© 2024 WEMU
Serving Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County, MI
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

#OTGYpsi: Showing off the artistic side of downtown Ypsilanti


Concentrate Ann Arbor

Rylee Barnsdale's Feature Article: From stalwarts to upstarts, Ypsi's galleries offer showcase for local artists

Riverside Arts Center

The Gallery at 22 North

Stone and Spoon

Unicorn Feed and Supply


Cathy Shafran: You are listening to 89 one WEMU. I'm Cathy Shafran, and this is On the Ground Ypsi, a program intended to bring you the stories of the Ypsilanti community. We bring you On the Ground Ypsi in partnership with the reporting team at Concentrate Media. And our focus today is on art in the city of Ypsilanti. Today, I am joined by Concentrate Media reporter Rylee Barnsdale, whose online news site is reporting this week on the galleries that are popping up all over in the city of Ypsilanti. Rylee, thank you so much for joining us.

Rylee Barnsdale: Thanks for having me, Cathy.

Cathy Shafran: So, can you tell me a little bit about the article that you've put together for Concentrate Media?

Rylee Barnsdale: Yeah. So, I really wanted to put a focus on some of the more unique galleries around Ypsi. There is a huge art scene in this city, and a lot of folks are very unique with their art. They use a lot of different unique materials and not all, you know, professional gallery settings love to have that kind of art and love to put on that kind of art. But there are a lot of places in Ypsi that are super open and interested in all different kinds of work and the artists making it.

Cathy Shafran: What surprised you the most as you were working on this article?

Rylee Barnsdale: It was the money side of things and how expensive it can be to put on a show at a gallery. And I was so amazed at some of the work being done by the galleries featured in the article to make putting on a professional art show more accessible for artists that may not always have the means to do so.

Cathy Shafran: And were you surprised with the quantity, the number of artists, and art galleries in the city?

Rylee Barnsdale: Oh, absolutely. And the concentration of galleries. You can walk up a street and visit three different galleries in the same day. It's really incredible and really cool to see all of the artwork coming out of the city.

Cathy Shafran: Did you get a feel for why there is so much art growing within the city limits?

Rylee Barnsdale: The way that artists tend to travel is going to places that can accommodate them, depending on the price of rent or the amount of rent that they need to pay. And I think that Ypsi is such a...really nurtures the artistic side of people. I think that there is an artistic side to every person in Ypsi, and some folks just need a little bit more coaxing it out.

Cathy Shafran: Well, now in your Concentrate Media report this week, you did talk extensively with Liz Warren and Grey Grant from the Riverside Arts Center. And we are lucky enough to have both Liz and Grey with us, joining us for the discussion today. Thanks so much for being here, Liz and Grey.

Liz Warren: Yeah, thanks for having us.

Grey Grant: Thanks so much.

Cathy Shafran: Liz, tell me a little bit about Riverside Art Center and what's available there.

Liz Warren: There is a gallery, but it's also a flex space down there. We use it for performances and gatherings of all kinds. You have a theater, seats 115 people, Blackbox Theater. And there's a beautiful, it's what we call the art center. It's just an open space. We are going to be welcoming Ypsi Art Supply. Megan Foldenauer started Ypsi Art Supply. She's moving in there. There's a dance studio that is used quite frequently for Riverside Swings and other dancers use it for their classes, and we're in talks with someone who would like to do sort of a healing through dance series, a class series there.

Cathy Shafran: And, Grey, what attracted you to the arts scene in Ypsilanti?

Grey Grant: Well, I was an arts student over in Ann Arbor. And once I graduated, I kind of slowly drifted over here to Ypsi. The community here feels very tight and welcoming, and that was just so wonderful and magical. And the Riverside Arts Center reminded me so much of a similar art space that I frequented when I was a kid. That kind of was an all-art space that offered arts programming, theater programming, dance programming. And I was really, really drawn to the mission of Riverside Arts Center with its focus on community art and accessibility to the arts. Som I'm very lucky to be a part of the Ypsi art scene and to be a part of Riverside Arts Center.

