I photographed my first podcast recently, and was blown away by the knowledge and work going into harm reduction for drugs in Denver. Learn more about the Caring 4 Denver ballot initiative by clicking here, and attend the next podcast taping for Hello? Denver? Are You Still There? with Bree Davies by clicking here!
I've never really photographed young children before, so I was a little intimidated walking into this shoot, as well as being concerned about bright sunlight. Chelsea Beamer is the mastermind behind Beam & Bloom, a children's clothing company, and I admire how thoughtful she was with this entire process. It was immediately comforting, and the shoot ended up being a blast. The bright light ended up allowing me to experiment with editing, and the results were dreamy and gauzy feeling. Here are a couple of my favorites:
There are very few things that make me happier than planning surprises! I got to be a little sneaky for this beautiful proposal at the Wynkoop bridge because, and Carly didn't suspect anything when Omar asked me to take a photo of them. I had met Omar the day before through a mutual friend, and we plotted the whole thing down to position, background, and the "cues" for taking the photo. I brought my partner, Jason, along for the ride so that I could pretend to take photos of him while trying to not look suspicious.
And dang, y'all, what a special love with these two. I was crying while taking photos the whole time. We walked down to Union Station after to take a couple photos of the couple, and Carly kept exclaiming how she couldn't believe it and how excited she was about everything. Congratulations to these two!
I'm going to go out on limb here and say this is one of my favorite photoshoots to date. What an incredible morning. Lark is CU Denver's premiere acapella ensemble made up completely by female-identified/non-binary folks singing sweet and hard-hitting songs.
We got up before the sun, and started out on top of a parking garage with the most stunning view of Denver. I've had a prism for awhile that I use primarily while shooting concerts, but getting to use it for portraits was such a game-changing experience. After spending some time capturing portraits & group shots with an incomparable breakfast, we made our way to Denver Diner to get breakfast and take photos with the neon signs + milkshakes.
I'm very grateful to have gotten the opportunity to photograph this ensemble multiple times, and I'm so excited to share the results!
My wonderful partner has worked for School of Rock for the better part of eight years, and has spent the last year working as the GM at a school near our home. He decided this summer to take on the massive project of putting together a music festival to wrap up the season and showcase all the shows his students had been working on, along with the adult, house, and staff bands.
He asked me to photograph the second half of the festival, and it was so fun to see his hard work in motion. Here's to hoping it becomes something annual!
But actually. And it's kind of wonderful. All the love, celebration, and chances to capture moments like this. Corban and Malena are two of my best friends, and my wonderful bandmates, and it was so much fun to get to drive around some of their favorite Denver locations in the beautiful springtime weather to capture some bit of their love for each other.
Some goofy ones, some full of laughter, and some introspective in a way. I'm glad these two found each other.
One thing I miss about doing photography in school is how much time you get to spend planning just one or two shots. A lot of the work I've been doing is taking as many photos as possible for portraits or production/concert photography, and then sorting through them in hopes that there's one that's simultaneously in focus and where everyone's eyes are open. So when Teresa & Amanda reached out to me with very specific, dramatic ideas for their senior recital promotional photos, I was beyond excited for the shoot.
They wanted to dress up in fancy clothing, hair, and makeup while doing everyday things - eating kimchi while watching TV, lifting weights, sitting by the pool, and more. We decided to just walk about my apartment complex to find locations where we could make that happen, which ended up being a really ideal setting for the shoot. I borrowed Teresa's husband's flash, diffuser, and color swatches so that we could could emphasize blue + pink drama lighting, and it worked really well with the ideas.
Their recital is happening on May 10th at the Washington Park Boat House, and I think it's going to be incredible. Let me know if you need any more information! Here are a couple of my favorite photos from the shoot:
It's neat getting to watch someone grow in so many different ways. After getting to work with Elysia both professionally and academically for a couple years, I'm proud to call her my friend and beyond excited to see where she goes. I think the funniest part about being such good friends now is that we actually went to high school together - like... graduated at the same time and everything - but we didn't actually know each other until college. We took some senior photos to celebrate the end of school (for awhile at least) and I'm excited about how they turned out! Here's a couple:
If you've spent any amount of time around me, you've probably heard me talk about how much I absolutely love Girls Rock Denver. It's a summer camp I've volunteered with for a couple years now, and we provide a week of songwriting, workshops, and community for female-identified/gender non-comforming youth, and it's pure magic. I'm always blown away by how powerful it is, and by the space it creates.
