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creative:impact - Placing Creativity On The Streets Of Saline

Holli Andrews
Holli Andrews

Meet Holli Andrews, the enthusiastic, talented director of Saline Main Street. A community booster second to none, she is salting downtown Saline with art to create lively local scenes. A visit to Saline is in your future after hearing Holli on this week's "creative:impact" with show co-hosts Deb Polich of Creative Washtenaw and WEMU’s David Fair.

Deb Polich
Deb Polich, President and CEO of Creative Washtenaw

Creative industries in Washtenaw County add hundreds of millions of dollars to the local economy.  In the weeks and months to come, 89.1 WEMU's David Fair and co-host Deb Polich, the President and CEO of Creative Washtenaw, explore the myriad of contributors that make up the creative sector in Washtenaw County.


Placemaking and good design (because life should be a work of art).

Creating urban places that people will visit and grow to love for many different reasons.

Who I am.

I am a designer with a background in graphic arts, community planning and social activism.  I have a solid track record of economic restructuring with a focus on sustaining small business and engaging locals.  If you've ever met or worked with me, you'll know that I have an affinity for community vibrancy, new ideas and the arts.

For the record.

My mission is to serve in a proactive setting, where my skills in community planning and design may contribute toward the development of lively local scenes, economic sustainability and artful placemaking.

My story

As a lover of public art and placemaking, I can't help but dig Banksy.

Currently, I'm planning my next move after a successful stint as founding director of Framingham Downtown Renaissance, a 501c3 nonprofit revitalizing Framingham's historic central business district. While my experience surely speaks for itself, there are a couple things potential clients and collaborators might like to know about my background --

I grew up on a small airport in the middle of Maine, where I learned from a young age about the destruction of pollution, unwanted land uses and sprawl by flying over and looking out of a cockpit window.

Portland School of Art. Maine 1984.

My love for edgy art as a youth led me to art school and punk rock. After taking a travel hiatus to surf out west, I returned to school and attained degrees in graphic design, ecology and community planning.

Blackrock Farm. Kennebunk, Maine 2006.

My background in design has been an ace in the hole -- from managing a Maine greenhouse with a conservatory feel, to organizing local storytelling -- and even bringing new voices to the planning table.

Downtown Framingham. Bica Mural 2016.

And, I've worked with some of the best, both in leadership and in the supporting role. My biggest turn on? Art married with function. My favorite work -- anything creative and meaningful. 

Getting things done.


The photo above is of the Downtown Framingham Farmers Market, which I was able to organize with community leaders, Matt and Jacqui Hanson of Hanson's Farm and the Director of Framingham Farmers Markets, Jacqueline Beckwith. From events that actually draw folks to the downtown, to branding, marketing and public art projects -- people need to see that things are happening.

And that is my credo from the get-go. Some call it low-hanging fruit. I call it visible change.


My professional background and perfectionist work ethic are largely based on the following bars set by mentors along the way --

  • A rigorous core design curriculum from Portland School of Art (now Maine College of Art, or MECA), circa 1982 to 84
  • A respect for small business grit and style from Back East shop owner, Paula Ashton in Boulder, CO during the mid to late 80s 
  • A heady activist perspective from my foot soldier days with advocacy groups like Earth First! and Maine People's Alliance in Maine | 88 to 95
  • A grassroots organizing style from trying to keep up with Shoestring Theater director, Nance Parker in Portland, and yes -- donning her puppets for community events and local politics, mid to late 90s
  • A stout appreciation for the power of meaningful community connections to transform civic pride and sense of place, developed as an AmeriCorps Works for ME volunteer | 95 to 97
  • A healthy obsession cast upon me to master the art of absolute beauty and natural purity by owner, Helene Lewand at Blackrock Farm | 02 to 08
  • A community development approach called Heart & Soul Community Planning, devised by the Vermont-based grassroots storytelling gurus at Orton Family Foundation and employed by the true master of Main Street, Rachael Weyand Harkness | 08 onward.

For info on my work experience and education, check out my resume here or visit LinkedIn.


Holli Andrews Official Site

Saline Main Street

109 Cultural Exchange


David Fair: This is 891 one WEMU and welcome to creative:impact. It is our weekly look at the local creative sector and its impact on our quality of life. I'm David Fair, and I'm joined once again by my content partner and co-host, Deb Polich. Deb, of course, is the president and CEO of Creative Washtenaw. And welcome back to WEMU, Deb. Always a pleasure.

