How To Support Local Artists (& Venues) in Washtenaw County

. March 20, 2020.
The Ann Arbor Art Center was full for the opening reception of The Space Between, curated by Olivia Guterson. Today, the gallery is empty— but you can still help support local artists.
The Ann Arbor Art Center was full for the opening reception of The Space Between, curated by Olivia Guterson. Today, the gallery is empty— but you can still help support local artists.

How much time did we waste ‘looking forward?’ How much time do we now have on our hands? Where do we put all of our energy? And how much did we miss…we, the constant expectants? We, who shuffled through our social media feeds confident and assured that every proceeding weekend would be naturally flush with options, that it didn’t matter if we didn’t make the scene on any one given night–because there’d always be something else to catch, next time. Personally, I lost count, long ago, of how many articles I wrote directing people to an event, not having any way to know how impactful or ignored those articles were, in terms of stoking enthusiasm. But we are in a startling sort of pause… now.

Op-Ed columns risk sounding like a know-it-all on a soapbox, but I’m as confused and perturbed as anyone. What’s said on this page, the thoughts I share at least, will probably not even be as meaningful more than a week after it’s posted. But I’ll tell you what I see, right now: I see a tide of urgency through my own feed— this collective awakening to the importance of the connections we had the benefit of accessing through the arts. Whether a visual artist stirring conversations in a gallery, a writer/director translating the human condition into a conceptual short film, or a songwriter on a stage, performing…

…The live event, the exchange between artist and audience, the feedback and resonance from the audience back to the artist, and the quiet, internal expansions of perspective that could be achieved by anyone in the room–the live event, is gone right now. That’s all I know.

And the rooms that housed these performances are at real risk of shuttering either temporarily, long-term… or indefinitely. When we talk about the ‘scene,’ or the arts community, we are implying more than the artists, but also the hosts of these performances and exhibitions— the brick and mortar venues. Over the last week, our new normal has seen artists live streaming their performances from their homes or from their studios. We may have taken it for granted before, but we will soon start to substantially miss the in-person connections and tacit sense of association that venues, gathering places, could offer us just by our own attendance.

Experiencing the live performances or displays of the local artists we appreciate and admire could even help us forge a deeper sense of our own identities— helping us shape our self-understanding by bearing witness to the unacknowledged courage it takes for another human to get up on a stage and pour out their hearts & emotions and be vulnerable and natural and strange and loud and daring.

We will miss that. 

Those rooms include The Ark, Lo-Fi Bar, 734 Brewing Company, and the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor, they include Ziggy’s and the Dreamland Theatre in Ypsilanti, they include spots like Crazy Wisdom in Ann Arbor and Cultivate Coffee in Ypsilanti, and there are so many (many) more.

Marianne James, Executive Director of The Ark, wrote to us: “Throughout its 55-year history, The Ark has always been a place of refuge in troubled times. It seems unthinkable that we would see a time when the safest thing we could do is close our doors, but here we are. As we join our community in helping to flatten the COVID-19 curve, we’ve made the decision to extend The Ark’s temporary closure through the end of April. Please know that we’re working to reschedule as many of these artists as possible, and we’ll keep you posted on new dates.” 

For places like the Ark, ticket sales are its main source of revenue, but during the closure,  you can make a donation online and find further options for supporting here. You can also sign up for the Ark’s newsletter.

Meanwhile, you could support the Blind Pig (which is tentatively closed through April 5) by visiting their Merch Page. The Blind Pig, and it’s 8 Ball Saloon, are participants in Underground Printing’s Hospitality Fundraiser, benefiting employees of local businesses in the hospitality and service industries.

Ziggy’s is closed until further notice, but there is a GoFundMe set up to support staff in the meantime.

An effective way to support local artists right now would be to purchase their music via their bandcamp websites. You can set your price at $1 per song, or if you are able to, you can set that price to as high as you can afford right now. 

Bands and artists like Act Casual and Louis Picasso will also have non-musical merchandise available; you can look for merch from the and Act Casual by emailing actcasualmerch@gmail.com, and you can find items via the Hiiiger Minds multimedia production company (headed by Picasso) here.

We have a list of more than 25 bands in the area that you can follow and support here. When you open up any of their albums on bandcamp, take a look for an option to order special physical copies, be they in cassette or on vinyl. If you have the funds to spare, you can even buy an album twice if you want, you have the option for downloading it yourself, but you can also ‘Send As a Gift’ to any of your friends that might also dig whichever band you’re supporting.

You can find live-streamed performances from the Kerrytown Concert House here and make a donation here.

The Ann Arbor Art Center is, just like everywhere else, closed for now, but you can make a donation to support this non-profit organization exhibiting the visual arts here. You can also support the WSG Gallery by visiting their online store, and follow their Facebook page for a series of videos in their Virtual Series.

Lo-Fi Bar is one of Ann Arbor’s newest venues, not even two years old at this point. After announcing their closure, they posted to Facebook: “Michigan’s hospitality industry dedicates itself year-round to create memorable experiences for you, your family, and friends. Now, our hospitality industry is going to need extra support from the community as it navigates the coming weeks and months. You can help by purchasing gift cards from your favorite restaurant and utilizing take-out and delivery services to those that offer…”

Lo-Fi’s management encouraged support of a separate GoFundMe for hospitality workers, which you can donate to, here.

Grove Studios in Ypsilanti is encouraging renting residents for its studio spaces to take this opportunity to save money and, instead, purchase one of their gift vouchers, (or even give these vouchers to fellow clients). 

“It’s our way of thanking (clients) by giving them extra credit for their future sessions,” Grove posted to Facebook, recently. 

Grove is a grassroots community organization that offers 24/7 self-service professionally furnished rehearsal and workspaces for musicians and DJs to create and hone their craft. This unique space, like so many others, has been impacted by the pandemic. They’ve got merch on their website, and you can also sign-up for their newsletter. 

As of now, Grove is open, sanitizing spaces twice-daily. The podcasting room is now open, and you can tune in on April 1st for a live-streamed podcast moderated by Joe Malcoun (owner of the Blind Pig), talking with Dan McPherson from Leaders Must Lead. Grove currently has a live streaming series in the works, so stay tuned. Meanwhile, they are perfecting tech to allow artists to live-stream from their Grove space, you can see the results of the first one below, featuring The Daynites. 

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