I recently wrote an article about the Detroit art scene for Chicago’s New Art Examiner, focusing on three organizations/projects that seemed to me to exemplify important features of Detroit and its artists right now. 1XRun, Playground Detroit and the North End neighborhood’s American Riad project demonstrate the entrepreneurial creativity, DIY energy, and artistic/social inclusiveness that I see in the city. I’m sorry I couldn’t write about more of the Detroit’s great galleries and projects, but that would take a book, not a magazine article. To read what I wrote, go here
The non-profit artists’ collective and gallery Hatch Art has purchased Dmytro Szylak’s Hamtramck Disneyland, an extensive outdoor installation of handmade folk art along with the two homes located on the property. Szylak, a Ukrainian immigrant and former GM autoworker, created the work beginning in 1992. It was completed in 1999. He died in 2015 at 92, leaving uncertain prospects for the property and its art.
For a time inheritance disputes left the future uncertain, but recently the homes – and the art – were put on the market with the expressed preference of the seller (although not the requirement) that the work remain intact. To the relief of many, Hatch Art has stepped in to purchase and preserve Hamtramck Disneyland.
Hamtramck Mayor Karen Majewski calls Hamtramck Disneyland “a work of a premiere Hamtamck artist,” a “tourist destination worldwide,” a “neighborhood institution” and an expression of the immigrant and working-class experience in Hamtramck. “There is no alternative but preservation,” she adds.
Scott Collins, president of Hatch Arts’ board of directors, said his group purchased the property after obtaining a private loan. He said they plan to open the houses to tenants this summer, and start restoring and sprucing up the backyard artwork.
One goal is restoring the electric lights around the installation that haven’t worked for years. “We are going to make a lot of extra efforts to preserve the art,” Collins said. “It’s been a landmark in the city for a long time. It’s a great example of Hamtramck history, immigrant history and the independent arts scene.”
To get a tour of this unique site-based installation you can go here
In the cities of the Rust Belt, arts writing is distinguished by how much of it there isn’t. The upper mid-west is thought of -when it’s thought of at all-by the art establishment on the coasts as a cultural backwater. But we all know that there are many, many artists living and making and showing their art here. Much of the work is good, some of it great. But because regional arts writing is so scarce, artists often don’t get the attention their work deserves. Artists with ambitions to acquire a broad audience are forced to decamp for New York or L.A. (or at least Chicago) to get a viewing.
The Rust Belt’s woeful shortage of thoughtful arts writing is the result of a number of unfortunate historical facts and technological trends. The financial hardships of mainline news media have forced them to re-organize as online platforms with unsteady revenue streams. Legacy newspapers like the Detroit News, the Detroit Free Press, and the Ann Arbor News, never enthusiastic commentators on the visual arts of the region in any case, have eliminated staff writers who covered the cultural scene. In some cases these writers have been replaced by unpaid or poorly paid online stringers. Often they haven’t been replaced at all. In this critical vacuum, the arts ecosystem in the northern mid-west lacks the intellectual oxygen that allows it to breathe and grow. And most importantly for artists, without arts writers to provide context for the art consuming public, there is no consensus – or even discussion – on the relative importance, interest or value of various artists and approaches to art.
But there’s no reason this has to be the story of Rust Belt art commentary going forward. There are a few online and/or print arts magazines such as Hyperallergic, Flashart, Art in America and Artfixdaily that write occasionally about art news here in Southeast Michigan.
More importantly there are now a few fairly new blogs and websites that cover artists and the arts in Detroit and environs. Herewith a list:
http://essayd.org/– long form essays on outstanding Detroit artists (soon to be published in book form)
When I originally published TAA-95 a year and a half ago, I expected this blog to serve as a way for the artists participating in the Toledo Area Artists 95 exhibit at the Toledo Art Museum to keep in touch and to spread news on their art exhibits, projects, professional accomplishments and the like. It turns out that I vastly over-estimated the appetite of my TAA artist friends for self promotion! Either because they are way too modest or just don’t have an appetite for verbal self-expression, very few posts have been forth-coming. I find I am writing about regional artists and art issues pretty much on my own. That’s not a bad thing, just different from what I intended at the outset.
On the other hand, I find that the more I express my opinion and share information about art events in Southeast Michigan and Northeast Ohio, the more I enjoy it. Recently, with a bit of (perhaps ill-considered) encouragement from talented arts writer and Kresge Fellow Sarah Rose Sharp, I’ve started to cover regional art news in more detail. I’m not writing because I’m a great writer (though I hope to improve over time) but because I don’t think there is enough coverage of visual artists and the arts in our region.
To reflect the more personal nature of this blog going forward, I will be making some changes in its format. Soon the domain name will change from taae95artists.wordpress.com to rustbeltarts.com, and I’ll be tweaking the home page appearance. Other than that, those of you following the blog won’t notice much difference (except I will be posting even more frequently). I still hope to hear from the artists in last year’s Toledo Art Museum exhibit whenever they have something to report, but in future I will be the sole author on this blog.
