Outdoor installations in Ann Arbor and Ypsi to feature local artists' meditations on diversity

Embracing Our Differences - Southeast Michigan, a nonprofit international art installation celebrating diversity, has selected 31 local adults' and students' artwork to display alongside nationally recognized artists at four Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti parks.

Beginning May 14, visitors at Gallup Park and Leslie Science and Nature Center in Ann Arbor, and Riverside Park and Parkridge Park in Ypsilanti, will be able to enjoy the pieces as billboard-sized banners. The installations are expected to stay up until September.

"All of the banners are meant to spark discussion about diversity. They talk about different kinds of diversity – race, sex, LGBTQ, and physical and mental differences, as well," says Nancy Margolis, president of Embracing Our Differences - Southeast Michigan. "The whole idea is to get children and people to think about how there are differences in the world, and how much each of these differences can enrich our lives by understanding them." 

Sixty banners will be spread out across the parks. Embracing Our Differences - Southeast Michigan received 40 entries, which were pared down by a panel of local judges, in response to a call for submissions from Washtenaw County residents last year. Some artwork from the original Embracing Our Differences nonprofit, based in Sarasota, Fla., has also been chosen to round out the displays. 

"The submissions you'll see from Washtenaw County are just fabulous," Margolis says. "Some are done by children as young as fourth grade. One was done by a group of children who did it as a collaborative effort in Ypsilanti. All are wonderful."

Starting May 17, Embracing Our Differences - Southeast Michigan will offer no-cost field trips to the Gallup Park and Riverside Park installations for all Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti public schools. The docent-led trips are already being booked.

Buoyed by the interest and wide community support, Margolis also hopes to run field trips for children's camps. Like the school field trips, there will be no cost. And for camps that don't have buses, Embracing Our Differences - Southeast Michigan plans to arrange Ann Arbor public school buses as a transportation option to the sites. 

"Teachers are being very creative in how they can use these banners to bring awareness to diversity. We've got some who are planning fun play or picnic lunches after we talk about the banners," Margolis says. "It's a wonderful way to get the message of diversity across in a way that gets kids talking about differences, belonging, and understanding." 

Jaishree Drepaul is a freelance writer and editor currently based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at jaishreeedit@gmail.com.

Photo courtesy of Embracing Our Differences - Southeast Michigan.