Podcasts from Local Featuring Arts and Creatives

For those who enjoy listening to podcasts, there is a multitude to choose from, but take note of these Michiganders who are recording podcasts about creativity, arts and related topics.

Christian Ward of the Interesting Humans podcast.

Interesting Humans Podcast

Ann Arbor local Christian Ward, who also works as a realtor, is the creator of the Interesting Humans Podcast. Its title gives you a glimpse of what the podcast is all about. He says “The world is full of interesting stories and interesting people. They are everywhere and it seems the Universe conspires to have them cross my path.[…] By far the best way is being open; conversations with people where I learn something about them and my intuition tells me they would be intriguing guests…” 

When asked how the podcast came to be, he answered, “It is an outgrowth of several things… I started a blog more than two decades ago. It was mostly about my take on challenges I faced …Years later these same themes would become the foundation of Interesting Humans. In addition, around 2007, Kleenex came out with a commercial depicting a youngish, average-looking guy talking with random strangers…People poured their hearts out to him about their challenges, their fears, their losses…The commercial resonated with me because they were total strangers sharing their most intimate stories…sharing their vulnerability and humanity, for all to see. I envisioned my blog as a space to be vulnerable about my challenges in the hope of starting conversations about these things.” 

Another thing that inspired the podcast was a book by Chase Jarvis called, Creative Calling. “In it …Chase talks about how each of us is born creative but we allow life, other people, the media to squash our creative energies.” 

Mr. Ward says the podcast grew out of these two things. “I’m…interested in how creatives navigate the world, how they tap into their creativity, how they see the world and, perhaps more important, how people navigate challenges, big C and little c.

As a cancer survivor, I realize how fragile life is. I also believe that while the specific circumstances of our challenges are unique, there is also some universality across relationships, family, career, health and spirituality…If I can get even 1% better at navigating my challenges, through whatever failures I’ve experienced, and learn from someone else’s approach, my life will be great. Similarly, if someone listening to a guest on Interesting Humans talks about their challenges, it might resonate and help them through something difficult…I’m constantly listening to how other podcasters conduct their interviews to understand how I could craft my podcast, ask better questions and make it more useful and entertaining.” 

Some of the guests on the podcasts include the following Michigan locals: Janelle Reichman, a world-class Jazz improvisationalist who has played with Winton Marsalis, David Zinn, the well-known chalk artist famous for his drawings on sidewalks and curbs in Ann Arbor, Michelle Plucinsky, who with her husband Chris founded The Glass Academy, local photographer Abby Rose, Interior Designer Elin Walters, and many others.

Off-Leash Arts, created and hosted by Tanya Shaffer.

Off-Leash Arts: Conversations on Creativity

Fellow Ann Arborite Tanya Shaffer is the host of Off-Leash Arts: Conversations on Creativity. In her podcast Ms. Shaffer chats with artists from a range of disciplines—writers, musicians, visual artists, actors, choreographers, and more—about the creative process. 

When asked how the podcasts started she states “ Over the years, I’ve often said that I have an alternate life dream of being Terry Gross. What could be better than getting to chat with brilliant creative people every day? When the pandemic struck and I no longer had to drive my children around, I found that I had about an hour and a half more time every day than I previously did. This led to an expansive feeling, creatively. It struck me then that perhaps I didn’t have to wait for an alternate life to actualize this dream!” 

Off-Leash Arts has had a myriad of interesting creatives since its inception, among them Ann Arbor-based photographer/performance artist/disability rights activist Gwynneth Van Laven and singer/songwriter/climate activist Vienna Teng, who holds a graduate degree from the University of Michigan and who lived for several years in Detroit. Upcoming guests will include Cornelius Harris, who is very active in the Detroit techno music scene; Rick Sperling, actor/director and founder of Mosaic Detroit; and Ann Arbor-based painter Heather Accurso. As a podcast host, Ms. Shaffer tried to keep her guest roster varied not only in terms of the diversity of guests but also the type of work they create. 

When asked to elaborate she says “…I’ve worked in the arts my whole life, as an actor, travel writer, playwright and author, I know a lot of amazing artists…I sat down and brainstormed a list of artists I know personally whose work I admire. The list numbered over a hundred! I also made a wish list of people I don’t know personally but whom I would love to interview…One of those was my lifelong she-ro, singer/songwriter Holly Near. I got to interview her a few months ago, and it was a lifetime high! …I particularly gravitate towards artists whose work I admire both aesthetically and in terms of its impact in the world. I’m drawn to artists who are engaged with the larger social/political issues of our time.” 

Arts, Interrupted, Michigan Daily’s arts and culture podcast.

Arts, Interrupted

Another podcast born in Ann Arbor is Arts, Interrupted. It is Michigan Daily’s premier arts and culture podcast, focusing on current trends and the vibrant local arts scene of the city. It started in 2017, when student Avery Friedman joined the podcast trend and started the Michigan Daily Podcast section. She then founded Arts, Interrupted as its first executive producer. Maxwell Rosenzweig, who is the current Managing Podcast Editor and Executive Producer, is also a rising senior in the University of Michigan School of information studying User Experience Design and Research as well as Digital Studies. 

