YPSILANTI — “In the fairy tale The Three Billy Goats Gruff, a troll lives under the bridge and challenges all the passersby. What might live under a tridge—say, the tridge that connects Riverside Park, Frog Island Park and Depot Town in Ypsilanti? Write a fairy tale about the creature that lies beneath, with you as the hero.”
This is just one of the many creative writing prompts that participants can explore as part of a new walking art and writing tour in Ypsilanti launched this month by YpsiWrites (a non-profit community writing center powered by Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti District Library and 826 Michigan) and the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA).
Grace Vandervliet, the curator for Museum Teaching and Learning at UMMA, and YpsiWrites co-founders Ann Blakeslee, Director of EMU’s Office of Campus and Community Writing, and Cathy Flesicher, EMU professor, were the creators behind the art and walking tour when they were brainstorming how they could connect art and writing.
“We immediately loved the thought and knew that it would be the perfect fit for YpsiWrites,” said Ann Blakeslee, EMU professor and co-founder of YpsiWrites. “The walking art tour and writing prompts were created in an effort to encourage those in the community to discover and enjoy the art hiding in the City of Ypsilanti and stretch their creativity when it comes to writing.”
The initiative consists of three walking tours of Depot Town, downtown Ypsilanti and Eastern Michigan University’s campus, each featuring several stops with a piece of art or architecture, along with written prompts associated with the pieces to encourage participants to explore their creativity through writing. The art and architecture along the routes were found and chosen through the hard work of a dedicated team of YpsiWrites volunteers who explored the areas to create the tours.
Pease Auditorium, a public 9/11 memorial featuring a steel beam from the rubble of one of the World Trade Center buildings, the MLK Garden, and Starkweather Hall are just some of the well-known stops on the EMU tour. Those that follow the prompts will be asked to write about their family, emotions and feelings that certain art creates, personal inspirations, and movement.
Artwork from nearly 50 Ypsilanti Community Schools students is also on display as part of the tours after COVID-19 derailed the original plans to display the art in the U.S. Department of Education's gallery in Washington, D.C. in May of 2020.
Maps and writing prompts for the tour can be found in PDF form through the YpsiWrites Public Art and Writing Tour homepage, and printed copies of the maps and prompts can be picked up at any of the Ypsilanti District Library locations.
Publicly accessible bus stops and parking structures are also included on the maps to make the experience as accessible as possible.
“We hope this becomes something that those in our community can enjoy together with friends or family or even on their own,” said Fleischer. “Art and writing are great outlets that really anyone can enjoy. Ypsilanti has so much art and creativity to offer, and we’re just excited to see people enjoy it together.”
Those that complete the tour can submit their writing responses on the YpsiWrites website for a chance to have their work highlighted. The nonprofit also offers virtual writing consultations for writers who want to develop their craft and get feedback.
YpsiWrites is aimed at supporting and developing writing in the Ypsilanti community by providing trained writing tutors and workshop leaders to help teen and adult writers with any and all types of writing, including resumes, essays, stories, business plans, poetry, memoirs, and more.
For more information about YpsiWrites and programming throughout the year, visit the community writing center’s homepage.
About Eastern Michigan University
Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves more than 16,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and, its graduate school. EMU is regularly recognized by national publications for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website.