In the not too distant past, it was sometimes maddeningly difficult to gain access to art of interest to you. If you wanted to hear a piece of music, you had to go to the record store and hope they had it. If you wanted to read a somewhat obscure book, you had to visit your local library and hope it was somewhere in their system. Visual art could be seen in galleries or in picture books. But in the present hyperconnected age, when we’re all supersaturated with various forms of media, entertainment and art via the Internet, we can find almost anything we want with a few clicks and keyboard commands (indeed, the challenge today is mostly sorting through the vast quantity of information to determine what is worth our time).
While it’s excellent to have such easy access to so much, one of the regrettable side effects of this situation is that we now have a tendency to overlook the work of local artists, having removed the immediacy of being local, one of their main advantages. But it’s important to note that by so doing we potentially lose something extremely valuable — a sense of community. A sense which is constructed through the togetherness of people enjoying the art of their neighbors. All well-known artists were once local. Without the support of those around them, the great artists of history may have failed to achieve the fame they ultimately possessed. After all, The Beatles started as a group of Liverpool teenagers jamming together.
For all of those reasons, it’s very exciting that this weekend Ann Arbor will have an opportunity to consume a tremendous quantity of local art, gathered in a single place as part of the Threads All Arts Festival.
“There’s a bunch of things happening in Ann Arbor, there’s a lot of people who come through Ann Arbor, but there’s not a lot of people who go to the shows of the art that’s happening here,” said Nicole Patrick, School of Music, Theatre & Dance senior and one of the founders of Threads. “So we were kind of like ‘Let’s make our own festival, and see what happens.’ It was kind of a joke at first, and then we wrote a proposal, and then it wasn’t a joke — no, mostly a dream, not a joke.”
Patrick and her friend, School of Music, Theatre & Dance senior Samuel Schaefer, initially had the idea to start an arts festival after attempting to gain funding for another project of theirs.
“Sam also works on a project out of our house — we also live together. We turned our attic into a recording studio,” Patrick said. “It’s called Stereo Parrot, and it’s a recording label … they’ve released five to seven albums since they started. We wanted to get a few dollars for that going.”
The pair submitted grant proposals to the EXCEL Program for three projects. The program provides entrepreneurship training and career services for University students within the performing arts.
“We had that idea, kind of came up with a grant proposal. I took it into my drum teacher, Michael Gould,” Patrick said. “He was like ‘Yeah that’s great, but you guys should just like, apply for everything you ever wanted to do. Don’t just write one proposal.’ So we submitted three: one for Stereo Parrot, one for Threads and one for our band Rooms.”
The application to get funding for Threads was ultimately successful, and in the time since the proposal, Patrick, Schaefer and an additional four friends who joined the project have worked to bring a diverse array of arts and artists to the event — from the Balkan brass band Rhyta Musik to contemporary dancers. This year, Threads will have over 50 performing artists present, most of which are musicians, with rock bands, original classical compositions, jazz and more.
“We kind of wanted to touch on every genre that we got,” Patrick said. “A few electronic things too, and DJs as well, that are also using projections and stuff like that.”
Threads will incorporate far more than just music however, giving a platform to all sorts of artists, such as modern dancers, poets, film artists and visual artists.
This diversity of art genres and performances is reflected in the name of the festival, Threads All Arts, which Patrick said was a name long in its conception.
“It came from one of the people on the team — Karen Toomasian, who’s an architect, just graduated — she was standing in the doorway, with her backpack on,” Patrick said. “And — this is how she says it — she was looking at the rug that was on the floor, and she was like, ‘Man, there’s a lot of things that make up this rug, and that’s cool because it’s a pretty rug, and threads, there’s a lot of threads on here. Guys we should name it threads!’ And it was finally the first name that everyone didn’t totally hate, so we had to keep it.”
The festival will be held on Friday April 1 and Saturday April 2 at the Yellow Barn, a local performance space.
Threads is also partnering with UMS to showcase some of their local artists in residence, who will be performing in the festival.
“(UMS has) helped us a bunch, really in term of promotion,” Patrick said. “It’s really great.”
Patrick said he hopes that this weekend’s festival can be the first of many, emphasizing the value of local art.
“We really believe that the community will feel stronger connections to the place that they live if they are also aware of the artists who live here,” Patrick said. “The cool thing about Ann Arbor is that it’s so small that it’s like, your cashier is also your friend, is also your neighbor, is also this person who’s been releasing albums that you haven’t known about for 10 years. And we really want to be sort of like a vessel for artists trying to establish themselves in this town … it’s pretty inspiring, I think, to know that you’re walking on the same sidewalk as someone who has those feelings and expresses themselves in that way.”