Last summer, one of the girls in the band I managed for the week reached out wanting some kind of guidance on being a solo musician, so one of my good friends (who was my counterpart/coach during the camp) and I started getting coffee with her and providing some "insight" (or whatever music school taught us) and some connections/opportunities. Last week, I was able to take some portraits with her around the Santa Fe Arts District, which was fitting because of how close her school and the camp is to the area. I remember learning about portraits in high school, and getting marked off of a project slightly because no one was looking directly at the camera. As shown in the photos below, it was a similar situation... But honestly, I think it fits well with her vibe and aesthetic, and I love how the photos turned out. Just something for me to be more aware of in future shoots. :)
I love theater, although I'm not nearly as involved now as I was in high school. I was lucky to float around most facets of technical theater before finally settling on lighting, which I (fearlessly?) lead throughout the rest of my high school career. And if I'm being honest, I ended up as a leader by complete accident. But I'm so glad everything happened the way it did, because those experiences are some my fondest memories from that time in my life.
I was also very involved in photography during high school. I essentially lived in the darkroom, and I took every level of photography and then IB Art, and it was a true sanctuary for me in the tumultuous time that was being a teenager. Through teachers talking and being involved in both areas, I started doing portraits and production photography for the theater program that had been such a wonderful thing for me in high school. I'm so grateful for the opportunity, and I love getting to come back every season to watch what they've been working on in such an intimate space. I also think it's so neat that I went to working with lights in a theatrical sense to working with something absorbing light in a similar sense.
It's gotten to the point where I don't know anyone in the program except for a couple friends' siblings, and that blows my mind. I went to see them perform Sweeney Todd last week, and it was honestly so incredible. I was completely swept away, and I'm excited to share a couple of my favorite photos from the night.
Until next week!
I have lots of opinions about things. Here are some of them.
Joel Thomas Zimmerman is better known as masked electronic musician Deadmau5 from Toronto, Canada. He's been nominated for six Grammy Awards, collaborated with a huge amount of other producers/DJs, been involved in a large amount of controversial litigation (like this shit), and is currently one of the highest paid electronic musicians/producers in the entire world. In 2010, Zimmerman adopted a cat and named it Professor Meowingtons, and the cat has since had a very public presence on social media with a verified Instagram account and thousands of followers. Neat. It is worth noting, however, that the @meowingtons Instagram account has not been used for almost an entire year.
In 2014, entrepreneur Emma Bassiri opened an e-commerce storefront called Meowingtons (because, really, how many different words can you incorporate 'meow' into?) and began selling cat-themed clothing, accessories, and decor for homes around the world. After graduating from Toronto’s OCAD University, she clearly put her entrepreneurship skills to work immediately by looking to her passions (and also to the immense amounts of market research she conducted). She filed Meowingtons LLC after seeing it was available for use on all fronts, and trademarked the e-commerce store a couple months later.
As the online storefront began gaining traction, Zimmerman started trying to combat the trademark by filing his own trademarks (which were all shut down) for Prof. Meowington, among others, in the United States, Canada, and the European Union before actually contacting Bassiri about anything. He finally reached out to her in August of 2016, but in December of 2016, Zimmerman filed a trademark petition with the United States Patent and Trademark Office in order to attempt to cancel Bassiri’s trademark for her storefront. Her legal team came back and responded by filing a lawsuit against Deadmau5 on March 13, 2017. Bassiri's primary place of residence is now in Florida, and that is where litigation will take place.
I just honestly think this whole thing is ridiculous. It's ridiculous that a self-motivated and successful entrepreneur is having to drain money into this suit because someone (who is wildly successful and wealthy and probably has other things to worry about) wants to defend the integrity of his cat. He could have approached her and been like, "Wow, cool name! Let's do a collaboration line and split the profits!" But nah. The lawsuit is claiming both trademark infringement and unfair competition. This is mainly founded on Zimmerman’s claims that Bassiri chose the name solely based on his music, which she has completely denied. She also made a statement that these claims are damaging not only to her personal reputation, but to her business. Deadmau5 and his team have made a huge public emphasis about how they initially tried to handle things around this ordeal very amicably and generously, but provides no detail on what that actually means. Bassiri’s team responded saying they have never witnessed someone trying or succeeding in trademarking their pet’s name, especially without any kind of commerce whatsoever. Again, they also cited in the official complaint that the defendant never actually tried to communicate any issues until August 17th, 2016. I honestly think my favorite part of all Bassiri's statements is that their entire team refers to Zimmerman as the mouse.
