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New Arts Venues Like Your Own Living Room

New Arts Venues Like Your Own Living Room image
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ART CULTURE attracts many who are uncomfortable with the normal boundaries - those who wish to explore beyond or perhaps just bend the normal definitions. Normal places of business are unfriendly to the personal creative spirit of the arts, but people seeking refuge from the impersonality of mass culture can now find innovative businesses which try to make you feel like you are at home in your own living room, with the arts providing a natural focus. Ann Arbor's Cafes are growing as places for people to connect in a comfortable atmosphere where you can just hang out and not feel obligated to leave when you are done buying things. Not Another Cafe (NAC), which opened April 26 in the South University space left vacant by the old Community News Center, is going even further in this direction. In a flyer they say "If the oldfashioned town square could be reinvented (yes, in some ways, it can't) we'd like to try. We're interested in the creation of a place where anyone can feel like this place in some way belongso them....lf you're not as comfortable here as you can be at home, please help us make it that way for you." If NAC is like a home, it is an artist's home, open til 4 am every night. Besides the diverse menu, there is a curtained stage area with lights, sound, a video projector and enough space for live bands and theater. The decor is rich victorian post-modern, with lots of deep color, varied textures, eclectic and non-uniform lighting and furnishings (including several couches), and mirrors and spraypainted graffiti-style objects mixed with 1 9th century prints in gilt frames. Games, books and magazines are free for the using, and there is an "aquarium" - a glass-walled room for smokers with its own door to the outside. Events (all free) focus on the arts, with DJs Thursdays and Open Mie Fridays, and movies, bands and theater scheduled for times like 1 1 -4 am. Unlike the other venues in this article, NAC is too big to totally escape the isolating energy of the crowd, but we'll see how it develops. Down the street from nac is another new lower-level store. Underworld, which specializes in new & used science fiction, gaming, comics, cards and horror. Visitors can sit and read, play games, or just hang out, all for no charge. Manager John Schippers says "I want to créate a community around the store," and the gamers are making themselves at home there especially in the evening. Underworld represents genuine cutting edge art not accepted by the USA art establishment. Comics (or "graphic novéis") are a serious art form recognized as such in Europe since the 60s. Even more recently , role playing games (RPGs) have been maturing as a collaborative art form like film and improvisational theater. The players are like actors writing their own story under the direction of the Game Master (GM), who is the artistic author creating the fictional reality of the game in the same sense that the Director is the artist or "auteur" of film. There is plenty of bad art in the gaming world, but a well-run game can be more intense and more personal than a good movie or novel. Upcoming free seminars include Eric Todd, a "world-class GM," who on Sunday June 4, noon-6 pm, teaches "Amber," the innovative game that has done away with dice as a means of resolving events and relies more on real-world conflict resolution and the aesthetic sense of the participants. An "Advanced Dungeons and Dragons" seminar willbegiven Sunday June 25, 1 pm, and "Learning to Play 'Rage'," (the werewolf vs. werewolf card game) will be taught by Chris Gadulka, Sunday June 11,1 pm. The popular card game "Magie" available at Underworld has a new slant on art- painters can come up with their own ideas forcards, which are then published as collectible trading cards so that each player can assemble their own custom deck. The paintings cover a wide range f rom fantasy to sci-fi to horror, and artists have a new popular market to pursue at their own initiative. I have been ing opening receptions in the Visual Arts Calendar (below) because they connect people in the art community. Openings are commercial promotional events, but they are also social events where friends and potential customers mingle, and the goods on display take second stage to the people enjoying free food and drink offered in the spirit of hospitality. This is even more so at Galerie Jacques and Clare Spitier Works of Art, where the gallery is in the owner's private home. Besides openings, Galerie Jacques has hosted a wider arts community in their "First Fridays" poetry readings. At the recent "Homage to Artaud" 40 or 50 people in the open second floor gallery space were treated to lectures, poetry and a puppet show in tribute to the life of Antonin Artaud, French poet and actor who first contributed brilliantly to modern art with his concept of the "Theatre of Cruelty" and then was victimized by modern psychiatry's enforcers of conformity with over 50 electroshock sessions. French artist Sanfourche actually knew Artaud, and his paintings relating to Artaud were on exhibit. Among the speakers were poet and Metro Times editor Thom Jurek, DJ and writer Arwulf Arwulf , and MauriceGreenia, a Detroit writer and artist who illustrated the Theatre of Cruelty with a hilarious puppet show where all characters, good and bad, were eventually abducted from the stage by a "giant" lobster. For nearly two years The Gathering and the music jams at Griff 's Jams has been creating a community in the spirit of artistic gatherings of the past like the Keats-Byron-Shellygroup in the 19th century. For The Gathering small groups of self-invited people discuss life and art and play music from 8 pm into the night every 2nd and 4th Thursday in the old AM radio studio on the third floor above Selo-Shevel on the corner of Liberty and Main. Jams are generally on the remaining Thursdays. You are invited to bring your own food and drink to a very relaxed, informal atmosphere that s "not structured by restaurant ei rcumstances." The suggested donation of $2.50 reflects the fact that non-profits still need to pay the rent, and The Gathering is funded by participants, not taxes. The Green Room n Ypsiianti s another friendly space featuring a very homey second-hand PopuluxArt Deco atmosphere. The Not Another Cafe people came n to the Green Room regularly for a month, checking out the ambience before they created theirown place. Catering to the all-ages crowd with nonalcoholic drinks and low cover charges for innovative rock & roll, the Green Room also has visual art and wild second-hand clothes for sale. People there don't have little bubbles of privacy that you don't dare break. The Green Room has a series of events with free coffee (while it lasts) where they don't charge admission: in June they are featuring The Palm Reading" open mie poetry hosted by John Unger every other Tuesday, June 6 & 20; "Acoustic Open Mie" hosted by Jo on the other Tuesdays, June 1 3 & 27; every Wednesday "Ambient Music Night" hosted by "Trópica"; and every Thursday "16mm Cartoon Animation" from the collection of Steve Stanchill. The Green Room would love to get a video projector, especially for Ambient Night, since many ambient artists also combine video with their music. All of these venues want you feel like family instead of like an also-ran in the rat race, and art is a natural ally in this quest. Not Another Cafe, 1301 S. University. Contact Eiad or Garrett for bookings, 665-661 1 Underworld, 1202 S. University, 998-0547 Galerie Jacques, 414 Wesley, 665-9889 Griff's Jams, 106 E. Liberty, 761-MUSIC The Gathering, Tim Mantyla, 665-7620 The Green Room, 206 W. Michigan Ave., Ypsiianti, 482-8830 ■■FiyFïiïïïHTniïHBi


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