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creative:impact - 300 episodes and counting!

Deb Polich and Mat Hopson celebrate 300 episodes of "creative:impact" at the WEMU studio.
Deb Polich
Creative Washtenaw
Deb Polich and Mat Hopson celebrate 300 episodes of "creative:impact" at the WEMU studio.

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.

Creative Washtenaw CEO Deb Polich at the WEMU studio.
John Bommarito
89.1 WEMU
Creative Washtenaw CEO Deb Polich at the WEMU studio.


creative:impact archives


Deb Polich: This is creative:impact on 89 one WEMU. I'm Deb Polich, president and CEO of Creative Washtenaw and your host. "This weekly series highlights the different ways in which the creative industries can impact us socially, economically, and culturally while exploring some of the various challenges to maximize its potential." Those were the words Morning Edition host David Fair used when introducing creative:impact for the first time in August of 2017. That was 300 shows ago. For a look back and forward. I've asked our producer, Mat Hopson, to join me at the microphone for today's show. Mat, welcome to the on-air side of creative:impact!

Mat Hopson: Well, thank you, Deb! It's an honor to, I guess you can say, proverbially step through the looking glass in this world.

Deb Polich: It's so true. So, speaking of that, you've been behind that glass since we started, and I want to ask you first a question I asked most of our guests.

Mat Hopson: And what would that be?

Deb Polich: How did you find your way to become a radio show producer and now often an on-air host?

Mat Hopson: Well, let's go back to the turn of the century of 2001, when I was still in high school.

Deb Polich: Thanks for mentioning that.

Mat Hopson: Well, actually, there was a high school broadcasting class that was offered at my school--Novi High School. I thought, "You know? This could be interesting." But once I got behind that mic and producing spots, I was like, "This is something I can really get into." From there, I enrolled in Central Michigan University into their broadcasting cinematic arts programs. And for our Eastern Michigan University listeners, I'm sorry that I came all the way from Central. But still, it was a great program. I got to do radio shows, playing rock music all afternoon for a couple times a week. And from there, I graduated. And then, eventually, through my sister, she's just like, "Well, I've been in contact with WEMU for the last few years, and why don't you just give them a call and see if something comes up?" So, I send them my resume to them. And in a few weeks, our former news director, Clark Smith, called me up, and said, "Yeah, we just got an opening. Would you be interested in coming in for an audition?" I said, "Sure." And then, it wasn't long before they hired me.

Deb Polich: That's the history.

Mat Hopson: Yeah.

Mat Hopson: So, your path seems more direct than many of our creatives who take kind of a circuitous route to get to what they're doing. I remember how David Fair first introduced the idea of creative:impact to me. And, following on WEMU is great in community partnerships and support for all things arts and culture in Washtenaw. David suggested we do a show about funding in the arts and creative sector. You know, as important as that is, I countered that it might be more interesting for our listeners to learn about and learn from Washtenaw County artists and creative workers themselves. David agreed. And it took us a little while to polish the show's format, but I think we finally got it. How about you? What do you remember those early days...or did you bury those memories?

Mat Hopson: Please, Deb. We live in the digital age. Everything is posted online. I'm one of the website managers here at WEMU, so nothing gets truly buried. But I was able to look back at your very first show all the way back in about August of 2017, where essentially, you just had to lay out the groundwork. And you and David mostly focused on sort of how the creative situation side of our lives that really impacts us on an economic standpoint. But then from there, you realized, "Okay, let's see how it really affects the community as a whole, whether it's Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Washtenaw County or even the state of Michigan as a whole."

Deb Polich: Yeah, well, I remember being pretty nervous in those early days. You know, I'd been doing radio and media interviews through my work for a long, long time. But hosting or co-hosting as it was those first three years was a whole new game for me. So, I was a little nervous.

Mat Hopson: You two were basically co-captains of creative:impact for a number of years.

David Fair and Deb Polich on their last show as co-hosts of "creative:impact."
Mat Hopson
89.1 WEMU
David Fair and Deb Polich on their last show as co-hosts of "creative:impact."

Deb Polich: True, true, true. And it seems like the show is pretty popular among WEMU listeners, or at least that's what people say when I meet, or I see them. Why do you think it works or is interesting to listeners?

