The Creative Endeavors Thread Mourns A Fallen Cultivar

This is the space for our members to discuss and share their creative projects, ranging from written works to drawings, photography, and even craft projects such as knitting and woodworking. Self promotion is welcome (websites where we can view and/or purchase your work). Please do continue to preface if content is NSFW and be sure to properly spoiler/link such content.

This weekend marked what could be the last days of Cultivate Coffee and Tap House in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Cultivate opened in 2014 as a partial non-profit and after a number of sketchy mini-scandals emerged as not just a popular meeting place and show venue—live music, food pop-ups, various arts-and-craft meetups and workshop—but also as something of an icon of the “new Ypsi.” I’ve mentioned my local spheres in a couple of these writeups, but Ypsi’s long been the traditionally working-class counterpart to nearby Ann Arbor (comparisons to the Manhattan-Brooklyn relationship can be a little strained but are still generally accurate—for better and worse), having, among other things, historically closer connections with Detroit—Ford facilities in and around town, the famed Willow Run factory is just down the road—than its nearer neighbor. The structures have shifted over the past decade, with rising house prices and rents in Ann Arbor forcing a lot of middle- and office-class folk, let alone service workers, down the Huron, and, at least to my mind, the culture there’s changed; there’s been comment here and there that “Ypsi’s what Ann Arbor used to be.”

As one of a near-literal handful (?) of Ann Arborites who actually couldn’t afford to move to Ypsi (I moved around the time of Cultivate’s foundation into a thus-far longterm rent that’s really reasonable for Ypsi, let alone Ann Arbor), I have… mixed feelings on that statement and its usual speakers (that’ll involve a lot more inside baseball than you’ve seen on this page already—or will—so skipping the details), but whatever the whys and wherefores, Cultivate’s become a center of the creative, chattering, and sipping classes and took on a near-mystical sheen during the last few years (among other things, I had my first draft beer there since the pandemic started and that was definitely a kind of milestone for me). I’d become especially enamored of the space over Ypsi’s last few First Fridays, once I realized you could actually sit at the bar (this took me a while for some reason) and learned that it was one of a select few in the entire county that provided adequate light for reading or, more importantly in my case, drawing. There was a pleasant vibe, helpful and friendly staff, and their beer selection was a decent representation of Michigan warhorses, a few more offbeat local choices, and usually one off-the-wall variant that was at least worth trying, if not sticking with.

So it was to tremendous shock and surprise that Cultivate announced, just over a week and change ago, that it was closing indefinitely (the official word is that this isn’t permanent, but I’ve seen this happen already with my secondary local and am therefore skeptical, to put it mildly). To be sure, the pandemic had put a lot of pressure on its capacity as a social space (and they’d laudably closed for several days thanks to several staff positives for Covid), but I’d been there several times besides the aforementioned—for a couple of local meetups and a hot cocoa after my vaccine booster in November—and things never seemed particularly fraught; the place wasn’t bustling, but was rarely empty.

Rumors started to fly, abetted by the owners’ somewhat confusing statements. One made it sound like things had simply run their course, but another asserted that the (famously dysfunctional) city government had dragged its feet on approval of the heated tents that (as with so many other local establishments) had kept patio service going throughout the colder months. There was a variety of back-and-forth on local Reddit and Facebook, many singling out the longtime hostility and government connections of a nearby restaurant, an old-school bar and grill whose notoriously toxic owner had gotten in a lot of hot water over the past few years for discriminatory practices and other misdeeds. Most of this stuff is opaque enough for residents, let alone myself, and much of it’s still playing out over social media (though the nearby restaurant’s perfidy has long been a byword among just about everyone I know around here, many of them in the service industry themselves).

Either way, I’d meant to make my way there for one last evening, and got in a little sketching done at the bar, as well as exchanging pleasantries with one staff member of whom I’d grown particularly fond. It was unsurprisingly busier than I’d ever seen it, and the overall vibe seemed weirdly uncomfortable, as if people (myself included) could think of little better to day than “sorry”; without all the facts on the table, what could you really say besides? That was that, then, and the loss kinda weighed on me the rest of the weekend. The next night I roamed around my own downtown, stopping in my local and then checking out a show at the club, which was a largely college-kid thing focusing on cover bands (that happened the last time I went and it’s getting weird, not just because the kids these days now consider the Goo Goo Dolls “classic” rock). There was energy there, but of a kind with which I have yet to sync (if that ever happens). I’ve become extremely skeptical of nostalgia, and remember well the personal drawbacks and pains associated with the thriving social and cultural scene that used to exist here, but it’s hard not to get not just misty-eyed but also a little worried about the loss of another apparently healthy public space at least partly devoted to the support of local arts and culture. It certainly lights a fire in me to create; I just wish I could keep that fire consistently lit and that I felt more secure in its sources of fuel.

My fateful Bell’s Oberon of August 2020 in the back patio of Cultivate. Feels a million years ago now in more ways than one.

How’s your work going?