According to the official complaint, it looks like Deadmau5’s original United States trademark filing was suspended on January 5th, 2017 for unfair competition and for encompassing an unnecessarily large amount of goods, which is mostly likely where this drama/negative media escalated. The trademark has also been refused to Zimmerman upon filing in Canada. Through filing the trademark at all, the defendant alleges that they participated in interstate commerce under this name, which seems ridiculous without an actual product line established. The plaintiff claims that Zimmerman sought to capitalize on her trademark upon discovery, and primarily by using a negative social media campaign.
I see a lot of parallels between this case and when Beyonce tried to trademark her daughter Blue Ivy’s name in 2012. Beyonce did this to compete with a wedding planner in Boston going by the same name, Blue Ivy, but a judge ultimately ruled that the couple could not trademark their daughter’s name for a product line of baby products without actually having the line of products. While the wedding planner can continue using the name, she is only allowed to use it for wedding-related business endeavors, and Beyonce can use it for other potential business endeavors. The power couple announced last month that they will be launching a line of products under Blue Ivy Carter, using the full name instead of limited power under just Blue Ivy. There are differences in the cases since the wedding planner using the name Blue Ivy trademarked the name a couple years before the child was even born, but again, I will be interested to see if Deadmau5 tries to launch products or something like a publishing company under his cat’s name in order to strengthen his reasoning for trademarking his cat’s name.
All comedy aside, I think this is a really interesting case. I would hope that Zimmerman (or at least someone on his massive team) knows that there is not much possibility of him winning a trademark case over the name of his cat with no affiliated products or business. With that being said, while being involved in a lawsuit is probably incredibly irritating and time consuming for a business owner, Bassiri hopefully realizes that this is an incredible chance for her to capitalize on more traffic to her website by people seeing the lawsuit online. I also think her active presence online will aid her in this case, not that Deadmau5 has much of a case anyway. A lot of the justification for his cat’s trademark is Professor Meowington’s online presence, which has not been active in almost a year. This clearly does not help Zimmerman’s case at all.
After reading her blog posts on the Meowingtons storefront, I think Bassiri is handling the whole ordeal gracefully by focusing on what is important to her and by encouraging people to donate to the Humane Society if they visit her site just for that reason. I do think this lawsuit will ultimately reflect very poorly on Zimmerman because Bassiri’s company supports the Humane Society so heavily both monetarily and emotionally. Essentially, Zimmerman threatening to “litigate out of existence” a woman who financially supports the Humane Society in a huge way, based on competition for the name of his cat whom he adopted from the Human Society. The irony is unreal, and I think the best scenario in this case would be a settlement that directly benefits the Human Society.
Well. We moved. I quit my job. And I also quit my other job. I'm mostly working from home now. I graduate in nine weeks. I've been vegan for two months. My band plays our first show as a ~full~ band in two weeks.
Things are pretty good right now, although this has been a strange and dissociative week. I set some big goals for March, in the spirit of actually fulfilling my resolutions for the year. Change is a big thing, so with my impending descent into adulthood (whatever that means), I'm trying to better equip myself emotionally to handle things that happen.
Don't spend money for an entire month.
Of course, I have exceptions to this. I need groceries to survive. I need to pay my rent. I need to pay for my phone. I need to pay my credit card bills. And I should probably buy tickets to my friends' shows. But that's it, and I'm trying really hard to draw the line. I literally taped all my credit cards together so that I'd have to be really dedicated to getting them apart. I think this will kind of force me to do things like pack lunches and pay off any remaining debt. But this month - and maybe next month depending on how it goes - I'm not budgeting for anything outside of those lines.
Continue working toward minimalism.
