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


A new collaboration between the non-profit community writing center YpsiWrites, the University of Michigan Art Museum (UMMA), and Ypsilanti community schools (YCS) will encourage residents of the Ypsi region to connect 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 are “art trails” in other cities that encourage people to explore public art on foot, and the staff at YpsiWrites thought of combining that with creative writing prompts.

A team of volunteers “walked around Ypsi and identified art, found art, and more established art,” says Fleischer. The team created a list of sites, wrote prompts for each, and maps of three main areas.

One map covers downtown Ypsilanti, another covers Depot Town, and another is centered on the Eastern Michigan University (EMU) campus. Each card includes between six and eight works of art or architecture, with writing prompts for each.

“For example, in Depot Town, there is the Cheated. The prompt talks about the story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff and the troll that lives under the bridge, ”says Fleischer.“ The prompt asks people to imagine what lives under the tridge. “

Other public art works 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 the EMU campus and at the Riverside Art Center; and more.

Art made by JEC students will also be on the Depot Town map. About fifty students were invited to exhibit their works in the US Department of Education gallery in Washington, DC in May 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic derailed that plan.

Instead, YCS partnered with the town of Ypsilanti to create street banners featuring student art. The Depot Town map will encourage residents of the area to think about student art and on behalf of the exhibit, “Public Education”.

The project is in its final stages and will likely be ready for the public in early June, Fleischer said. Cards and prompts will be available in printed form at each YDL branch, and in PDF form on both YpsiWrites and YDL websites.

Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti township and project manager for On the Ypsilanti field. She joined Focus as a journalist in early 2017 and occasionally contributes to other Press group publications. You can reach her at [email protected].

photo by Doug Coombe.


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