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Sticks & Stones: A Social Art Happening

After months of planning and rallying (and anxiety on my part), Sticks & Stones took place last night. The social art happening consisted of people, standing in the street as silent "statues" holding posters of comments collected from MLive articles over the last year. The sentiments from these comments were largely about Ypsilanti, its inhabitants, youth and activity here, many of them stereotypes, hateful and hurtful in nature. 

For the first 30 minutes, participants stood in line at MarketPlace Square* and didn't speak to pedestrians. Viewers started to gather and read the posters, one by one. A number of people came up to me visibly moved and upset by the comments. They couldn't believe they were real. The combined impact of seeing them all together brought tears to people's eyes. 

Following the silent portion of the event, we asked people to answer 3 questions: 

1. What is your first memory of being discriminated against?

2. Have you ever been the perpetrator of intolerance/hate and how do you feel about it now?

3. What real action can you take from this point to drive positive change?

People took to social media, standing with one another, taking photos, streaming video, meeting new friends. Using the hashtag #sticksandstones, we shared content which will be collected and shown at our studio next month during First Fridays Ypsi, September 2nd. It was positive and wonderful and powerful. (You can continue to use the hashtag #sticksandstones and be part of the show too!) 

As we look back on the event and view these photos, we see the diverse support we had last night, in race, ethnicity, age, experience, and we are moved by their belief in our vision to stand up to hate.

Ironically, the media attention we received drove even more hateful commentary, which we find amusing and helpful. The same people who hated on the event and called us "mershmallow soft" (their spelling, not mine), cited Clint Eastwood's phrase to "get over it", also took the time to listen to the radio interview, find social media comments and cite them when writing more comments, and read the article which resulted in online arguments. What I've come to realize is that while I try to listen to political figures who I will not vote for, or read comments from those I don't agree with, our event hit a nerve. (At the time of publishing this blog post, there were 154 comments on the MLive article). 

Here are facts as I know them:

• When Clint Eastwood was growing up, there was no internet. Kids and adults didn't cyber-bully and humiliate one another publicly, resulting in deaths and suicides.

• Words have power. They are the seed of dialogue, conflict, resolve, debate, argument. Its visibility and ease of consumption on social media is a root for sensationalizing violence in our country. 

• From a little online research, the commenters from our piece have likely not dealt with the racist, classist, elitist, discriminatory words they're doling out. And lastly, most of them would not make those comments in a public forum. 

• The joke is funny until it's about you. 

Ypsilanti is a rich community. It is filled with some of the most talented and generous people I have ever met. The educators, business owners, parents, children, senior citizens, and civic leaders I've spoken to over the last couple years have given us confidence that we are on the right path. I owned and lived in a home in Ypsilanti 15 years ago and witnessing the continued evolution of this city is phenomenal. 

Nick and I have different stances on seeing the obliteration of comments on articles. While they make me ill to read sometimes, I don't think they need to be removed. I recognize it's the same commenters over and over again, who are unable to find the silver lining in anything that is not serving their own needs.

These events which cost money and time and energy to produce are more meaningful than any comment they could ever make from the security of their couch. We create the news, they just consume it. 

*We applied and were approved for a street closure with the City. (Our production of this event also required additional insurance coverage, fee and deposit).  Although the barricades didn't show up until later than we anticipated, our artist participants were generous with their time and posed for photos in the street beyond the first 30 minutes. For this, we are so grateful to each and every one of you. A very special "thank you" goes to Mayor Amanda Edmonds for her swift response and the Ypsilanti Police Department for their service and smile. 



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 :) 



#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. 




We can no longer pretend a pandemic doesn't exist in our country. The hateful rhetoric and the violence which follows it can not be normalized - it would be irresponsible for us to allow it. 

It is time to engage in authentic conversation followed by meaningful action. Band together. Embrace the discomforts, the questions which arise. Encourage curiosity, growth, acceptance of those that are not like us. 

#BlackLivesMatter #StandwithCharleston #EnoughisEnough  



Why Book a Graphic Recorder?

First of all, what is Graphic Recording? 

During Graphic Recording I listen to your presentations and conversations, synthesizing the content into images and text on large sheets of paper or board during. At the end of the meeting, the large drawings can be photographed for future use (marketing, internal, website, press) or translated into digital drawings for even more in-depth use. 

Why hire a Graphic Recorder?

Glad you asked! Have you ever worried if your colleagues didn't understand or agree with your concepts, or the listeners were more visual learners, or worse yet...everyone is dosing off? Remedy all those situations with a graphic recorder who will engage the viewers as they watch the presentation ideas being reiterated before their very eyes. 

I've recorded and digitized presentations for Ross Business School, medical departments within the University of Michigan, TEDx, Detroit Future City and more. For more information, email yenazzaro(@)



Best Friday Ever

Nick and I work with some incredibly talented and gracious people at Eastern Michigan University through a variety of programs including Bright Futures, Art Around Town and some other grant driven projects. This past Friday we were recognized for our collaboration with them. Nick received the Institute for the ISCFC's (Study of Children, Families and Communities) "Best New Partner Award" and I received the Academic Service-Learning's "Engage at EMU Award." 

I know there are a lot of fuzzy, feel-y words out there but we truly mean it when we say that they're some of the best people we know, doing the most worthwhile work. Thank you, Decky, Russ, Lynn, Jack, Darlene and all the students and staff that we've come into contact with because of you. You guys are the best.