Bringing Performance Art to the Public

Y-Fi commemorative book launch slated for fall

If you happen to see a group of teens in fluorescent yellow spontaneously break out into a sidewalk skit, you may be witnessing the latest performance of Ypsi Fidelity, or Y-Fi for short. This project, founded by husband and wife artists Nick and Yen Azzaro, helps Ypsilanti Community High School students express themselves in public settings through video, photography and word.

Social art, performing well

“Y-Fi is a social art movement borne on the talents and skills of Ypsilanti Community High School students,” explained Yen Azzaro. “As a performance art troupe challenging norms and stereotypes in public spaces, our aim is to offer student artists uncommon social interactions while sharpening their skills in photography, marketing and storytelling.”

Yen Azzaro, a graphic illustrator, and her husband Nick, a photography teacher at Ypsilanti Community High School, began the project thanks to funding from the Ann Arbor Area Foundation’s In Our Neighborhood grant. Y-Fi was formed in January 2019 in the hopes of bringing art opportunities to students and the after-school enrichment program is part of Eastern Michigan University’s Bright Futures project.

“We meet with twenty students weekly to talk about what social, ethical, economic and cultural topics are on their minds,” Azzaro said. “At the end of each month, we take the student artists out to a public space to create an art happening, a partially scripted occurrence that makes others turn their heads and question what’s happening, in an unexpected and engaging way.”

Lessons to be learned

Y-Fi was a perfect fit for Jhanira Smith, a senior at Ypsilanti Community High School. “I joined Y-Fi because it was a way to think outside the box and to try new things,” Smith said. “I have a photography class with Nick Azzaro, and there was no better way to use what I learned in class than with Y-Fi. With Y-Fi, I experienced joy because the activities we did brought many smiles on our member’s faces. The program has lots of wow factors because there was always a new lesson to be learned.”

This fall, a commemorative book will feature Y-Fi’s first year of art events.

“Y-Fi: Volume 1” will be an art book featuring photos taken by student artists with biographies of each participant.
The book launch and exhibition will take place this September at The Back Office Studio in downtown Ypsilanti. “Our opening at Back Office Studios will include large art prints from the last six months, and the book will be available for signing by the students. The commemorative books are limited edition, and will be in circulation for check out from the Ypsilanti District Library,” Azzaro said.

A positive difference

Yen Azzaro feels the community response to the Y-Fi movement has been very positive. “The public has been surprised, impressed, supportive and excited to see the output of Y-Fi. The students in the movement have also surprised themselves. We’ve had a few students, that typically consider themselves to be shy or introverted, really open up to engage strangers in public. More importantly, many cite the enjoyment they have had in creating this new group of friends, or what we call ‘family’,” she said.

For Smith, Y-Fi is an opportunity to make a positive difference in her community. “Y-Fi shows our community that Ypsilanti has more to offer than the negative rumors people hear. There are so many good things that come from Ypsilanti, and Y-Fi is one of them.”

For more information on becoming a part of the Y-Fi movement, visit Future events will also be posted on their Facebook page