The city of Ann Arbor, home to the University of Michigan and a thriving arts scene, has a new mayor who knows a thing or two about the value of culture in a community. Interlochen Arts Academy graduate Christopher Taylor was elected this past November, earning an impressive victory with 84 percent of the vote.
“I’ve always loved government and policy,” Taylor says. “I ran for mayor because I want to contribute and do what I can to help Ann Arbor continue to move forward.”
Taylor attended Interlochen Arts Camp for four summers, from 1981 to 1984, and Interlochen Arts Academy his junior and senior years, studying voice and theatre. Taylor, who also met his future wife, Eva Rosenwald, at Interlochen has boundless warm memories of his time at the camp and school.
“Foremost, I remember friends and our work together, whether preparing for a concert in Corson, or a Gilbert and Sullivan in Kresge, or a play at Grunow, ” Taylor says. “I have such strong, warm memories of cabin and dorm life as well, and the lakes and the incredible beauty of the place. Of course the teachers too at the Academy – they stay with you forever.”
Those teachers included the legendary English teacher, Howard Hintze. “He had a gentle, truly inspirational way about him,” says Taylor. “He loved learning and respected it. You could tell that he loved working with teenagers. He was amused by their craziness, but also animated by their excellence.”
That sense of excellence was a hallmark of Taylor’s Interlochen experience. It’s a place, Taylor says, that “infuses you with a lifelong love and appreciation of the arts.” Beyond that, he says, the experience also opens students’ eyes up to life’s possibilities. “You’re exposed to different disciplines. You see your peers striving for excellence. It stays with you and encourages you to do the same.”
Following graduation from Interlochen, Taylor went on to the University of Michigan, where he went on to earn four degrees, including an undergraduate degree in vocal performance, a master’s degree in American history and his juris doctorate from the University of Michigan Law School. Although he worked for a time in Boston, he has spent the majority of his professional career in Ann Arbor, first with Butzel Long and currently as a partner with the Ann Arbor firm of Hooper Hathaway where he focuses on the representation of local businesses and technology start-ups. He entered politics six years ago with election to Ann Arbor’s City Council.
While arts and politics may not seem a natural match, Taylor says his experiences in the arts have helped him in his years in elected office. “I see Interlochen’s influence with both skills and substance. Substantively, it gave me an appreciation for the arts and for culture, which are crucial to place-making and successful city planning. On the skills side, the training I had as a singer and actor helps with stage presence and public speaking.”
As mayor, Taylor plans to help the city continue to thrive. “Ann Arbor is going in the right direction,” he says. “In general, we’re doing the right things.” In addition to focusing on the provision of basic, everyday services, Taylor hopes to make progress in the areas of transit, affordable housing, support of the arts and culture, and creating a vibrant downtown that retains its character. “It’s about finding that balance,” he says.
Looking back, Interlochen has played “an incredibly important role in who I am today,” Taylor says. “It gave me the foundation to understand and value arts and culture. It gave me an appreciation for excellence. It’s a place that inspires you to do your best, and that’s an ethos that stays with you whether you’re working on your parenting, writing a brief, or serving as a leader.” That inspiration will no doubt continue to prove valuable for Taylor and the city he has been elected to serve.