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Sept 15, 2016: Your Arts and Culture Adventure Picks

This post is a part of a series of posts curating adventurous arts and culture experiences in Southeast Michigan.

marissa-kurzhalls-2Hey everyone! Thanks for taking the time to read this blog. I am beyond thrilled and honored to be one of the two UMS Blogging Fellows. For my first blog, I would like to tell you just a little bit about myself. Why? Mainly because I can’t deny a captive audience, but I also want to provide some context as to why I chose to write about these specific events!

I’m a 26-year-old tweeting machine/cat mom/theatre nerd/yoga teacher. I live in Ypsilanti (which I love with all my heart), and I spend a lot of my time watching female comedians, writing music, and cooking with my fiancé. I studied Arts Management, Marketing and Theatre at Eastern Michigan University and continue to flex my acting muscles, although I’m focusing on producing my first album of original music! I work at the Ann Arbor Area Convention and Visitors as the Social Media Manager, and my favorite yoga pose at the moment is one-handed-tiger. I think that’s about it for now, so let’s talk about the arts and culture scene in Southeast Michigan!

And away we go…
2nd Annual Murals in the Market

Not many artists grew up on a farm…but I did! That’s why I am so excited for the 2nd Annual Murals in the Market event at Eastern Market in Detroit.

Fresh, local produce mixed with high caliber (and giant) murals captures the true essence of Michigan’s favorite comeback city. More than 50 local and international artists are traveling to the great city of Detroit to create large-scale murals over the course of 10 days! There are tons of events surrounding this exciting project during September 15-24th; from opening receptions, to classes, and a final walking tour of the completed murals. This event is a great opportunity to explore the best of Detroit! More

Ypsi Song Fest: Motown Revisited

I have to believe in my heart that every American loves Motown Music, don’t you? There’s something about the upbeat, soulful, timeless music (riddled with clapping and sweet dance moves) that brings everyone together.

As a millennial, I never really had the opportunity to hear live Motown Music, which is why I am so excited for this celebration of one of my favorite genres! This event takes place on Washtenaw Community College’s campus in the beautiful Towsley Auditorium. An impressive lineup of musicians such as John E. Lawrence (Ypsilanti guitar legend), Al McKenzie (former music director of The Temptations), Ray Moore (formerly with The Four Tops), and Ted Brannon (formerly with Edwin Starr) will bring the Motown sound alive for one spectacular evening on September 16. More

Elephant Revival at The Ark

As someone who lives in the Ann Arbor area, I can not imagine life without The Ark. I’ve seen some of my favorite performances in this space, and they always offer an eclectic set of music, keeping me abreast with the best of the folk music scene.

Admittedly, I was initially attracted to this event because of the name of the band. Elephants? I am in! But then I looked up the band on Youtube, and was completely blown away by the elegant (not elephant!) sound produced by a five-person band. I’m a sucker for mixed-gender bands, and Elephant Revival plays to this segment quite beautifully. The rugged folk style is paired with gentle harmonies…and a musical saw! The Youtube video link shows the band playing on a porch in the mountains, so I can only imagine the sound they will produce in the intimate space at The Ark on September 21! More

“Cabaret” at The Dio Dinner Theatre

We are totally spoiled by the Netflix lifestyle these days. We can watch hours of entertainment…20 feet away from our kitchen. I’m one of those theatre-people that likes to eat and drink before, during, and after a show, but generally snacks and beverages are prohibited in the sacred space of the theatre (with an “re”). At The Dio Theatre in Pickney, they dish up dinner along with high-class entertainment, satisfying your brain and belly all at once! Their production of the sizzling Broadway smash, “Cabaret” will run from September 22nd – October 30th. The show takes place in 1930’s Berlin at the Kit Kat Klub, featuring musical theatre favorites such as “Don’t Tell Mama” and “Maybe This Time.” More


A 10-day long pop-up art festival is taking place in the heart of Downtown Ann Arbor from September 22-October 1. I attended (and performed at) this event last year, and highly recommend it. Free and open to the public, Pop-X features unique works by nine artists in beautifully designed “pavilions” created by a local architect. Visitors wander into each pavilion to be immersed in a rare artistic space. Some of the art is interactive, some of it’s digital, and…some of it was executed by Lisa Waud of The Flower House! (Not to mention, there is a beer pavilion, so now you have to go.) There will be artist discussions, live performances, and even a dance party to make each day of Pop-X a unique experience! More

Thanks for reading! Which events are you looking forward to in the next couple of weeks? Let me know on Twitter @m_kurtzhals so I can put them on my calendar. Cheers!

Marissa Kurtzhals is a UMS Blogging Fellow. Learn more about the blogging fellows program.

Community Spotlight: Muralist Freddy Diaz

Southwest Detroit mural artist Freddy Diaz designed a special poster for the Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán performance. We chatted with Diaz about starting out with graffiti, living in Southwest Detroit, and Mariachi music.

mariachi flyer

UMS: How long you’ve been working on murals?

Freddy Diaz: I want to say maybe a good four years now. My introduction into doing murals was graffiti. I grew up in Southwest all my life and came out of the Detroit Public Schools program. People were still very ‘90s when I was growing up, and even then technology wasn’t super up yet, and everybody rode bikes, and there was a bit of gang stuff, but it was either graffiti or gangs. And I always chose graffiti. I liked the art and colors, and it drew me in a lot closer than doing anything negative.

So, I started doing graffiti when I was 12-13 years old, and then as I got older and gained a bit more consciousness about what to do with my art, I started to reach out to local businesses in the neighborhood. That gave me an opportunity to work with business owners, and they gave me advice about how to adjust, how to run my own business. So I would say that I got legit about three-four years ago, and I’ve been at it ever since.

UMS: Were you part of an arts program at DPS, or was this more of a hobby?

FD: It was a hobby from a culture that started before I was born. Detroit has a graffiti culture that probably started in the late ’80 or early ‘90s, and then just followed through generations.

I think that’s what I like about Southwest is that Southwest is really active as far as culture. The majority of Southwest is Mexican, but there are areas where there’s a lot of Arabic culture, areas where there’s Cuban, Puerto-Rican. It’s really cool because you get a bit of everything.

UMS: We’re talking in part because you did this special poster promoting the Mariachi Vargas performance. Has Mariachi music has played a role in your own life?

mural in detroit

One of Diaz’s murals in Detroit.

FD: I would honestly say that I did overlook it when I was younger because it’s just always been around us. When you do go to Mexico, everywhere there is a plaza where on a Sunday night there are Mariachi playing. You take your girlfriend on a walk, stroll through the park at night, and there are just bands. There are people selling food, or people just singing. So I’ve always had it around since I was a kid.

When I was working on the poster, I was thinking more about the vibe that people get from Mariachi music, and I kind of wanted to give people that same feeling.

I did tell my parents about this poster, and they ended up telling me that Vargas are the top Mariachis in the world.

I was like, “Yes, mom, I’ve been doing this Mariachi poster for UMS,” and they’re like, “Really? What’s the name of them?” And I was like, “You know Vargas-something,” and she just finished the name—[laughs] and I was like, “Yes!” and she was like, “No way, show me.” So I pulled out the email, and she reads it and says, “You know they’re like the best in the world, right?”

That got me freaking out, I was like, “Really?” I kind of felt embarrassed because I didn’t know, and I think that it was better that way because if I knew, it would’ve been overwhelming. Not knowing the whole time let me have more fun with it.

See the Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán in Ann Arbor on April 1, 2016.