AADL Black Lives Matter: Mural Dedication

VISUAL ART PREVIEW

AADL Black Lives Matter murals

Photo by Christopher Porter

On Friday, July 23, at 7 pm, join the Ann Arbor District Library for the dedication of the Black Lives Matter Mural newly installed on Library Lane.

This mural showcases the work of eight Black artists who show what the phrase Black Lives Matter means to them. This project was commissioned by the Ann Arbor District Library in the summer of 2020 as part of its Call for Artists.

Two new outdoor sculpture exhibits offer public art in Washtenaw County

VISUAL ART PREVIEW

Chelsea and Matthaei sculptures

Left: Sean Hages, Nephatia, wood, 4.5’ x 4’ x 5.5”, 2015; part of the 2021 Chelsea Sculpture Walk.
Right: Sculpture tower by Jen Gerrity, Sherry Hall, Ben Mattison, Daria Paik, and Jin Young Yeum at Matthaei Botanical Gardens. Photo by Jeri Hollister.

Even with everything starting to open up again—including the University of Michigan Museum of Art—you may understandably still feel a little weird about spending time indoors with other people. But two new outdoor sculpture exhibitions offer the delights of visual art alongside maximum air circulation.

University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance announces 2021-2022 productions

THEATER & DANCE PREVIEW

From a production of Nora: A Doll's House

From a previous UMSMTD production of Insurrection: Holding History. Photo by Peter Smith Photography.

Drama is back at the University of Michigan.

No, I'm not talking about any political, criminal, or social issues.

The University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance (UMSMTD) announced 10 performances and one studio production as part of its 2021-22 production season, which runs from September 30 to April 17.

“Our goal this year is to return to creating the same high-quality productions you’ve come to know and love while providing more flexibility to better accommodate our audiences’ health and safety needs,” said Jeffrey Kuras, executive director of the school’s University Productions, in a press release.

Some of the other annual performances—Grand Night for Singing, Halloween Concert, Band-O-Rama, and Collage Concert—will be announced at a later date. Tickets for all the events will eventually be available at tickets.smtd.umich.edu

"The SMTD Flex Series will allow audiences to select the four shows they would like to attend at a discounted price," according to the UMSMTD press release. "The Flex Series joins the existing Power Series, which allows audiences to purchase all four shows at the Power Center for the Performing Arts for a discounted price." (The Power Center turns 50 this year.)

Here's a rundown of UMSMTD's 2020-2021 season events:

Looking Forward & Back: Ann Arbor Art Fair returns in 2021 after a year's absence

VISUAL ART PREVIEW

Art Fair, July 1960, North side of South University in plaza southeast of West Hall (Engineering Arch), facing southeast

The first Art Fair, July 1960, as seen from the north side of South University, facing southeast. Repository: Bentley Historical Library.

Last year was supposed to be the 60th annual Ann Arbor Art Fair, but it was canceled because of the pandemic. It looked like the 2021 edition wasn't going to happen either, and it was even officially called off for a while, but once it looked like Michigan would start opening up again for the summer, the Art Fair was reinstated and takes place July 15-17.

By this point, you know the drill with Art Fair: parking is difficult, you love or hate the crowded streets, it's usually hot and muggy. But if you need a quick guide to parking and a map of the 2021 event, MLive has a brief article with both.

And if you're wondering what goes into Art Fair prep for the creatives, landscape painter Karin Wager Coron talked to WEMU's David Fair about her routine.

But if you're wondering a bit about the history of the Art Fair, in 2009 the Ann Arbor District Library's archives team put together a wonderful collection of photos, posters, and more on the occasion of the event's 50th anniversary of its conception—conceived in 1959, launched July 20-22, 1960:

Using archival materials, photos, and art, Stamps Gallery's "Halal Metropolis" explores the Muslim world of Southeast Michigan

VISUAL ART PREVIEW

U-M Stamps Gallery's Halal Metropolis

Front gallery, Halal Metropolis, Stamps Gallery. Photo by Nick Beardslee.

