Art & Music

By Lisa Howard

MANY PEOPLE DREAM ABOUT MAKING A LIVING AS AN ARTIST, but Michelle Ouellette and Chad Thompson know exactly what it’s like. They created their animation studio, Yeah Haus, back in 2013 and have been artist-ing ever since.

“We thought, ‘We’ll just do this until we run out of jobs.’ And we still have jobs,” says Michelle. She and Chad were both working at ad agencies but wanted to forge their own path that would allow them to earn income as creatives and pursue their own artistic projects. “I’m most proud of our short films because you can watch them years later and they hold up,” Chad says. “They aren’t based on trends the way commercial work is.” Besides, purely personal projects are a chance to go outside of their usual lanes and learn something new.

Of course, building a successful small business – especially a creative studio takes time and determination. As Michelle and Chad point out, it’s easy to look at a finished product like a film or a book and not see all of the work that went into creating it. And it is work, even when it’s driven by passion and even when you can be choosy about who you work with. “I think a lot of being a creative comes down to how to not talk yourself out of continuing,” Chad says.

FORTUNATELY, HE AND MICHELLE HAVE ESTABLISHED A SOLID ROSTER of clients and also a go-to list of partners they can call whenever they need to work with a collaborator. In many cases, those clients and collaborators go back years. Likewise, Michelle and Chad are not only business partners but have been married for ten years, with two kids under the age of six. They know the nuances of how to best balance their personal and professional lives.

Michelle is the illustrator; in her previous life at the ad agency, she worked as a designer and 3D artist. Chad is the creative director. In BYH times (Before Yeah Haus), he worked in post-production doing motion graphics and editing.

Together, they’ve created mixed media projects, 2D and 3D animations, a swath of commercial works, and their own short films. “I love to draw! That’s all I want to do,” Michelle says. “If I can’t ever draw for myself, then what’s the point?” Chad agrees — every artist, he says, has “back-burner stuff,” the kind of projects that keep the fires of creativity burning bright. That’s why they purposely leave some space in their schedules to accommodate their filmmaking.

ONE OF THEIR SHORTS MADE IT INTO A FILM FESTIVAL IN CANNES! (Yes, they were able to see it screened live.) They count that along with their work for Adult Swim, Disney, and various LA film festivals as some of the highlights of their joint career.

Their tidy studio includes an audio room with all the tools Chad needs to do his sound design and editing while Michelle is busily sketching and illustrating in the adjoining room. They also tackle soundtracks – not only is Chad a musician, his brother was a touring musician and joins in the music-making.

Living in an inherently creative community like Ferndale also helps. “It’s easy to find a wizard guitarist on the other side of Woodward who’ll come over to record,” Chad says. But at the end of the day, what they treasure most is being able to collaborate and create with friendly, talented, and reciprocal partners. “It’s important to us that when we finish something, people are happy,” Michelle says. “We’ve found our little niche and we’re not stopping.”

https://yeahhaus.com | 248.835.0153 | hello@yeahhaus.com

By Lisa Howard

THIS ISN’T INKJET OR LASER PRINTING. IT ISN’T EVEN PICKING UP FULL-COLOR PHOTOS FROM CVS. This is meticulously rendered, high-end digital printing, the kind coveted by visual artists who want to fully showcase their work.

“Printing digital media is a high art,” says Karen Sanders. “It’s a combination of science and art, and it’s not easy to find a good printer anymore—somebody who truly knows what they’re doing is very rare. Larry is that person.”

The Larry she’s talking about is Larry Melkus of Fine Art Printing. He attended the Center for Creative Studies back when it was still called the Detroit Society of Arts & Crafts, studying photography with a focus on art.

Upon graduating, he went on to open his own photography studio and worked with commercial advertising clients, creating prints for trade shows, automotive companies, and other commercial entities. But, after about 30 years of commercial work, Larry decided to shift his specialty to the art world; nowadays, he works almost exclusively with visual artists.

“I can digitally scan anything I can get through the door and create a high-definition, color-corrected digital reproduction of that art and then make a print of it, whether the artwork is a sculpture or a 6’x10’ canvas,” says Larry.

HE CAN MAKE PRINTS OF DRAWINGS, PAINTINGS, SCULPTURES, collages, sketches – you name it. He can even transform relatively low-quality digital files into striking images, which is why he encourages anyone with beloved digital photos to let him work with those files. “As far as how the image can be presented and how big it can get, the limitations are more about the skills of the person making the prints rather than the size of the digital file itself,” he says, pointing out that today’s advanced digital tools allow him to capitalize on an image’s best features.

“Making prints sometimes seems to be of a thing of a past, yet it isn’t. When people see a completed print from a digital file, they get pretty excited about it,” Karen adds. She’s also a grad of CCS, although she eventually moved away from Michigan to Texas, where she taught digital media at the University of Texas for 15 years. About six years ago, she moved back to Detroit and reconnected with the art community here.

