Group brings together art and writing with walking tours of Ypsilanti

YPSILANTI, MI — A new art and writing tour hopes to reveal a different side of Ypsilanti.

The Public Art and Writing Tour will launch June 10 as part of a new program taken on by YpsiWrites, a nonprofit community writing center, in collaboration with the University of Michigan Museum of Art.

YpsiWrites will be offering three walking tours of the Ypsilanti area that include Depot Town, downtown Ypsilanti and Eastern Michigan University.

These maps will include a number of designated areas where residents can find art in the city, as well as reflective and whimsical writing prompts associated with the art that encourage participants to write by answering questions, YpsiWrites Co-Founder Cathy Fleischer said.

The maps also include bus stops and parking structures to make the experience as accessible as possible, she said.

Grace Vandervliet, curator for Museum Teaching and Learning at UMMA, met with Fleischer and other co-founder of YpsiWrites Ann Blakeslee, about incorporating art and writing together.

“One day Grace said, ‘Let’s just get together and think what can we do that would be cool, that brings together art and writing.’ So we chatted about it and brainstormed, and that’s where this idea arose,” Fleischer said. “There are some other cities that do this kind of work, and so Grace was able to bring to us some of the work that they had done.”

YpsiWrites began in 2019 and is a collaboration between Eastern Michigan University’s Writing Center and the EMU Office of Campus and Community Writing, as well as 826 Michigan and the Ypsilanti District Library.

The idea behind YpsiWrites is that they believe that everyone is a writer and that everyone’s writing matters, Fleischer said. Their goal is to try to make people in the Ypsilanti community feel welcomed and empowered at every stage of their writing journey, she said.

YpsiWrites, located inside the Ypsilanti District Library at 5577 Whittaker Road, offers writing consultations, peer tutoring, and workshops to help people work on their writing skills, Fleischer said.

One way they’ve helped the community in the past was by assisting the Girl Scouts in developing a book club by providing materials needed to get started, said Alyssa Allen, a graduate assistant at YpsiWrites.

The Public Art and Writing Tour came together through a group of volunteers who went out in Ypsilanti and found artwork that they believed could be relatively easy to access for participants, Allen said.

“So obviously, it’s not officially ADA approved or anything, but it was created with the intent that people with a lot of different accessibility levels could do this tour, which I just think is a really nice thing to consider when you’re building something like this,” Allen said.

An example from one of the writing tour maps is a prompt relating to a mural at the Ypsilanti City Hall that states, “As you look at the mural, notice the eagle and the duck. Why do you think the artist included these two birds? What do they have to do with Ypsilanti?”

Fleischer believes that people of all ages and backgrounds would enjoy these walking tour maps.

“I can imagine a family going out and having a fun afternoon of doing this, I can imagine a group of 20-year-olds going out and doing this as a fun thing to do,” Fleischer said.

The three maps for the Public Art and Writing Tour will be released on its launch date, June 10.

Those interested can find the maps on that date here.

The website will be providing QR codes so that participants can download them, and the Ypsilanti District Library will be printing out 200 maps and offering them at 5577 Whittaker Road and 229 W. Michigan Ave.

UMMA will also be donating writing journals to the first 200 participants, who can use those journals to write about their experience on this tour who can later share their writing on the YpsiWrites website.

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