As an artist living and working in Detroit, I naturally seek out beauty in the blight and decay around me. I’ve been spending time seeking out graffiti and other non-traditional public art, and feel inspired to contribute.
I have been working in mosaics for 8 years, and am interested in executing a large scale mosaic. I would love the opportunity to mosaic an entire abandoned house in the Woodbridge area. I want to be to Detroit what Isaiah Zagar is for Philadelphia, and Laurel True is for San Francisco.
In the past I have been commissioned to execute large scale mosaic fireplaces, porches, outdoor spaces and furniture. I re-purpose materials as often as possible in my work, and work to transform existing discarded and otherwise useless items into something new and inspiring. I use ceramic tile, dishes, tempered glass from car windows and found objects.
Once a house has been identified, I plan to get the community involved in every aspect by holding a series of workshops for both children and adults. The workshops will be utilized to edify the community in general, build a good communication with those who will be first impacted by the project, and then finally, to educate about what kind of materials and objects can be utilized in a large scale mosaic. The purpose of this is so that people can contribute in several ways. Actual assistance in putting the mosaic together, ideas of objects/materials that can be used, or, most importantly to help them figure out what items/materials/objects they could contribute to the overall mosaic from their own lives.
My dream would be to purchase the house and open up a clubhouse/community center to provide a safe and welcoming space where the community can gather.
This is a way we can take back the city. Together, we are showing we care and are willing spend the time and effort needed to invest in our environment.
artWORK Detroit asked an eclectic selection of Detroit creatives--breakdancers, sociologists, poets, illustrators, muralists--to respond to this question:
As an artist living/working in Detroit in 2010, what opportunities do you see to imagine a creative future?
We're looking for your responses as well. Come by the exhibit at C.A.I.D. and pick up a copy of the nationally produced and distributed publication, artWORK US and give us your vision for a creative future. Or let us know via this site.
at 6:15 PM
Clear signs of a depressed economy are evident from the unfinished plaza fountain and the vacant suites of the completed glass structure known as the International Mercado, a would -be jewel of southwest Detroit’s border barrio at the foot of the historic Ambassador Bridge.
The original intent for one of the suites was a community Galeria sponsored by General Motors C orporation ; however it never got off the ground due to poor organization and GMs financial challenges.
My work in part with SWAN ( Southwest Artist’s Network of Detroit)is a continuation of my ongoing Border Arts Project, primarily public art projects on the border. SWAN obtained the use of the Galeria in April 2010 to sponsor a Cinco de Mayo exhibition followed by other exhibitions and events.
The many multi - cultural projects and programs inform the greater population coming into this country about art and culture as well as those who choose to stay. The Galeria and plaza as well as surrounding area around the International Mercado may have site specific installations, kioskes and calamities to incite and question what’s going on around here and why??
SOUP is a monthly dinner that funds micro-grants for creative projects in Detroit. On the first Sunday of each month, all are invited to gather for a public soup dinner in the loft above Mexicantown Bakery. Up to 150 guests pay $5 for soup, salad, and dessert, which are prepared by different artists and community members each month. During dinner, applicants for grant funding pitch project proposals and field questions from fellow diners, who are mostly seated on the floor, huddled around doors resting on milkcrates as tables. All in attendance cast a vote (in a homemade voting booth) on which project to fund with the money raised from the meal that night. Jessica Hernandez and I facilitate the monthly gathering in collaboration with a multidisciplinary community of artists, thinkers, friends, family, and other community members. We hope that SOUP serves as an experiment in sustaining an independent creative infrastructure that practically supports strong creative projects, a relational hub connecting various creative communities, and a site for accessible yet critical dialogue about the relationship between creative production and community engagement in Detroit.
SOUP responds to the current economic situation in Detroit by employing an independent, community-driven economic model to democratically fund creative projects. From artists to farmers, builders to curators, a wide range of creative people submit project proposals for SOUP funding each month. We receive proposals for everything from overtly artistic investigations to socially-based, process-oriented work to creative activities that pragmatically respond to the specific needs of local neighborhoods and communities. We believe that by gathering diverse creative people together in the context of a small-scale democratic experiment, we can organically build and sustain relationships with one another as we hash out and support the types of creative production we believe should be happening in our city in this important time of transition.
Each month at SOUP, we seek to instigate a dialogue about the creative projects being proposed for funding. A wide range of creative production that is interested in exploring and reshaping the social, economic, and urban fabric of the city is occurring in Detroit right now. We believe that we have to learn to talk about it. Initiating a dialogue that incorporates so many creative disciplines and disparate fields of knowledge can feel like a wildly overwhelming, interdisciplinary endeavor, but as our city continues to re-envision and re-structure itself, we believe it is essential to learn to critically discern the value of these projects based on their creative strength and the depth, ethics, and sustainability of their community impact.