I'm having a "stuff swap" party this Sunday, and I'm actually so excited. After donating nineteen trash bags full of stuff, I've figured out that I (as an overly sentimental person) have a hard time throwing things into the donation void. However, it's a little easier for me to give things away to my friends or organizations I trust because I know it's not just getting pushed aside. I feel this especially with things like books or jewelry. I've also been giving people my things as birthday gifts, etc. which has been nice. Again, especially true with books, and I'm realizing how much a personal endorsement means to people (and to myself). I've already noticed a difference in my life, and it's a good feeling.
Be more intentional with saving.
I have a tendency to be impatient with money. Like - I want all my student loan debt to disappear right now, or I want to save ridiculous amounts of money right now. And it's just not doable with how much money I'm currently making, which I'm starting to embrace more and more. So I'm setting aside 10% of all my income for savings, and it's not much, but it's better than aggressively saving and then realizing I need money for groceries or school books. I think the difference with this is that I'm not realizing it's gone as much as I was, and I'm not allowing myself to transfer it back out of my savings account. Slow and steady... buys the house?
Happy March! I hope springs finds you well.
I would be lying if I said I wasn't a huge sucker for New Year's Resolutions, although I strongly believe that you can "restart" your year & goal cycle whenever you need. I also just realized that my first blog post on this website was about making resolutions in August, so that proves my point. I tend to make giant lists of things I won't ever be able to achieve in one year, and this was proven by reviewing my resolutions from last year.... Which is why I decided to limit myself to ten resolutions for 2017.
1. Record an album with Kinesics.
I am so damn excited about this project. I have so much respect and love for the people I'm working with, and I can't wait to see how things turn out. I think it's been so important for me to be flexible and learn throughout this entire process, especially because I'm the only person in this group who hasn't really played with a band before.
2. Keep up with monthly video blogs.
Seriously. I don't know why I've had such a hard time with this in the past year. I love having the videos and looking back on them, and I have so many opportunities to film everyone and everything around me... So I need to just do them, honestly.
3. Embrace health by being vegan and going to the gym at our apartment complex 4x/week.
I think another important part of this particular resolution is to make sure my money reflects this transition. Most of my spending is on food, so instead of buying food, I should buy groceries and work on meal prep. Instead of buying a gym membership, I should use what is available to me. I'm 10 days into being vegan, and it's been a much smoother transition than I anticipated. I think a lot of this has to do with Jason being so supportive and essentially willing to eat anything I make for him. We bought a cookbook called Thug Kitchen, and it's incredible. I can't believe I had never heard of it before. Hilarious and delicious. I've also been so blown away by all the support I've received from people I don't even know. Friends of friends who are emailing me recipes and blogs and grocery lists. I mean, even my cashier at Trader Joe's asked if I was vegan and then proceeded to write out a couple easy recipes on the back of my receipt. It always astounds me how much people are willing to help complete strangers with something they have struggled through.
4. Be more politically active in my community.
This is a big one, especially with the political climate right now. I have so many people in my life who also function as wonderful resources to keep me informed on things going on that I can be involved with, events, fundraisers, contact information for senators, etc. I'm probably going to focus mostly on social issues for now, and will maintain involvement in Girls Rock Denver, CU Denver's Social Justice League, and the Sierra Club. I'm excited to learn more and to try and get others involved as well.
5. Learn more.
This goes with my #4 in the sense that I'm not going to be much help if I'm not educated. The easiest way for me to do that efficiently, right now, is to listen to podcasts in my car. So I'm doing that, thanks to almost a hundred awesome suggestions from my friends. I'm also going to be more present in school, especially since this is my last semester. I'm on the lookout for free classes and other ways to learn, and will do my best to attend as many as possible.
6. Explore Colorado more. Hike at least 25 times this year.
This is piggybacking off a resolution from last year that Jason and I actually did really well with, so we're doubling the numbers. We're going to try and hike every Sunday, or whatever day off we have in common, and bring friends. And then, we're going to ~try~ to end the "season" with a 14er, which should be interesting. I'm a little nervous, but I think it'll be good.
7. Go to Michigan and travel more.
I traveled more last year than I ever have before, and I'm excited to do even more of that this year. I absolutely know I want to go to Michigan, because I haven't been there in almost two years, and I'd also like to go to California for my good friend's graduation. Other than that, the world is wide open. Maybe I'll even leave the country.
