1. By Rod Johnson
    June 16, 2011 at 10:21 pm | permalink

    Street or Ave? I’m trying to picture the spot.

  2. June 16, 2011 at 10:48 pm | permalink

    Sorry, this is the small landscaping adventure at the corner of Fourth (Ave) and William where the parking structure is. The landscaper for Republic Parking put in a very sweet little miniature village at that corner -previously discussed on the Chronicle. I asked about this at a DDA mtg and the Republic rep said this was the inspiration of their landscaper, based on what he saw as the Ann Arbor culture/aesthetic.

  3. By LaidOffTeacherPatti
    June 17, 2011 at 3:58 am | permalink

    I just saw that for the first time last week…so cute!

  4. June 17, 2011 at 9:48 am | permalink

    …”this was the inspiration of their landscaper, based on what he saw as the Ann Arbor culture/aesthetic”

    Juvenile, lost in a fantasy world and saccharine. Yup, that sounds just about like Ann Arbor.

  5. By Rod Johnson
    June 17, 2011 at 12:39 pm | permalink


  6. By Marvin Face
    June 17, 2011 at 1:21 pm | permalink

    Rod, what is this, Deadspin now?

  7. By DrData
    June 17, 2011 at 4:13 pm | permalink

    i think the location ought to be added to the Fairy Door website: [link]

    I go past that intersection a lot and if I see a family with kids of the appropriate age, I always point the village out to them.

    If you are young at heart, this landscaping is worth walking past; and just east of it are the topiary animals. Others may view this as saccharine or not what the city or its emissaries – Republic Parking – should be spending time on.

  8. By Rod Johnson
    June 17, 2011 at 4:36 pm | permalink

    Marvin: What, +1? That’s an old, old internet thing. I think I first saw it on Usenet in the late 80s. (I’m not sure what Deadspin is…)

  9. By cosmonıcan
    June 17, 2011 at 4:46 pm | permalink

    More about +1 [link]

  10. June 17, 2011 at 7:28 pm | permalink

    So if I interpret properly, the +1 means Rod agrees with Laura?

    I’ve been thinking about her comment. It has some truth to it. Why was I delighted with the little village? For the same reason I enjoy Festifools, fairy doors, yarn bombs, and other such “foolery”. It is totally whimsical, creative, and a simple gift to those of us who spend most of our days thinking about more serious (or grim) things. Oh, and noncommercial. I wouldn’t put up with it for a second as part of a commercial display.

    I think that landscaper does a nice job with just plants, too. I don’t know who it is, but I’ve enjoyed the plantings at the Brown Block, the Y site (topiaries probably fall into the same “saccharine” category), and the planters at the Fourth & Washington structure. Now if he could just do something with that Library Lot – needs work.

  11. By Rod Johnson
    June 17, 2011 at 9:26 pm | permalink

    Google is co-opting +1!! My friend Lilly suggested it might come from Slashdot, which was founded in 1997, and has a system in which comments are rated -5 to +5. So maybe not quite as old as I remember.

    More substantively: I wouldn’t mind the little pieces of tweeness if we were a little less self-congratulatory about it. Whimsy can be great if it takes the form of occasional strange little irruptions into the urban fabric, but being Fairy Door Capital of the Midwest just doesn’t appeal to me much.

    On the other hand, let’s go with it! There’s some branding potential here. How does “Ann Arbor: Like Disneyland with Deficits” sound?

  12. June 18, 2011 at 10:32 pm | permalink

    I think the village is nicely crafted and makes for a pleasant and whimsical oasis. On the other hand, I prefer to imagine urban-fairies as being a bit more discrete or camouflaged if you will. The original fairy doors blended in to the host buildings. For those who prefer less whimsy or just didn’t “get it”… they could walk on by, and only be annoyed by the talk of it.

  13. By Rod Johnson
    June 19, 2011 at 11:28 am | permalink

    There’s nothing wrong with fairy doors. When my daughter was younger we spent a pleasant afternoon or two tracking them down. The problem comes when the aesthetic of the town becomes by cute, whimsical, child-friendly stuff. This place is so… anodyne sometimes, and so blandly happy about it.

  14. June 19, 2011 at 1:05 pm | permalink

    I just returned from a trip to York, PA, a town about the same size as Ann Arbor, also a county seat, and a lot more economically challenged because it lacks the Gigantic Overwhelming Patronage of U-M. In their revitalizing downtown I found street sculpture that doesn’t have to say “art”, unironically modern Pennsylvania Dutch culture, piercing galleries and headshops comfortably located next door to “country” stores selling Gone With the Wind lamps.

    It made me sad to think how twee and affected Ann Arbor is, by comparison. College Town culture is somehow not any culture at all.

  15. By Chris
    June 19, 2011 at 1:23 pm | permalink

    So, what are you doing to change it, aside from complaining on a website?

  16. June 19, 2011 at 1:34 pm | permalink

    Quite a bit.

  17. June 19, 2011 at 1:35 pm | permalink

    Well said, Rod. It’s not there is anything wrong with fairy doors in and of themselves, but when the culture of the town becomes as infantilized as it is today, the town can only be of interest to tourists. Ann Arbor is not a cool city, it’s a cute city, which is nothing at all to be proud of.

