DIY and Funky Ferndale Fairs Celebrate Music and Art
(Crystal A. Proxmire, Oct. 13, 2019)
Ferndale, MI – On the same stage that featured Detroit favorites Jr Jr, The Gories, and Stone Clover, a ragtag group of kids and grown-ups set up with a mix of children’s instruments belting out family-friendly songs as the DIY and Funky Ferndale Art Fairs opened for their final day.
The Modern Natural Baby Band, made of customers of the iconic Downtown Ferndale store, demonstrated just what makes the DIY festival a “Ferndale normal” type of event – the mix of collaborative efforts and the celebration of creative pursuits, with the memories of the kids on stage being as essential to the event as those who packed the streets to soak up local art and music.
Another such moment – having the Ferndale Golden Eagle Marching Band march their way to the stage to perform for their community – is a DIY tradition. While on the Funky Ferndale side, “urban violinist” Kym Brady had a tip jar for those who gathered to watch her play.
Outwards from the music were rows of artists and vendors. The East side of 9 Mile housed the DIY, which focuses heavily on local creators. Across Woodward on the West side, the Funky Ferndale Art Fair featured juried selections from near and far.
Among those on the Funky Ferndale side was Julie Roth from the Milwaukee area. Her large geometric paintings had a magnetic presence, drawing visitors to stop and look deeper at the mountains, hills, and rivers composed of human forms.
“There’s a man versus nature theme,” Roth said. “Mankind is always meddling in nature.”
Roth said the paintings take only 15-20 hours, but “that’s because I do a lot of planning in advance. I know exactly what I want to do. I make a plan and execute it.”
The proper execution of an artistic plan was also on display in real time as guests to the fair took part in a public art project. Kia Ix Arriaga was on hand with the outline of a mural designed by Ferndale High School Senior Daphne Wilson. “The sketch was perfect for this,” Arriaga said. “It’s very inviting for painting. Not intimidating. Basically like a paint by numbers.” Arriaga helped people of all ages – including 11-year-old Avi Dorkin – put the right colors in the right sections. “I did the yellow in the lower left and some in the middle,” he said. “Its fun painting.”
Arringa is an artist as well as a professional art project guide, including as an instructor through the Detroit Institute of Arts. “Art is really about bringing people together,” she said. “This will go up over there on the Cupcake Station with other murals, and people will always remember they made part of it.”
Few in the world have mastered the art of bringing people together better than Krista Johnston and her team that has brought the DIY together for a dozen years.
“The DIY Street Fair was born out of the financial crisis of 2008. Our friends were being laid off and they were selling their artwork on the side to pay the rent. We decided to make a festival that would not only boost everyone’s spirits by celebrating artists and musicians, but hopefully would help them financially by giving them a larger audience to sell to. Although the event has grown over the last 12 years, the intent is still the same–to celebrate those with a creative spirit and to help individuals, charities and our community,” Johnston said.
What is the secret to such a successful event? Johnston said “I think people can tell that there is a genuine intention behind the event. Those of us that produce the event are all former musicians/artists ourselves and we love to celebrate creative people doing interesting things. Many of the non-profits we partner with claim that DIY is their biggest and best fundraiser. It’s wonderful to know that the event helps raise money and awareness to worthy local causes.”
Johnston found several pieces she loved, including a print from Tony Roko’s Art Foundation. “Tony is a celebrated Detroit artist and his foundation helps heal and connect children through teaching kids to paint. The prints they sell are the work of the kids and they are beautiful and quite inspiring. The sale of the prints goes directly to help fund the program,” she said.
DIY had over 150 artists, including perennial favorites as well as a third of the vendors being brand new to the fair.
“It’s wonderful to hear stories from some of the artists that our event served as a tester for their products,” Johnston said. “For example, DIYSF was Detroit Grooming Co’s first event a few years back. People loved their products so much that they ended up opening a brick and mortar shop in Ferndale and now their products can be found all over. The owner was kind enough to credit us with giving them an avenue to explore their dream and it wonderful to know that we had a small part in their initial success. To know that this event serves as an incubator for entrepreneurs is a wonderful by product that we never could have anticipated. We hear so often that the event gives artists enough confidence to quit their day job to sell their art full time.
“And so it comes full circle…the event was born out of people losing their jobs. Now it becomes a job creator of sorts. That is something that we never could have foreseen, but is a wonderful effect of the DIY Street Fair.”
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