Cathy Shafran: Now, Rylee, I understand, from your reporting, that it was the daughter of some folks who have an art gallery in town who actually started some of the work on Riverside Center. Can you tell me more about Maggie Spencer and her parents and the gallery at 22 North?

Rylee Barnsdale: So, the gallery at 22 North was actually founded by Nan Plummer and Will Spencer. And it's another one of those locations that I think a lot like Riverside is wanting to open up the arts world to folks that maybe have tried to get into other galleries or shows or spaces where their style of art, or whatever they were working on, just didn't really thrive in those spaces. And I think that what they're doing over at 22 North and what Maggie was a very big part of was figuring out how to open up that space and allow these very unique individuals to showcase their work in a way where they get that professional experience, but then can also maybe sell their pieces and be able to get a foot into the arts world.

Cathy Shafran: Are there other galleries that are included in your article?

Rylee Barnsdale: Yes, the Gallery at Stone and Spoon, which is a part of the Eastridge group of businesses, which also include Unicorn Feed and Supply. Those are Jen Eastridge's babies, also doing a lot of work for artists who maybe haven't been able to put on shows or exhibits in other locations and trying to really use art as a means to raise voices and creatives all over the city.

Cathy Shafran: If I'm heading to Ypsilanti, where do I go to find this eclectic group of art galleries, art in general?

Rylee Barnsdale: I think the biggest thing is going into areas like Depot Town and downtown Ypsi in general, because not only, like Liz said, do you get that, you know, those pieces of art and that work that you can see just walking down the street there. And not only are there the galleries, but then there's also all of these different shops and storefronts that are focusing on bringing out that artistic side of people. I think Jenni Sturge's work over at Unicorn Feed and Supply too, as well as Stone and Spoon, is a really great example of that and showcasing art from all different walks of life and being able to see yourself in a lot of different kinds of work while also being able to support those local businesses. It's really awesome.

Cathy Shafran: And for the artists, I could ask both Liz and Grey. Do you find Ypsilanti the place where you could create, where you are creative, and have an outlet for all that you want to do?

Grey Grant: Yeah, absolutely. Aside from working for at Riverside Art Center, I'm also a composer and theater maker, and there is such a lovely music scene and theater scene here in Ypsi. The theater scene--I have really come to know through my work at Riverside Arts Center. There's so many just little pockets of people creating wonderful and weird pieces of art, and I feel very supported by Ypsi as a city, as an arts community. I think, to Riverside Arts Center's credit, they're, like, spaces are rather accessible to use and is like one of the reasons why I was so drawn to them. My own organization, Fifth Wall Performing Arts, which is an experimental opera company based in Ypsi, is doing a show at Riverside Arts Center in April, for example, and we're really excited to be doing that. It's such a lovely and supportive space for artists here.

Cathy Shafran: Is there a feeling of connectiveness when artists come together in this area?

Grey Grant: No, I mean, absolutely. For example, I think Ziggy's, that bar and venue, has become, for me, like a big community hub. That's exactly what Liz is talking about. A lot of that happens there all the time. A lot of Thursdays I've spent there and just, like, meeting up with friends, seeing so many of my friends play there, having so many conversations about the music. It's, like, a lovely, supportive, generative space.

Cathy Shafran: So, Thursdays at Ziggy's. That's when we should see you.

Grey Grant: All nights at Ziggy's, to be honest. But Thursdays is, in the past, has been the nights for, like, all the weird stuff. The experimental music. The free, free improv stuff, you know.

Cathy Shafran: Arts of all kind. Liz, what's ahead in the art community in Ypsilanti?

