Part Two of a Series: Exploring Opportunities for Local Artists to Reach Audiences

. October 1, 2016.
Arts Alliance President Deb Polich aims to keep Ann Arbor the most creative city in Michigan

There’s something exciting that hasn’t happened yet, but we’d like you to imagine it. And after that, we’d like you to stop just imagining what this might mean and start contemplating what it might look like. We could set up a supportive sanctum for local artists, a place for bands to practice, a place for hosting educational events, a place for your studio. A place to incubate, augment and expand art in our communities.

Because I know what you may be thinking, and we’ll just say: Don’t go…I know that voice in the back of your head. Don’t go, yet… Listen, you may be an artist, a musician, a writer, a photographer, a painter; you may be a tacit component of Washtenaw County’s creative sector. And you may be frustrated. But you’re now reading part-two in an ongoing series of articles where we’re assessing just how supportive and nurturing the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti areas (have been and) can be for its artists.

A creative cooperative

The Arts Alliance is a nonprofit based in Ann Arbor and they’re currently wrapping up the feasibility study for a Creative Cooperative, an accommodatingly sized (albeit not yet identified) site where artists (or “creatives”) could meet, rent affordable studio/retail space for their work (or their bands) and host arts programming. 

When the Arts Alliance put out their survey requesting expressions of interest, they acknowledged that the lack of studio spaces and/or artist collectives is repeatedly given as a primary reason that creative individuals choose to leave Washtenaw County.

Deb Polich is the President/CEO of The Arts Alliance and she’s dedicated most of her life to the cause of making the arts a thriving component of Washtenaw County.

The Arts Alliance began out of the Washtenaw County Arts and Cultural Summit in 1999, (spearheaded by The NEW Center, a local nonprofit facilitator) after the development of an umbrella organization for the arts was recommended.  From ’02-‘08, with Polich working alongside, volunteering her skills in Arts Management, the Arts Alliance was a division of the Ann Arbor Chamber of Commerce.  The entity became an independent 501(c)3 in 2008 and Polich became its president in 2012.

Artists on the move

“Frankly, although the Ann Arbor area is still considered a mecca for Michigan’s arts and cultural world, that status is starting to slip. The public might not see it yet, but (The Arts Alliance) is starting to see how artists and creatives and arts organizations are choosing to move to communities where there is greater public investment.”

“There is a possibility for Washtenaw County to develop a Creative Cooperative that is based on a model that works specifically for our community,” Polich said. But nothing like this ever happens without public investment.

Meanwhile, The Arts Alliance wraps up its feasibility study this month. Polich and her staff have been studying comparable models of other arts organizations and cooperatives around the country. After they report back to the County’s economic development team, Polich said they’ll lay out a business plan to determine required resources, needed revenue,  rental rates for artists, etc.

Beyond that, she will contact eager artists and extend a hand to them. Maybe you’re in a rock band, maybe you create sculpture, maybe you’re a dancer – The Arts Alliance wants to engage you in this endeavor. “When we all join our arms together we can actually raise one voice and make something like this — a creative cooperative — happen,” said Polich.

Quality of life defined

How do you define the quality of life in a community? The Creative Cooperative encourages creative individuals and, by extension, businesses, to remain in this community and make livelihoods and establish foundations here.

It’s then that you see the ripple effect: a line out the door at The Ark on a Saturday night, crowds shopping and watching performers and during Ypsilanti’s Sonic Lunch and First Fridays. You see the vibrancy of this community; it’s subtle, sometimes, but it’s thanks to the arts and the artists. The Creative Cooperative can keep more of them here and give them a chance to flourish.

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for updates this month on the Creative Cooperative.
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