Mat Hopson: Well, of all the years we've done creative impact, it has taught me just one lesson, and I hope it does the same thing for everybody else that anybody and absolutely anybody can be an artist, whether you crunched numbers for see how the economy is affected by our arts, whether you put on film festivals, art festivals, management, anything like that. Sure, you can learn the basics after a while once you get into it. But once you start developing a passion and you start not necessarily breaking the rules, but sort of molding them to more of your benefit and that passion starts to grow, that's when the artist part of your brain starts to kick in.

Deb Polich: I'm just amazed at the fact that we're on episode 300! And we've had all of these guests and they all come from Washtenaw County, which is amazing to me. creative:impact continues. This is the 300th episode, and I am with our producer, Mat Hopson, talking about the journey from show number one to show number 300. So, Mat, looking back, do you have any favorite shows or moments?

Mat Hopson: Oh, I got a handful of them, and, mostly, some of them are pretty recent. You actually got us to introduce the man who runs the Funny or Die website.

Deb Polich: Yeah. John Farah.

Mat Hopson: Yes. Mike Farah.

Deb Polich: I mean, Mike. Sorry.

Mat Hopson: I had no idea he was from Ann Arbor, but it was pretty interesting about hearing about his humble beginnings and how he started with just advertising on billboards. And now, just recently, he is now the head of an Emmy-winning production company. Because I remember when we first talked to him, they were in production of their Weird Al Yankovic movie, and that went on to win some awards.

Deb Polich: It did it. It did. You know, again, special people who got the roots together here in Washtenaw. Any others that come to mind?

Mat Hopson: Oh, just a few handfuls. I liked it back in July 2022 when he spoke with Isabel Claire Paul. She wrote a graphic novel about the LGBTQ movement that took place in Detroit in the 1970s. And, for the record, we all got free comics out of it. And I still have mine laying around.

Cover of "Come Out! In Detroit!"
Isabel Clare Paul
Cover of "Come Out! In Detroit!"

Deb Polich: It was marking the 50th anniversary of the first Pride movement in Detroit and Ann Arbor.

Mat Hopson: That's right. And I also liked it when you talk with Kymm Clark, who is a master of the arts of upholstery, and she's a person who says, "Hey, just because something is old doesn't mean it's useless. In fact. I remembered, at one point, she mentioned that she had a frame of an older piece of furniture that was over 100 years old. The framework was still in place. And, next thing you know, she upholstered the whole thing. And it was brand new!

Deb Polich: And Kymm was new to Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County.

Learning upholstery from Kymm Clark.
Kymm Clark
Learning upholstery from Kymm Clark.

Mat Hopson: That's right. That's right. You just met her when we had her on the show.

Deb Polich: And she's now doing amazing work at Makerworks and has classes for upholstery, daily or weekly. So, check that out. I'm going to take one.

Mat Hopson: Yes, I think you should. And also, I liked it when you spoke with the art teacher, Jane Montero. She had just won her second consecutive Art Teacher of the Year award. And it kind of made me think back to this quote I once saw on a martial arts website that I used to follow, and she definitely follows this particular quote. And it says, "The mediocre teacher tells. A good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires." And she was definitely someone who falls in that great teacher category based on the artwork that she shared with her students and just the stories that she told and how she always keeps in touch with her students.

Jane Montero (back) with her students and their designs.
Jane Montero
Jane Montero (back) with her students and their designs.

Deb Polich: And she is still at Dexter teaching, but she's also now the president of the Michigan Arts Education Organization. I'm not sure I've got that name right, but she's doing that work as well as an advocate and leader. So, again, really great people! We've also had folks that have been National Medal of the Arts winners.

Mat Hopson: Yeah, a lot of them.

Deb Polich: Such as Bill Bolcom and George Shirley!

George Shirley
The University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance
George Shirley

Mat Hopson: George Shirley. You really enjoyed that conversation!

Deb Polich: George Shirley was great!

Mat Hopson: Yeah. I also remember one of the recipients you spoke to was Peter Madcat Ruth, and you kind of put him on the spot at one point.

Peter "Madcat" Ruth on the harmonica.
Peter "Madcat" Ruth
Peter "Madcat" Ruth on the harmonica.

Deb Polich: I asked him. So, Peter, as many of you know, is a harmonica player, bar none And I asked him on the air if he could play us something, and he happened to have his harmonica with us. So, I brought it out of him.