Deb Polich: Absolutely. You know, every town should be as fortunate as Saline is to have an Holli Andrews.

David Fair: An Holli Andrews? You make her sound like a retail store. Well, we do know better. Holli Andrews, welcome to creative:impact. We appreciate the time today.

Holli Andrews: It is such a pleasure to be here with both of you, David and Deb. Thank you for having me.

Deb Polich: So, Holli, I know you as an ever-enthusiastic, passionate believer in the Saline community. And for those who want to title yours is simply director of Saline Main Street. I know director is packed with a lot. What is Saline Main Street and its mission?

Holli Andrews: Oh, great. Yes, Saline Main Street. We're a 501 C-3 nonprofit, and all that we do is dedicated to creating a vibrant and lively downtown. Its most vibrant future is what we like to say. And in particular, we are proud of the character of the downtown, the classic architecture, but also the creative people that are there, both as small business owners and artists, as well as chefs and foodies. We have a great bunch of creative people, and Saline Main Street hopes that we can make that environment for them sustainable and viable for a long time to come.

David Fair: As director of Saline Main Street, you certainly have parameters that you work in, but within that is also a personal mission, as I understand it, and that is to serve in a proactive setting where your skills and community planning and design skills contribute toward the development of the lively local scene. You've described also to economic sustainability and artful placemaking. Now, that's a plateful. What turned you on to this work?

Holli Andrews: Oh, that's a good question. It was a trip to Philadelphia. I was just had gotten my degree in psychology, a bachelor's degree. And I went with a friend, and we did a tour and saw all of their murals. It was a great mural project in the 90s, and it was so fascinating and fun, and it made the city so cool and the interesting layout of the city of Philadelphia, just how people could connect. And there were so many different ways that they connect connected and for so many different reasons. I just--it was a turn on. It was like, art married with function, and it just sort of laid the future out for me that that's what I wanted to do.

David Fair: Can I just say it's so nice to hear somebody who went to Philadelphia for something other than a cheesesteak?

Holli Andrews: Oh, the art and the culture. So I mean, and the history. Yes, this is an amazing city and so diverse and friendly and yeah, a lot of fun.

David Fair: creative:impact continues on Eighty-Nine one WEMU. And we're talking with Saline Main Street director Holli Andrews about summer programs that make Saline social and commercial hub for entertainment, shopping, dining, innovation, and, as she has just mentioned, the arts.

Deb Polich: So, community placemaking, like sustainability, has made its way into the long term plans of lots of municipalities across the world and saying it--being it--placemaking rather than making it a placeholder in those plans. What defines a successful and sustained placemaking initiative?

Holli Andrews: Well, that's a great question. I mean, for me, it's a placemaking mission that attracts lots of different people to a place for many different reasons. I mean, you can't deny that a public space is something that people will use for many different things, whether it's birthday parties to live music, theater, you know, political gatherings, peace rallies. And those are the things that make a place interesting and lively and something that if you're just passing through, you want to come back to, or if you have friends there, you want to visit often, or you might find new small businesses or even as a business owner, you want to be there. And so, that's always my goal and not doing just one placemaking project for something that will attract many different people.

David Fair: So with all of that diversity and the components that you've just talked about, when someone from out of town asks you to describe your hometown, how do you do so?

Holli Andrews: Oh, boy, that's funny. You know, when you say my hometown, I guess what I will do is I will choose Saline right now, but I've lived in many different places from Portland, Maine, to Boston. Saline, as I would describe it now, is it has classic Michigan architecture, really friendly people, a lot of people that are very interested, they are involved. They volunteer. The layout is interesting in that we have provincial neighborhoods and lots of walkability and sidewalks, but we also have the most incredible restaurants and creative people that are making that place in those spaces. Interesting. We have art around Saline and the 109 cultural exchange and just lots of people that are right now very focused on making clean, welcoming, and a place that everybody wants to come and visit and feel like they're a part of it.

David Fair: From an economic development standpoint. Holli, what is your favorite Saline summer program?

Holli Andrews: Oh, I well, we do every Thursday night. It's called Salty Summer Sounds, a play on the name Saline. And we have live music and people come out and they engage with the band and the musicians and they see each other and it's just always incredible. Every seat outdoors is filled for the restaurants and the shops that are able to leverage it. It's an incredible time to just see so many people from other places come and enjoy themselves.