Dearborn has one the largest Muslim population in the U.S. and Michigan as a whole is in the top 10, but the faith's followers are sometimes overlooked when discussing culture and presence in the Southeastern part of the state.

University of Michigan's Stamps Gallery has hosted an exhibition, Halal Metropolis, since May 22 that explores the Muslim world in Southeast Michigan, blending "archival mate­ri­als, social and polit­i­cal arti­facts, pho­tog­ra­phy, and art to explore the con­gru­ent and con­tra­dict­ing ideas, aes­thet­ics, and cul­tures work­ing to make the halal metrop­o­lis both a real and imag­i­nary entity," according to the gallery's webpage.

Halal Metropolis features works by Amna Asghar, Qais Assali, BGIRL MAMA, Nour Ball­out, Adnan Charara, Kecia Escoe, Parisa Ghaderi, Anthony Keith Giannini, Razi Jafri, Osman Khan, Maamoul Press, Endi Poskovic, Haleem ​‘Stringz’ Rasul, and Reem Taki.

“This is part of a series of exhibitions we’ve presented in recent years that looks at the visibility, and in some sense, the invisibility of the Muslim population in our state,” artist and co-curator Omar Khan told the University of Michigan News in a recent article. “They’re very visible, but in the Detroit narrative, they’re sort of lost.”

In the same piece, artist Razi Jafri said, “Often stories about Muslims in America in general are not very nuanced. They’re presented as monolithic or single-minded. What we want people to really take away from this exhibition is an understanding of how diverse, multiethnic and multicultural we are—and we also want to highlight how Muslims are inextricable from the cultural fabric and of American history.”

I've not had a chance to see the exhibition yet, but it was recently extended to July 20, so it gives us all a chance. The show is free and the gallery is open to the public but it's still appointment only on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. with advance registration.

In June, Stamps hosted four Zoom chats discussing elements of the show and interviews with some of the artists, creators, chefs, Con­gress­woman Rashida Tlaib, co-cura­tor Sally How­ell, and more. We've collected those videos below along with some images from the gallery and additional short video interviews with some of the artists.

The Ypsilanti Frog Island Jazz Series brings free Friday concerts throughout the summer

MUSIC PREVIEW

Ypsilanti Frog Island Jazz Series

Between 1982-2001, Ypsilanti’s Frog Island Park hosted a jazz, blues, and zydeco festival sponsored by WEMU 89.1-FM. I remember seeing the Sun Ra Arkestra there on June 24, 1990, and hearing Ra talk about being from outer space during an interview broadcast on the station blew my young mind.

The Ypsilanti Frog Island Jazz Series won't have any outer-space vibes; it will evoke more of a classy nightclub or a tropical beach—or perhaps even a Depot Town breeze—rather than interplanetary travel because the artists who are appearing in the series are in the smooth jazz, groove/blues, and straightahead veins.

And because of flooding, it looks like the series won't even be held at Frog Island; it's now at nearby Riverside Park, 5 E. Cross St. in Ypsilanti, though there's been no official update on either the series' website or Facebook page.

Organized by guitarist John E. Lawrence, who was an instructor and chair of the music department at Washtenaw Community College through 2014, The Ypsilanti Frog Island Jazz Series will feature a concert nearly every Friday between July 2 and September 3 (there's no show July 23). Lawrence and his group will open every gig, all of which are free. The series schedule is:

"Common" People: Ken Meisel examines and celebrates Detroit in his new poetry collection

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Ken Meisel's book Our Common Souls

Detroit is many things to many people. Ken Meisel’s poetry collection Our Common Souls: New & Selected Poems of Detroit outlines these many views through substantial narrative poems that tell stories about the city. The wide-ranging poems examine specific places in the city, people such as its famous musicians, and historical events, including riots, the World Series, and Devil’s Night.

