New project encourages exploration of Ypsi's public art through writing prompts

A new collaboration between the nonprofit community writing center YpsiWrites, the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA), and Ypsilanti Community Schools (YCS) will encourage Ypsi-area residents to connect with and reflect on public art.

YpsiWrites co-founder Cathy Fleischer says the idea came about after talking with Grace VanderVliet, curator for museum teaching and learning at UMMA. VanderVliet mentioned that there were "art trails" in other cities that encourage people to explore public art on foot, and YpsiWrites staff thought of combining that with creative writing prompts.

A team of volunteers "wandered around Ypsi and identified art, both found art and more established art," Fleischer says. The team created a list of sites, writing prompts to go with each, and maps of three major areas.

One map covers downtown Ypsilanti, another covers Depot Town, and another is centered on Eastern Michigan University's (EMU) campus. Each map encompasses between six and eight pieces of artwork or architecture, with writing prompts for each.

"For instance, in Depot Town, there's the Tridge. The prompt is about the tale of the Three Billy Goats Gruff and the troll who lives under the bridge," Fleischer says. "The writing prompt asks people to imagine what lives under the tridge."

Other pieces of public art featured on the maps will include murals at Cultivate Coffee Tap House and Corner Health Center; sculptures at the Michigan Avenue branch of the Ypsilanti District Library (YDL), on EMU's campus, and at Riverside Art Center; and more.

Art made by YCS students will also be on the map for Depot Town. About 50 students were invited to have their artwork displayed in the U.S. Department of Education's gallery in Washington, D.C. in May of 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic derailed that plan. 

Instead, YCS partnered with the city of Ypsilanti to create street banners featuring student art. The Depot Town map will encourage area residents to reflect on the students' art and the name of the exhibit, "Public Education."

The project is in the final stages and will likely be ready for the public by early June, Fleischer says. The maps and prompts will be available in print form from each branch of the YDL, and in PDF form on both the YpsiWrites and YDL websites.

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 sarahrigg1@gmail.com.

Photo by Doug Coombe.
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