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creative:impact - Ypsi in October is creative community

Holy Bones Holly.jpg
Holly Schoenfield
Holy Bones Festival
"Holy Bones" Holly Schoenfield with makeup by Jamie Laakko.

Creative industries in Washtenaw County add hundreds of millions of dollars to the local economy. In the weeks and months to come, host Deb Polich, the President and CEO of Creative Washtenaw, explores the myriad of contributors that make up the creative sector in Washtenaw County.

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David Fair
89.1 WEMU
Deb Polich, President and CEO of Creative Washtenaw, at the WEMU studio.


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Neighborhood Theatre Group
Kristin Anne Danko

Kristin Anne Danko (NTG Artistic Director) moved to Ypsilanti from Chicago in 2013. She holds an MA in Arts Administration from EMU and BA Degrees in Theatre and Music from Converse College. In Chicago, Kristin trained at iO, The Annoyance, and Act One Studios. In New York City, she completed the CAP 21 Professional Musical Theatre Training Program. Kristin has performed with Water Works Shakespeare Company, Shakespeare in Detroit, Upstate Shakespeare Festival, Actor’s Theatre Company, and the Jeff Award Winning Quest Theatre Ensemble and Polarity Theatre Ensemble. As a teaching artist, Kristin has worked with Dream Big Performing Arts Workshop and Chicago Kids Company. Kristin is a part-time lecturer at Eastern Michigan University and a private voice and piano instructor. Fun fact about Kristin – Every winter she falls at least once on the ice. Ouch!


Holly Schoenfield
Holy Bones Festival
Holly Schoenfield

From Second Wave Media

Holly Schoenfield is a business owner, visual artist, and digital designer in Ypsilanti, Michigan. She founded the Holy Bones Festival in 2019 to support The Ypsilanti Performance Space.

Holly Schoenfield says she started her "galactic gift shop" at 224 ½ W. Michigan Ave. in downtown Ypsilanti almost by accident.

Schoenfield has been an entrepreneur since age 17, doing a little photography, a little fine arts, but mostly graphic design. She'd been working out of an office at Tinker Tech, a maker space in Ypsilanti, but lost that space when Tinker Tech closed.

"I didn't have a home for my graphic design business for a few months, and then this space opened up," she says.

Her friend and business neighbor Angel Vanas needed a washer and dryer for her salon next door, Star Studio by Angel, and Schoenfield needed an office.

"I didn't have a plan to do the shop when we first decided to rent the building," she says.

But after Depot Town gift shop The Eyrie closed in March, Schoenfield heard from many local artists and crafters who needed a place to sell their items. So the gift shop, specializing in art and crafts by local makers, opened Jan. 15.

The store works on a consignment model. Artists can sell in the store and online at the same time, Schoenfield says. Stardust takes a commission for art sold from the store. Artists can also sell online and designate Stardust as a contactless pickup point.

Schoenfield says the store has proven popular with local artisans, and she's adding about one new vendor each week. She says several of her featured artists either started making art or tried out new media during the pandemic. Those artisans are making and selling everything from greeting cards to jewelry to fine art to handmade soap.

The store has also gained a growing following with local shoppers and did especially well June 6, the first night of a month-long Ypsi Pride celebration.

"My door started dinging at 5 p.m. and didn't stop dinging until we closed," Schoenfield says.

A project she's working on for the future combines beautifying the city and supporting local artists. In partnership with the Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority, she'll offer free items made by local artists for those who undertake a cleanup project in the community and show proof of completion.

"Do your part, get some art," Schoenfield says.


Neighborhood Theatre Group

About Neighborhood Theatre Group

Neighborhood Theatre Group People

Holy Bones Festival

About the Holy Bones Festival

ypsiGLOW 2022

All Hallows Illumination of Frog Island

Ypsi in October

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Neighborhood Theatre Group
Black Cat Cabaret


Deb Polich: Welcome to creative:impact on 89 one WEMU. I'm Deb Polich, president and CEO of Creative Washtenaw and your host for creative:impact. Thanks for joining me on Tuesdays to make creative guests rooted in Washtenaw County and explore how their creative businesses, product, programs, and services impact our local quality of life, place and economy. When I meet up with colleagues leading organizations similar to Creative Washtenaw around the country--we call ourselves local arts and creative organizations--I'm reminded that the spirit of cooperation among Washtenaw area artists and creative businesses is not the norm. Colleagues often speak about how tense or spiteful and how competitive their organizations are for audiences and donors in their community. Many people have worked for years to build our creative community, and although we're not perfect, it is anchored in the understanding that the creative sector is better. We are all better when we work together and encourage each other. A case in point: more than a half a dozen groups have come together to present Ypsi in October. My guests are going to give us the lowdown. Kristin Danko, artistic director of the Neighborhood Theatre Group, and Holly Schoenfield, founder of the Holy Bones Festival. Welcome to creative:impact.

