CultureMakers:

Investing In Individual Artists

In 2018, AAACF partnered with CultureSource to launch CultureMakers, a diverse group of young people who are engaging in and crafting a new framework for what contemporary culture looks like in Washtenaw County. 

Supported through AAACF's Cultural Economic Development (CED) grant program, CultureMakers is an effort to make sure our arts & culture sector is inclusive and highlights the range of possibilities for artistic identities. The cohort is composed of professional artists, people engaged in creative expression, people supportive of the arts & culture sector, and people interested in engaging the arts as a catalyst for community change. 

Read more about each of the cohort members and their experiences below. We are excited about what has already taken place through this partnership, and we look forward to sharing more in the months to come! For more on our CED work, check out the open funding opportunity for the "In Our Neighborhood" grant program.

Laura Amtower

Career Description: Director of Community Action Network (CAN) Art & Design. Teaching Artist/Administrator & Community Activist.

Why are you involved with CultureMakers? I'm excited to connect with like-minded professionals who are interested in collaborating and sharing talents.

What's been your favorite outing or part of CultureMakers? I enjoy catching happy hours together where we get to chat about our current projects and learn more about each other.

What excites you about arts & culture in Washtenaw County? The constant buzz of local creatives and their passion to continue growing and strengthening the community.

Jamall Bufford

Career Description: Project Specialist for Washtenaw My Brother’s Keeper, Hip-Hop recording artist.

Why are you involved with CultureMakers? Omari Rush invited me and it’s been a great experience. I enjoy talking about the things that inspire me the most, with people that have similar interests as I do.

What's been your favorite outing or part of CultureMakers? I enjoyed the Jay Electronica show, but any time we get to sit with each other and community build is great.

What excites you about arts & culture in Washtenaw County? The young people that are creating in Washtenaw County excites me, and helping them in any way that can.

Viranel Clerard

Career Description: Archivist, Founder of The Detroit Museum of Public Art.

Why are you involved with CultureMakers? I am very involved in the metro Detroit art scene and have lived in Washtenaw County on and off for 5 years now.

What's been your favorite outing or part of CultureMakers? My Favorite CultureMakers event so far was the UMich Stamps talk by Carrie Mae Weems. It was entertaining, educational, and she shamelessly touch on debatably provocative topics with poise and charisma.

What excites you about arts & culture in Washtenaw County? With all of the new development and changes happening in the county comes new opportunities for cultural projects and room for new voices and faces to enter the scene. Washtenaw has been one of the main hubs for art and culture in SE Michigan and surrounding communities catching up forces innovation and new concepts in the county.

Jon Cook

Career Description: I use feedback and insights to make Google Search more useful for users and businesses across the globe.

Why are you involved with CultureMakers? CultureMakers was an opportunity to dig deeper into my passion for the arts alongside other members of the community. Talking with the cohort has offered an incredibly expansive view of what Washtenaw county has to offer.

What's been your favorite outing or part of CultureMakers? The CultueMaker happy hours have been a highlight, because I appreciate the perspectives that all of us share in our conversations. Hearing about past music tours, recent art acquisitions, personal projects from members of our group has expanded my awareness for the exuberance that exists within Washtenaw country.

What excites you about arts & culture in Washtenaw County? Washtenaw County has so much to offer; some days it can be difficult to choose what I want to do! I fondly remember spending a few hours at the Water Hill Music Fest in previous years, then relaxing with a walk through the UMMA galleries, before finally stopping to eat dinner at Jamaican Jerk Pit. Being able to consistently fill my days with so many different experiences inspired me to contribute myself. I have shared my passions for dance to friends and members of the community through classes and community lessons.

Melissa Coppola

Career Description: Co-Founder of Girls Rock Detroit, Doctoral Candidate in Piano Pedagogy & Performance, Musician/Pianist/Teacher, Drummer/Vocalist/Songwriter in the band Junglefowl.

Why are you involved with CultureMakers? I am an educator, musician, and organizer - being able to connect with like-minded people while taking part in new experiences together is awesome! CultureMakers brings together powerhouse artists and activists to start conversations and make memories. It's inspiring.

What's been your favorite outing or part of CultureMakers? The 2019 Annual Dance for Mother Earth Pow Wow at Skyline High School in Ann Arbor - I've never experienced anything like it!

What excites you about arts & culture in Washtenaw County? Washtenaw County is rich with art to see, food to eat, and experiences to be had - there's always something to do!

Andre Dowell

Career Description: Chief of Artist Engagement, Sphinx Organization.

Why are you involved with CultureMakers? The opportunity to connect and discuss arts with so many like-minded individuals outside of the regular workplace is an amazing opportunity. To be able to have a relaxed environment to have conversations about the arts sector that aren't specifically related to getting a task done helps the creative and collaborative process.

What's been your favorite outing or part of CultureMakers? I've enjoyed my time really getting to know and to network with different colleagues who are passionate about the arts and its sustainability. I've had some great conversations to simply brainstorm ideas of how to make and maintain creative art spaces.

What excites you about arts & culture in Washtenaw County? I'm especially excited to see the growth within the arts sector in Washtenaw Country. Not only do we have amazing organizations bringing in different types of art, but we have such a vibrant arts community that resides locally.

Marquan Jackson

Career Description: Director of Supportive Services for Low Income Households.

Why are you involved with CultureMakers?

What's been your favorite outing or part of CultureMakers? The concerts have been the highlight of CultureMakers.

What excites you about arts & culture in Washtenaw County? The county is being thoughtful about creating space for art & culture to be more inclusive.