Then in November of 2021, she heard that Larry was looking for an assistant. As a one-man shop with a sterling reputation among artists, he was slammed with work. She applied for the job and landed her dream opportunity.

“I’ve had more engagement with the artist community in six months of working here than I had during the entire six years I’d been back in Detroit,” she says. “That’s because Larry takes the time to talk to people individually and helps them understand the process of making their art into a print. He educates people about what’s possible.”

That desire to help artists and the art-interested realize the potential of digital media attracts both local talent and artists from other states—Larry regularly works with clients from New York, Boston, and Texas as well as Metro Detroit artists. The materials he uses are durable, heavyweight canvases and art paper, the kind of archival material you see in galleries and museums. But whether he’s collaborating with a painter looking to document their work in the form of a book or a casual photographer who wants to make a cherished photo into a print, his goal remains the same: To create a compelling work of art.

732 Hilton Road, Ferndale | 248.571.0111 www.facebook.com/Fine.Art.Printing.MI

By Jenn Goedekke

GEORGE MONTRELLE IS A LOCAL MUSICIAN WHOSE SOULFUL SONGWRITING ENCOMPASSES a broad array of influences, from Allen Stone to Fall Out Boy, and more in between.

With an EP named LOVE UNFOLDING released on May 20th, 2022, Montrelle is expressing his “passion for music and who I am today. It ties everything together!” The EP comprises five songs that were independently recorded and produced. It marks a significant milestone in his musical career, which he describes as “a long journey – but I’m moving at a good pace!”

Montrelle began songwriting around 16 years of age. He comes from a creative, loving, and resourceful single-parent household. Often, he would listen to his siblings’ music collections, including soul, R&B, hip-hop, and gospel music. Since those early days, he has played some unique gigs and has formed a clear vision of his musical path.

Prior gigs have included the Willis Show Bar in Midtown Detroit; Otus Supply in Ferndale (‘Singers in the Round’); and the Axis Lounge within the MGM Grand in downtown Detroit.

Montrelle graduated from the Detroit Institute of Music Education (DIME) in 2020 and was awarded a Bachelor’s in Commercial Songwriting. There, he learned a lot about all aspects of the music industry, including the business culture and networking. He told me, “It felt good to finish the program. I wouldn’t trade it for the world!” He also auditioned for American Idol.

Please tell me more about LOVE UNFOLDING.

LOVE UNFOLDING is the first group of songs I’ve ever released that is self-recorded and self-produced. It represents the adoration and development of my path, my partner, my passion, and myself. It also symbolizes growth, joy, humility, challenges overcome, and the pursuits of my deepest desires in life.

Any collaborations or core influences?

Briefly, Allen Stone, Hiatus Kaiyote, the ‘90s, and 2000s hip-hop, older R&B, oldies, and 2000s alternative rock are some of my influences for LOVE UNFOLDING. I also like Sam Smith and Bruno Mars.

Which of your gigs stand out, and for what reasons?

Willis Show Bar in Midtown was amazing, pre-Covid. Loved the stage and the music we got to play. More recently, MGM Grand has been a great time. Loved being able to perform classics and modern tunes to an appreciative crowd!

Future gigs or perhaps a tour?

I’ll be performing for the Juneteenth Celebration hosted by the Ferndale Library at the Green Acres Park in Hazel Park, with my band. The event is on a Saturday, June 18th, 2022, the day before the official Juneteenth holiday. Also, Sunday, July 31st, 2022, I’ll be playing for Ferndale’s Nine on Nine Series down at Schiffer Park.

Have you got a favorite song?

Allen Stone’s “Brown Eyed Lover” was a long-time favorite for me. Sam Smith’s “Omen” and “Diamonds” are the other latest ones.

Any “shoutouts” to family, friends, or people in the music industry?

My fiance, and partner of nine years, first and foremost. My entire family and friend groups for their support too. You all are amazing. Lastly, the DIME faculty and student body, as a whole, I have to thank. The network and education have been a gift that has kept on giving.

What DIME experiences stood out the most?

DIME was a lot of different things. Albeit, it was a Bachelor’s degree program; it was also networking, experiencing, performing, writing music, collaborating, and being immersed in a very musical environment. I’m glad I saw what I did there. Probably being in the same environment with so much talent and opportunity stood out the most to me.

On a parting note, Montrelle added, “Trust in yourself, as you never know who you might impact. Trust your instincts and intuition, and truly be who you are.”

Visit George Montrelle’s website for more information: www.georgemontrelle.com.

Montrelle’s songs can be found on all streaming sources, including Bandcamp and Spotify.

By Lisa Howard

COMIC BOOKS HAVE COME A LONG WAY SINCE SUPERMAN first flew into the American consciousness in 1938; nowadays, graphic novels and mangas are flying off the shelves, and a large swath of comics are available in digital formats.