As an artist, I am interested in how environments, sculptures, installations, and performative actions can facilitate truly embodied, practical experiences of citizenship. I am interested in how the construction of specific situations can bring together both art and non-art audiences from diverse backgrounds to activate possible new models of artistic, social, economic, and civic engagement. As the residents of Detroit continue to creatively problem solve, organize, and respond to our current situation, SOUP will continue supporting strong creative projects, facilitating relationships among various creative communities, and working to provoke an ongoing critical, creative, civic dialogue.
As my good friend General Baker said the other day, “There are so many demonstrations against the current economic situation it’s beginning to look like the sixties; you could lose yourself in all of this activity.” He has planted his feet in the struggle for national health care, as have I, in addition to anti-war and anti-ICE demonstrations. But as an artist I write within the tension of guilt from having to avoid all of this activity. This may be an unexpected response to your question, but I’ve been finding myself apologizing to all of my activist friends and trying to justify my absence in the organizing end of this struggle. I tell them, I’ll be a body in the demos, a presence; I just can’t organize anything right now. And I may not make every activity. The exchange is that no one can write my stories. I need to be quiet and moil in the sense that Carol Bly recommends as a way to find story. Then again I embrace the sentiment of the great Argentine writer Julio Cortázar in his brilliant essay, Don’t Let Them, “The poet or story writer’s most arduous struggle is maintaining the delicate equilibrium that will allow him to continue to create work with air under its wings without becoming a holy monster, a worthy freak exhibited in history’s daily carnival, so that his compromise can be worked out in the appropriate domain, where his foliage can put forth new growth.” I feel guilty about sitting at the computer worrying about words that may not have any relevance to big issues. But, it is this guilt that propels me to write. It is a justification. I must do this or be lost. In the end, I’m trying to maintain my humanity. General is right; you could lose yourself. And for what? Still, I march when I can in favor of HR676 because I am at the age when health care is a major issue. But then again it’s a major issue for all. My son and daughter do not have health care. And the war in Afghanistan is escalating. So I spend sleepless nights worrying about this stuff and wake up mornings full of the painful energy that wants to inform my writing these days. So though I am angry, I can’t use my fiction for anger because I am writing a novel about love. Go figure.
at 6:34 PM
In the past year, economic crisis has taken the world by storm, but Detroit has been facing a cultural, economic and countless other catastrophes for years. As an artist born and raised and now returning to the city, I have been witness to both the hardships that face the city and the amazing people who raise up to face these challenges. Many are concerned about when things are going to return to the way they were before, but for Detroit just going back isn't good enough.
Detroit doesn't have opportunities that people are handing out, but rather raw materials that could possibly yield major rewards. To live in this city is a daily struggle with the failing city government, educational system and inadequate access to basic resources, to succeed you have to take thing into your own hands. Which is, prime real estate for artist or anyone bold enough to take on the challenge. As residence of Detroit it is our duty to take in these resources and use them to rebuild this city, in our image.
This is what shapes the people of this place and what informs my work as an artist. What may look like vandalism to some is my reform for the city. What the city lacks in typical resources, it makes up for in alternative mediums. In my case, old bill boards that populate my neighborhood serve as the canvas to my work. Many of them have been abandoned, because the area's population is so low, companies don't see it as worth while to advertising in, making them perfect display for my work. I pasting over sized drawings on the bill boards, to relay messages to my neighborhood or anyone passing threw. The people of Detroit need not to look to depend on other things support our city, we will make our own in our city, our own food, our own stores, and our own bill board.
at 6:23 PM
One thing that will change, along with the structure of our communities (more centralization, less sprawl) and our modes of transportation (forget about driving everywhere, or flying anywhere, get used to trains and buses), will be our food system. Grapes from Chile, apples from New Zealand, cattle fed on industrially produced grain and meat shipped thousands of miles in freezer trucks—all will become increasingly unaffordable to the average person. Likewise, goodbye to the cheap crap from China that stocks the shelves of Wal Marts and Costcos. This is bad, right? But as prices on these commodities increase, due to the costs of fossil fuels, things produced by human hands, closer to home, will become competitive, and will increasingly be viewed as values. Regional webs of agriculture, manufacturing, and culture may spring back to life. Perhaps it is fitting that the derailing of global capitalism in late 2008 may have originated in the most local of capital markets—housing and real estate. And maybe it is there, in the local soil, where we may find our true roots, and grow again—not endlessly expanding outward, but elaborating inward, not finding wealth in accumulation, but richness in cultivation, not in exceeding limits, but in working artfully within them.
