April for the fourth edition of Ann Arbor's Rasa Festival. Everything was being canceled, and the annual September celebration of arts and culture from India looked like it was not going to happen either.
"We canceled all our venue bookings at that time, although with a heavy heart," wrote Sreyashi Dey, the president and artistic director of Rasa, in an email to Pulp. "We had some fabulous concerts planned this year, with world-renowned touring artists from India, but had to cancel that as well. It was very depressing."
But as the months dragged on, Dey, who is also a dancer, couldn't contain her desire to create new works, and that spurred her on to reconsidering Rasa.
"As an artist/dancer myself, I was beginning to feel disheartened about my own creative impulses and motivation to create new work," Dey wrote. "So I started thinking about making some new dance works while still in lockdown, but with no real plan for what to do with it. Then I started thinking of doing a video recording to share. And that's how the idea of the festival going virtual was born, and once I started talking to the other artists, everyone was very eager and enthusiastic."
The performance part of the month-long virtual Rasa Festival runs October 3-25, with streams starting at 11 am each Saturday and Sunday throughout the month. The Mandali: India and the World art exhibition, presented in partnership with the Ann Arbor District Library, runs October1-November 12.
Rasa will present its usual assortment of dance, music, written word, film, fashion, travel, social change, and visual art, but there will be no culinary component this year, for obvious reasons—but we got you covered. I talked with Dey over email about the challenges—and opportunities—of presenting the Rasa Festival online and what she food she'd recommend for us to make or buy at home to accompany the 2020 virtual edition of the Rasa Festival.
The Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series has existed since 1998, presenting some of the world's greatest creatives and thinkers. Since 2013, the talks have been recorded and most of them posted to YouTube for those who couldn't attend the free events in person at the Michigan Theater.
But now that nobody can attend any events, the Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series is cutting to the chase and broadcasting its events live in partnership with Detroit Public Television and PBS Books.
The fall 2020 series kicks off Friday, Sept. 18 and continues through Dec. 4. All the talks begin at 8 pm and can be viewed on dptv.org and Penny Stamps Series' Facebook page. The talks will continue to be put on YouTube as long as the speaker as given permission.
The fall 2020 season includes:
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.