Evan Derian

And while the Big Two (DC and Marvel) still publish books galore, many creators are taking the independent route. “I decided to just do it,” says Evan Derian, creator of Miserable Americans. “I wanted to write and draw and do what’s fun about comics, not wait for someone to give me that opportunity.”

As a kid, he was an avid collector, and that love of comics never went away, not during his college years when he was studying graphic design and not during his years of designing mostly corporate projects.

He still does that kind of work (and ongoing graphic design side gigs) in addition to creating his own comics. Initially, he tried to break into the commercial comic industry as an illustrator, but he quickly found himself trapped in a byzantine world of insider connections and inscrutable editorial decisions.

RATHER THAN CONTINUING TO SWIM UPSTREAM, EVAN STARTED CONCEIVING the idea for his first story back in 1999. It turned into a 150-page graphic novel called Insignificant Gods, He self-published it and started taking it to comic book conventions (known by geeks as “Cons”). Ultimately, though, the con scene was a wash; the cost of having a table and how much he made in sales were pretty much even. He decided to move on to the next project.

Miserable Americans

“That was a learning process,” he says of his first year’s foray into creating comics. “I found out that it was harder to put together pages and layouts in certain ways, plus I realized that I needed to write more detailed scripts so that I’d know how much dialogue would be in each panel.” Not only that, but the process of world-building chewed up too much page space.

Hence he decided to center his next title on well-established figures rather than all-original ones. Enter Lincoln and JFK as the protagonists of Miserable Americans. “In the world of comic books, everything is possible, so I decided to clone the two most popular presidents in pop culture and write about them,” Evan explains. “Once I did that, then I was off-and-running. The books just about write themselves because there’s so much to mine when I drop Lincoln and JFK into various situations in modern America.”

UNLIKE THE WAY THE VAST MAJORITY OF COMICS ARE PRODUCED, Evan does everything himself: he’s the writer, penciller, inker, colorist, letterer, interior and cover artist, and marketer. Creating a book entirely on his own is such a labor-intensive process that sometimes it takes him a year to get a title out.

No Sympathy: Mick Jagger Portrait (Digital Illustration)

He loves being his own kit-and-caboodle production team though, and being able to embrace his own cinematically influenced style of art. His books are more realistic and darker than mainstream superhero titles. He says he draws far more inspiration from films than from other comics, with a style that’s reminiscent of Thelma & Louise colliding with a Coen Brothers movie.

While breaking into comics is the polar opposite of easy, Evan loves it. Yes, marketing is a challenge, he admits. It would be nice if a PR professional handled that part. But, at the end of the day, he has a passion for telling stories.

“I love the idea that I can write and draw stories and share them with people,” he says. “I love it when someone picks up my book and wants to read more. That’s when you know your story is working.”

MiserableAmericans.com | EvanDerian.com

By Sara Teller

Mike Ross

A WELL-KNOWN MURAL ARTIST, PAINTING BOTH THE INTERIOR AND EXTERIOR WALLS of many Ferndale hotspots, Mike Ross studied art and anthropology at Oakland University, graduating in 2003.

A creative at heart, he originally focused on music. However, over time, he shifted this focus primarily towards painting and has been hard at work inside 333 Midland Studios in Highland Park for nearly a decade.

“I went nearly ten years where I focused mainly on music and only dabbled in visual art occasionally,” Ross said, adding, “I got heavily back into painting about ten years ago now.”

ONCE A WAY TO SIMPLY “DEAL WITH STRESS,” visual artistry became an important part of his life. “The more I painted, the more I wanted to keep painting. And the ideas really just never stopped flowing,” he explained. “I started focusing on painting exclusively full-time about five years ago and painted my first mural in 2018.”

In addition to bringing the walls of local businesses to life during the summer months, Ross said, “I always work on studio art as well, abstract and figurative oil paintings mostly. Now my work feels sort of seasonally divided: In the studio all winter, out painting murals all summer.”

And that’s the way he likes it. His divided endeavors “inform each other.” Ross explained. “Working in the studio I’ll often land on ideas that might be better suited for a mural so I’ll kind of sketch it out and put a pin in it and refer back when mural opportunities arise. And vice versa.”

He lives by the motto ‘go big or go home,’ saying, “I have always enjoyed working large when I paint, and in 2018 I was really wanting to get into murals.

“That’s when, out-of-the-blue, Dustin Leslie of the WAB reached out to me and mentioned they were looking for someone to paint a wall at their new back patio bar, PORT. I knew Dustin from back in the band days. I jumped on it, of course, and in the end I painted four of their walls, inside and out.”

This proved to be a valuable turning point in his career. Ross said, “I learned a lot from those murals. From there things snowballed for me in terms of murals both in Ferndale and beyond. I’ve now painted…all over the area [including in] Detroit, Hamtramck, Lansing, up in Lexington, and all the way down in Santiago, Chile.” He already has more opportunities in the books for this summer.