Mr. Rosenzwei juggles the demands of being not only a fulltime student, editor and producer, but he also manages the podcast section which includes three other podcasts: “Pass the MiC” (Michigan in color), “Highway to Hail” (Sports), and “The Daily Weekly” (News). 

When asked how he accomplishes this, Mr. Rosenzweig explains This past semester I decided to recruit for tech internships which took up a lot of my time as well resulting in a change in our upload schedule. For some episodes, we had to push back and delay, and we even had to change our schedule to biweekly uploads due to team Covid cases. In the end as a team, we learned that our production schedule should take into account our mental health. If we feel burnout, we should take a step back and just record an easier roundtable episode instead of a long-form research piece. Sometimes, we’ll take the week off if needed.”

He also shares one of his personal positive highlights, which has been to be “…able to interview so many successful musicians and artists despite being student writers. Approaching interview requests from the angle of being a learning student has allowed us to gain interviews from artists we never thought we’d reach.” 

The guests on Arts, Interrupted vary depending on the content of the episode. Mr. Rosenzweig says “We often will reach out to guests on our own. Sometimes, we’ll have a connection to a guest, and if we feel that all podcast members are excited about the opportunity we’ll interview them and base the episode around them or their specialty…We like to highlight student organizations on campus like the Comedy Company or social media pages on campus to shed light on local culture developments.” 

Armin Mersmann and Valerie Allen (with their dog Jasper) are the creators and hosts of the podcast Art Ladders.

Art Ladders: The Creative Climb

Art Ladders: The Creative Climb is a podcast founded by two Midland, Michigan artists and educators, Valerie Allen and Armin Mersmann, featuring conversations about visual arts, and interviews with artists throughout the world. They describe it this way: “We like to think that we are on a creative climb with our listeners. It is for artists and artist lovers.” 

Ms. Allen and Mr. Mersmann who are not only podcast partners but also life partners, started the biweekly podcast in 2021. “ We…have always enjoyed having weekend coffee art talks at our kitchen table. We both listen to quite a few podcasts and during the pandemic we discussed turning our informal conversations into a podcast on visual art.” 

The artists are self described conversationalists, who estimate they spend a couple of hours bi-weekly recording the episodes. With the ability to set their own hours, the flexibility allows them time to teach, create their own artwork, as well as produce the podcast. 

When asked about the challenges of podcasting they say “Figuring out the equipment we needed was the first challenge. Before we even thought we were going to have a podcast, I met a young producer who we hired to help us launch. His name is Taylor Cramer of Cold Shower Media. He has guided us through the process of sound quality and editing. Another challenge is finding a flow with the conversations so we don’t talk over each other. This is improving.” 

Ms. Allen and Mr. Mersmann say there are many positive aspects to having a podcast “…it keeps us present in the current world of art and as a result we stay fresh with topics…we meet many interesting artists or reacquaint ourselves with artists we know as we record episodes and…we can promote our classes and events during episodes for more visibility.” 

Both artists have been curators of major nonprofit art centers. Mr. Mersmann was a curator, and artist in residence, at Midland Center for the Arts. Ms. Allen was the curator at Studio 23 in Bay City, and continues to work with a multitude of artists at, the well known, Golden Artist Colors in New York. The many contacts they have in the arts community gives them ample choices for artists to invite on the show, and they state that they are thankful for their network. 

Some of the Michigan artists they’ve hosted so far include Robert Schefman of Detroit, Shelley Stevens of Mt. Pleasant, Margo Burian of Grand Rapids, Nick Reszetar of Ann Arbor, Ben Close and Andrew Rieder both of Delta College, University Center, MI. They plan to feature more Michigan artists in the future and have an upcoming interview with Todd Burroughs of the Atelier School of Art in Royal Oak as well as a first “on location” podcast covering a plein air “paint out” with Studio 23 in Bay City, MI.

If you haven’t explored these podcasts yet, have a listen! More information can be found below. 

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Interesting Humans Podcast can be found on Apple, Google, Spotify, Stitcher, Pandora, iHeart Radio and others, as well as his website at Christianrward.com 

Off Leash Arts Podcast can be found on Apple, Spotify, and many other platforms, as well as on www.offleasharts.com . You can learn more about Ms. Shaffer on her website at tanyashaffer.com

Arts, Interrupted can be heard on Spotify and Apple Podcast. You can find the other Michigan Daily podcasts and learn more about the podcast section at www.michigandaily.com/podcasts/. 

Art Ladders:The Creative Climb with Valerie Allen and Armin Mersmann, is available on Anchor.fm, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts. You can learn more about Ms. Allen on her website: www.valerieallenart.com and about Mr. Mersmann on his: www.arminmersmann.com

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