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Photography Challenge at The Learning Studio: Graphic Recording

I had been wanting to experiment with various mediums including paper type and markers (I found out Sharpie paint markers are not as brilliant as I'd hoped). And, I was itching to do an illustration for myself, to market my skills and have differentiating photos on social media. But then I thought about how flat my photos of the recordings can be sometimes. I wanted fresh eyes on how to approach photographing the work. A-ha! I know where to find emerging photographers!

Nick's classroom at Ypsilanti Community High School is also known as The Learning Studio, an experimental commercial photography studio where students in grades 9-12 learn technical and conceptual photography skills. Being in its first year, Nick and the students have made some impressive progress (including two of his students, Davinique Powell and Jenae Gonzalez, winning Best Photo at the recent Potential Art Exhibit at the teen center, Neutral Zone!)  

The Learning Studio Ypsilanti.JPG

I introduced the following challenge to the students over two days: to create a cohesive marketing photo campaign of 3-5 images of the following graphic recording using any method of lighting and including any props or people they chose. The only other criteria being judged was teamwork. The latter proved to be more challenging for larger classes, understandably, but I was utterly impressed by the initiative and knowledge of many students in each and every class. The winning class receives full credit for the photos on social media, mention in an upcoming lifestyle blog I'm being interviewed for and choice of a pizza or donut party, which is, of course, where I heard the "yeaaaahhh"s and excitement.

Detroit graphic recorder Yen Azzaro

All the classes had phenomenal ideas and some had more innovative concepts, but in terms of sound photography and extraordinary teamwork skills...

graphic recording Michigan.jpeg

I'm psyched to announce the winning class is 3rd hour (B)!!! They not only brainstormed before jumping into the work, they collectively came up with the most variety of images and made sure everyone was involved in some aspect of the process. Congratulations, Ana, Abbie, Britney, Britthani, Gabe, Jonatan, Lynda, Marcus, Owen, and Rochelle!

Graphic recorder Ypsilanti.jpeg

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Pop•X: panel discussion and coverage

Image: Current Magazine

Image: Current Magazine

Now that Nick's installation is in place at Pop•X, he can breathe a little easier. The photographs and sculpture came together without too much ado so that was a relief. The festival has been received warmly and we're grateful to Omari Rush and all the artists and organizers for their ardent efforts.

Below are a few places you can read and see photos of the festival if you can't make it. And I'll be moderating the Art for Innovators talk on Workspace Design tomorrow, Monday, Oct 19th. Should be a great time, see you there!

Detroit News

Current Magazine  

Current Mag Facebook page  

MLive  | MLive video





826 on Washington Street

Over the weekend we had the chance to host a pretty awesome shindig. Our friends at 826michigan had a jam-packed weekend of programming including a pajama part at Literati Bookstore and big things for 826 going on in Detroit...

The volunteers of 826, the ones that tutor, listen, travel, edit, and work with kids are the muscle of this organization we love so much. We hosted a small breakfast gathering Saturday morning and we got to meet founder of McSweeney's (original publisher of 826 Valencia) and writer, Dave Eggers. 

It's a good-looking bunch, don't you think? 

The end of the year is always vitally important to the health of organizations like 826michigan so won't you please consider supporting all the work these beautiful people do through volunteering or donation? Thanks so much :) 



Exhibiting, jurying and moderating at Pop•X

Our friend Omari Rush has been really busy over the last year. He's the Curator of Public Programs at the Ann Arbor Art Center and has been producing Pop•X, an arts festival of ten pop-up pavilions in Liberty Plaza. The public square is located at the corner of Division and Liberty Streets in downtown Ann Arbor and will be transformed starting next week, into a ephemeral playground of installations and happenings. 

We were lucky enough to take part on a few different levels. During the planning stages of the festival, I got to sit in on some preliminary meetings and then jury the exhibitors. And as it turns out, Nick is one of them. I won't give too much away, but his work will speak directly to the usual inhabitants of Liberty Plaza, a group of citizens that are often marginalized for various reasons, who will be displaced during the festival. You can see his pavilion and work on opening day, October 15th through October 24th. 

