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EXCEL program awards $10,000 to organizers of Threads All Art Festival

By Marilou Carlin

The 2016 team behind the Threads All Arts Festival. Photo courtesy of Theo Schear.

The multidisciplinary founders of the Threads All Arts Festival, which launched in Ann Arbor last year and will be presented again in August, have been named the recipients of the 2017 EXCELprize, providing a cash award of $10,000. EXCELprize is awarded by the EXCEL Department (Excellence in Entrepreneurship, Career Empowerment & Leadership) at the School of Music, Theatre & Dance (SMTD).

The winning team comprises current students Grace Bydalek (BFA ’18, musical theatre); Lang DeLancey (BS ’17, biology); Ben Factor (BFA ’17, performing arts technology); Peter Littlejohn (BFA ’17, performing arts technology); Samuel Schaefer (BFA ’17, performing arts technology); Ayal Subar (BFA ’19, performing arts technology); and Andrea Wilk (BA ’17, cognitive science); and recent graduates Meri Bobber (BFA ’15, dance); Nicole Patrick (BM’ 16, percussion BFA ’16, jazz and contemporary improvisation); and Karen Toomasian (BS ’15, architecture).

The EXCELprize recognizes extraordinary excellence in performing arts entrepreneurship, leadership, and social impact. It is awarded annually to a University of Michigan student or student team that has established a standout performing arts venture. In addition to the cash prize, the awardee(s) receive mentorship from EXCEL faculty and staff.

The Threads All Arts Festival, launched in 2016, is a multidisciplinary three-day event, that seeks to provide Southeast Michigan with a platform for local artists of the highest quality, carefully curated to enhance both the audience and artist experience. The festival showcases installations and performances, workshops and artist panel discussions, and food from local farms. A spectrum of art mediums are featured, including music, dance, poetry, film, theatre, performance art, and visual art.

In its first year, which showcased 132 performing artists and 10 visual artists over two days, the event was supported by an inaugural Performing Arts EXCELerator Fellowship, awarded by EXCEL to individuals or teams for early-stage performing arts ventures.

“We are thrilled to continue supporting the multi-talented Threads All Art Festival team,” said Jonathan Kuuskoski, assistant director of EXCEL. “Their first festival last year was a resounding success; they packed the Yellow Barn, doubled their initial grant award in ticket sales, and grew the Threads community from 6 to 617. The EXCELprize will serve as a vital catalyst for expanding the 2017 festival’s scope and impact, kickstarting new revenue streams which will allow them to apply every dollar made from ticket sales and merchandise this summer towards Threads 2018.”

Art installation from the 2016 Threads All Arts Festival. Photo courtesy of Theo Schear.

“We are so honored to have been awarded this year’s EXCELprize,” said Nicole Patrick, co-founder and director of the Threads Festival. “One year ago, I remember thinking, as Dean Aaron Dworkin awarded the prize to Melissa Coppola of Girl’s Rock Detroit, how insane it would be for Threads to be accepting that huge check. Mentorship from the EXCEL department, throughout this past year, positioned us to be eligible for this grant, but actually earning the generous cash prize is the key to opening new doors for the future of the festival. These resources, along with the determination and love within our team, is setting Threads up to be a sustainable, collective, artistic experience in which collaboration and friendship are distinctly possible.”

Patrick said that the award will assure that Threads can continue for years to come.  “For our team, mostly made up of graduating or graduated students, it is a dream come true to see that this idea and passion of ours has become its own sustainable venture.”

This year’s Threads Festival takes place August 25—27 at the Ann Arbor Distilling Company, 220 Felch Street, Ann Arbor. The festival is expanding from one stage over two days to two stages over three days, and will include skill-share workshops, panel discussions with artists, interactive installations, and a garden based on permaculture design. The organizers are currently seeking submissions from artists representing diverse backgrounds for the 2017 festival. Submissions are due by 11:59PM on June 1. Information about submissions for volunteering and workshop leading will be released soon. Up to date information on the festival can be found on or

The EXCEL Department provides entrepreneurship training and career services for all U-M students engaged in the performing arts. Their goal is to enable all SMTD students to forge a viable career in the performing arts by exploring, developing and leveraging their talents, training, skills, and ambitions. EXCEL catalyzes success for students and alumni through courses, co-curricular workshops, ongoing mentoring, and $100,000 in annual student project and venture funding.