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Ever since The Ark got its start in Ann Arbor in 1965, it was envisioned as a place for University of Michigan students to be able to gather together in a creative space. Four local churches, First Presbyterian, Calvary Presbyterian, Northside Presbyterian Churches and the campus chapel joined together to create it. The space wasn’t meant to be a religious one, simply a spot where students were encouraged to de-stress, and grace its stage with poetry, music and art. Eventually, its popularity caught on, and professional performers began to crop up — the first being Larry Henkel.
By the mid-1970s, the venue had known success, but church funding grew smaller. The Ark, by then a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, was in danger, so it threw its first fundraiser. That 1977 event was a huge success, eventually evolving into the Ann Arbor Folk Festival, which has been expanding ever since. In its more than half a century of existence, the venue has featured a variety of folk, roots, rock and Americana legends, with highlights like Mary Chapin Carpenter, Carolina Chocolate Drops and Iggy Pop.
This year, the lineup does not disappoint with performers like Grammy Award winners Jason Isbell and John Prine, and up-and-comers like Dead Horses. The weekend will feature more than a dozen artists, with performances on both Friday, Jan. 26 and Saturday, Jan. 27. All festival proceeds will benefit The Ark.
Though the Ark is famed for its intimate seating arrangements, the festival will be held in the University of Michigan’s Hill Auditorium, the university’s largest musical venue.
Tickets are on sale now by phone at (734) 763-TKTS, or in person at the Michigan Union Ticket Office. Tickets can also be purchased online at theark.org. The Hill Auditorium is located at 825 North University, Ann Arbor.