“I just feel so fortunate to be able to do what I love to do every day,” Ross stated. “Traveling down to Chile to paint a mural luckily, just before the pandemic hit – was a pretty special experience. I owe that one to my good friend Ismael Duran, who passed away earlier this year. A couple years before, I went with him to Cuba where we did another arts and music presentation.

I had worked with Ismael for the previous six years, teaching art and skateboard building to kids in Southwest Detroit at a cultural center called Garage Cultural. It was a fantastic experience, and I learned a whole lot there – not necessarily about art but about people and life in general. I miss that guy.”

ROSS HAS LIVED ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF FERNDALE for more than two decades. He mentioned the work of the Ferndale Arts & Cultural Committee, saying the organization “does great work connecting mural-seeking businesses with artists. I have them to thank for getting me involved in the large mural project at the DOT parking garage, which has really been one of my favorite projects. It was super fun, and everybody involved was a dream to work with.” He has also participated in Ferndale’s DIY Fest and the Backyard Art Fair, which he’ll be taking part of again this year.

Of the Ferndale area, specifically, Ross said, “While it’s changed a lot in that time, one consistent aspect is that it’s always been a community full of people with great, far-out ideas and the wherewithal to enact on them. I think it’s a very freeing state of mind, living here. The people I’ve met here and played music with or talked art with, or whatever, one commonality is that they’re all doers. And I think that way of thinking is contagious.”

Visit www.mrossart.com to see more or request a rendering of Ross’ work.

STEVE GAMBURD IS AN IMPRESSIVE AND ACCOMPLISHED LOCAL ARTIST/MUSICIAN. His career path and achievements have covered a broad range over the years: Art exhibition; picture framing; landscaping, gardening and beautification; murals; house painting; restoration; art curating; watercolor and drawing instruction; event coordination and design, and venue booking and management.

Gamburd’s popularity and obvious charisma most likely come from a combination of his overall enthusiasm, talent, upbeat energy, and his outgoing nature: “I am very thankful for my experiences, and I also appreciate the work that others put in. I am always looking for inspiration, and I have always figured out a way to integrate my art into my life. It’s part of my spirit!”

In Gamburd’s early days of art, he greatly enjoyed comic books – especially the superhero characters – and particularly those with independent or adult themes. Then he began creating his own comics, which became an ongoing pursuit. In his college days, he found the art of abstraction and expressionists highly influential. Gamburd’s continual inspiration has stemmed from working with life themes over the years, such as the figure, nature, still life, or sketching random people/settings.

Regarding music, he was influenced by quite a few experimental sounds, but, “I did not consider myself to be a musician until I realized that music is also art. I had no idea when I was younger that I would ever play the drums!” At around age 28, Gamburd discovered his new love of the drums. He wrote a number of songs over a period of five years, with a new-wave, indie-rock quartet called The Nerve. From then on, Gamburd has gigged and recorded studio albums with a number of bands, of various genres. These have included: Polar Opposite (folk-rock); Black Lodge (postpunk); Bastion (indie-pop/rock); Steffie & The Dirty Virgins (glam-rock); New Centaur (jazz-rock), Superbomb (grunge & space-rock); Abul On Fire (psych-rock) and 8th Chakra (sludge-punk). His current band, Origami Phase, is shoegaze/dream pop. Gamburd commented, “I’ve had the fortune of playing with great musicians over the years. These bandmates played a major role in my development as a drummer and songwriter.”

BY WAY OF EDUCATION, Gamburd majored in studio art at MSU in 1993, illustration at LCC from ’94-’95, liberal arts at OCC in ’96, and then dropped out of college to focus on art exclusively. In 2011, Gamburd returned to OCC for an Associates in Liberal Arts. In 1994,  Jim Ferguson became a huge influence on Gamburd’s passion for watercolor: “I took his watercolor classes until I could no longer receive credit from them.” Watercolor subsequently became a ‘true love’ for Gamburd, and one that he knew would endure for a lifetime: “This is the most awesome media. Instead of seeing it as the stereotypical ‘watered-down’ medium, I see it as being explosive and bold, with various ways to approach it. There are so many levels that I am still trying to figure out!”

Gamburd mentioned the importance of setting goals and completing them! On this subject, he is busy writing a comprehensive, full-color watercolor manual, where the final goal is a 125-page book. Drawing from some previous teaching experience, he is well on the way into lesson plans which form a ‘step by step’ guide on how a beginner can complete a watercolor painting.

Gamburd has an ongoing exhibition at the Dovetail Cafe in Warren (29200 Hoover Rd.) until the end of February 2022. This show is named “The Poster Show” and it features over 100 event posters created over the last two decades by Gamburd and his friend, Steven Czapiewski. His band Origami Phase performs at Bowlero in Royal Oak on Thursday December 30th, at 9:00 P.M.