Deb Polich: And what about a placemaking initiative that is enlivening that local scene this summer?

Holli Andrews: Absolutely. So we got a mini-grant from Michigan Council of Arts and Culture and Creative Washtenaw, who helped direct some funding towards us. We have a light installation that has started but will come to its greatest fruition for September. It's originally called Star Struck Saline and has sort of become Luminous Saline We have local artist Gary Parker Noula, who does light installations and created a really neat, Moroccan design and a floral design that, all through September, you'll be able to come and see it right in the heart of our downtown.

David Fair: You are listening to creative:impact and our conversation with Saline Main Street director Holli Andrews continues on Eighty-Nine one WEMU.

Deb Polich: So, Holli, are you say in your bio as a lover of public art and placemaking, you can't help but dig Banksy.

David Fair: Everybody digs Banksy.

Deb Polich: Right. Right. I think he's pretty genius. And I've had held a long, great appreciation for graffiti art and championing those artists. However, I believe, as do many, that tagging private property without permission is actually vandalism. I express this point of view recently to a group of students, or people, I should say, during Art Fair who were camping out and selling art in Graffiti alley.

David Fair: Yeah, that went well, didn't it?

Credit Holli Andrews
Deb Polich as Art Fair Karen

Deb Polich: Yeah, no, it didn't really go that well. It went well actually, eventually. But I was then fleetingly memorialized in a tag and more permanently on Instagram as Art Fair Karen. You know, Graffiti alley is pretty confusing because the owners are pretty much just given over to the graffiti artist. But still, in towns like Saline with classic architecture, thousands of dollars of damage maybe put on those owners of those buildings. How, in your opinion, can graffiti art still exist and rather than being clandestine, actually really work within community art projects?

Holli Andrews: That's such a great question. I appreciate that. So, first of all, just to highlight the ethos of the 109 cultural exchange, which is our storefront that also houses our office that we provide free for our small businesses downtown and a lot of arts happening. The ethos of that space is that the works we show and exhibit there embrace the diversity of culture, race and ethnicity, promote openness and approaches social issues with a critical eye for dialog. And I kind of think that that's sort of what some graffiti art offers. However, I agree with you, and when I used to be a youth worker, I worked with kids that often got arrested for tagging, and, rightfully so, especially if you live in a low-income neighborhood and you're a child and you walk out and you see graffiti and you don't quite understand what it is, it can be scary. So we used that in Portland, Maine, to create Urban Arts Day and a place where graffiti art could flourish. And we used it also to teach young people to restorative practices, why graffiti has to be done in a way that's artful, informative and does encourage dialog, but does not bring blight upon neighborhoods and public places that ultimately end up hurting people.

David Fair: I love that there is a place for it, though, having traversed through the subway system of New York, some of the greatest artwork I've seen is graffiti.

Holli Andrews: Yeah, that was Portland, Maine, and that is something that I'd love to bring here. I think it's part of youth culture that stays with a lot of adults for many different reasons because it does encourage dialog. And certainly what happened to you, Deb, is very interesting in that it does encourage dialog, especially because you are such an advocate of the arts. I hope and think that that should definitely be a major part of the dialog that moves forward. A very good point.

Deb Polich: To follow that up, we, the artists and myself, made peace and want to actually continue this dialog and we'll be doing that maybe here even on creative:impact. So, Holli, you know, we've got to wrap up, but I really want to say how fortunate Saline is to have you working to keep this downtown vibrant and welcoming. And we'll look forward to heading to some of those events over the next few weeks.

David Fair: Yes. Thank you very much.

Holli Andrews: I'm glad to be here. I hope I could see everybody on Octoberfest, September 17th and 18th and come see Luminous Saline, our beautiful, grant-funded art project and light installation.

David Fair: Take the advice from Saline Main Street director Holli Andrews. She's been here discussing her summer programs that make Saline a social and commercial hub for entertainment, shopping, dining, innovation, and the arts. You can find a full schedule of events, learn more about Saline Main Street, and see Deb as her new character as Art Fair Karen at WEMU dot org. I'm David Fair, and this is your community NPR Station. Eighty-Nine one WEMU FM in HD on Ypsilanti.

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu

Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
Polich hosts the weekly segment creative:impact, which features creative people, jobs and businesses in the greater Ann Arbor area.
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