Jenny Jones

Career Description: I am the founder and owner Sadie Madden Music, a music management consulting and publishing company based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The goal of my business is to accentuate the giftings of musicians, to make known the opportunities that venues have for musicians, and to bring about authentic relationships between the artist, the community, and local businesses.

Why are you involved with CultureMakers? I wanted to continue making an impact within my community for the sake of art. In addition, I also wanted to seek out others in the realm of art to make connections, be inspired and challenged, but see how I could continue to help our landscape - there are still so many amazing musical and artistic things that Washtenaw County residents do not know of, so they cannot enjoy. I want to help change this.

What's been your favorite outing or part of CultureMakers? A few things, the Pow-Wow outing was an incredible experience for me to be able to share space with Native American culture and history. It also helped me to remember to be cognizant of culture, honor, and respect of a people so taken advantage of. Another favorite part has been the ease in which we can converse. Even if we have not met each other, we interact knowing we speak the same language (art) and have a desire to work together and collaborate to create something everyone can enjoy.

What excites you about arts & culture in Washtenaw County? What excites me the most is that there are endless possibilities because there are people just waking up to their potential to be part of the scene and/or make an active contribution to those already involved in it. Really, anything is possible when a few people think of something they want to accomplish...especially when it benefits the whole of community - really great fun!

Daniel Lee

Career Description: Co-owner of Tomukun Noodle Bar/Korean BBQ

Why are you involved with CultureMakers? To have a better understanding of what culture is in Ann Arbor/Washtenaw County.

What's been your favorite outing or part of CultureMakers? So far I have only been to one outing, The Dance for Mother Earth Powwow @ Skyline High School

What excites you about arts & culture in Washtenaw County? The activeness of performing arts in Ann Arbor and observing creations by local artists.

Channing Mathews

Career Description: PhD Candidate in the Combined Program of Education and Psychology at the University of Michigan

Why are you involved with CultureMakers? In my research I study ethnic-racial identity and how that relates to the ways that youth of color think about and challenge social inequities. I often find that identity is expressed in art in ways that words, books, or even conversations can really capture. Art often serves as my inspiration to push myself to think outside the box about the connections I make between how youth understand themselves in relation to the world around them.

What's been your favorite outing or part of CultureMakers? My favorite outing so far with CultureMakers was at Cultivate where we were checking out the youth's art. It was the first time I felt like I really got to know some of the members of culture makers and we had time to really just sit down and build a relationship with one another.

What excites you about arts & culture in Washtenaw County? What excites me is how much it is valued here, and how many different types of arts and artists are accessible here. Being connected to the University, I constantly get exposed to different opportunities to engage art and culture, which is really important given how insular a PhD program/dissertation writing can be.

Emilio Rodriguez

Career Description: UMS Community Programs Manager and Independent Theatre Artist.

Why are you involved with CultureMakers? I want to network with more young leaders in the arts and culture scene all over southeast Michigan.

What's been your favorite outing or part of CultureMakers? I liked when we went to Hathaway's Hideout because it introduced me to a new space and we also got to hear what people's varying interests were.

What excites you about arts & culture in Washtenaw County? There are a lot of people eager for arts and culture so if you create it, they will come!

Calvin Rye

Career Description: Graphic Designer / Part time design teacher.

Why are you involved with CultureMakers? Omari and I have collaborated in the past and I love expanding and supporting the arts scene in Ann Arbor and Michigan.

What's been your favorite outing or part of CultureMakers? I haven't been able to make it out to many, but the museum outing was wonderful.

What excites you about arts & culture in Washtenaw County? Michigan, and perhaps Midwesterners, embrace subtlety and texture in the arts, and beauty is accepted as a focus for art, which isn't always the case as beauty can be misinterpreted as a frivolous goal. Also, there is a nice focus on nature and community.

Avery Williamson

Career Description: Artist and Design Operations Manager at Duo Security.

Why are you involved with CultureMakers? I am a part of CultureMakers because I enjoy meeting new people and attending different types of arts events. This groups challenges me to get out of my comfort zone and learn more about Washtenaw County.

What's been your favorite outing or part of CultureMakers? I've enjoyed all of the outings because they've introduced me to different types of music, visual art and poetry. My favorite outing was an artist talk and performance by Carrie Mae Weems.

What excites you about arts & culture in Washtenaw County? Washtenaw county offers a great mix of local, national and global arts & culture. There's always something to see and hear if you're open to new experiences.

Megan Winkel

Career Description: Arts Administrator and Curator--Currently building a new multidisciplinary arts program that will be implemented in multiple sites throughout Michigan as Arts Program Manager for Henry Ford Health System.

Why are you involved with CultureMakers? CultureMakers provides an opportunity to connect with my fellow arts admins and learn about their work. There are so many cool projects happening within this talented group and I always leave our meet-up's feeling inspired.

What's been your favorite outing or part of CultureMakers? Cultivate, First Fridays Ypsi - A beautiful evening outdoors with great conversation.

What excites you about arts & culture in Washtenaw County? I love the diversity and range of experiences that are offered by our creative community. In one weekend you can see an international dance performance at UMS, an exhibit of artwork created through community engagement workshops, and a neighborhood art crawl.

Mike Wolf

Career Description: Exhibitions Coordinator at the Ann Arbor Art Center.

Why are you involved with CultureMakers? CultureMakers provides a great opportunity for arts & culture leaders to connect, learn and collaborate.

What's been your favorite outing or part of CultureMakers? I've really enjoyed learning more about Washtenaw County through my conversations with fellow CultureMakers. There is a lot of opportunity for collaboration and I'm excited to work with them on future projects.

What excites you about arts & culture in Washtenaw County? I'm excited by all of the potential I see and the opportunity to work alongside my fellow CultureMakers.

Not pictured: Melvin Henley and Diamond Symone

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