I HAD TO ASK: “HOW DO YOU STAY SO ORGANIZED?” Gamburd’s response, “Someone has to make it all happen – make the calls and follow up with contacts. It all starts with a big plan or idea, then people just want to get involved.” The Phoenix Cafe was a classic example of his skills in show-casing diverse talent. “I love providing shows of different kinds, where we are all on the same page, and where a passion for creativity is the driving force. Hosting as a venue really opened up my interests a lot. It opened my mind to other genres of music. I have to look into things as I am not easily pleased!”

Gamburd feels the Phoenix years were like an open canvas of possibilities. Pianist Hans Barbe and the late steampunk creator Michael Wiggins opened a space that was a place for growing, healing and community. Gamburd was gallery coordinator and created special events, including fundraisers and art exhibits from 2009-2012. Then he went on to renovate the space, with the help of the existing Phoenix family, and became co-owner/general manager for the venue from 2013-2017. Gamburd developed music festivals at the Phoenix and abroad with co-owner Ben Frank, plus he curated themed art shows with Czapiewski. He also hosted Lewandowski’s “See What Stacey Started” figure-drawing class. (This non-instructed class and art community continued to gather after the closing of the venue).

Over these years, many good networking relationships formed between bands, which led to a number of collaborations. However, at this point, Gamburd described having less time to be a visual artist as it is a hugely time-consuming venture. Even though it had multiple positive outcomes, and was a powerful way for people to connect, Gamburd added that the Phoenix Cafe was “not profitable.”

Once the venue closed its doors in December of 2017, Gamburd was able to gig with his bands, present a long-awaited solo art show based on his ‘dream’ art, and shift into more gardening/house painting jobs. Now – following a busy season of those pursuits – he is excited to focus on comic book illustration, and more watercolor lessons.

Photo ©2021 by Bennie White

FOR TIFFANY PUGMIRE, HER ARTWORK IS HER MEDIATION, her cathartic release. For others, Pugmire’s artwork invokes joy, cheer, inspiration and more.

“WHEN CREATING,I AM CONSISTENTLY sifting my way through transitions and emotion; thus the extra play time with this medium lends to the remedy or healing process,” Pugmire said of her work. “For me, there is a magnetic sensation when looking at the reflection of light, and the contrast of the hidden colors in shadows. It keeps me interested in a subject as I attempt to capture this quality in my efforts.”

Pugmire gained local fame last Spring when she put her talent to work through sidewalk art. In exchange for chalk to perform her skills, Pugmire would take requests of what individuals wanted displayed on their sidewalk. Mayor Marian McClellan requested Vincent Van Gogh’sSunflowers,” and others requested birthday messages, recreations of other well-known art pieces and more.

While, the rain has since washed away the sidewalk art that brought smiles to Oak Park residents in the height of the COVID pandemic, Pugmire’s artwork can now be viewed in City Hall. This artwork won’t be found on the floors of City Hall, though; rather her oil paintings are displayed on canvas throughout the art gallery near the main entrance.

PUGMIRE’S ARTWORK DISPLAY IN CITY HALL IS PART OF Oak Park’s Public Art Exhibition Program, which is administered through the City’s Arts & Cultural Diversity Committee. Her artwork can be viewed now through the end of December.

The use of light and shadow in Pugmire’s paintings is quick to catch a viewer’s eye. The way in which she brings life to a simple bowl of eggs or a cabbage on a string is something only someone with true, raw talent can accomplish. Pair Pugmire’s inherent artistry with her training and still life art becomes anything but.

WHEN PUGMIRE IS NOT DELVING IN HER ARTISTIC SIDE she can also be found teaching yoga, practicing Reiki and working for the Oak Park Public Safety Department’s Records Bureau. She is a woman of many talents, and the City of Oak Park is thrilled to serve as a conduit between her artwork and the public.

For the Park’s Public Art Exhibition Program administered by the Arts & Cultural Diversity Program, local artists are encouraged to apply on a rolling basis. The Committee regularly seeks two-dimensional artwork for the lobby of City Hall for the duration of a quarterly exhibition period, and seeks art that represents the diversity of our community. Varied artistic styles and mediums are welcomed. All artists are encouraged to apply; however priority is given to Oak Park resident artists. Artwork should reflect positively on our community and must be suitable for public display.

By Lisa Howard

WHILE YOU WON’T FIND AN ARMADILLO IN THE WILD in Michigan, Berkley has its own version in the form of Armadillo Printwear, a screenprinting shop that has been serving residents of SouthEastern Michigan for nearly 30 years.