The collection opens with a poem called “Detroit River, January, 1996” that sets the scene for both the book and its perspectives of the city: “River on this coal-blasted shore, / River whose name now starts with a fist, / ends its knees in St. Lawrence.” The poem concludes with an emphasis on the river’s persistence, “River of sunken beer bottles, churn on,” just as the place will carry on through time and everything that has happened there. 

The poet peers at the various scenes and underbelly of the city, not overlooking the rough edges, as the poem, “The Gift of the ‘Gratia Creata,’” with a note setting its location in “Hamtramck, MI” declares:

Streets of Your Town: Jeff Vande Zande’s new short story collection focuses on "The Neighborhood Division"

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Jeff Vande Zande's book The Neighborhood Division

In the neighborhoods, streets, homes, rooms, and basements of author Jeff Vande Zande’s new short story collection, The Neighborhood Division, people live out their lives, their relationships, and their struggles. 

Yet, something is always a little unsettled. A car that follows a character on his run, with threats emerging from the driver. The paranoia of being mugged haunts a female character. A man lives shackled in the basement, unbeknownst to the residents. A neighborhood, where no outsiders are supposed to come in, restricts its residents under the guise of making lives better for them.  

These stories peer into the disarray of lives behind the four walls that they call home and also question the character’s choices. In the story called “That Which We Are,” a widower reflects on his marriage. His wife used to save money during the year so that she could give it to people in need during the holidays. Yet, he coveted the money for household expenses and splurges, like a television. He reconsiders:

Ann Arbor Film Festival launches a virtual version of the 59th edition

FILM & VIDEO PREVIEW

59th Ann Arbor Film Festival Poster

Like 60-degree days in March, the 59th Ann Arbor Film Festival snuck up on us this year and we didn't get a chance to screen any of the movies before the event launches Tuesday, March 23.

But here all the pertinent details to get you started on this year's edition:

Afa S. Dworkin on the Sphinx Virtuosi and their UMS concert "This Is America"

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Afa Dworkin and Sphinx Virtuosi

Afa S. Dworkin photo by Kevin Kennedy. Sphinx Virtuosi photo by Brian Hatton.

Classical music has had a long history of lacking diversity, which is why Aaron P. Dworkin founded the Sphinx Organization in 1997 to encourage and support minorities in this art form. The name was inspired by the iconic Great Sphinx of Giza statue in Egypt, which “reflects the power, wisdom and persistence that characterize Sphinx’s participants," according to the Detroit-based organization's website.

Today, the Sphinx Organization’s programs reach more than 100,000 artists and students, while performances by the orchestras and ensembles are viewed and attended by more than two million people each year.

UMS recorded a special performance by the Sphinx Virtuosi, an orchestra of the Sphinx Organization, for its 2021 season of virtual programming, and the concert is streaming for free on ums.org through February 8. The program is titled This Is America and includes works by Michael Abels, Jessie Montgomery, and Xavier Foley. On the final day of the stream, there will also be a special conversation with three Sphinx artists: Gabriel Cabezas, Bill Neri, and Melissa White. Each musician will discuss the performance as well as talk about their musical careers. You can download a PDF for the This Is America concert notes here.

A 2005 MacArthur Fellow, Aaron P. Dworkin was dean of the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance and is now a tenured professor of arts leadership and entrepreneurship at SMTD who also hosts the weekly videocast Arts Engines; he currently serves as a strategic advisor for Sphinx. Afa S. Dworkin, his wife, is a celebrated violinist and educator who now leads the Sphinx Organization.

Afa S. Dworkin, who has been honored with the Kennedy Center’s Human Spirit Award and was named one of Detroit Crain’s 40 Under 40, has expanded Sphinx's outreach and range enormously during her tenure as president and artistic director.

I spoke to the Ann Arbor-based Afa S. Dworkin about the Sphinx Organization and the Virtuosi concert recorded for UMS.