Kristin Danko: Thanks for having us.

Deb Polich: Yeah, we're glad that you're here. You know, you both are accomplished artists and creative entrepreneurs, if I may say so. And I'm going to ask you each a two-part question. First, briefly tell our listeners how you discovered and developed your artistic or creative spark, and then why you chose Ypsilanti as your home base. Holly, you were raised in this region, right?

Holly Schoenfield: I actually wasn't.

Deb Polich: Oh, oh. Okay.

Holly Schoenfield: I was raised in Livingston County, but I came here for a creative job of about a decade ago. And when I finally settled down and purchased a home in Ypsilanti, I stumbled on the First Fridays gatherings and got into painting that I had not done since I was in high school. They had a little throwdown at their festival, The Honey Bee, which happened pretty recently, and this was back in 2019. And they just gave a little prompt, and I started painting and just fell in love with art again. And it has led, you know, it led to the Holy Bones Festival. It led to opening a little gift shop with art downtown, just because I loved it so much. And it really brought so much joy into my life to see this community.

Deb Polich: So, an example, really, of not being on a one, two, three, four step into a career. But you rediscovered that.

Holly Schoenfield: Yeah, my career was supposed to be in graphic design, but now I just am, like, I love spending my time with artists and creating these events to celebrate them.

Deb Polich: Awesome. And, Kristin, how about you? You hail from Chicago, right?

Kristin Danko: Yes. I was an actor in Chicago for about eight years when I decided I no longer wanted to act, and I wanted to be more of the creator of theater on the other side of the table, if you will. And we moved to Ypsilanti in 2013, and I got my master's in arts administration here at Eastern.

Deb Polich: Me, too.

Kristin Danko: Oh, hey! And so, ever since then, we decided that my partner and co-founder, Aaron Dean, we just fell in love with the community. We had our first original musical here in Ypsilanti. It was actually also on a First Fridays event in 2015, and it brought so much joy to the community and to us that we just fell in love with Ypsilanti and found a need for original theater here. And we've been going ever since.

Deb Polich: So, coming from Chicago, clearly a huge arts and cultural community, lots going on. And being here, what do you find...what did you find here that that that you preferred better than a big city like Chicago?

Kristin Danko: The sense of community, for sure. In Chicago, there are theaters on every corner, and here we can actually see there's a need for it. So, we can see communities coming together. Something...a really fun thing that's happened is, especially when we're live often, we would have audience members that would continue to come to our shows, and they became friends.

Deb Polich: Oh, cool.

Kristin Danko: Just from coming to neighborhood theater group shows. And so, we're not only building community among the cast and theater artists, but among the audience as well.

Deb Polich: Yeah, and sometimes you'll hear stories like we do. I think you guys know I'm married to Russ Collins at the Michigan Theater, but the people that met at the theater are doing things. And now, they're married, and they're families, and all that stuff. Such a great history. So, Holly, how did the two of you meet? How did you meet Kristin?

Holly Schoenfield: I think...she works at Back Office Studio, and I went to an event and met her there. And she pulled me aside after we, you know, had been hanging out a little bit at these events and was like, "Hey, do you want to collaborate on, you know, making these events a little more coordinated, so that we can help promote each other and bring crowds to each other's event and build community?"

Deb Polich: There's that word: collaboration. We'll get into that in minute. 89 one WEMU's creative:impact continues. I'm Deb Polich, and my guests today are Kristin Danko and Holly Schoenfield. We're talking about how creative cooperation can result in communitywide celebrations, like the upcoming Ypsi in October. So, let's talk about that Ypsi in October. One of you can take this. Who connected the dots that so many things were going on and that it would make more sense to present this as a cooperative endeavor?

Holly Schoenfield: I'm going to give Kristen the credit for that. She definitely came to me and was like, "We have to, you know, do something about this because everyone is doing so many great things in October. Let's do them together."

Deb Polich: So, we're not going to have time to describe every event. And we'll have a list on the website that Mat, our awesome producer, will put up for us. But what I'd like each of you to do--and I'll ask you one at a time--is to describe your event and then one other event in the festival of the month that you are excited about. So, Kristin, why don't you go ahead first?

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Neighborhood Theatre Group
Black Cat Cabaret

Kristin Danko: Sure. Happy to. So, Neighborhood Theatre Group's event in October is Black Cat Cabaret. This will be October 21st and 22nd at Riverside Art Center in the gallery--in the art gallery downstairs. We're transforming that into a spooky space. And there'll be a costume contest, a cash bar, obviously live theater, and a raffle. So, we hope you join us for that. And it's something that we've done for...we started doing that in 2016. And the last one we did was in 2019. So, we're excited to bring that one back.

