Organizers of the Ypsilanti Area Art Society (YAAS) Facebook group are hoping to see the page become a hub for Ypsilanti-area artists to network and collaborate.
The group was created by the Ypsilanti Township Recreation Department as a response to programming changes necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tina Hotchkiss is one of three artists teaching art classes via Zoom through YAAS. She started the art program at the township's community center and had run art programming there for about 14 years. She originally started with classes for seniors but grew those classes into robust arts programming.
"Before the pandemic, I was building up an art program with weekly classes and speciality visiting artists," Hotchkiss says. "I had other artists coming in and doing classes and workshops from all over – California and Ohio, not just local artists."
The township had to make many changes to its recreational offerings during the pandemic, however. Hotchkiss says several of the other regular art instructors weren't interested in teaching virtually, but she was. After a discussion with the township's recreation coordinator, John Hines, he helped create YAAS and brought on board two other instructors, Payton Cook and Corry Buckwalter, who are also teaching online art classes.
When Hotchkiss, a Pittsfield Township resident, began teaching in Ypsilanti Township, she says some people asked her why Ypsilanti and not Ann Arbor.
"I said, 'Why not?' The building was there, with a great classroom," she says. "Ypsi is such a blooming area when it comes to art. I really believe it's the place to be."
Hotchkiss says she posted about her online classes and other projects she was working on several times a week on the Facebook page for YAAS when it was first created, but she hasn't seen much response. Although the page has attracted a little over 100 members, there isn't a lot of conversation, and Hotchkiss would like to see that change.
"One of the things I was thinking we could do through the Facebook page is help people understand we do have great artists here in Ypsilanti too," she says. "I would love for it to be a group where Ypsilanti-area artists in all different [media], and maybe art lovers, or people who want to become artists, can share our stuff."
She says she'd love to have group members ranging from established artists to children, and maybe provide a space for homeschoolers to get inspiration and share the art they're creating. She envisions it as a place for artists to talk about their media and techniques, collaborate, and get exposure for their businesses.
"There are lots of things going on in Ypsilanti with art, and I think having a site like this would be beneficial," Hotckiss says.
Local artists and art lovers may check out the YAAS page on the township's website or join the YAAS Facebook group for more information.
For more Concentrate coverage of our community's response to the COVID-19 crisis, click here.
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at email@example.com.