Mat Hopson: Yeah, let's take a listen back really quick.

Madcat 300 clip.mp3
A clip from a conversation with Peter "Madcat" Ruth from February 14, 2023.

Deb Polich: So, do you carry your harmonica everywhere you go?

Peter "Madcat" Ruth: Everywhere.

Deb Polich: Do you have it right now?

Peter "Madcat" Ruth: Yeah, yeah.

Deb Polich: Can you hum a few bars, so to speak?

Peter "Madcat" Ruth: Uh, yeah.

Deb Polich: Maybe 40 seconds?

Peter "Madcat" Ruth: It won't take that long to find one. They're all over the house, actually.

Deb Polich: So, he's moving around. I can tell that.

Peter "Madcat" Ruth: (plays his harmonica)

Mat Hopson: No pressure there.

Deb Polich: Yeah.

Mat Hopson: He stepped up to the plate and he said he had a bunch of harmonicas. And he sounded really good.

Deb Polich: No, he's always great. He's great.

Mat Hopson: Yes, he is.

Deb Polich: And then, there's the National Medal of Humanities award winner, Earl Lewis. I liked that show. You know, I have so many favorites. It's hard to pick some. But Dave Coverly, who is the drawer of Speed Bump. That's syndicated over 400 places around the country, who lives here in Washtenaw, and David Barrett, who is the composer of that theme song, that NCAA theme song, "One Shining Moment." I mean, he's in town, too. That's pretty cool. But seriously, there's so many people. And I can't forget the Nick Pappas piece.

John Nick Pappas
Catherine Pappas
John Nick Pappas

Mat Hopson: John Nick Pappas. Yes, this was an extra special one. I would consider the one where you were solidified as the host of creative:impact for a number of reasons. Let's take a look back.

Pappas 300 clip.mp3
A clip from a conversation with John Nick Pappas on September 27, 2022.

Deb Polich: Commissioned work often is public work, and public work--public art--creates conversation about the art. Some people love it immediately. Others have other responses to it. As a sculptor, do you pay attention to the critics, both good and bad?

John Nick Pappas: Very little.

Deb Polich: Okay.

John Nick Pappas: I have a tendency to be very control-oriented to myself, and the rest of the world has to adjust to me.

Deb Polich: And there you go. I like that.

John Nick Pappas: Well, no, it's interesting, because I love doing what I did, and I was lucky. I became an expert founder. My two sons do all my casting. Now, I did it all in the beginning.

Deb Polich: Okay.

John Nick Pappas: And I did a big piece of Blue Cross Blue Shield, which is seven tons—

Deb Polich: Seven tons! That's enormous!

John Nick Pappas: At my studio in Depot Town.

Deb Polich: Okay.

John Nick Pappas: Which is a pretty large piece. And we move the piece by helicopter out of the building and in the back to three flatbeds.

Deb Polich: Oh my gosh.

John Nick Pappas: Because the area was too far away from the street, we had to build it out of sight to put it together.

Deb Polich: Like I said, so many steps to the whole process.

John Nick Pappas: It was a nightmare.

Deb Polich: Yeah. John Nick Pappas. What a wonderful sculptor who's left quite a legacy! He passed not too terribly long after that show.

Mat Hopson: I remember that.

Deb Polich: Glad to capture him.

Mat Hopson: Yeah, but when that interview first finished, I was like, "This is one of the best conversations I've ever recorded in my life."

Deb Polich: Wow!

Mat Hopson: And it was not long after that, our general manager, Molly Motherwell, started to talk to us and said, "Okay. We're getting towards awards season. The Michigan Association of Broadcasters are starting to look for submissions. And if anyone has any suggestions, let's hear it." So, I immediately pitched to you. I was like, "I think we should submit this for something."

Deb Polich: And we did.

Mat Hopson: And you did. And you know what happened next?

WEMU General Manager Molly Motherwell and Creative Washtenaw CEO Deb Polich hold their merit award from the Michigan Association of Broadcasters.
Deb Polich
WEMU General Manager Molly Motherwell and Creative Washtenaw CEO Deb Polich hold their merit award from the Michigan Association of Broadcasters.

