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creative:impact - Are you going to Ann Arbor’s 200th birthday party on May 25?

Motawi Tilework's commemorative Ann Arbor Bicentennial tile.
Motawi Tileworks
Motawi Tilework's commemorative Ann Arbor Bicentennial tile.

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.


jeff Crockett
Jeff Crockett
jeff Crockett

Following two deployments (1969-1971) as an Electronics Officer on the USS Chicago (CG-11), Jeff earned an MA in Special Education at UM in 1973. From 1973 to 2010, he served as a Special Education teacher and teacher consultant for the Plymouth-Canton Community Schools until he retired. From the fall of 2020 to June 2011, Jeff provided software training for special ed teachers in the New York Public Schools. Then, from the fall of 2011 until the spring of 2019, he served as an Assistive Technology Coordinator for the Northville Public Schools where he developed educational communities using technology to help students access the curriculum.

His wife, Christine, and he are passionate historic preservationists and helped form the Old Fourth Ward Historic District Association. Christine is currently the President, and Jeff is the Communications Officer. Jeff also serves on the Board of the Ann Arbor Historical Foundation. In 2003, Jeff and Chris won the Governor’s Historic Preservation Award for work on their Victorian home. In 2020, Jeff helped form and assumed leadership of the Green Team, a group of volunteers who have created community gardens on four of the 14 plots surrounding the Library lot. The Green Team has partnered with the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and focused this year on adding native plants to attract pollinators. Since the Spring of 2023, Jeff has served as the Chair of the Bicentennial History Subcommittee. Since September 2023, Jeff has also served as the Secretary of the Library Green Conservancy.


Ann Arbor Bicentennial

Ann Arbor Bicentennial Events

Ann Arbor Bicentennial on Facebook

Ann Arbor Bicentennial on Instagram

Ann Arbor 200

A2 Smart Tours


Deb Polich: Thanks for tuning into this creative:impact episode on 89 one WEMU. I'm Deb Polich, president and CEO of Creative Washtenaw and your host. I am joined by Jeff Crockett of Ann Arbor. Like most of our creative:impact guests, Jeff's background is varied. He's a veteran, a former special ed teacher who eventually specialized as a technology coordinator for educational communities using technology. Jeff is also an active and passionate historic preservationist, which brings him to creative:impact. Jeff is serving as the chair of Ann Arbor's Bicentennial History subcommittee. Jeff, welcome to the show!

Jeff Crockett: Well, thank you very much!

Deb Polich: We're glad to have you here. So, founded in 1824, Ann Arbor started celebrating its bicentennial in January. I will remind listeners that they can follow two A200 websites for updates. A2bicentennial.org is Destination Ann Arbor site and includes many of the events and resources happening during the bicentennial. The other is aadl.org--Ann Arbor District Library's Ann Arbor 200. It's hosted by the library and is accumulating 200 special interest releases about Ann Arbor's history. Jeff, what is the role of the Bicentennial History Subcommittee?

Jeff Crockett: Well, to engage the community in looking at the past and basically creating different kinds of projects. I am pleased to say that this is a community effort of 24 volunteers who have been working since 2022. And a little shoutout to you and Russ, because you helped start the ball rolling by being part of the initial steering committee and then connecting with the city to get this going. You are now on the executive committee. So, a little shout out to you first!

Deb Polich: Well, you made that happen. So, thank you. So, what are some of the projects you and your team have been working on?

Jeff Crockett: Well, the most exciting one for me personally is the Bicentennial quiz. It started off, basically with a request from Amy Carbo to develop ten trivia questions for the bicentennial kickoff. And I thought about it overnight, and I said, "Ten? Let's go for 200!" And everybody would say, "No way!" So, the secret was community outreach. So, we have outreached 8 or 9 different communities--ethnic and community backgrounds--and we pulled together a wonderful group of people who developed questions that respected the diversity of Ann Arbor. And if you're asked me exactly why I got into this, it was to celebrate our diversity and also to recognize the achievements of people in the past who have gone--who have been lost--to history. So, the most important one is the bicentennial quiz. And by the way, creative industries are well-represented.

Deb Polich: Oh, I'm sure of it.

Jeff Crockett: Over 10% of our questions have to do with the creative world.

Deb Polich: Oh. Thank you. So, putting you on the spot. Got a question for me? See if I can pass it or not?

Jeff Crockett: Actually, I do. Okay?

Deb Polich: Okay. Now I'm nervous.

Jeff Crockett: And don't worry about it, because I would probably get about 10% of these questions right being a white guy. So, just don't feel bad. What Hispanic American film producer from Ann Arbor has produced "Bride Plus One," "Get Real," "Naked Angel," and Dream Maker"?

Deb Polich: Christina Hemingway-Morales...or Morales-Hemingway.

Jeff Crockett: You got that right.

Deb Polich: Yes.

Jeff Crockett: You didn't even need the multiple choice. You got that right. I'm impressed!

Deb Polich: I happen to know Christina. She's great. 89 one WEMU's creative impact continues with Jeff Crockett, chair of Ann Arbor's bicentennial history committee--subcommittee. I should say. Jeff, almost everyone loves a party, and birthday parties are especially fun. I hear there's one coming up in a few weeks. When and where will it take place?

