YpsiWrites, a nonprofit community writing center, has created art and writing tours across Ypsilanti to encourage participants to explore the city and express their creativity through thought-provoking writing prompts.
YpsiWrites partnered with the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA) to create three walking tours that highlight public art and architecture throughout the city. The tours are located in Depot Town, downtown Ypsilanti, and EMU’s campus.
Cathy Fleischer and Ann Blakeslee, the co-founders of YpsiWrites, worked with Grace VanderVliet, the curator for museum learning and teaching at UMMA, to develop this project. A team of volunteers scouted public art and architecture locations around Ypsilanti last winter and then developed the writing prompts. Fleischer said the tours are accessible to people of all ages.
“We were trying to make everything super fun and just something that would be appealing to people of all ages, so that you could really look at the art seriously, but you could also look at it imaginatively and creatively,” Fleischer said. “Some of [the prompts] are real whimsical, some of them are a little bit more serious, but they’re all over.”
Participants are encouraged to share their writings online to be featured on YpsiWrites’ website, or to request feedback from one of their volunteers. Alyssa Allen, a graduate assistant, said that the main goal of the tours is to inspire creativity in the community.
“It’s completely...a build-your-own experience,” Allen said. “It can be as serious of a writing project as you want it to, or if you just want to walk around with friends and talk about the prompts and jot notes down, that’s completely fine, too. The goal is really to just become connected with the creativity that’s in Ypsilanti and to use writing as a way to do that.”
One of the highlighted art pieces in Depot Town was created by students at Ypsilanti Community Schools. The display of over 50 students’ artwork is titled “Public Education” and was originally created for an exhibition at the U.S. Department of Education. It was not displayed in Washington D.C. due to pandemic restrictions.
YpsiWrites has another summer community outreach program called the Mystery Maker Challenge, which provides four themed packets to create unique mystery stories. The download links for the writing packets are available on YpsiWrites’ website, and print versions are available at all three of the Ypsilanti District Library’s locations. A packet for children is also available.
“If you're really into mystery, or maybe you’re just into writing in different genres, it’s a packet that helps walk you through the different steps of character development, setting the scene, and then the different plot moments,” Allen said. “You just pick your packet and then based on that, it will guide you through writing your very own mystery.”
YpsiWrites was founded in fall 2019 as a collaboration between the Office of Campus and Community Writing at EMU, the Ypsilanti District Library, and 826michigan, a nonprofit that helps school-aged children develop writing skills. YpsiWrites offers one-on-one tutoring, support materials, and workshops, along with community outreach programs, such as the writing tours.
“It’s based on the idea that we believe everyone is a writer and that writing matters to everyone,” Fleischer said.
For more information about YpsiWrites and how to get involved, visit their website.