What’s Going on With the Visual Arts Scene in Detroit?


The Annex Gallery at 333 Midland, in Highland Park.  April 2017.

Part One of Two

I’ve been showing my work at Detroit Galleries since 1980.  That’s nearly 40 years that I’ve spent “in the trenches” so to speak.  For those of us who lived through the rough times and kept on swinging and kept on getting hits, it’s nice to see things picking up.

Yet some of those who’ve persevered have been left out of this new Detroit art scene.  I’m not doing all that bad myself.  I usually end up showing my work once a year at least.  Yet I can think of a lot of artists who’ve been working for years, doing good work, but who seem to be lost in the shuffle.

I’ve done a special study into Detroit’s arts scene, both during my time and before my time.  Connected with that, I have a History of Detroit’s Visual Arts Scene facebook page and have written several blog posts.  I also did a physical exhibition at the University of Detroit Mercy in the Summer of 2014.

Also, I’ve long been a sort of booster or cheerleader for the idea of a vigorous, magical and lively Detroit art scene.  We’ve always been interesting.  Many dedicated artists truly try to help their fellows.  They network, offer encouragement or help run galleries.  Some of us are not just boosting our own work or a few of our friend’s work.  We keep trying to spark or ignite a larger scene.  We want places like Chicago and New York to be aware that there’s something special going on in Detroit.  Now that this seems so close at hand, I’d hate to see us blow it.

I’m all for looking for good artists wherever I can find them.  I want to see strong images.  I love work that moves me, puzzles me, delights me or make me think.  I believe that we need to have a sense of the totality: the young people coming up, maybe going to art school and then too, the long timers, the grizzled veterans.  Yes we need to pay attention the younger and the older and everyone in between.  Art is everywhere.

The Kresge Foundation and the Essay’d project both play an important part in recognizing and rewarding artists.  The Kresge goes beyond the visual arts into literature, poetry, performance art, dance, music and various forms of community support.

Essay’d features a series of essays profiling a wide variety of Detroit area visual artists.  I was profiled there a year ago and am currently part of an exhibit sponsored by Essay’d and the Detroit Orchestra Hall.  It’s at the Orchestra Hall, from January through April.  Three books of these essays have been published, with a fourth expected next year.

Many great spaces have come and have gone.  One place that I’m concerned about now is the Ellen Kayrod Gallery.  It’s been a major venue for showing work by artists who are over 65 years old.  They feature both well-known and lesser-known Detroit artists.  These included seniors who started to make art late in their lives.  Sometimes younger artists were included in intergenerational exhibits.  Currently, they’re closed for renovations.  Hopefully they’ll get back to their good work soon.  No one else is doing anything similar.

I’ve been researching the art spaces which are currently in Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park.  Besides galleries, art is on display at cafes, restaurants, hospitals and libraries.  There are many public sculptures and murals out on the streets.  Next month, I’ll compile a list and do some sort of preliminary report.  I’ll explore a number of venues, both the ones I’ve been to and the ones I haven’t been to.

The Kresge Foundation:



The Essay’d project:


Art Detroit Now:


The Ellen Kayrod Gallery:


Some of my related blog posts:


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