Filling the Ark
Siglin ran the Ark, Ann Arbor's legendary folk music club, from 1968 to 2008. "I retired because I was getting old and I wanted it to get younger," he says. "If I stayed, it would have gotten a little older and a little older until ... " Siglin's fade to silence says it all.
Far from fading away, the Ark--founded forty-eight years ago as an interdenominational campus coffeehouse--is doing better than ever. When the Ark moved to its present spot upstairs on Main Street in 1996, it presented 210 shows annually. Last year, it put on 310, and income was $2.5 million--up from $1.4 million a decade ago. The annual Folk Festival fundraiser at Hill Auditorium has sold out both nights for the last five years. And the Ark is no longer vulnerable to rent increases: earlier this year, it bought its Main Street venue as a condo.
"The Ark is doing far better financially than when I was there," says Dave Siglin, who still sits on the board. "The difference is in the booking policy. I booked acts that wouldn't draw that well because they were artistically important. I had been a musician; I was looking at it from musician's standpoint more than they are now--and what they're doing now is very good."
The key players in the Ark's evolution are executive director Marianne James and program director Anya Siglin. James has been with the Ark since 1997. As Dave and Linda Siglin's daughter, Anya has been around more or less since infancy, but she officially joined the staff in 1994.