I'll moderate a talk, Workspace Design, on Monday, October 19th at the Ann Arbor District Library. I'm excited to sit down and talk to a group of innovative business owners in the area including Sava Lelcaj Farah: CEO, Savco Hospitality; Shane Pliska: CEO, Planterra; and Dug Song: CEO, Duo Security. It's a free event and fascinating topic so I'm certain this will draw a crowd. 

We hope to see you there! 



Opening night of Lacuna: Life through Death

Last night was the first time Nick missed an opening but we had our trusty new intern Ashanti to help out and take photos, which was fantastic after a long day. (Nick had just wrapped a product shoot for It's American Press, this incredible new product which is going to launch a crowdfunding campaign this fall). 

Our September show, Lacuna: Life through Death is a series of mixed media, wood, metal and found object pieces by Jessica Tenbusch. Her creative identity is succinct and masterful, with pieces that seem to grow from nature themselves.

We had a really great turn out and the artist's talk gave viewers (and myself) a better understanding of how she views death as not necessarily the end of a cycle, but a resource for other living things in nature. 

As she puts it, "Lacuna is an unknown or unfilled space or interval. The distance between life and death is immeasurable, a lacuna, because they exists simultaneously as a whole. Life and death are placed into a false binary in our culture. In reality they move fluidly between one another and their surfaces come into contact and intersect at all points of space and time. People are taught to shy away from death and to think of it as “unnatural”. It is a way we culturally divide ourselves from other non-human animal species. For life to exist, death must happen. "


If you'd like to see the show or request a price list, send us an email to make an appointment. The show is up through September 30th and is an absolute must-see. 



Front Street: Celebrating Student Photographers

Last night Nick and I opened what we felt was the most successful (and most fun) opening thus far. Front Street featured 24 photographs by three Ypsilanti Community School students: Berek Clouse of Estabrook Elementary School, Sydney Johnson of Washtenaw International Middle Academy, and Martell Johnson, a recent graduate of Ypsilanti Community High School. The theme was left open to interpretation of each student photographer and while we saw certain elements of Ypsilanti — the river, train tracks, buildings — composition and weight of importance differed greatly. 

Each student had worked with Nick previously and were chosen based on their affinity to the medium and potential. We talked to them about what to photograph and then spent collective hours curating each artist's eight photos, out of over 1,400 images. After titling and setting on a price, each was framed and installed.

Last night students presented their work and even "worked the room" a bit, interpreting and selling their works, moving half of the show out the door! 100% of sales went directly to the photographers. 

This entire project was made possible by Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and facilitated by Russ Olwell, Director of Institute for the Study of Children, Families and Communities at Eastern Michigan University. We want to thank all the families and friends which participated in this process and supported the students last night. They are truly exceptional and we see wonderful things happening for each budding photographer. Congratulations, Berek, Sydney and Martell!



#YCS: Your Committed Superintendent

The culmination of the experiences over the last four years has led us to a project that we feel personally vested, more so than any other we've worked on before. We are humbled and happy to announce that Ypsilanti Community Schools is our newest client. 

I met Dr. Benjamin Edmondson, or "Dr. E." as students call him, two weeks ago during the buzz of his imminent appointment as the new superintendent of Ypsilanti Community Schools (YCS). I heard of his no-nonsense but encouraging approach when dealing directly with students and his uncanny ability to remember students' names when out and about.

I was looking forward to telling him about our academic approach to championing the arts including Nick's latest venture, the student photo incubator. Upon meeting, I learned that he was looking to not only change the schools from the inside out, he wanted a complete rebranding of the YCS image. We immediately started brainstorming, citing the recent history of the schools and the community-chosen colors. At our next meeting Nick and I shared our experience as new parents and the gnawing question of where our son would attend school three years from now. 