Owner Dave Lakatos initially started out producing custom tie-dye garments in 1992. Over the years, he and his staff have transitioned into a fulltime screen-printing shop, creating spiritwear, uniforms for sports teams, shirts for community events, and even gear for yacht clubs. “We do a lot for the School District, the Public Safety Department, the Parks & Recreation Department and the Chamber of Commerce,” says Jon Murrell, store manager. “We try to cater to everybody who comes through and we’re very community-focused.”

With four presses running in their tidy 2,000 square foot shop, the Armadillo team can print on anything that lies flat. They can also provide custom embroidery, which comes in particularly handy for restaurants and dispensaries and any business looking for employee uniforms. Occasionally, they print single-color posters, but 99.9 percent of their business is in clothing.

If you’ve attended Berkley annual events like the Berkley Street Art Fest or the Cruise Fest, you’ve seen T-shirts that were printed and designed by Armadillo – in addition to managing the store, Jon is also an artist, and is thrilled to work with the Berkley Area Chamber of Commerce to create the shirts. “Seeing as we’re the ones who print the shirts for these events, I want to make sure the design looks as good as it possibly can,” Jon says. He designed the logo for the first Street Art Fest in 2017 as well as the 25th anniversary Cruise Fest shirt in 2021. (He also painted murals for the 2017 and 2018 Street Fest events.)

IN THE 16 YEARS JON HAS SPENT WORKING AT ARMADILLO, he says they’re busier than ever, surprising given the past two years. “We’re trying to keep on truckin’! It’d be great to get to the point where we can take a break, but for now we need to keep our heads down and keep printing shirts,” he says.

That uptick in orders has meant that Jon does less design work than usual, focusing more on production, although he’s still happy to create artwork. “A customer can give me a simple sketch on a restaurant napkin, and I can turn that into something,” he says. With a degree in fine art from Wayne State University and specializations in photo-realistic charcoal art and pen-and-ink-drawings, designing images and logos is second nature for Jon. Although he’s worked on a variety of interesting design projects during his time at Armadillo, his favorite was the Port Huron-to-Mackinac Island Sailboat Race – one year, Armadillo created both the event’s merchandising gear and poster designs.

“We just try to have really good-quality prints and we make sure that everybody who sees it knows where it comes from – we put our stickers on every box of shirts we send out,” says Jon.

So if you’re hankering for the sight of an armadillo in the neighborhood, keep your eyes open! You just might catch a (two-dimensional) glimpse of the adorable long-snouted, armored critter around town.

Armadillo Printwear | 3861 12 Mile Rd., Berkley, MI 48072
(248) 547-0490 | www.goarmadillo.com | jon@goarmadillo.com

By Sara E. Teller
Photos by Ashley Poirer

THE BERKLEY AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE (BACC) IS DEDICATED TO CREATING A SPACE for business owners to come together to serve Berkley and our surrounding communities. The Chamber has organized many events and activities over the years, with this year being no exception despite the ongoing Covid pandemic.

Many great things have been happening around town in general, even as the world is faced with a ‘new normal.’ There are businesses continuing to come into Berkley, and the close-knit community has witnessed a growing number of people settling in, especially younger singles and families. Drawn to the area because of the ‘everyone-knows-everyone’ ambiance, free parking and many fun things to do, Berkley continues to be a go-to spot for newcomers.

BACC primarily supports small businesses by engaging in local events, organizing affordable marketing options, offering a high-volume social media presence, and initiating networking activities. In 2021, BACC was instrumental in supporting businesses through a grant from Oakland County. The Chamber offered PPE items for its members, as well as propane for outdoor heaters, hand sanitizer, wipes, and other items that weren’t in the budget before the pandemic hit. The Chamber ensured members were given as much online attention as possible, particularly regarding adjustments made to days and hours they were open, and the innovative ways owners came up with to continue serving residents.

“We organized very successful 2021 summer events that brought thousands of people to Berkley, in a strategic, safely-spaced manner,” explained BACC’s Executive Director, Darlene Rothman, adding, “We had beautiful days for these events, and everyone enjoyed being outside. You could feel the excitement in the air!”

BERKLEY ART BASH & STREET ART FEST: While the Berkley Art Bash is traditionally held annually during the second weekend in June, the event was postponed to September 11 this year to allow for more people to receive the Covid-19 vaccination. Pinspiration Berkley and Vibe Credit Union sponsored the Kids Zone. Nearly 100 vendors offered a diverse assortment of photographs, garden art, jewelry, pottery, wearables, paintings, and gourmet offerings.

“We expanded the footprint by a few more blocks to ensure more space between vendors and to allow for safer shopping,” said RoseAnn Nicolai, BACC Events & Operations Manager and owner of Nicolai Events & Communications. “A lot of the success of the event was due to April McCrumb, owner of Catching Fireflies and Yellow Door Art Market. She did such a great job curating the show and finding such talented artists to be vendors.”