Deb Polich: Sure. Sure.

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Neighborhood Theatre Group
Black Cat Cabaret

Kristin Danko: And one other that we're super excited about is ypsiGLOW. ypsiGLOW is returning this year. It's October 28th from 7 to 10. They'll be luminaries. Everything will be lit up. And they'll also be free workshops throughout the month of October. So, you can come and make your own luminary.

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Wonderfool Productions
Making a luminary.

Deb Polich: Yeah, that's become a complete community favorite. So, that'll be a lot of fun. And how about you, Holly? Your project and then something else?

Holly Schoenfield: Yeah. The Holy Bones Festival started in 2019. I had volunteered at the facility that had located at the Ypsilanti Performance Space, also known as the Ypsi. It is a former church that's being converted into a performance venue. So, I saw it and fell in love with it immediately--saw that it had good bones. And I wanted to help out. And also, the owner was very gracious in letting me have my first-ever festival there because I really wanted to celebrate the weird artists of Ypsi, the people that do the creepier art, and the different stuff. And we had our first year in 2019, and I did a suggested donation at the door, but now it is transformed into the Fundraise the Dead Festival, as the venue was not eligible because they weren't technically open for all that wonderful funding.

Holly Schoenfield
Holy Bones Festival
Crystal skulls at the 2021 Holy Bones Festival.

Deb Polich: I want to steal that. Fundraise the dead.

Holly Schoenfield: Oh yes. So, the facility wasn't eligible for all that, you know, the help when the pandemic hit. So, this past year we ended up raising quite a bit of money for them just by asking people to donate at the gate.

Deb Polich: Nice.

Holly Schoenfield: And every proceed goes to benefiting and restoring this beautiful venue that is, you know, it's got the stained glass. It's got all of the gorgeous stuff. And I cannot wait to see it when it's finished. But for now, we have the festival in the parking lot, and it is huge now. We're going to have about 60 artists this year, food trucks, and performances all day.

Holly Schoenfield
Holy Bones Festival
A musical performance at the 2021 Holy Bones Festival.

Deb Polich: Great, great, great. And what about one other event?

Holly Schoenfield: The next event is All Hallows Eve. That is's actually not in October, but we consider it to be part of October. You bring your jack o' lantern at Frog Island Park, and we light them all up. And the woman who runs it is a creative genius. And it is very magical. There are little pumpkins lining the Frog Island Park, all those performances and fire dancers and all sorts of amazing stuff happening.

Destination Ann Arbor
All Hallows Illumination of Frog Island

Deb Polich: So many awesome things for families and others to do in the community. And, you know, we have every day of the week and every night of the week within Washtenaw County, there's many choices to do something. I've actually been told, occasionally, that we should all get our act together and only have one event a day. Kristen, can you even imagine that coming up in Chicago?

Kristin Danko: Nope.

Deb Polich: I'd rather think of it more as we're so blessed to have so many choices, you know, for all of our tastes. And we'll have all of this again, as I mentioned, everything coming up for the Ypsi program together on the website. But Ypsi Real is part of this, too, which is an extension of Destination Ann Arbor. How are you guys working with them?

Kristin Danko: So, Ypsi Real's been amazing. They are helping with some marketing, and we will have a landing page on their website which is Ypsi Real dot com slash Ypsi October. So, you'll be able to find all of these events online and check out all the details there in one spot.

Holly Schoenfield
Holy Bones Festival
Tarot reading booth at the 2021 Holy Bones Festival.

Deb Polich: Really fortunate to have so much going on. And, again, we'll have all of that available to you. I want to say thank you for working together to being part of our great cooperative and sometimes Ken Fischer used to call it "coopetition," so cooperating. But still, we have to always get the attention of the people that we're bringing to our programs. But thank you for being here with us today and telling us about this and for working together and being part of this great creative community.

Kristin Danko: Thank you so much for having us, Deb.

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Mat Hopson
89.1 WEMU
(From L to R) Holly Schoenfield, Deb Polich, and Kristin Danko at the WEMU studio.

Deb Polich: That's been great. Find out more about Kristin, Holly, and the Ypsi in October events at WEMU. And you've been listening to creative:impact. I'm Deb Polich, president and CEO of Creative Washtenaw and your host. Mat Hopson is our creative:impact producer. Join Mat and me again next Tuesday when we welcome another creative Washtenaw guest. Celebrating 45 years of jazz broadcasting, this is 89 one WEMU Ypsilanti, public radio from Eastern Michigan University. Online at WEMU dot org.

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Polich hosts the weekly segment creative:impact, which features creative people, jobs and businesses in the greater Ann Arbor area.
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