Ben's ideas are backed up by immediate action. He's making the rounds at YCS schools to meet students, faculty and staff, giving frank talks about his expectations and what the students can do to succeed academically. He also recently attended a City Council meeting to introduce himself to the community and talk about his first 90 days as superintendent.

As Ypsilanti business owners we feel a commitment to making our surroundings not only culturally engaging but socially and economically vibrant and viable for families of all backgrounds. Ben's hope, and ours as well, is to invigorate a partnership between businesses and families including mentoring students after school, donating in-kind services for school functions and more. These are all actions we not only stand behind but have been doing already. 


Nick and I had the privilege of getting to spend time with his sons this past weekend and they are absolute gentlemen, charismatic and well-mannered beyond their years. It gives me so much to look forward to with our son! 

You'll be seeing more about our work with Ben and YCS, particularly as we near the start of the school year. We joke that we have three years to make YCS a viable choice for us. But all know — that we're not joking at all. 

Here's to the man that we believe will be the energy and leadership the community has been looking for. 




#RunYpsi: Ypsilanti Running Co.

A few weeks ago I decided I needed to be more mindful about my physical activity (or in my case, the lack of it) and took up the friendly-paced running group at Ypsilanti Running Co. Owners Mike Nix and his wife Alison have become incredible supports and friends during the process. Recently, they hosted a pre-party for The Color Run and we had a ton of fun with selfies and a big giveaway. 

This past Sunday, they held their first fundraiser for the adoption of Frog Island at Corner Brewery. They'll be cleaning up the outer perimeter of the running track, keeping walkways clear, and renewing all the areas of the picturesque park that just needs a little love. A special IPA was brewed, a live band played, and a grand time was had by all. Check it out!


We can't recommend YRC enough for your running, fitness and retail needs. It's a wonderful family business and we feel so lucky to be a part of their movement to get people moving and healthy. Their 1 year anniversary is this September and we're looking forward to what they have in store next. 



Course by Course with Paesano Restaurant

I've been going to Paesano for as long as I can remember. The food, the ambiance and service has kept my family returning for years. Experiencing it when we returned to the area was no different. Owners Michael and Bridget Roddy always go out of their way to take care of their customers (and we hear this extends to their employees as well)! 

Nick and I love to go there even though it's removed from the downtown scene, or more likely because it is removed from the downtown scene. When we dine there, we know it's a destination experience where we'll linger through the courses. The service is impeccable and the flavors are always exciting. We had an unforgettable pappardelle dish as one of our courses during their Carnevale celebration a couple months ago. The ragu was perfectly savory with a touch of sweetness. We later discovered the sweetness was from sautéed grapes — so delicious!

Nick shot their seasonal menu a couple weeks ago and we were delighted with how beautifully each dish was plated, perfect for photographing, which isn't always the case. With their travel excursions, Italian classes, movie nights and birthday cards, they truly make you feel like part of the family. We can't say enough wonderful things about the restaurant and we're really honored to be working with them. 



Photos at Nolas Underground Salon

Our friends and clients Nic, his partner Dani and newest addition Amy, make up Nolas Underground Salon. They're underneath the restaurants along North U but once you go downstairs, you're in a chic gem of a space. I would say they're the best kept secret in Ann Arbor but they're booked weeks out (I had to book a month out this time to get in with a friend)! 

With just a few precious square feet, they transport you from campus experience to coifed and pampered. Nick captured some of the highlights recently and we just go them up on the website. If you're looking for a new spring style with lots of special attention, book with the pros at Nolas! 



The Wurst Challenge 2015

Just a couple blocks from the studio is this incredible organization called FLY Children's Art Center. And it's just like it sounds. It's a place for kids and families to let their imaginations take flight, possibilities are endless with courses in drawing, painting, theater, costumery, robotics and we're so lucky to count them as creative neighbors. 

One of their big annual fundraisers is The Wurst Challenge at The Wurst Bar, where contenders raise funds, eat LOTS of delicious sausages while dressed up in their best garb and make a name for themselves. You really can't go wrong when the thread for the event is #20feetofmeat. Yep.

