Ask Ann Arbor City Council to Consider Arts Proposals for ARPA Funds

Ask Ann Arbor City Council to Consider Arts Proposals for ARPA Funds

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NOW studios started this petition

Ann Arbor received $24 million in American Rescue Plan Act Funds

If you think some of that money should go to fund art programs—especially those bridging art and mental health + art and wellness—please sign and let Ann Arbor City Council know that you want them to consider proposals from arts-based organizations.

For reference, below is a proposal from Express Your Yes Foundation, which owns and operates NOW Studios in downtown Ann Arbor.

 

Express Your Yes Foundation Proposal for American Rescue Plan Act Funds

This proposal intends to improve the community of Ann Arbor by funding the Arts. We are asking for $345,000 of the ARPA monies granted to the city of Ann Arbor. Art programs improve mental health and when coupled with a supportive environment that encourages individuality it can completely transform and bolster a community. NOW Studios supports many art forms, including healing spiritual practices, many forms of performance and the fine arts. It is tailored to serve the more marginalized communities of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ as well as providing inclusive and beneficial programming for all, including families and children.


There is a lot of untapped, dormant, creative potential as well as heartache and trauma, unpacked privilege and inequity in our community and across planet Earth and a small portion of this $24 million federal stimulus could make an impact on the mind, body, spirit, heart, pocket, and overall outlook of countless residents in Washtenaw County. We have already partnered with several organizations including UMS and the University of Michigan—Ann Arbor’s largest institution—to host interns. Empowering youth to take accountability and make actionable moves for the greater good: we intend to serve in this way for the foreseeable future of our foundation.


Our 501(c)3 nonprofit Express Your Yes Foundation currently has a brick-n-mortar space called NOW Studios in downtown Ann Arbor. NOW studios is an underground political playhouse, venue, multi-modal production company, immersive gallery, dojo temple, hub for civic and community engagement, and creative social lab.


Perhaps peace, equity, justice, happiness, creativity, abundance and hope for all is possible. At Express Your Yes Foundation and NOW Studios, we say “Creation is war’s Kryptonite” (read: creation is our solution to destruction).


Our Proposal seeks funding to both assist and expand our current efforts which work in harmony with the following proposals:

  • Universal Basic Income Pilot  —  $2,300,000
  • Community Policing/Unarmed Response  —  $2,000,000
  • Homeless Transitional Housing  —   $1,000,000
  • Property Acquisition for Affordable Housing  —  $3,500,000

While these efforts aim to provide a ground floor of meeting basic needs, our proposal aims to move beyond surviving into the realm of thriving. Research shows that having a social safety net is important but it’s not enough if we want our people to exist outside of survival mode.

Housing, a basic income, and unarmed response are vitally necessary. And just as necessary is the need for well-equipped, well-funded, well-staffed safe space to create and explore and dream and heal and be seen and get said and begin to reimagine a life in the system that so many feel out of.


The $24 million federal stimulus money requires the funding to go towards equity-focused services. Funds must address systemic public health and economic challenges that have contributed to the unequal impact of the pandemic. Additional flexibility is given to address health and education disparities, and to promote healthy environments. There is further mention of behavioral healthcare services, including mental health, and substance misuse treatment, crisis intervention, and related services.


To us, this all points towards creativity, art, healing, therapy, spirituality, space and time to explore oneself, build empathy, and connect with peers and mentors that mirror what we wish to see and be, and challenge us to grow out of what we need to leave behind.


There’s a proven science behind art therapy, behind being empowered to explore, create, play, heal, grow—letting go to make real change. We aim to help the marginalized communities of Ann Arbor turn grief into gasoline through creative, spiritual, and communal endeavors!


Our proposal includes a request for funds to hire (3) full-time staff members, a year’s worth of rent and utilities, an operating budget for non-traditional therapeutic practitioners, performers, and multi-modal artists to create regular, ongoing programming, classes, events, services, time and space; as well as a budget for supplies.

