Ypsilanti is the next Brooklyn!
Okay…maybe not, but there is definitely something going on in the town we, here in Michigan, affectionately know as “Hipsilanti.”
After years of suffering by comparison to nearby Ann Arbor’s more affluent economy, Ypsilanti shows signs of becoming a magnet for area creatives. Cheap work space and the presence of a particularly vibrant studio arts department at Eastern Michigan University are making the logic of locating an arts practice in Ypsi inescapable for many. Look no further for confirmation of this than the terrific work from Ypsi Alloy Studios, on view now until August 28 at 22 North, a newish art gallery on Huron Street in Ypsi’s downtown.
Echos is the inaugural exhibition for this talented collective of artists and makers, many of them graduates of Eastern Michigan University’s art program. 22 North’s exhibit space is thoughtfully renovated, with the rich patina of vintage plaster walls still visible behind pristine white gallery panels that show off these uniformly excellent and well-conceived artworks. Objects on display range from an industrial strength rocking chair by Rob Todd to ethereal layered weavings by Cathy Jacobs. The exhibit is notable for the variety of approaches and processes demonstrated in the production of artworks.
I particularly liked the aluminum, white gold and thread piece Broken Flag by Aaron Patrick Decker, as well as the felted wool and burl Invasive by Ilana Houten and Stripped/Burned by Lauren Mieczko and Molly Doak. And as ever, I remain a fan of the death-in-nature sensibility of Jessica Tenbusch’s delicate metal, wood and bone pieces.
My hands-down favorite piece, however, was the grave and comic Fascia by Riva Jewell Vitale. This collection of found fragments from the back yard of the artist treats us to a kind of implied storytelling through the curation of objects. Each shard and scrap seems both ancient and recognizably contemporary. The careful arrangement of these bits of detritus hint at the unobserved, untold and unknowable everyday history of things and people.
Fascia is also typical of a trend that I notice in art being made right now. Artists are collecting and curating existing objects and images rather than creating them. It is as if there is already so much rich material in our world that we no longer need to produce fresh content. And judging from the satisfyingly complex and poignant emotional effect of Fascia, maybe that’s true.
Ypsilanti’s downtown is clearly on the upswing. Many of the gallery’s adjacent storefronts have been purchased and are under renovation according to 22 North gallerist Maggie Spencer. A number of new restaurants and retail stores (and an ice cream shop!) have opened recently. There is ample parking and an active First Fridays program, the next one of which is scheduled for September 2.
22 North, like many other arts spaces in the Detroit metro area, is open during limited hours during weekdays and on weekends, or by appointment. Find out more about the gallery’s exhibits and events (it’s also an active music venue) here.
Or call: 501.454.6513
Artists in Echos: Kenzie Lynn, Aaron Patrick Decker, Cathy Jacobs, Riva Jewell-Vitale, Ilana Houten, Jessica Tenbusch, Meagan Shein, Lauren Mleczko, Molly Doak, Alexa Borromeo, Elize Jakabson, Lorraine Kolasa, Rob Todd
Are you an Ypsi artist? What do you think about the art scene there right now? I’d be interested to hear what you think.