Deb Polich: We were awarded a merit award by the Michigan Broadcasters Association. I was very proud of that and appreciated the work that you put into that as well. And it's great to win an award, especially for somebody like me who never thought I'd be on the side of a microphone. But the other part of it is that not everything goes perfectly. We've had our blunders.

Mat Hopson: Yeah. We have. I remember there was one conversation that you had with San and Laz Slomovits, who are best known as Gemini. It was back in May of 2023. And first of all, this was kind of a surreal experience for me for a number of reasons.

(From L to R) Laz Slomovits, Deb Polich, and San Slomovits at the WEMU studio.
Mat Hopson
89.1 WEMU
(From L to R) Laz Slomovits, Deb Polich, and San Slomovits at the WEMU studio.
Gemini 300 clips.mp3
A clip from a conversation with Gemini on May 7, 2023.

Deb Polich: And so, speaking of saying hello, when I showed Mat Hopson, our producer, as we were preparing for the show, your CD--he looked for a second and then he said, "Oh my gosh!" I'm back in second grade. I saw these two perform when I was a child. And I love them!"

San Slomovits: Yes.

Deb Polich: And you can see Mat smiling back there behind the glass. So, I can only imagine that you hear from people all the time who've seen your shows when they were young or, you know, as parents with their kids. What's it like for you, Laz?

Laz Slomovits: It's wonderful because we've been doing this....this is our 50th year. And so, we are regularly being introduced to the grandkids of people who heard us when they were young. So, it's a delight.

Deb Polich: And any special fan moments for you, San?

San Slomovits: Oh, let's see. Last week, we were playing at a school in Cedar Rapids, Michigan, and the music teacher who introduced us told her second graders that she heard us when she was in kindergarten.

Deb Polich: So, that was a great conversation, except...we had them in the studio.

Mat Hopson: Yes, we had them in the studio earlier on. And full disclosure up to our listeners, what you heard--what the final product was--was take two. Because after a major error on my part, the whole conversation got erased.

Deb Polich: Yes, it even happens in radio.

Mat Hopson: Yes, it does. So, they were good enough to give us another try. We went through the whole conversation again. But before that I was almost on my hands and knees, groveling to you to San and to Laz, saying, "I am so sorry." I felt so terrible.

Deb Polich: You know, it's something that happens to all of us all the time.

Mat Hopson: But in the end, it worked out well. As soon as I put it up on social media, the responses and the comments went through the roof. This became a fan favorite.

Deb Polich: Yeah. Now, it's been great. And there's so many more. Every day, I meet somebody, or somebody suggests someone. We are really fortunate in Washtenaw County. And the fact is it's every county in every state in the country that there are people of these talents and passion for arts and creativity and who weave it into their daily lives or their daily work.

Mat Hopson: Absolutely!

Deb Polich: Anyway, I appreciate everybody who's ever appeared on the show and look forward to meeting new folks. And, Mat, it's been really fun having you on the air with me.

The WEMU studio prepares for the next 300 episodes (and more) of "creative:impact."
Mat Hopson
89.1 WEMU
The WEMU studio prepares for the next 300 episodes (and more) of "creative:impact."

Mat Hopson: Congratulations on making this fantastic milestone! And what can I say? I guess I'll just see around the office for the next time and for the next 300 episodes!

Deb Polich: There we go. And, you know, really, one more thing. Great appreciation to the listeners who made reaching show number 300 possible, and they really do make WEMU better. That's creative:impact producer Mat Hopson. He joined me to reminisce about creative:impact from show number one to show number 300. Find out more about creative:impact and scroll through the archives of past shows at wemu.org. You've been listening to creative:impact. I'm Deb Polich, president and CEO of Creative Washtenaw and your host. And Mat Hopson, as you know, is our producer. Please join us every Tuesday to meet the people who make Washtenaw creative. This is 89 one WEMU FM Ypsilanti. Public radio from Eastern Michigan University.

If you'd like to a guest on creative:impact, email Deb Polich at deb.polich@creativewashtenaw.org.

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Contact WEMU News at 734.487.3363 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.
Mat Hopson is the local news producer for WEMU’s broadcast of Morning Edition and announcer for the Saturday morning 8AM-1 PM block. He also produces “creative:impact” hosted by Deb Polich and assembles and publishes the news stories and special features found here on wemu.org.
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