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#OTGYpsi: Ypsi Fine Arts Club offers new home for aspiring artists


Concentrate Ann Arbor

Rylee Barnsdale's Feature Article: New Ypsi Fine Arts Club offers supportive community for area artists and art lovers

Riverside Arts Center

Ypsi Fine Arts Club


Cathy Shafran: You're listening to 89.1 WEMU. I'm Cathy Shafran. And this is On the Ground Ypsi. It is a program intended to bring you stories of the Ypsilanti community. And we bring you On the Ground Ypsi in partnership with the reporting team at Concentrate Media. And today, our focus is on a new home for those engaged in the fine arts in Washtenaw County. Today, I'm joined by Concentrate Media reporter Rylee Barnsdale. She has a report in Concentrate Media this week. The focus is on the newly created Ypsi Fine Arts Club that offers a gathering place for artists to discuss their work, to interact with other artists, and also to even try to sell their art. Rylee, thanks so much for joining us. It's an interesting concept. Can you tell me more about the Fine Arts Club in Ypsi?

Rylee Barnsdale: So, the Ypsi Fine Arts Club, the whole goal at Riverside Arts Center is to really create a community of artists because making art as a profession can be rather difficult, and it can be really isolating. So, the idea behind the club is to create a space two times a month where artists, art collectors, art enjoyers, anyone sort of involved in the creative scene here in Ypsi can come together, discuss their work, share it with others, and, like you said, also have a chance to sell some pieces of work.

Cathy Shafran: And they have a home for it now as well. They have a location to sit down and gather.

Rylee Barnsdale: That's right--at the Riverside Arts Center in the Off Center, a super central location in downtown Ypsi. It's right by the Ypsilanti Transit Center. So, it makes it a lot easier for folks to come in at any time. And the fact that there are those two meetings a month also gives folks more opportunities to come if they miss one. That doesn't mean they've missed out completely. They can still come that following Wednesday.

Cathy Shafran: Is it your understanding that there's actually been a void in the community that this is filling?

Rylee Barnsdale: Yeah. The folks over at Riverside Arts Center held a couple of community forums earlier in the year and at the end of 2022 to find out what folks in the community wanted out of Riverside Arts Center and what Riverside Arts Center could be for the community as a whole. So, not just artists--also families and schools and teachers. And, as we know, the arts sort of drive communities. And Ypsi really is no exception. And this is a very flourishing community of different and extremely creative people. And not only does that sort of environment drive more folks to come and live in Ypsilanti to create art and create community, but also drive things like tourism and business. So, that really creates a whole boatload of different opportunities across the board for the entire community through this one particular event.

Cathy Shafran: And it just started. Is that correct? They had their first meeting?

Rylee Barnsdale: So, the first meeting was May 17th, and they are still going strong, again, that first and third Wednesday of each month, barring holidays, of course. The Off Center will be open to artists to come in, share their work if they want to. It doesn't have to be a completed piece of art. And if they are feeling comfortable enough to receive critique or to say, "Hey, I'm selling this," then they have that opportunity as well.

Cathy Shafran: Are you aware of how the first meeting went as far as attendance?

Rylee Barnsdale: Yes, I was actually able to attend, which was a super fun experience. And I think the biggest takeaway I had from it was how all of these artists who create in different mediums and have different stories and, you know, life experiences all came together and were able to listen to one another and really support each other with a lot of them not really knowing each other too well. And I think all of us really left that space feeling like we had this community really starting to come together and this network of support for not just artists, but those that want to support their artists, friends and loved ones, and those that maybe just want to buy some cool art for their home.

Cathy Shafran: Rylee, in your report in Concentrate Media this week, you did talk extensively with Lynne Settles. She's a former Ypsilanti school district art teacher. She's the art director at a group called Embracing Our Differences. And now, she is the co-founder of the Ypsi Fine Arts Club. And Lynne is joining us on the phone. Thanks for being with us, Lynne.

Lynne Settles: Thank you for having me.

Cathy Shafran: I understand in the article--I got a chance to read it ahead of time-- in that the whole concept for the Ypsi Fine Arts Club came when you started learning about Detroit's Fine Arts Breakfast Club. So, what was it about the Detroit club that inspired you?

Lynne Settles: Yeah. So, it was nothing like I've ever been to before. I thought when I went down to visit that it was going to be something like an artist talk. But it was so much more than that. It was a community of artists supporting each other, encouraging each other. And I was like, "This is what Ypsi needs. This is what we are missing." So, I went down there with a friend, Takeyshia Jefferson, an artist, a member of the Detroit Arts Club, Fine Arts Club, and got a chance to experience it for myself. And then later on, we got a chance to sit back and talk about it--"Hey, can we do this? Can we make this happen? Let's talk to some people." So, that got the ball rolling.

