Essential arts events for May 2017

Washtenaw County provides artists and arts enthusiasts with wide-ranging settings for seeing, hearing, and sensing the world in new ways that make us move, laugh, recover, reflect, or act. The moments of creation presented in these settings are diverse experiences essential to the vibrancy of our community. In this monthly column by Ann Arbor Art Center external relations director Omari Rush, Concentrate spotlights events that are moving the county's art scene forward in innovative and exciting ways.

Text and Image: Integrating words and pictures

In a variety of contexts, pictures and words are segregated: articles from photographs, cartoons from captions, and "adult" books from pictures of any sort. But there are also many cases in which they are integrated, and a new exhibition at the Ann Arbor Art Center explores the interplay between the two as a mechanism for eliciting twists of reinterpretation. Text and Image opens with a free Cinco de Mayo party on Friday, May 5, from 6 p.m.-9 p.m. at the Ann Arbor Art Center and features both everyday objects and artists familiar to southeast Michigan. Beyond the exhibition contained within the gallery, complementary programming further illuminates the show's curatorial focus:

On Thursday, May 25, at 6 p.m., in partnership with Literati Bookstore, the Art Center will host a release and reading of the latest edition of the New York-based magazine Harlequin Creature. The publication spotlights poetry, prose, and pictures by a national collective whose members include Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti residents. At this free drop-in event, contributors to the chapbook (from Ann Arbor to Los Angeles) highlight the written and visual components of their newest issue.

Newspaper headlines — print and online — have a history of being treated by editors as both information-rich text and compelling (sometimes manipulating) visual elements. In a one-day workshop, Detroit-based printmaker, publisher, and performer Ryan Standfest will lead a workshop on turning attention-grabbing text into unique artwork whose treatment conveys a new sense of news, fake or otherwise. The workshop happens May 13, 1:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m., at the Art Center and no experience is necessary, though registration is required.

Neighborhood art crawls: Westside Art Hop and Water Hill Music Fest

Annually, on the first Sunday of May, sounds trickle down from the Water Hill neighborhood to lure listeners onto residents' lawns for an afternoon of pop-up concerts. The townie charm and strategic scheduling of musicians (curated by a neighborhood family) at Water Hill Music Fest keep positive energy constantly flowing through the streets. Free and open to the public, people roaming from porch to porch are likely to encounter a range of instruments and ensembles that all ultimately provide a widely accessible arts adventure. This year's festival is May 7 from 2 p.m.-6 p.m. in the Water Hill neighborhood.

As San Francisco has its well-known, twice-yearly studio tours of its Mission District artists, Ann Arbor has its own seasonal tour of artists' workspaces in the Old West Side neighborhood: Art Hop. Though the scales are different in the two locales, the intent is the same: to show that art is for everyone and can be made by anyone (including your neighbor). Happening Saturday, May 13, from 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m, Art Hop is geographically situated around South Seventh Street and West Liberty Street (with an outlier venue on Second Street). The neighborhood can be navigated by map or by the visual cues of yard signs and participating home markers. Free to the public as an open-house event, visitors will see art of all sorts: 2-D and 3-D, photography, textiles, mosaics, painting, glass, ceramics, and more. Artists will be present and willing to show work both ready for final presentation as well as work in progress, if you ask.

Chelsea arts: Dragon boats and painters' showcase

Spring offers multiple opportunities for fun engagement with arts and crafts in Chelsea.

On August 5 Robin Hills Farm will present its second annual Dragon Boat Festival. A tradition within Chinese culture, dragon boat festivals have been around for centuries and have emphasized connections to water, seasonal changes, and legendary dragons. Chelsea's version will feature the long, narrow, canoe-like boats, both on exhibit and on water. In advance of that festival occasion, community members can participate in a dragon boat building class, learning to design and build (and eventually race) the two-person boats. Interested community members can take classes beginning in May and ideally use the full expanse of warm summer weather to use their new vessels on various Michigan waterways.

For those who prefer less wet artistic experiences, the Chelsea Painters will hold their 44th Annual Art Fair on June 3 and 4. Work demonstrates the range of explorations these artists are undertaking as part of their personal practice and as part of their weekly get-togethers for peer critiques, demos, lectures, and general collegiality. This year's fair will be in the courtyard at Silver Maples of Chelsea and will feature acrylic, encaustic, oil, and watercolor paintings. The fair will unquestionably miss the presence of Michael Hahn, a much beloved community member, artist, and member of Chelsea Painters.

Omari Rush is the external relations director for the Ann Arbor Art Center.