8. Keep my space clean and embrace minimalism.
This is hard as well, just because of how much -stuff- being a musician requires. But we've made so much progress in the past month, and it's been helping the moving process immensely. This resolution combined with #3 is why I didn't feel the need to make a financial resolution, although it's definitely a focus. I'm not going to buy anything else that doesn't add value to my life on a long-term basis. If anyone reading this (hi mom) hasn't watched the documentary Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things, I highly recommend it. Although it made me feel pretty guilty about the IKEA trip we made the day before.
9. Go on monthly book dates with Jason.
We did our first of these on January 1st, and I picked out a book called Infinite Home by Kathleen Alcott. And so far, I absolutely love it. Each short chapter is from a different character's perspective, and they're all strange and relatable and poetic. We're going to head over to Tattered Cover on the first of every month, and I'm happy to have some stability with that process. I'm also happy our apartment is in the parking lot of a light rail station, because the train gives me approximately an hour to read a couple times a week.
10. Graduate. And get a job, or whatever.
I can't believe this is my last semester of college. It feels unreal. I applied for graduation, and I'm attending a meeting about a potential salaried job, and that's terrifying and exciting and wonderful. I can't wait for everything to come, and I can't wait to (maybe) have a little bit more free time.
Just some things: I survived another month. I finished my summer classes intact, started a new job, began my last fall semester of college, and then started another new job. This video isn't as all-encompassing or cohesive as I'd like it to be, but I mostly just want to get back into the habit of actually doing these every month, and doing them on time. And I did it! I think my favorite part about this month is how much I got to do with music in all these different realms - whether that's actually playing, photographing, marketing, booking, or just supporting. All good things.
Reading things: I'm finishing up The Disaster Artist now that I'm regularly taking the light rail again, and I highly recommend it for anyone who's watched The Room. And if you haven't, you should go watch it right now. I enjoyed this article, this article, and this article. I was extremely aggravated by this and this.
Crafty things: Here's the thing. I've made pickles three times now with three different recipes and kinds of cucumbers. The first one was way too garlicky, the second one was FIRE, the third one was way too sweet. So once I remember what the second one was and find the same cucumbers, I will post that here and it'll be great.
Goal things: My goal is to keep up with productivity because that's the only way I'm going to make it through this semester without quitting anything.
I leave tomorrow for Aspen to watch my boyfriend open for Train, which is a sentence I never thought I would type. From there, we're going to Buena Vista for another show, and then I'm coming back home to work Redrocks for Gregory Alan Isakov (another sentence I never thought I'd type). Here's to next month!
Well, today is August 1st and a lot of things have happened since the last time I've posted a video blog. I've never really kept up with a traditional blog before, where I'm typing words about myself and not just posting cute videos of animals.
New Year's Eve is a great holiday, but it's always been difficult for me to jump into traditional resolutions. I strongly believe in the ability to "restart" your day whenever you need to, and I think that transfers over very well to the entire year. In the spirit of having slightly more time now that summer classes are finally over, and with the fall semester starting soon, I feel a bit more motivated to get my shit together. Here goes! New Year's resolutions in August!
I definitely feel like it's hard for me to keep a balance between being business-minded and being creative, and between being creative for business-minded endeavors. Maybe that's why I haven't posted one of these videos since last November, but whatever the reason, I've started to really understand that I need some form of consistent creativity in order to, like, be a happy and functional person. Obviously music is an outlet, and something I do on a daily basis, but I'm also starting to see the importance of visual art in my life as well. It might just be the amount of hours in a day, to be honest, but it's probably time to prioritize that a little more.
- Intentionally make time for creating, and deliberately try to make it for myself rather than for work or contracted jobs.
Managing money is really fucking hard, especially when you're in school the majority of your life and don't get paid very much at the job you love. I sat down with Jason yesterday and made a budget in order to maximize saving for a down payment on a house, and then immediately applied for a serving job. We're both lucky in the regard that we have great credit scores and could probably find a loan without a down payment, but regarding comfort level and future payments, we're just going to do our best. We celebrated the last day of UMS and ate sandwiches at Historians, which ended in a pinky swear that it was the last time we were eating out rather than packing food. Pinky swears are some serious shit, so it's on. We're going to do this and it's going to be hard, but so worth it.
- Find a serving job where I can have a semi-flexible schedule and work weekends.