I have been thinking a lot about food. This in itself is not unusual for me. As those who know me will attest, it is rare that I am not thinking about food. But I have been thinking of food in particular as it relates to our societal plight and our civilization’s future—as well as that of Detroit. Looking at item number three on the list above, I am not the first to notice that some of Detroit’s apparent deficits are things that might be assets by another measure. First and foremost among these is an abundance of vacant land located at the center of a major market on a navigable waterway that connects two major industrial countries. We also have an abundance of idle workers, thanks to the de-industrializing downshift of the previous three decades, as well as the most recent recession, and the bankruptcy and restructuring of two of the former Big Three automakers. Add to this a benevolent climate (most of the year) that contributes to some of the most productive and diverse agriculture in the country. Michigan and neighboring Ontario are both tremendous fruit producers, and almost any other food you can think of comes out of the soil here at some point in the year. --PD
'Drawing Power' is an interactive sculpture that transforms through two stages of energy. The first stage is a high energy dance performance. Dancers silhouettes are lit with standard energy grid powered industrial lights. As night falls the sculpture transforms into a quieter experience. A solar powered star field made from LED fiber-optic light strands begins to glow, drawing power only from the storage provided by the sun. Audience members are invited to come inside, lounge around, and gaze at the solar light show.
Mary Claire Duran
My thoughts as a thirty year career as an art educator comes to an end are on where to direct my energies next. I want to get involved in the Riverfront Conservancy and make sure that our riverwalk to the bridge gets developed. To me that would be a true work of art--a litter-free place to enjoy the water embellished with natural plantings and sculptures. Also, my dream is for the public school students of Detroit to have a school ship--a place where every fifth grade class can go out on the water and learn about stewardship of our river.
Well, that is a pretty big dream, but not impossible I think. If it were made a part of the next bond proposal and there was a campaign to inform the voters we might have a chance. With the billions being spent on new facilities, why couldn’t we have this type of facility? Perhaps it could be a partnership as the renovation of the former Boblo boat St. Claire moves forward.
I am a fiber artist--weavings, quilts, wall hangings, anything that has to do with fabric and yarns and clothing. I am not sure I get the same satisfaction when I finish a non-functional piece as when I finish a functional piece. Or maybe it’s a different kind of satisfaction or maybe it has to do with the function of a non-functional piece being simply to be a piece of art. I am not going to bother my head too much about this, just going to continue having fun in my studio. -MD
Chazz Miller of Public ArtWorkz, Detroit:
Life is how you create it! When we take a look at this economic down turn we think wow things are really bad, this way of thinking is all wrong if we expect to move forward. Opportunity is all around us--Detroit Diesel ships auto parts all over the world, one of my business partners has a recycling company called Federal Recycling and recently acquired several hundred shipping crates, that were no longer being used because of the economic downturn. Chazz and his Public Art Workz team created hand cut butterflies for a project called the Papllion Effect--cut outs were made out of the shipping crate walls and the Papllions used to cover up blighted buildings. The crates also served as planter boxes for community gardens,and made great storage containers for recycling. This just one example of how resource rich Detroit is.
Using art to beautify and educate and uplift the community has been the primary goal of Public Art Workz since 2003. We strongly believe by creating a positive environment stimulates positive action, attitudes, uplifts community pride creating opportunities to interact with your neighbors.
Detroit art exhibit a catalyst to affect change
Nick Tobier, a public performer, whose work is rooted in the social lives of public places, has organized “ART Work/Detroit” the exhibit which opened Saturday, September 11th at 6pm in the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit (CAID), located on Rosa Parks.
The exhibit is part of ArtWork: US: A National Conversation on Art, Labor & Politics http://www.artandwork.us, bringing in arts from Detroit and across the country.
The exhibition will feature a gallery exhibit, including site specific, performances and installation based work at the CAID and in public and private spaces throughout the city of Detroit.
“We are especially interested in projects that give tangible form to ideas of how art can serve as a catalyst to affect Detroit as service, social space, activism, and interactions that overlap with questions of urban planning, sustainability, political and economic development.”
Tobier, organizer of the ART Work/Detroit exhibition studied landscape architecture at Harvard's Graduate School of Design.
The ART Work/Detroit exhibition asked artists several thought provoking questions, “We are looking for exhibition pieces and projects that create a public opportunity for and in Detroit,” says Tobier. The exhibition will include responses to Tobier’s question, from artist’s in Detroit and around the country, including: Paul Draus, Mary Duran, Lolita Hernandez, Stacey Malasky, Airea Dee Matthews, Chazz Miller,Warren Quigley , and many more. With site-specific work from Mary Beth Carolan & Robert Reese, Hygienic Dress League, and Atelier SHOTGUN, and more.
Chazz Miller, an artist in the exhibition is the founder of PUBLIC ART WORKZ! a project that revitalizes Northwest Detroit into a world class Public Art Showcase using Murals as the catalyst for change.
Other artists who will be featured in the exhibit include Nate Mullen an artist educator and director of the after school programs at YArts Detroit; Airea Dee Matthews, a highly acclaimed performance poet and writer who placed on the National Detroit Poetry Slam Team in 2004 and won the 2008 Detroit Grand Slam Champion title besting some of the top performance poets; Haleem Rasul founder of the break dance crew Hardcore Detroit; Lolita Hernandez a born and bred Detroit writer; and, Marcus Bowcottwho will be included in the visionary proposal component of the exhibit. Marcus is an alumnus of the Royal College of Art in London, England. He completed his undergraduate studies in Vancouver and Toronto