The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation awards a $1,000 grant to First Fridays Ypsilanti for the expansion of their monthly, multi-venue arts walk

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The Trustees of the micro-philanthropic group A2Awesome today announced the award of their 24th $1,000 grant toward the creation of awesomeness in the Ann Arbor – Ypsilanti area.

The cash award was given to Kayj Michelle and Elize Jekabson (pictured above) of First Fridays Ypsilanti for the further marketing and development of what has already been an increasingly successful series that brings visual and performing artists into half a dozen different venues in Ypsilanti’s downtown, including Beezy’s Cafe, Bona Sera and the Ugly Mug.

“Last fall, those of us on the First Fridays Ypsilanti (FFY) coordinating committee hit a wall,” said Michelle. “We realized that, if we were going to grow First Fridays into something really special, we were going to need to hire a graphic designer, launch a website, and have posters printed which laid out all of our various venues. Word of mouth has been great, but we’d gotten to point where we needed to formally promote what we’re doing downtown. With this grant, we’ll be able to do that… We’ll be able to better get the word out in the surrounding communities that Ypsi has this free, reoccurring, family-friendly event.”

According to Omari Rush, the Chair of A2Awesome, “The Trustees of the Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation were impressed with what Kayj and Elize, and the other First Fridays volunteers, had been able to do with no funding whatsoever, and we wanted to given them an opportunity to see what they could accomplish with a little seed capital. They have big plans on growing First Fridays, and we’re enthusiastic about helping them along that path.”

With this grant, A2Awesome has invested a total of $24,000 in the local community since its inception, making possible everything from an elementary education project involving bike-powered lighting systems to the launch of Ypsilanti’s Bona Sera Cafe.

“What’s really cool about this grant,” says A2Awesome Dean Mark Maynard, “is that Bona Sera played such an integral part in getting First Fridays off the ground in Ypsilanti. It demonstrates, I think, the cumulative nature of what it is that we’re doing. In some small way, the Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation helped get Bona Sera off the ground, and, right from the start, they proved to be a positive force in downtown Ypsilanti. Among other things, they fought to launch First Fridays, and, now, over a year later, we’re in a position where we’re helping that initiative grow. And, in another year, I’m sure there will be even more awesomeness sprouting forth as a result of this investment. Awesomeness begets awesomeness.”

“What we’ve been able to accomplish with relatively small, targeted investments,” says A2Awesome member Tanya Luz, “is nothing short of amazing. Our community is full of motivated, talented and brilliant people who just need a little financial help to get their visions off the ground, improve our collective quality of life, and help move our community in a really exciting direction.”

Ypsilanti’s next First Friday event, which is scheduled to take place on Friday, March 7, will present art events at six separate locations. The Ugly Mug Cafe will be featuring artwork by Ezra Livingston and music by Avery Feral. Beezy’s Cafe will be hosting 826Michigan’s student creative writings and performances by EMU’s Forensics. Bona Sera Cafe will have artwork by Dan Hussong and music by Nicole P’Simer. B-24’s Espresso Bar will have art by Brad Ruff and Ashley Stamper, and music by Nick Zomparelli. FLY Children’s Art Center will be hosting a Creative Connections presentation by the Arts Alliance. And the Riverside Arts Center’s Off-Center Gallery will be holding a closing reception for their show, “Six Artists,” presented by Ypsi Art Incubator. Along with the closing reception, YAI will also be hosting a series of Pecha Kucha talks. All events, which are free and open to the public, will run between 6:00 PM and 10:00 PM. Performance times will vary by location.

[An interview with this month's winners can be found here.]

[Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation grants are made on a monthly basis. All people with great, inspiring ideas are encouraged to submit their proposals through the Awesome Foundation site.]