- Find ways to save money more intentionally, and stick to a strict budget.
- Put all purchases on credit (to earn cash-back and airline miles) but make sure it remains paid off at the end of each pay period.
I'm a senior now, and that is really weird for me. Especially considering how many times I've switched my majors, contemplated dropping out of school, actually applied for jobs that would require me to drop out of school, etc. I think it really hit me when I said hi to my neighbor the other day and happened to mention this was (hopefully) my last year of college, and the look on his face became the visual for about how I felt at that moment. I will be graduating in May of 2017 with a degree in Music Business, and while I don't know how much of a difference that piece of paper will make in my search for a job (and then eight more jobs because music is hard), I have learned a whole giant lot and I have met so many people that I'm incredibly thankful to know. The fall semester will be my last time taking 18 credits, and I'm actually incredibly grateful (for once) that none of my classes are online. I also pushed myself a little out of comfort zone and I'm taking a 4000-level communications class about social media which I think will be massively valuable and impactful in terms of future careers and personal projects.
- Keep your shit together during the semester. Set aside designated time (probably on Fridays) to work on homework, and don't put off everything until the last minute. Only some of the things.
- Don't be passive in classes. Make friends and meet professors. It's important.
Most recently out of components in this list, I'm in a band now. And it's been really fun to go all out with the business and marketing while also maintaining creative control and working with someone I really love. I think I just want to keep going all out, to write more specifically with this project in mind, and to take my time (because I don't have time to not do that) with recording and distribution. It's been nothing but rewarding so far, and I'm really happy to have a solid foundation built in terms of legal/financial whatevers so that we can dive headfirst into recording and creating more things.
- Record an album and do it well.
- Maintain consistent branding and marketing. Implement skills learned in social media and publishing classes, and make them apply to the band.
- Keep writing and practice consistently.
I could probably keep pulling goals out of my ass for days, but I'll wrap it up with a goal for this blog. I'm going to try and post at least once a month -- with my monthly video blog -- and potentially more frequently when I'm traveling or pinteresting things really hard. I'm excited to document this way, and I think it will be a good companion (and motivation) for my monthly videos. Until next time!
I feel pretty confident in saying that, honestly, none of us attending the a2ru Conference had much of an idea about what we were getting into before arriving in Michigan. All we knew was that it was supposed to correlate with a Music Cities course we had taken together, and that it had the Dean’s stamp of approval… Which seemed like enough reason to us. We were encouraged to submit a proposal for something that would help to better communities across the country, which led the wonderful Sydney Clapp to a brilliant idea about connecting homeless/displaced populations with artistic resources. Her and I submitted the proposal and it was approved, along with eight other submissions.
After landing in Michigan, we went straight to the conference (driven by a very loud and slightly sexist taxi man), ate a quick dinner, and jumped straight into the creative process. We were not assigned to specific groups, but rather, we got to choose from one of the nine proposals based on our interests. Aside from the rebellious Will Card, all of us CU Denver folks joined the homelessness & art proposal group. Will decided to join a group centered around gentrification, which aligned really well with his passions. Our first night was spent getting to know the members of our group, brainstorming (on GIANT STICKY NOTES which are the best sticky notes), and consistently being really excited (and maybe a little confused) about the next 48 hours.
Day 2 of a2ru was a whirlwind. We started out the day at an incredible facility in Detroit, about 40 minutes away from where the rest of the conference was a University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. There was a huge body of water right outside of the window, and we realized that the skyline across the foggy river was Canada when some of our phones starting warning us about international charges.
The morning was spent doing various exercises with our groups – designing a logo in fifteen minutes, identifying our values in relation to group projects, and more. We also got the opportunity to discuss with some truly incredible cultural leaders working in Detroit during a panel. Two of the highlights for me personally were the Director of the Heidelberg Project and the Co-Founder of Ponyride. I highly encourage anyone reading this (…mom) to go check out the websites linked above and learn some more about the projects. I think we all left feeling pretty inspired.
It’s also worth mentioning that this specific location provided the absolute best food and beverages that we had during the entire trip. Good job.
On the way to the Detroit Institute of the Arts, our bus made an unexpected stop. We all filed out, not really knowing where we were, and were immediately surrounded by an entire neighborhood filled with some of the most interesting art I’ve ever seen. It took a few minutes to make the connection that this was the Heidelberg Project that we had just learned about, and just how awe-inspiring it was that they had been around for 30 years.
