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creative:impact - Students complete Embracing Our Differences

"Building an Artist" by Khai T.
Embracing Our Differences
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eodmichigan.org
"Building an Artist" by Khai T.

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.

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

ABOUT GUESTS:

Chris Gant

Chris Gant
Embracing Our Differences
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eodmichigan.org
Chris Gant

Chris came to the US from Berlin, Germany in 1992.

Chris was the Evaluation Program Manager for GEAR UP at the University of Michigan, School of Social Work, a federally funded college access program where she developed a strategic plan and built collaborations across university departments.

Chris supervised and coordinated the activities for several AmeriCorps VISTAS, work-study and UROP students, facilitated workshops for other university partners that provided tools on how to collect student data, and she developed a universal assessment tool.

In addition, Chris was the second Study Abroad Faculty Leader at the University of Michigan, Center for Global and Intercultural Studies/Global Course Connections. In that position, she built relationships with universities in Germany and the Netherlands which teach urban-based social work for student internships. Chris infused comparative policies, identifying global issues, such as prostitution/human trafficking; juvenile delinquency/juvenile incarceration and immigration/refugee crisis.

As a Graduate Research Assistant, Chris worked at the National Center for Institutional Diversity, University of Michigan, supervising undergraduate students working on a longitudinal study of underrepresented students in STEM programs. She has a Bachelor Degree in social work from Georgia State University and a Masters of Social Work from the University of Michigan majoring in Community Practice with a minor in Human Services Management (2010).

Julie Brooks Malone

Julie Brooks Malone at the WEMU studio.
Mat Hopson
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89.1 WEMU
Julie Brooks Malone at the WEMU studio.

Julie is an Ann Arbor native and raised her family here. She recently earned a Bachelor's degree from Eastern Michigan University with a major in Business.

This summer, she has been a docent for Embracing Our Differences, an outdoor art exhibit at Gallup Park. The exhibit seeks to broaden our understanding of “enriching our lives through diversity and inclusion." So far this summer, over 1620 students from Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti have toured the exhibit with Julie and other docents.

Julie gets energized while observing the children’s reaction and amazed at their interpretation of the art. She hopes to continue to work in education.

RESOURCES:

Embracing Our Differences

Embracing Our Differences on Facebook

Embracing Our Differences on Instagram

Embracing Our Differences on YouTube

TRANSCRIPTION:

Deb Polich: Welcome to creative:impact on 89 one WEMU. I'm Deb Polich, president and CEO of Creative Washtenaw and your creative:impact host. Thanks for tuning in on Tuesdays for this exclusive WEMU segment that explores the impact of our local artists, creative workers and businesses, and the programs and services they offer and the impact that they have on Washtenaw County and beyond. For the second year in a row, giant billboard-sized artworks have sprouted in the park throughout Washtenaw County. Embracing Our Differences is back in full bloom. We have two guests in the studio: Julie Brooks Malone and Chris Gant, who spend many days among the artworks greeting guests and telling them about our art on view. Welcome to creative:impact, Julie and Chris.

Julie Brooks Malone: Thank you. Thank you for having us.

Chris Gant: Thank you for having us.

Deb Polich: We're really happy to have you here to tell us kind of a different aspect. Last year, we explored the project itself. But before we go there, before we get into what I want to talk about, I'd like Chris to tell us what is Embracing Our Differences. What's it all about?

Chris Gant: So, Embracing Our Differences uses the transformative power of art within the community and also within the public school system. So, we try to infuse art with children and also adults who can submit the art that includes embracing our differences, and they can submit the art. And we have six art judges who then would pick some of the art that children and adults made. And those art pieces then are created into giant-sized banners.

Chris Gant and Lynne Settles at
Chris Gant
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Embracing OUr Differences
Chris Gant and Lynne Settles sit at their Embracing Our Differences table for Ypsilanti High School's Career Day.

Deb Polich: And, Julie, there's kind of a theme that Embracing our Differences is trying to communicate.

Julie Brooks Malone: Yes. The theme, I would say, would be definitely diversity, inclusion. We're trying to bring everybody together, maybe recognizing some differences, but as well as raising embracing them and just having conversations among children and everyone.

Deb Polich: And the artists are both children and adults and both from our community and elsewhere. Correct?

Julie Brooks Malone: Absolutely. Yes. They are from all over the world and locally.

Deb Polich: Oh, all over the world, too.

Julie Brooks Malone: Yes, yes.

Deb Polich: Okay. And all world building on that diversity, equity and inclusion kind of theme.

Julie Brooks Malone: Yes, they are all on the same thing.

Deb Polich: And I should state that they're placed at Gallup Park and other parks throughout the region.

Chris Gant: Just Riverside this year.

Deb Polich: Oh, just Riverside this year.

Chris Gant: Gallup Park and Riverside.

Deb Polich: Riverside. Okay. Great. Thanks for clarifying that. So, Julie, from your standpoint as a docent or a guide, you greet the public and then you tell them about the works, right?

Julie Brooks Malone: Well, yeah, we greet the public who's coming to tour, and we just try to start conversations with who's visiting. And I've learned through just trying to have conversations and observing maybe what each of us might see as the conversation takes place, it becomes this wonderful, wonderful idea of everybody seeing what the artist might be wanting us to see about the diversity, about the inclusion, about all of those things.

Deb Polich: And creating conversation.

Julie Brooks Malone: Absolutely.

Deb Polich: Between you and the people.

Julie Brooks Malone: Yes.

Deb Polich: And, Chris, how scripted--I know you do school tours, camp tours and stuff like that--are those scripted and, you know, specific pieces that you have to hit, or is it just sort of randomly you're wandering around with the kids?