Liz Warren: I can speak for what's happening at Riverside right now. We have an exhibit by the African-American Cultural Historical Museum. We are also hosting something called--we are calling--the Community Feedback Conversations Series. And then, also, we'll be announcing some really great workshops coming up. We have my friend Courtney Fisher who has agreed to do an enamel jewelry workshop. We have a good fiber artist who has agreed to do a workshop for us. Lots of dance classes coming up. Riverside Swings happens every Friday.

Cathy Shafran: Did I hear you saying something earlier about body art?

Liz Warren: Yes. This is sort of...it's a project we're working on. It's very early, early stages. But we recognize that there are groups of artists and kinds of art that are sort of marginalized and under-represented, and we want to give those artists a platform. So, we've been approaching a few body art shops because so many of those artists also work in other media that doesn't really get a spotlight. So, we would love to give. We want to have a party of a fundraiser of sorts and invite, you know, those artists to be able to come and showcase not only their other art, but then potentially any of the tattoos that they've done, invite their friends, and have sort of a skin fashion show of sorts. So, it's, like I said, it's super early, but it's this idea that we've got just to give a platform to artists that don't really have that option right now.

Cathy Shafran: Rylee, I would assume, from listening to Liz and Gray here today and reading through the article, that Ypsilanti offers an eclectic mix of art.

Rylee Barnsdale: Oh, absolutely. I think that eclectic is probably one of the better word--like, best words--to describe this art scene, and it's really unlike anywhere else.

Cathy Shafran: Well, thank you all very much. Rylee Barnsdale from Concentrate Media, along with Liz Warren and Grey Grant from the Riverside Art Center. Thanks so much for joining us today on On the Ground Ypsi.

Liz Warren: Yeah, our pleasure. Thank you.

Grey Grant: Thank you.

Cathy Shafran: I'm Cathy Shafran. This is 89 one WEMU Ypsilanti. Public radio from Eastern Michigan University and online at WEMU dot org.

Non-commercial, fact based reporting is made possible by your financial support.  Make your donation to WEMU todayto keep your community NPR station thriving.

Like 89.1 WEMU on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

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

Cathy Shafran was WEMU's afternoon news anchor and local host during WEMU's broadcast of NPR's All Things Considered.
Concentrate Media's Rylee Barnsdale is a Michigan native and longtime Washtenaw County resident. She wants to use her journalistic experience from her time at Eastern Michigan University writing for the Eastern Echo to tell the stories of Washtenaw County residents that need to be heard.
Related Content
  • It's not often that when we think of jellyfish that we think of them existing in fresh water. But an Eastern Michigan University biology professor and a group of her students are studying this phenomenon in various lakes across Michigan. WEMU's Cathy Shafran was joined by Concentrate Media reporter Rylee Barnsdale to discuss her article on the subject. And, they are joined by EMU biology professor Cara Shillington and EMU grad student Rachel Koski to explore the growing statewide interest in the freshwater creatures since the first report of their work was shared late last year.
  • The three-mile stretch of Washtenaw Avenue between US-23 and EMU’s water tower area has been the target of discussion for years. Now, an MDOT study on that stretch of road is taking a comprehensive look at how to fix it and also how to make it an area friendly for pedestrians and bicyclists as well. On this edition of "On the Ground Ypsi," WEMU's Cathy Shafran and Concentrate Media's Rylee Barnsdale hear from Nathan Voght, the project manager for Reimagine Washtenaw, about visions for this portion of Washtenaw Avenue that could one day make it a multi-modal corridor, rather than a pothole-laden stretch of land to maneuver around.
  • The City of Ypsilanti has a lot to celebrate in the new year. It is celebrating its 200th birthday with bicentennial activities planned throughout the year. The "On the Ground Ypsilanti" feature has been on hiatus since the untimely passing of Lisa Barry. Now, it returns with WEMU’s Cathy Shafran at the helm, once again bringing you the stories of and about the city and its residents. In the first edition of 2023, Cathy will be joined by Concentrate Media partner, Rylee Barnsdale, to discuss plans for getting the community involved in the activities. And, local historian Evan Milan will share some great Ypsi history!