I don’t think I’m alone in saying I didn’t really know how to process this art. It symbolizes the abandonment, and now gentrification, of Detroit in a really unique and almost terrifying way. It felt pretty wrong to wander this neighborhood while taking photos, realizing that there were people who still lived in most of the houses, but I also felt the need to document what I was seeing.
I think the part that hit me the hardest was watching this man walk around, picking up huge amounts of trash and looking at our group from a distance. It took me a minute to realize he was the artist, at which point I walked up to him to say thank you. He nodded and then walked toward the next piece of trash, at which point I noticed the part of the piece that had been destroyed by fire. I remembered the lady on the panel speaking about withstanding arson attacks, but I hadn’t realized the scale of what they must have gone through (below), especially since it had happened multiple times. It’s hard to see in photos, but there’s an entire underground level underneath the structure in the last photo that had been completely destroyed.
After visiting the Art Institute (which was incredible), we headed back to the University to work on our projects for a couple hours. We were primarily working in a graduate residence hall, which was beautiful and very clearly geared toward learning in its design. Knowing that we were required to present our project the next afternoon, we were all pretty geared up to work. At that point, people in our group had started developing ideas of specific things they wanted to focus on, so we created a skeleton of a presentation from our collaborative “emotional vomit” document and broke into individual work on our topics. We came back together an hour later to share and give feedback, which was such a respectful and valuable process for me to go through, and then hopped onto the bus to head back to the hotel.
That last night before our big presentation was pretty special because we got to spend time with our entire group in a less professional manner. We were still working on the project, but we were working in a hotel room, wearing sweatpants, eating hummus, and sharing our favorites artists and bands and movies. It was really wonderful to get to know everyone a little better on that level while still be productive on something we were passionate about.
Turns out that 48 hours isn’t that long of a time to develop a “pitch” project. We (fortunately) got a few hours before our presentation to finalize everything, which mostly consisted of rehearsing in order to get closer to fifteen minutes of talking. I think our first run-through was almost thirty. Our specific project was titled the “Arts, Resources, and Opportunities Initiative” or “ARO.”
The logo above is what that brainstorming session the day before had turned into, and we were all blown away by the work the graphic designers in our group had done. I think one of the most important things this entire conference has drilled into me is the importance of strengths-based leadership and work. Rather than trying to develop our weaknesses (not that it’s not important), we each worked on tasks that we could simultaneously challenge ourselves and do well with. Our graphic designers created a stunning logo and presentation with beautiful symbolism, our human development major focused on defining the need for this project on a personal level, our business major created a timeline and documentation of unique aspects, and so on. It allowed us to all work cohesively while staying engaged, which is probably the only reason we actually got the project done in 48 hours.
Our presentation went really well (despite the nerves that came from being chosen to go first), and then we got to relax through eight more amazing and well-articulated ideas. I am continually impressed by the sheer power of collaboration, especially in groups like this. We got to hear from the Dean at the University, and we were all mesmerized by his intelligence, kindness, and selfless accomplishments. I met so many people on this trip who just want to see others succeed, and spend their whole lives building up on that. It’s beautiful.
We spent the last night celebrating at the University of Michigan Museum of Art, which was having an event similar to DAM’s “Untitled Fridays” with free admission and live music. There was a really cool, interactive exhibit with several small mirrors hanging in front of a television showing a live feed of what was happening in front of it, which is how I ended up with the terrifying photo of Sydney below.
The rest of the night was spent getting to know everyone else a little better, realizing just how much we had in common, making sure we had ways to stay in touch, and lamenting over how early we had to wake up the next morning. That turned into something positive, though, when we were able to meet up with some members of our group at the airport for one last breakfast before flying home after an enlightening couple of days.
After enrolling in a “Music Cities” themed class last Fall, I just thought I’d be getting to meet and talk with a bunch of people I admired in the music industry. The class has developed into more of a community on its own, and it’s led to so many incredible opportunities like getting to attend the Music Cities 2015 Conference in DC, getting an internship I love (that turned into a job I love), and now getting to attend the a2ru Conference in Michigan with some truly incredible people. I’m incredibly grateful for everything.