Jeff Crockett: Oh, I'm so glad you asked. It's on May the 25th from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Liberty Plaza. And what I'm excited about is that the theme is "Honoring the Diversity of Ann Arbor's History." So, this has been a joint effort. I'm pleased to say we have co-sponsors include Destination Ann Arbor with Sarah Miller, Library Green Conservancy's Rita Mitchell, State Street District with Angela Heflin, and the Kemp House's Ann Dilcher. So, we've put together a really wonderful program, including eight speakers reflecting the diversity in Ann Arbor, speaking about what the bicentennial means to me. This is going to be fantastic! And we also have the Vocal Arts Ensemble of Ann Arbor with Benjamin Cohen, who's going to be having his group sing Ann Arbor songs. Then we're going to sing Happy Birthday with the birthday cake. And all this is going to be accompanied by Ralph McKee's Blues Band, and Lucy Ann Lance is going to be the MC.

Deb Polich: Oh, sounds like a great, great time! And everybody's invited, right?

Jeff Crockett: Absolutely! And Liberty is going to be closed off. So, we're going to have a lot of space. There are going to be tables and chairs, a picnic-like atmosphere. Local businesses will be providing, at a cost, quick, carryout foods. It'll be fantastic.

Deb Polich: Right. And I think that, and actually being involved slightly with the planning of this myself, that idea of the community picnic, everybody coming together to break bread together, bring people are encouraged to bring their own picnic baskets and blankets and/or whatever to use both the commons lot, which is next door to the library, but also Liberty Square. So, it should be a great time.

Jeff Crockett: Oh, what's amazing about this community is everyone coming together. And it's interesting that Christina is going to be there speaking.

Deb Polich: Christina. Our filmmaker.

Jeff Crockett: Yes. Our filmmaker. And also announcing that she's going to do a new film based on 1969 Ann Arbor, and she's going to have a test reading that evening. So, very cool!

Deb Polich: Yes. And that's going to happen at CultureVerse, a time yet still to be determined. I happen to know some of the talent that's involved with that and some of us not-so-talented are part of that.

Jeff Crockett: Yeah, right.

Deb Polich: But anyway, it should be fun. There are all sorts of other things that are going on. I want you to talk about your tours.

Jeff Crockett: Oh, the A2 smart tours are incredible, and credit primarily goes to Norm Tyler and Tom Silbert. We're talking about 15 tours--guided tours--that are available for your mobile device, including 177 sites. And a whole group of people that were involved. But what's really wonderful about these, you go to the site, there's a picture with a historical description. Our local historians--Susan Weinberg, Kara Moll, Christine Crockett, Fran Wright, Ilene Tyler--have been involved in developing the content. So, it's not just good for us locals. It's good for alums who haven't been in Ann Arbor for a long time and want to reawaken the experience for new town visitors. So, please go to A2 Smart Tours dot org, and you'll see all the information there.

Ann Arbor District Library

Deb Polich: And these are virtual tours, or can you also walk them or likewise? Are there maps?

Jeff Crockett: Oh, well, you have a choice. You can do this from your home, or you can walk around. Now, there's one really cool one. It's a virtual scavenger hunt where they show pictures of unidentified places. And you go around, and you record what these places are. And as you complete them all, you can go and get special recognition for it. So, you can do it individually or as a group. It's a great outdoor activity.

Deb Polich: What are a couple of the things that are on the tours...I mean, just sites?

Jeff Crockett: Well, I mean, there are pictures. Are you talking about the main tours?

Deb Polich: Yeah, just so people get an idea--our listeners get an idea--of what they might see if they take advantage of these tours.

Jeff Crockett: Well, there's an overview, basically, that takes you about the important site in downtown. There are more specific ones having to do with the old African American neighborhoods. There's a downtown tour. There's a whole bunch of different tours that I think could be better for you. Just a quick look at the link rather than reading off all the different sites. There's the State Street district. So, there are a whole bunch of them.

Deb Polich: And probably good for all ages.

Jeff Crockett: Oh, absolutely!

Deb Polich: That's great!

Jeff Crockett: A great family activity!

Deb Polich: Jeff, you mentioned that you're working with a lot of volunteers. You've put a lot of time into this. What has that process been like working with folks and making this happen? And we just got a minute left for you to answer that question.

Jeff Crockett: It's a real challenge. The challenge is finding time to meet and to do it. And so, I'm constantly on Zoom.

Deb Polich: Right.

Jeff Crockett: Basically, that's the way this works and just trying to find it. And that's the difficult thing. But the pleasure of it is learning so much from all the different people involved who have different sort of backgrounds and interests. And we have developed sort of friendships. So, it's been a real fun kind of thing, and I feel enriched.

Deb Polich: Well, community involvement at its best. And thank you for leading this and being part of it and making sure it gets done. And we can't wait to celebrate on May 25th downtown in Ann Arbor. Thanks for being on the show!

Jeff Crockett: You're most welcome!

Deb Polich: That's Jeff Crockett, who is one of those leading the Ann Arbor Bicentennial birthday party on May 25th. Find out more about Jeff and get all the details about the party at wemu.org. 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. Please join us every Tuesday to meet the people who make Washtenaw creative. This is 89 one WEMU 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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Polich hosts the weekly segment creative:impact, which features creative people, jobs and businesses in the greater Ann Arbor area.
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