It doesn’t seem possible, but time flies and Hatch Hamtramck has been around now for ten years. In celebration, the non-profit studio and gallery has organized its tenth annual juried exhibit Hatchback 10. This comprehensive exhibit, juried by Detroit art personality James Dozier, features 55 Hatch artists and is on display through April 30.
A celebratory 10th Anniversary Party will be held 6-10 on Saturday, April 30 in the Gallery. The event is free and open to the public.
Hatch is the brainchild of Hatch president Christopher Schneider and Erik Tungate, Hamtramck’s former Director of Community & Economic Development. They saw a need for an artist community that would promote Hamtramck in a positive way, where artists could pool their resources to challenge each other and reach out to the greater community.
United by the shared mission of Education, Expression and Exhibition, the group rapidly gained followers and supporters. Regular meetings were held in community centers, local businesses and artists’ studios. In 2007, Hatch achieved 501[c]3 nonprofit status and developed a full calendar of events. Within its first year of existence, Hatch founded the Detroit chapter of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti Art School, represented Hamtramck artists at 2 art fairs, and hosted concerts, critiques, educational workshops and more.
Hatch purchased the old police station at 3456 Evaline from the City of Hamtramck in 2008. For the next four years, renovations were made, concurrent with fundraising and maintaining a full events schedule. A new roof and central heating system were made possible through grants and crowd sourcing campaigns. Volunteers put in countless hours to help convert the former police station into a space for making and exhibiting art.
Hatch Gallery officially opened in April 2012. Upstairs, studios became available for rent in July and were at full occupancy by the year’s end. Classroom space was finished in March 2013.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting arts writer Sarah Rose Sharp when she served as juror for a show I was in at the Walter E. Terhune Gallery in Perrysburg, Ohio.
Sharp is a recent recipient of a Kresge Grant for her writing on art criticism. She writes for multiple print publications and online platforms such as Art in America. Hyperallergic and Knight Arts to name only a few. In addition to writing long form essays on Detroit artists for Essay’d ( http://essayd.org/), she keeps a lively blog called “Breakfast with an Artist”. In this more informal format, Sharp enters into open-ended discussions with artists on arts issues and the Rustbelt art scene in general. Here is a sample of her style, lifted from her most recent breakfast-with-the-artist post:
“You are not a Detroiter until you have learned the skill of delayed gratification, pride in work for its own sake, patience patience patience (I hate learning this. HATE IT). I am a different person than I was when I first arrived, and I am eternally grateful to Detroit for teaching me how to be that person, not to mention the first communities here that welcomed me, even as a vain and unproven entity, lost in my own searching.”
Pretty eloquent and spot on, right? I also had breakfast with her last week and was energized by her thoughts about the art community in Detroit and environs. If you want to check it out(and you really should) go to: http://sarahrosesharp.com/blog/
River House Arts, formerly located in a historic building overlooking the Maumee River in Perrysburg, Ohio, has moved to downtown Toledo. The new space (or I should say spaces) are located in the Secor Building, a former luxury hotel at 425 Jefferson. The former Secor Hotel, built in 1908, is also the home of the Toledo Opera and the Registry, an upscale gourmet restaurant. The main gallery on the ground floor features high ceilings and grand baroque-style windows. Gallerist Paula Baldoni says that in addition to providing a larger space to display more ambitious work, River House Arts is now located in a busy urban setting with lively street life.
River House Arts also has a smaller, more intimate space on another floor of the building to accommodate works on paper and smaller artworks.
Artworks by various artists represented by the gallery are displayed in the spacious lobby of the building and throughout the common areas.
The inaugural exhibition is a solo show by Cuban artist Augusto Bordelois. His work is an example of the more ambitious scale and scope of work that will be featured in future shows in the gallery.
The show is entitled Immigrants, Outcasts and Other Heroes. Immigration and war, insecurity and fear, romantic and familial love and the absurdity of the modern age are some of the themes addressed in these colorful and intricate compositions. Mr. Bordelois’ style can called a kind of magic realism, a visual counterpart to the works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Filled with symbolism and allegory, the paintings give the viewer plenty to contemplate.
The exhibition will be open April – June 4. Call 419.441.4025 for hours, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
On January 11, 2015, the New York Times Travel section Cleveland, Ohio was listed as number 21 of 52 best places to go in 2015, and specifically, the city’s Golden Square Arts District and the new Museum of Contemporary Art were mentioned:
Yet another article on the economic importance of the arts. We say it and say it, but is anyone listening?
Note the chart that indicates that Chicago, while hosting an important arts cluster, is still less artcentric than its population should suggest. Ann Arbor is listed as “punching above its weight” in the arts, but I hasten to add that this analysis includes all arts– not just visual arts– music, theater and the like. My own personal experience in Ann Arbor indicates to me that the town is more supportive of performing arts and music than to visual arts.