The County Oakland Irish Fest group hosted the entertainment which included Doug Thompson, the Flanagan-O’Hare Irish Dancers and Michael O’Brian & the Distractions. Children who attended could either make a craft there or take a kit home. Pinspiration Berkley also had a splatter-paint tent where children could fling paint onto a small canvas, creating their own piece of artwork.

The Berkley Street Art Fest date was also postponed to August 7 this year due to the pandemic. Downtown Berkley was transformed with art as professional and aspiring chalk artists created colorful street art with chances to win prizes. Shop for Good Village, a newly-added component coordinated by VITRINE owner Susan Rogal, was a curated collection of handmade products made by sellers with a primary focus on ‘doing good’ on a local or global scale. A commissioned artist, Ed Irmen, created a mural at Folio Offices. People throughout Metro Detroit watched these artists as their masterpieces came to life. The event was presented by the MSU Federal Credit Union.

“We are looking forward to Berkley Art Bash returning back to its usual time of year in 2022, Nicolai said. “Mark your calendar for June 11, 2022. Berkley Street Art Fest date will be announced in 2022, and County Oakland Irish Fest, which the Chamber is a sponsor, will return on September 10, 2022.”

CRUISEFEST: The 2021 CruiseFest shirt, designed by Jon Murrell of Armadillo (owned by Dave Lakatos), was such a big hit that it sold out prior to the event for the first time in the CruiseFest’s history. The Chamber responded by adding a limited timeframe for residents to purchase them online.

The shirt was created to promote the 25th anniversary of the CruiseFest, which was held on August 20, 2021. The event draws car lovers from all over and includes a parade of classic vehicles for attendees to enjoy. Darron Moore & the 14th Floor provided the event’s entertainment. New for 2021, the Berkley Parks & Recreation hosted an outdoor movie experience in front of the Neighbor’s Shoppe. The film Grease was screened immediately following the parade.

RESTAURANT WEEKEND & NIGHT MARKET: BACC partnered with the Berkley DDA to bring, for the first time, a Restaurant Weekend to downtown Berkley the first weekend of October. Katie Kutscher and Christine Gross, sister owners of Berkley Common, also helped pulled together this amazing event.

“Berkley Common was the driving force behind this,” Rothman said. “Katie initiated the conversation, encouraging us to do something to help the restaurants.” The owners wanted everyone (BACC, DDA, and the participants) to join together as a team to bring extra attention to the restaurant community during an especially difficult time.

Those who participated included Berkley Common, 24 Seconds, Amici’s Kitchen & Living Room, Casa Amado Tacqueria, Coco Fairfield’s, Crispelli’s, Dog & Pony Show Brewing, Fresh Collective Kitchen & Market, Green Lantern, Oak Park Social and Republica. Each eatery had food and drink specials local foodies could retrieve online by scanning a QR code or simply take note of signs placed around town.

The same weekend, the DDA Night Market was held on October 2nd, giving residents the opportunity to visit their regular go-tos after hours and explore new businesses along the way. Retailers stayed open late to give visitors a magical night-time shopping experience. A complimentary downtown trolley sponsored by the Berkley DDA ran throughout the event and dozens of storefronts transformed with spooky décor.

The retailers who participated included Articipate, The Artsy Umbrella, Fresh Collective Market, GateKeeper Games, …Have You Any Wool?, June & December, Peninsulas, Pinspiration Berkley, PUCK HCKY, Red Arrow Tattoo Collective, Reware Vintage, Toadvine Books, Tootie & Tallulah’s, The Twisted Shamrock, Ullman’s Health & Beauty and VITRINE.

Rothman said, “The restaurants and retail stores were thrilled that the community supported them by eating and shopping locally, for as many items as possible and being gracious to their staff as many are understaffed. The holidays are approaching soon, so please consider buying local to support these businesses.”

STATE OF THE CITIES: The State of the Cities event, produced by CMNTv and sponsored by Beaumont Health, was held virtually on October 28, 2021. The purpose of the event is to provide an opportunity for local government entities including the City of Berkley, City of Huntington Woods, the Berkley School District, the Berkley Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and the BACC, to report out to the community about the accomplishments and issues faced over the past year as well as talk about what is up-and-coming.

The Chamber honored local businesspeople and organizations during the State of the Cities that had been especially supportive of the Berkley community. Its Best of Berkley awards are traditionally given to Chamber members who exemplify leadership, have passion for the area, and go out of their way to support businesses with a commitment to making the community shine.

Rothman added, “This past year, with the pandemic, they had to be especially creative and think outside of the box.” The 2021 recipients focused largely on ensuring that the community flourished despite the Coronavirus.

THE 2021 CHAMBER HONOREES INCLUDED VITRINE, owned by Susan Rogal, as Business of the Year, and Robyn Cohen, owner of Sum Girls Boutique, as Businessperson of the Year.