Chris Gant: So, no, it is not scripted. But, this year, we did take a little bit of a different approach. We actually had an orientation with our docents where we sort of honed in to really gauge the audience. So, understanding who was coming for a field trip because we do highlight different pieces of art for kindergartners, for example, than we would for adults.

Deb Polich: That makes so much sense.

Chris Gant: Yeah. So, we did get some really good feedback from the teachers from tours that we conducted last year. And some of the teachers tell us, "Ooh, the tours were too long," or "The kids kind of tuned out." So, that's why we sort of chose this approach. And the docents, they huddle up 15 minutes before the students come for the tour. And then, they choose which art pieces they will show to the audience that is coming in.

Chris Gant and Teresa Johnson at their Embracing Our Differences table.
Chris Gant
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Embracing Our Differences
Chris Gant and Teresa Johnson sit at the Embracing Our Differences table at the EMU Career Fair.

Deb Polich: Okay. Okay. So, you have an idea of who's coming, and then you formulate what you're going to do from that.

Chris Gant: Right.

Deb Polich: 89 one WEMU's creative:impact continues. I'm Deb Polich, and my guests are Julie Brooks Malone and Chris Gant. And we're talking about the Embracing Our Differences exhibition. So, you guys bring a fair amount of knowledge about all of the works to you. But I'd like to flip that. Julie, what do you gain, particularly from the young people, from the kids?

Julie Brooks Malone: I will say this experience has changed my world.

Deb Polich: Oh, really?

Julie Brooks Malone: Yes. I've had an amazing time doing this this summer with the children. They've changed my life. You know, the things that they come up with through our conversations--I always learn something. And I'm in business management. Just graduated from Eastern here.

Deb Polich: Congratulations!

Julie Brooks Malone: And after this summer, I would love to work with children. It was just a wonderful experience to be a part of showing them the art pieces and, you know, what that can do for everyone.

Deb Polich: You know, from my experience in all those years that I toured with Artrain and the exhibitions that we did, and we did a lot of education programs and kids programs, I just can't stress--and I'd love to have your comment about this, Chris--that as much as what the artist wants to communicate, what we learn as the educators or the curators, everybody brings their own view of seeing and their own thing to it. What do you find kids bring to the conversation? What experiences have you had? Are there certain works, perhaps, Chris, that kids respond to more so than others?

Students sit near
Chris Gant
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Embracing Our Differences
Students sit near the "Rainbow Rights" banner.

Chris Gant: Oh, for sure. I would think that the children respond to the works that were actually done by children.

Deb Polich: Oh, yeah, sure. Do you have a favorite? Do they have a favorite?

Chris Gant: Oh, absolutely. There is one favorite that's in Riverside Park that is called "All are Welcome Here." This is under the big umbrella. And so, Kathy Fisks from Ypsilanti Community Schools or Public Schools—

Deb Polich: Okay.

Chris Gant: She took her kindergartners, about 50 of them, and they put an individual picture of themselves, about this big, under the big umbrella. And it was just joyous to see the kids come out on the field trip. And, of course, when I asked them what is your favorite piece, everybody in unison screamed, "The big welcome umbrella!" And so, each of them actually told their own little story about who they are and pointed on the banner. And so, this is just one example. But I think that the children, like Julie said, they teach us so much on things that they see that I hadn't maybe seen before in those banners. And, yeah, that's the takeaway for me as well.

Deb Polich: So, the students, those especially that have pieces in the show, they're having a different experience perhaps than the young people or others that are looking at the show. But nonetheless, all of them are being connected to imagery that impacts them. Would you say, I mean, any theme you're following?

Embracing Our Differ
Chris Gant
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Embracing Our Differences
Students stand under the "Chosen Family" banner.

Julie Brooks Malone: Of course, we try to follow the theme which we are, you know, embracing our differences. But the one thing I always tell everyone that I take on a tour is kind of like what you said: that everybody sees art a little bit differently. And the coolest thing about it is there really is no wrong or right about art.

Deb Polich: Love that!

Julie Brooks Malone: Yes. And everybody not only sees different, but they also feel different. So, that's how I go about the tours.

Deb Polich: Excellent. Excellent. So, Chris, give us the quick details. How long is the show up, and how can people sign up for tours?

Chris Gant: Okay. So, the exhibit this year is up until the end of October officially, depending on weather. And you can sign up for tours in different ways. You can go on to our website at E-O-D Michigan dot org and select which tours you would like to go on, either Gallup or Riverside Park. And we also have sent letters to the teachers inviting them to sign up for tours and summer camps as well.

Deb Polich: Excellent. Lots of ways to be connected. Did you have one more thing to say?

Julie Brooks Malone: Yeah, I believe we just implemented Tuesdays at Gallup Park. For anyone that would like to come every Tuesday, we will be there from 10 to 2.

Deb Polich, Julie Brooks Malone, and Chris Gant (featuring the award-winning WEMU squirrel) at the WEMU studio.
Mat Hopson
/
89.1 WEMU
Deb Polich, Julie Brooks Malone, and Chris Gant (featuring the award-winning WEMU squirrel) at the WEMU studio.

Deb Polich: Okay, great, great, great, great. Well, that's Julie Brooks Malone and Chris Gant, docents and guides for the Embracing Our Differences exhibition. Find out more about them and the installations at WEMU dot org. Thanks for being on the show.

Julie Brooks Malone: Thank you.

Chris Gant: Thank you so much for having us.

Deb Polich: You've been listening to creative:impact. I'm Deb Polich, president and CEO of Creative Washtenaw and your host. Mat Hopson is our producer. We invite you to join us every Tuesday to meet the people who make Washtenaw creative. This is 89-1 WEMU-FM, Ypsilanti. Public radio from Eastern Michigan University.

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Contact WEMU News at734.487.3363 or email us at studio@wemu.org

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