About First Fridays

What is First Fridays Ypsilanti?

First Fridays Ypsilanti is a self-guided monthly art and culture walk hosted throughout the downtown areas of Ypsilanti at multiple venues. Each month on the first Friday participating venues offer free art activities involving local artists, musicians, and/or tastings. The goal of the First Fridays Ypsilanti is to invite community members into the downtown area to support local talent and businesses while having a fun time!

Mission Statement: First Fridays Ypsilanti is committed to hosting a free, self-guided, monthly art and culture walk. The Organization accomplishes this by:

  • Providing an open platform to local businesses for marketing and advertising.
  • Creating economic stimulus in Downtown and Depot Town Ypsilanti.
  • Facilitate the showcasing of Ypsilanti's creative and historic culture.

Who is First Fridays Ypsilanti?

Kayj Michelle / President

Kayj Michelle is the co-creator of the First Fridays Ypsilanti program. She grew up in Ypsilanti Township and attended Ypsilanti public schools, graduating from Washtenaw Community College with associates degree in Photographic Technology in 2004. After graduating she moved to San Jose, CA to serve two years of Americorps (City Year '05-'06 and Public Allies '06-'07) serving innercity youth with tutoring ESL programs at public schools and homeless shelters. During her five years in San Jose she coordinated a live art collective, Community Rebirth. Upon returning to Ypsilanti in 2010 she continued coordinating live painting under the Community Rebirth name along with monthly artshows at Cafe Verde and Ugly Mug Cafe & Roastery (now called Cross Street Coffee). In 2013 the monthly artshows at Ugly Mug turned into a collaborative effort to start an art walk now known as First Fridays Ypsilanti. Kayj is a licensed massage therapist practicing in Ypsi and at Integrative Medicine at Beaumont Hopsital in Royal Oak. Kayj is currently a full time student finishing her undergraduate degree in Public Health at Wayne State University.

Kayia Robinson / Vice-President

Kayia Robinson is the Vice President of First Fridays. She is local business owner of The Hinton Real Estate Group located in Downtown Ypsilanti on the corner of Pearl and Washington. Kayia was introduced to Ypsilanti’s First Fridays through one of the info shops being held at Spark. Once she was familiar with the information and the motivation behind First Friday’s she was hooked. Attending the her first Gala a few years ago really help push her to want to join forces. She started as First Friday’s secretary and has since moved into the Vice President Roll. Helping her community grow through her business has always been a goal, and now has the opportunity to further those goals with First Fridays!

Elize Jekabson / Program Director

Elize Jekabson is an Ypsilanti based artist. She graduated with an Associates degree in Culinary Arts and Management, followed by a BFA from Eastern Michigan University with a concentration in Sculpture. Elize took on the role of Vice President of First Fridays Ypsilanti in 2013, and helped establish the organization. Elize coordinates the artwork at Bona Sera Restaurant and has worked as the Kitchen manager/ cook since 2013. When she’s not making beautiful compositions on the plate or working on First Fridays, she manages/co-owns Ypsi Alloy Studios. Her early artwork inspired a citywide festival, The Festival of the Honeybee, which brought to attention the blight of the Honeybee. The festival has become a staple in Ypsilanti’s creative culture, and occurs every first weekend of September.

Kenzie Lynn / Website Chair

Kenzie has been a part of First Fridays since January of 2015. She attended Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, and graduated in 2014 with her Bachelor's degree in Fine Arts. She originally approached FFY when she saw the need for help on their website, and reached out to assist - and has been a part of the team ever since. She seeks to create a substantial contribution to the community through creating valuable online and print resources for FFY.

Janeé / Marketing Chair

Janeé received her bachelor’s degree in Communication, with a minor in Public Relations, from Michigan State University. She began her position at the Washtenaw County Convention & Visitors Bureau in December 2016 as the Communications Assistant before accepting the position as Marketing Chair for First Fridays Ypsilanti. She grew up in the area and has a strong appreciation for local art. Her goal is to showcase the talented artists in Ypsilanti, as well as local businesses through the promotion of First Fridays on both the Ypsi Real and Visit Ann Arbor platforms.

Jane Crescent Brundage / Outreach chair

Jane Brundage is a mosaic artist, originally inspired in the 1970’s by a group of San Francisco area phantasmagorical mosaic/assemblage/found object artists. She mixes tile, glass, pottery, old jewelry, phrases, old, new, and often incongruous or unexpected objects, to create assemblage fantasy mosaics. Jane worked in many capacities in book and magazine publishing as a Production Manager, Advertising Manager, Art Editor, Art Director, and Graphic Designer. She is a graduate of New York University, School of Professional Studies Not-for-Profit Arts Administration program, (focusing on festivals & cultural tourism), and a graduate of the California State University, East Bay, Nonprofit Management certificate program, (focusing on arts organizations). In California, she was a participant & organizer for monthly Open Studio events held for the 2nd Friday Oakland & Alameda Estuary Art Walk. After 45 years away, she returned to Michigan in 2014 and says she wisely chose to live in Ypsilanti because of the sincere, open-minded, and often experimental, sense of community here, which is tied together by art, music, sustainability, diversity, and entrepreneurship. One of the primary reasons she moved to Ypsilanti was to become part of First Fridays Ypsilanti! Her mosaics and mosaic jewelry are sold at The Eyrie in Ypsilanti, Castle Remedies in Ann Arbor, and the Dancing Eye Gallery in Northville, as well as in in her Etsy shop (J Crescent Mosaics).

Debbie Ray : Co-volunteer coordinator

Debbie Ray first fell in love with Ypsilanti when she began her undergraduate career at Eastern Michigan University back in the Fall of 2004. She earned a Bachelors Degree in Social Studies, and has returned to pursue a Masters Degree in School Counseling at EMU. Upon completing her Masters, her goal is to work in the local area as a high school counselor, and hopes to give back to the local community as much as it has given to her. She is still involved and engaged with EMU's campus as an alumna, but FFY has given her a chance to be more involved in the local community.
She became a part of First Friday's Ypsilanti by first being invited to be involved on the Pride Steering Committee. She has been involved in past endeavors working with volunteers and delegating tasks, but Pride was the culmination of her previous talents coming together to coordinate such a fantastic event. Since Pride, she found her passion working with volunteers, and is thrilled to work with Margaret Woodard to find equally as passionate volunteers to help FFY continue its mission and vision.

Victor / Secretary

Viktor, originally from Chicago, has a background in art and has been painting and creating jewelry since he was a child; as well as, performing on the stage. He first got involved with First Fridays Ypsi, by being on the steering committee for Ypsi Pride, where he was the stage manager for the event. He then was approached by First Fridays Ypsi, to take on the role of secretary for the board. He was also on the steering committee for the Festival of the Honey Bee. Viktor, is deeply committed in celebrating all forms of art and making it accessible to everyone in his adopted town of Ypsilanti.

Mary Alice / Development chair

Experienced advocate with a demonstrated history of bridging higher education institutions to communities. Skilled in Nonprofit Organizations, Conflict Resolution, Management, Philanthropy, and Fundraising. Strong research professional with a Master of Public Policy focused in Public Policy Analysis from University of Michigan.