VITRINE and Rogal have been instrumental in bringing attention to downtown Berkley businesses, especially along the Coolidge Corridor, where VITRINE is located.

“VITRINE is always coming up with new ways to promote Berkley, and Susan personally recruits businesses to participate in the downtown shopping events,” Nicolai said. “Susan is so willing to help new businesses on Coolidge succeed by offering them advice and connecting them with people who can help.”

“In particular, they were instrumental in growing this year’s Berkley Street Art Fest, using their summer marketing dollars usually allocated to promoting their business,” Nicolai said. “And their staff personally, on their own, promoted the event.”

The second honoree, Robyn Coden, “is a champion for downtown Berkley and its businesses,” Nicolai said. “At least once a month, she has an event that brings different vendors and businesses to town to promote at her store. She also consistently donates, both monetarily and of her time, to the community, civic groups, and Berkley Schools.”

Coden regularly employs students from Berkley High School and Anderson Middle School to work in the store and creates cross-promotional opportunities with other businesses. She has recruited new businesses to open their storefronts in Berkley, and through her social media presence, she is always drawing attention to these businesses.

Nicolai explained, “Both honorees are passionate about making sure everyone in downtown Berkley succeeds.”

Rothman and Nicolai are especially grateful to the “wonderful writers of this annual City Guide who all do a fantastic job.”

For more information on BACC activities and events, or to become a member, visit the Chamber’s newly launched site: www.berkleychamber.com

By Ryan R. Ennis

WHETHER YOU’RE AN aspiring actor or director, or just seeking entertainment, the non-profit organization Michigan Stage has something for you. With its goal “to produce theatre in enriching, refreshing new ways directly within the community of Ferndale and greater Oakland County,” opportunities abound for escaping from the monotony of the daily grind by indulging the imagination.

At Michigan Stage studio locations this summer, instructor/ artists with strong creative drives conducted summer youth playlabs for students ages 7 to 13. During the sessions, the instructors helped students develop themes and dramatic moods for designing skits and short sketches centered around D.I.A. (Detroit Institute of Art) works on display in the community. Under the artists’ tutelage, the students learned how to breathe life into their ideas through performances at small local venues. The classes have served as meaningful ways for children and adults to express their creativity.

The playlabs fall under the wings of the organization’s Performing Arts Academy, whose vision is a commitment to “upholding the professionalism of the performing arts community.” To execute that vision, the academy provides resources such as intensive tenweek theater workshops scheduled in the evenings for students ages 13 to 22. Also available are individual voice and dance lessons along with workshops on contemporary pop-rock Broadway composers. A youth ensemble assists with the academy’s artistic and administrative direction.

Another opportunity offered through Michigan Stage is its play-reading group – Michigan Page – in which group members analyze and critique theatrical works via Zoom. Selections include both contemporary and classical drama. Guest speakers help to facilitate the meetings by providing discussion points and background on the texts. Most recently, in April, participants read and interpreted Sarah Ruhl’s Orlando, based on Virginia Wolf’s popular genderfluid character who lives for centuries and re-examines history through encounters with key figures of English literature. Michigan Page’s bimonthly meetings plan to resume in January 2022, at a local library. Says a Michigan Page participant about the club, “(It’s) an environment where the love of theatre is nurtured . . . and impactful discussions are fostered in a relevant way.”

Leading the cast at Michigan Stage is founding Artistic Director Tim Paré, a Michigan State University graduate with an impressive résumé. Previously, he held the titles of Educational Director for two stage companies where he developed theater arts programs for youths and young adults. By directing and choreographing his students in musicals and other performances, he annually reached 7,500 community members. College students have also enrolled in his workshops and courses on how to audition performers, dance professionally, and manage stage productions.

In forming his company, Paré has striven “to expose audiences both new and old to the performing arts in new ways – to nurture a curiosity to explore the world around us through…community theater productions.”

As part of fulfilling his mission, Paré directed three free concerts entitled Broadway in the ‘Burbs, all performed on August 7 at The dot (Development on Troy) in downtown Ferndale. The shows featured Broadway cast members singing tunes from Beautiful: The Carol King Musical, Dear Evan Hansen, and other hits. Before and after each performance, gatherers were able to meet the singers, as well as chat with the fire and police department workers who were on hand with activities and information on city services.

Up next for Paré and Michigan Stage is Looking Back Through Stained Glass, a family-friendly musical that explores the styles of punk rock and heartbeat pop music in addition to the themes of rebellion and selfacceptance. Starring in the production will be Drag superstar Nancy Nogood and recording artist Ugochi Nriaka. Performed at the Ant Hall in Hamtramck, the musical will run from September 30th through October 9th.

For more information on Looking Back Through Stained Glass, autumn playlabs, and other Michigan Stage events and programs, visit www.michiganstage.org. You can also keep up to date by joining the mailing list. To contact Tim Paré directly, email him at tim@michiganstage.org.