Once again, I’ve fallen behind in my postings on Rustbeltarts.com! I’ve been busy though, writing mostly for the Detroit Art Review and New Art Examiner. Here are some of the things I’ve been writing about:
I wrote about Shapeshifters, at Cranbrook Museum of Art for the Detroit Art Review; an encyclopedic tour of the museum’s collection that includes both the work of international art stars like Donald Judd and Joan Mitchell, as well as the work of many young, up and coming artists working in the Detroit area. To read my review in its entirety, go to: Shapeshifters @ Cranbrook Museum of Art – Detroit Art Review
I also wrote about the new sculpture by Jaume Plensa, recently installed in front of the University of Michigan Museum of Art, as well as an interesting project inside the museum that combines curated artworks from the collection paired with classes as diverse as social work, art, architecture and public health, meant to broaden students’ experience both of the subject matter and of related art. For more: Jaume Plensa Sculpture @ UMMA – Detroit Art Review
I’m particularly pleased to have had the opportunity to write about Essay’d, a unique arts writing project in Detroit that aims to create a crowd-sourced body of writing about the city’s contemporary artists, one by one: Essay’d (newartexaminer.org)
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 In some cases these writers have been replaced by unpaid or poorly paid online stringers.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)
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/