Person of Interest: Omari Rush

. March 5, 2018.
POI---Omari-Rush

Occupation: Executive Director at Culture Source (an alliance for nonprofit arts and cultural organizations) Chairman of Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, and arts education champion.

You were just appointed to lead the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. Congratulations! What are your goals for the future of Michigan Arts?
Our state arts council has been highly effective and highly impactful in supporting arts and cultural projects, initiatives, and organizations throughout the state. In the last fiscal year, the council made 1,068 grant awards that reached nearly every Michigan county, totaling about $9.7M. With those grants, we’ve funded arts venue facility improvements and brought artists into classrooms to work directly with students, just to name a few. I want to help sustain and grow those impacts. I also would like to see a broadened awareness of the ways arts and culture can drive economic vitality and prosperity in our state, along with more investment in arts and culture by the private sector.

How did you get your start with arts and programming?
I’ve always liked organizing people and events, and while I was a clarinet performance major at Florida State University, I organized a chamber music society, planned recitals, and represented music students on university boards. I realized these affinities could be applied elegantly to a professional career when I discovered the University Musical Society (UMS). I had come to Ann Arbor in Fall 2003 to pursue a master’s degree in clarinet performance at University of Michigan, and my graduate school internship at UMS created a solid foundation for my future pursuits in arts and education.

Do you still play the clarinet?
I identify now as a retired clarinetist. The tradeoff for immersing myself in administrative work was that I had less time to practice my technical skills. Though I don’t actively perform, I take lots of inspiration from the artists and art I’m surrounded by, and one day I may start playing again. My clarinet is just tucked under my bed.

You also are the founder of the local event called Fox Trot (or as it is informally known, “How to be a Grown-Ass Man”). Can you tell us a little more about this unique social club?
The Fox Trot was started to highlight local businesses, teach the “gentlemanly arts” to guys, and network fun and fascinating people with each other. The format of the Fox Trot was a shop and pub crawl of 30 guys ages 21+. Over six hours of walking around downtown Ann Arbor, we stopped in pre-determined establishments to learn about classic cocktails, the art of shaving, how to tie a bowtie, the differences in wines and cheeses, and the proper technique for lighting and smoking cigars. People formed friendships, businesses gained new customers, and I hope Ann Arbor felt a bit more lively, cool, and interesting. Unfortunately, I don’t have any plans to restart the crawls. Keeping 30 guys moving and on task was a lot of work!

What’s one item on your “Bucket List?”
This year I would like to go paddle-boarding down the Huron River, run the Dexter Ann Arbor half-marathon, learn to golf, and be able to do 20 proper pull-ups (I can only do 7).

You are quite the outdoorsman! Where is your favorite green space in Ann Arbor?
With some encouragement from the getDowntown Program, I’ve spent more time on my commuter bicycle in the last year, and I particularly enjoy riding and taking breaks along the Border-to-Border trail. I also like talking to my dad on the phone while walking around Wheeler Park.

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