Creatives pose to raise awareness for Farmington Hills census

The Farmington Hills Cultural Arts Department has some new allies in the effort to conduct the city’s first-ever Creative Census – and some might not seem all that “artsy”.

Take Farmington Hills firefighter Stan Barnes. An accomplished jazz artist, he founded Stan Barnes and Friends, a group of more than 50 musicians and other creative professionals who put on an annual concert.

Stan Barnes

City of Troy Economic Development Director Ara Topouzian, a Farmington Hills resident, is an award-winning Armenian musician and has an esteemed Kresge Fellowship to his credit.

Ara Topouzian

MaryLou Stillwagon Stropoli spends her days running a highly successful toffee-based candy business, but also crafts hand-painted shrines.

MaryLou Stillwagon-Stropoli

All three are among a group of local creatives featured on posters that promote the Census, which is available at and closes December 31, 2016. Cultural Arts Coordinator Rachel Timlin said she came up with the poster idea as she was searching for Creative Census ideas.

“There are very, very few cities across the U.S. even doing this,” she said, adding the idea riffed off a promotion done by another community. “I thought we could just do this a bunch of people to highlight the diversity in Farmington and Farmington Hills.”

While people might think, “I’m not an artist,” the posters convey a broad range of talents and skill levels. High school student Maddi Carpenter-Crawford is pictured; she plays violin and performs on stage. “Someone might see Maddi’s poster and think, ‘She’s a student. I could do it, too.’,” Timlin said.

Maddi Carpenter-Crawford

Maddi’s mother, Kelli Carpenter-Crawford, who serves as interim chairperson of the Farmington Community Arts Council, said featuring entrepreneurs adds another dimension the project.

“It’s a win-win to feature local businesses,” she said.

Stillwagon-Stropoli, who co-owns Farmington-based Mother Mary’s Toffee Company, said she was asked to pose for a poster through a Facebook message from friend and fellow artists Lesa Ferencz. “I was getting in the car to deliver (an order) and by  mistake, I pressed the ‘thumbs up’. By the time I stopped…she had connected me with Rachel.”

In addition to her own artwork, Stillwagon-Stropoli said she handles all of the graphic design for the business, which recently celebrated its third anniversary. “But making art is what I do in my real time,” she added.

About 200 local creatives have already fill out the survey, but the poster campaign is designed to draw many more, including local businesses and organizations. The idea behind the survey is to establish a complete picture of the Farmington/Farmington Hills artistic community, which will help the city’s Cultural Arts Division better advocate for the creative sector and develop pertinent creative programs.

“I’d like a couple thousand (responses),” Timlin said. “I’m hoping this will help.”

Learn more about and participate in the Creative Census at at