 

YEAR 1 PROPOSED BUDGET

  • Rent + utilities at NOW Studios: $18,000
    Development Director / Fundraiser —full-time position—$56,000 + health benefits[1]
  • Community Engagement Manager—full-time position—$56,000 + health benefits[1]
  • Director of Programming & Events—full-time position—$56,000 + health benefits[1]
  • Budget for revolving restorative healing, artists, performers, therapists—$52,000
  • Budget for supplies—art supplies, instruments, healthy snacks, etc.—$30,000
  • Budget for regular programming, shows, talks, events, general fund—$41,920

Total funding requested for Year 1:  $345,000


Note: the proposed budget does not include a larger brick-n-mortar space, which is eventually required to accommodate the full spectrum of the community whose lives could be enhanced by this foundation. Ideally, we would procure a larger, publicly-owned space in downtown Ann Arbor. We are very open to exploring those possibilities now or in the future. 


In the interim, our landlord is open to offering a below-market-rate rental on the former Silvio’s Restaurant space for a 1-2 year lease with the city at roughly $4,500 per month. If given the option to procure this larger, street-level space we could serve more of the community and be more visible. This would increase the total cost of our proposal to a total of approximately $400,000.


Express Your Yes Foundation would like to give opportunities to the public. In order for a foundation to offer meaningful, tangible, life-affirming, and life-changing choices, we require resources. In order for individuals to thrive, they need access to jobs, internships, peers, and opportunities. Given space and time to explore oneself and process inspiration and trauma through creativity, Ann Arbor—and the county of Washtenaw—will set an example of mental and social care for the nation and the world. The first step is to create and fund that space. We’ve done the former, and we’re asking for your help with the latter.


NOW Studios is not just for those most at-risk, but a genuine place for all of us to meet—all the disparate factions of Ann Arbor—students and the larger community, the very rich and the very poor, the very old and the very young, the very liberal and the most conservative among us , left brains and right brains, queer people and straight, a place where all beings feel welcome.


Our mission is to build and be a bridge between the disparate factions of society.

To offer an inspiring space where we can meet, have dialogue and create content;

Where we can produce theatre and events;

Have classes and playtime and regularly scheduled programming;

Yoga and meditation and non-traditional therapies and practices;

Where we can facilitate intergroup dialogues and truly hear and see each other —

The system maintains a binary us-versus-them status quo because we are taught to hide from and fear others. At the quantum level, we are deeply entangled, some might say we are One. Ann Arbor could benefit from a public space where that becomes readily and regularly apparent.


Our movement is full of dynamic entrepreneurial spirits, creatives, thought leaders from marginalized communities, and social scientists experimenting at the edges of the norm, exploring outside the rubric, bridging the world of tomorrow with the realities of today.


We’re building an ever-growing coalition of individuals who believe we are at an existential precipice—our actions now will have impacts for years because the pandemic has pushed us into a potent period of radically redefining our priorities . 


We currently have several part-time staff, interns from the University of Michigan working for credit, dozens of volunteers, and a long list of performers and healers and dreamers who have dedicated their lives to love, light and creativity.


But the reality is that too many of us are working for free because we believe in a better vision. Serious funding is required to build a permanent infrastructure that not only reaches people, but genuinely changes lives.


Our mission is to megaphone the margins. We will deploy art and creation to conjure love and light for truly meaningful change and healing to the city of Ann Arbor.

  • Thousands of antidepressant prescriptions are written for babies under the age of 1;
  • 2/3s of Americans readily admit to being depressed;
  • The wage gap between the haves and have-nots has never been larger;
  • $1 in $80 on planet earth goes towards America’s defense budget

Why? We believe it is because we have not doubled down on our efforts to unshackle creation as an a serious alternative to destruction . Dr. Martin Luther King famously said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” At NOW Studios, and through the Express Your Yes Foundation, we intend to drive out destruction through creation.


It is imperative that this $24-million-dollar conversation includes outlets: creative, spiritual, and therapeutic outlets — not just for those most at risk but for all members of society.


We appreciate your consideration and are open to any further discussion, including providing supplemental information and hosting a public conversation in our space.


Gratefully, creatively yours,

The Entire Team at Express Your Yes!

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