Cathy Shafran: Did you bring your art to that first meeting that you went to?

Lynne Settles: I did not. And I have not yet brought my art out yet. But I have been inspired by the other artists. Like you said in the intro, I was a former art teacher. And a lot of times, art teachers don't get a chance or a lot of time to do their own art. So, this is motivating for me to bring out those paint brushes and do some work of my own.

Cathy Shafran: What exactly was it that inspired you when you sat there in Detroit where you said, "This is what we need to be doing in Ypsi?"

Lynne Settles: Well, the support from the other artists. Every time an artist got up and spoke, the whole crowd of artists in the audience clapped and praised them. They got a chance. Then, the artist shared information about events that were going on in the community and in metro Detroit area. So, not even just Detroit, the metro area, the people's event, exhibits. And then, afterwards, there was, like, a networking going on where the artists would come up and talk to each other and give advice and tips, go up and talk to the founders. You know, Henry Harper and Harold Braggs were giving tips. So, all of that. That's the art community--that feeling of support.

Cathy Shafran: So, you brought that idea to Ypsi. Why did you think Riverside?

Lynne Settles: Riverside is the hub--is the center--of the art community in Ypsilanti.

Cathy Shafran: And so, describe for me that first meeting. How many people? What type of art did you see brought in? And what was the feel? Was it replicating what you saw happening in Detroit?

Lynne Settles: Oh, yeah. It was a small version of it, but it was a pool. It was a packed house of people, probably 25, 50 artists with their pieces lined up to talk about their work, to show their work, to support one another. We started off with the applause, and it just kept going on. So, it was like, "Yes! This is it. This is what we were striving for."

Cathy Shafran: Can you paint a word picture what it actually looks like? Does somebody come in and announce their name and say, "This is my piece of art and I want to tell you why I painted it and what I was trying to accomplish." And then, the applause. How does that work?

Lynne Settles: Yeah. So, it's kind of like show and tell you. You sign up. The artists come in, and you sign up. Then, the moderator calls up the first five artists. You can have at least two pieces, hold your art pieces up, and then the artist gets a chance to talk about each piece. And while talking about the piece, these helpers are carrying the art around the room, making sure that everybody in the space gets a chance to see the artwork. The artist talks about their work and lets us know if their piece is for sale or if it's a piece in progress and working.

Cathy Shafran: And at the end of the session, do you feel that there were connections made and lessons learned by all in the room?

Lynne Settles: Definitely. When that artist is completed, the applause comes up. And by the end of the club meeting, people are reaching out to each other, going over and looking at taking close-up views of the art, asking questions, exchanging social media handles, and planning for the next session.

Cathy Shafran: And you said there were a couple of dozen artists who were able to attend the first meeting. What are your hopes for the future in terms of attendance and the future in terms of what Ypsi could make happen in the Riverside Center there?

Lynne Settles: My hope is that it continues to grow. One of the things that the Detroit Fine Arts Club does is they have a raffle every month where they raffle all the art piece. And all the funds go straight to the artists. So, I'm hoping that we build up on that, so that we can support the artists in that way. Also, the Detroit Fine Arts Club has food there. We're hoping to build up, so that we can provide some food vendors that come in and provide the snacks or something. Because these sessions go on for about two hours. But the more people they come, the longer the sessions become. And then, my hope is that one day we'll have an exhibition of the Ypsilanti Fine Arts Club work where there'll be a fine arts club show.

Cathy Shafran: If people are interested now that they've heard how exciting it can be, if they're interested in participating, what do they do?

Lynne Settles: The first Wednesday and the third Wednesday of the month will be at Riverside Off Center Gallery. All they have to do is come, bring their art, or come and don't bring their art. You can come and just witness and see the other people's art. I want to make sure people understand that it's open to not just Ypsilanti artists. It's open to the artists in the metro area. So, we've reached out Saline and Ann Arbor. We had some people come in from Detroit, Garden City. So, not just Ypsi artists, but it's just the home base is in Ypsi.

Cathy Shafran: Lynne Settles, the co-founder of the new Ypsi Fine Arts Club. Rylee Barnsdale, Concentrate Media reporter. I want to thank you both so much for joining us on On the Ground Ypsi.

Rylee Barnsdale: Thanks, Cathy.

Lynne Settles: Thank you.

Cathy Shafran: This is On the Ground Ypsi. I'm Cathy Shafran, and this is 89.1 WEMU-FM, Ypsilanti. Public Radio from Eastern Michigan University. And online at WEMU.org.

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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.
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