  18. June 19, 2011 at 1:42 pm | permalink

    Sorry: I hit return too soon! I meant to say, “Quite a bit. The first 500 Amish settlers are being trucked in now for resettlement in Pittsfield Township, and abandoned tracts of Pulte homes are being razed as we speak.” :)

  19. By Rod Johnson
    June 19, 2011 at 3:42 pm | permalink

    #15 is probably the second most PMSy comment I see on the web (#1 is annarbor.com’s favorite, “Why is this news?”). People’s opinions are not rendered illegitimate by the fact that they are “complaining” (that is, discussing) “on a website.” Although talking about issues isn’t exactly SPRING INTO ACTION!! stuff like Bill’s efforts, it is a part of civilized life.

    Bill: good work!

  20. June 19, 2011 at 6:04 pm | permalink

    The fairy doors are only a small (pun intended) facet of Ann Arbor. I do not think they define Ann Arbor.

    Certainly bike racks which say “art” are barely either (racks or art). Frankly, those annoy me as much as the football (wanna-be Cowparade) sculptures.

    Do I need to do something “edgy” now to balance out what people perceive as “twee” or “cute” or “non culture” and “not cool”?

    Ironically, the insular nature of this University town makes it difficult for the “cool culture” to thrive. It is transient, even many (most ?) of the residents are virtual tourists. The cost of rent for business spaces makes it prohibitive for many unique businesses to survive.

    What do people suggest as something cool, cultural…?
    Does anyone have ideas that are non-twee?

  21. June 19, 2011 at 6:07 pm | permalink

    BTW I am a life-long Ann Arborite.

  22. June 19, 2011 at 6:23 pm | permalink

    Jonathan, I’m really sorry to have dragged you into this. You do not need to justify yourself for your miniature artworks. I’m waiting for these superior commenters to take Festifools apart. It is true, there are children involved. That’s just too cute. (I love it, but that’s just me, post-PMS.)

    I agree 100% about the fakey “art” bike racks. In my opinion, official art isn’t really art. The Percent for Art falsity is what is really “self-satisfied”, not the people who are actually creating things.

  23. By Rod Johnson
    June 19, 2011 at 7:52 pm | permalink

    For the record, I love Festifools, think fairy doors are awesome, am in total agreement about Percent for Art, and hate the bike racks. Each of these things has their own complex set of issues. The argument isn’t about particular works, it’s about the aesthetic climate here, which has, I think, moved in the direction of being pretty bland.

    I don’t think I’m being “superior.” I will confess to having an opinion, and thinking a vigorous conversation about these issues would be a good thing, though admittedly, when people we know and like are responsible for them, it can be an uncomfortable conversation to have. But works of art shouldn’t be sacred cows. I don’t mean to be a jackass about it, though. Making art is hard, and I would never intentionally be disrespectful about someone who is trying to make something good. (So Jonathan, my apologies if that’s the way it felt.)

  24. June 20, 2011 at 7:23 am | permalink

    And for the record I also love FestiFools, and the fairy doors, and the Stacked Rocks, and all the other spontaneous expressions that haven’t been centrally organized by the city, or a corporation.

  25. June 20, 2011 at 11:13 am | permalink

    I can take it.
    I think too often “art” is just pretentious. Most of what I do..I do not consider “Art” even if occasionally it is “artful”. :)

    This is my town and I do get a bit defensive about blanket critiques with no constructive element. I would not want to “paint” Ann Arbor as ONLY University of Michigan Football town…though that is a very large and important facet of Ann Arbor. It is neither “Cute” or twee” and certainly CAN be obnoxious, but it makes the town more interesting.

    Ann Arbor would likely be Saline (not a bad thing) if not for UofM. We take the good with the bad, and I think the “bad” is relatively minimal compared to the benefits of dollars, music, museums, arboretum, education…

    I do take issue with some of the directions that the fairy doors (specifically) have gone (out of my control), but that too is a hazard of the method used. Some people actually *want* the urban-fairies to be “cuter” than I imagine. Some people have their own agendas, as well. Some hope that by jumping on “the band-wagon”, so to speak, they can capitalize on the additional traffic. Others have, naturally, decided to capitalize on the manufacture and selling of fairy doors, something which I have studiously avoided ( I believe that diminishes some of the magic and mystery). shrug. immitation..and falttery and all. I am less annoyed, when something new and imaginative is brought to the concept.

  26. June 20, 2011 at 11:13 am | permalink

    don’t get me started. *WHOOPS*! to late. :)

  27. By Rod Johnson
    June 20, 2011 at 12:21 pm | permalink

    I think that’s a thing that happens a lot in our culture. Someone makes something good, and other people want to wring everything possible out of it, until it loses its magic and becomes trite.

  28. June 20, 2011 at 12:42 pm | permalink

    I’m afraid that is all too true, Rod.

    In this case, I take some blame, in that I did not move fast enough to define or present my vision of the entire mythology. So…people naturally imposed their own, which of course is largely “Disneyfied” (which is not necessarily “bad”).

  29. June 20, 2011 at 1:30 pm | permalink

    I loved the mysterious and unpredictable appearance of the fairy doors. I was puzzled and not pleased when I followed a tweet to see that someone was making them for purchase. Whimsy is not programmable.

    I’d also hate to see this theme magnified and exploited throughout Ann Arbor. I think the landscaper just wanted to put something in a rather difficult corner that might create a vignette rather than a limited planting. I’ve never met him/her but other non-themed plantings for DDA lots and structures use plants imaginatively and add to the downtown landscape in much more pleasing ways than the usual predictable institutional landscaping approaches.

    FWIW, I’ve now spent more time commenting on this thread than I ever have looking at that “village”. I’ve never given it more than a glance.

  30. June 20, 2011 at 2:42 pm | permalink

    heh heh.
    I actually like the village. To me it seems like a different (though naturally associated) project.

    I suppose I’d better get going on my back story/mythology, eh?