UMS teams with Ypsilanti in arts partnership at Freighthouse


The University Musical Society and city of Ypsilanti have announced a new, two-year partnership that will result in arts programming for Ypsilanti residents, families and schoolchildren beginning with a weeklong pilot program this month.

Subsequent residencies will run for four weeks with expanded programming for the Ypsilanti community.


A community-informed programming process is the catalyst for these dynamic residencies, activating the unique and historic civic space for performances, arts learning and participation, and creative exploration.

“We are delighted to partner with the University Musical Society in this new way, with UMS serving as a resident arts partner for our community,” said Christopher Jacobs, Ypsilanti’s community development director.

“What really impressed us when UMS came forward with this idea was that they were putting the Ypsilanti community first and foremost, thinking about how they could share their resources to build community in, through and around the arts.”

UMS President Matthew VanBesien said the arts presenter is thrilled to be working with the city to develop a new model for programming residencies at the Ypsilanti Freighthouse, which was built in 1878 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Sites.

Located next to Frog Island Park on the north side of Depot Town, the Freighthouse originally was a distribution center for rail-bound goods, and is now owned and operated by the city of Ypsilanti as a gathering space for many community and private events.

“We envision a deep commitment to the community of Ypsilanti that will include performances by local, regional and national artists, workshops and opportunities for the community to participate in art-making activities, and special activities designed for families and school groups,” VanBesien said.

“We see our April and September residencies as a way to animate a community space while still preserving the other roles of the Freighthouse throughout the year, including its use as a warming center in the winter and a cherished venue for weddings in the spring and summer.”

As part of the Freighthouse residency, UMS will prioritize access for Ypsilanti residents through both early registration for free ticketed events and a pay-what-you-wish structure for live performances. Tickets and registration are available online.

“The city of Ypsilanti is thrilled to welcome UMS to the Freighthouse and we look forward to supporting this work and building a lasting partnership that will support the Ypsilanti Arts Community,” said Frances McMullan, Ypsilanti city manager.

These residencies are a natural extension of UMS’ engagement in Ypsilanti over the past several years.

At the Freighthouse, UMS presented the International Contemporary Ensemble in a “Secret Show” in 2018 and dancer Caleb Teicher in 2019, as well as an interactive event related to Parable Path A2Ypsi, which was developed in conjunction with last season’s theatrical presentation of “The Parable of the Sower” by Toshi Reagon.

Additional partnerships have included free “You Can Dance” workshops at the Riverside Arts Center, a post-pandemic series of workshops for teens with Corner Health, and providing dance instruction for summer camps at the Parkridge Community Center.

“As a relatively new Ypsilanti resident myself, I’ve enjoyed making new connections in the community and hearing directly from people at the two community planning forums that we hosted about the upcoming pilot residency,” said Cayenne Harris, UMS vice president of learning and engagement.

 “Our goal is to create community-driven programming that responds to the needs and interests of Ypsilanti residents, co-creating a set of activities that are relevant and accessible.

“This first residency in April is a pilot program that will just hint at what’s possible. And what we learn in April, alongside ongoing dialogue with the public, will help inform the monthlong residency coming in September.”


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