Here are just a few of the momentous highlights of last night's event. 



Big {Art} Announcement

Happy New Year! We hope everyone had a safe and memorable celebration to ring in 2015. 

We are excited to announce that we'll be exhibiting artists starting this March! While showing work in the new space seemed like a natural progression for us, we didn't prioritize it when we found the studio, simply because we weren't sure of how we would formalize what kind of gallery we would be and what type of art we would show. And then we realized, there are so few venues for consuming retail art in the area, we couldn't shy away from something we love doing and are good at. 

Here's the roster of artists for 2015.

We met Jermaine Dickerson as the resident graphic designer for a campus office at Eastern Michigan University. His style is steeped in realism, anatomical accuracy and suspension of reality as he delves into worlds of superhero status. I was immediately drawn to his meticulous linework and it didn't take us long to ask Jermaine to be the first artist to exhibit. As an emerging artist with an infectious laugh, we see unmistakable promise in Jermaine's work ethic and talent. You can see some of his digital design skills on his website and follow more of his projects (and the occasional still life) here on Facebook

Stan Malinowski has been a friend and mentor to Nick ever since we lived in Chicago. They had a collaborative show in 2008 and he's shared a wealth of his experiences in the fashion photography world. Starting in the '50s at Playboy, Stan moved on to fashion magazines in world markets, working with the likes of Anna Wintour, Christie Brinkley, Gia Carangi, Iman and many more. Stan is the preeminent perfectionist (and superb dinner mate), overseeing every process of his prints and negatives. We plan to show a carefully chosen group of photographs from a 20 year span, 1970-1990. This is a show of works exclusive to us and we're very proud of this.

Woon Sein Chin is my dad. He studied fine art in Taiwan during the '70s right before he emigrated to the States. While he and my mother worked odd jobs to make a living, he has never stopped painting. In 2011, he started working at the Museum of Contemporary Art in security and is surrounded by the artists that have inspired him over the years, Bacon, Matisse, Picasso. Last year, he was invited to show his works in the 3rd floor gallery of the MCA. His style is steeped in expressionism, with broad, electric strokes of oil and we'll be showing works on paper and canvas.

I met Megan Williamson when she visited Madron Gallery (where I served as director) on the recommendation of friend. It turns out the artists we had hanging on the wall (American greats such as Reginald Marsh, William Glackens, Frederick Frieseke), were the influences to her influence, Nic Coronas. I had never met anyone that knew so many of the styles and artists so intimately. We've been friends and collaborators since. Megan's canvases are constructed of elements that play upon each other and rely on how our eyes interpret those intersections of color and shape. During our weekly conversations, we talk about possibilities, ideas, dreams (a few shared on her Facebook page). It is our pleasure to show a series of Megan's still lifes and landscapes.

While perusing the various holiday fairs last month, I stumbled across an intriguing piece by Jessica Tenbusch (image above). Made of bone, copper and a method of hand hammering metal called repousse, I was immediately drawn to the perfect execution of her precious, organic pieces. Using only animals and parts found deceased, her pieces are are multi-step processes in experimentation. When I met her during the bustling DIYpsi fair, she was gracious and humble and I had to collaborate with her. We will show a new series of her fine art objects next Fall but you can admire and shop from her Etsy shop, Equilibria in the meanwhile. 

I'll have more information about each exhibition each month before. We can't wait to share our vision of fine art, design and photography with you. Happiness and health to you in 2015. 

Artist Submission Process (accepted January through March 2015)   

Chin-Azzaro is committed to a high standard of marketing, publicity and exhibition practices. With our years of experience in the fine art retail world, we strive to offer a breadth of high quality works to our audience. If you are interested in submitting your work for consideration, please send the following in a zipped folder titled with your name. 

1. CV and/or resume

11. 6-10 images of your work 

111. Artist statement (previous statement acceptable)

1111. Optional: website address, social networking links, references

Please send to: and allow 2-3 weeks for a formal response. 

Incomplete submissions will not be considered. Thank you!