The AartWorks Project: Connecting The Great Lakes State Through Art

Kate Roos, the founder of The Aartworks Project, with her Why I Love Michigan trailer

From ages two to ninety-two, there is something most Michiganders have in common… they love it here. Ann Arbor-based company, The AartWorks Project, took to the road this summer to find out why.

Kate Roos, an art therapist, has devoted her life to using art as a means for healing and community building. In 2014, Roos founded The AartWorks Project, an umbrella arts organization committed to promoting creativity, community, and change, through art. Since moving from Chicago to Ann Arbor 19 years ago, Kate has been fascinated by Michiganders’ pride and enthusiasm for their state. When you ask a Chicagoan where they are from, they say “Chicago,” but when you ask a Metro-Detroiter where they are from, they proudly hold up their hand and point to the lower right-hand corner. The Why I Love Michigan Project is the product of Roos’ passion for community building through art with her love for Michigan. This summer, Kate launched the project as her largest community art project yet.

On May 15th, 2015, the WILM troupe departed from Ann Arbor with their mobile art studio, dubbed Norman: a 17’ Airstream trailer filled with postcards and art supplies. At every venue, people were invited to express on a postcard with words and images just what it is about the Great Lakes State that makes it, well, great. Since the first stop in Empire, MI in mid-May, the WILM team traveled to over two dozen cities from Detroit to Copper Harbor, covered over 3,000 miles, collected nearly 1,000 handmade postcards, and formed relationships with countless people along the way. The journey transcended art making—it was people connecting.

The AartWorks Project operates under the belief that every person is an artist. This is not an easy concept to accept, many are intimidated by art making. WILM challenges this notion, and invites people of all ages and backgrounds to express themselves creatively. They are simply asked to take the time to look around them and see the beauty that they call home. This is a liberating feeling for many people; their fear of not being an artist was overcome by their desire to express their love for Michigan.

The final element of this traveling community art project is the unification of the postcards. Each and every postcard collected on the road will be incorporated into one great art piece. This installation piece will be visiting several cities across Michigan later this year, where people are invited to see their artwork integrated with the artwork of others. If you are interested in viewing the WILM Installation or would like to find out more about The AartWorks Project, please visit

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