“Even the Detroit People Mover, often seen as a glaring symbol of failure running its meager 2.9-mile loop above the city, contains the world’s largest art collection housed within a public transportation system.”
Every summer, Detroit transforms—with the sunshine, everything seems to awaken from a slumber. Under the bright blue skies Detroiters rediscover the city’s vibrant treasures somehow lost to us in the grays of winter.
As we savor a post-work cocktail on the patio of Queen’s Bar or in the alley at The Skip, we take in the hum of the city and notice the colors of the architecture around us.
On Saturday mornings, to the soundtrack of saxophones and bucket drums, we weave through the lush greens, blues, oranges and reds of the murals in Eastern Market.
We are reminded that art is all around us.
Throughout its history, Detroit has always been an important art city. Detroit’s wealth in the early 20th century, thanks to the boom of the automotive industry, allowed for the development of private collections and the Detroit Institute of Arts—one of the world’s leading public art museums. And despite the trials and tribulations the city has endured, art has always been an important part of the city’s identity and a key to its growth.
In 1958, when the ‘Spirit of Detroit’ was dedicated on the corner of Woodward and Jefferson, it was the largest bronze sculpture to be cast since the Renaissance—an astonishing record still held today. Even the Detroit People Mover, often seen as a glaring symbol of failure running its meager 2.9-mile loop above the city, contains the world’s largest art collection housed within a public transportation system. Each of the thirteen stations contains an original, site-specific, art work commissioned in the late 1980s from local, national, and international artists creating everything from mosaics of Pewabic tiles to sculptural neon installations.
Art has become one of the most significant tools of redevelopment in Detroit today. Murals certainly have become the medium du jour, transforming blighted areas such as the Dequindre Cut and downtown alleys, and reigniting the energy of historic sites such as Eastern Market. And with the success of murals and other public art in activating spaces, developers are beginning to look inside, building collections of art that symbolize civic and community pride in lobbies and other communal spaces.
As an extension of their public art projects, developers such as Bedrock have built the Detroit Art Collection which includes work from local and international artists, such as John Chamberlain, Beverly Fishman, and Paul Kremer. Other developers such as Woodorn Partners and Broder and Sachse are collecting work from local artists such as Matt Eaton, Tiff Massey, and Lisa Spindler as a way to connect the fast-growing downtown residential communities with the culture of the city.
But what does Detroit’s latest love affair with public art mean for our local art market? As you snap a photo of the beautiful, blue Ouizi mural on Orleans in Eastern Market or Lisa Spindler’s ethereal portrait in The Apparatus Room at The Foundation Hotel, are you thinking about the artist?
You should be.
As we realize the cultural value of artists in helping build our communities, we need to ask ourselves, how do artists sustain their practice and how can we help?
According to Art Detroit Now, the online guide to contemporary art in Detroit, there are over 50 art galleries in the city (Detroit proper) alone and on average more than 10 exhibition openings per week. That is a plethora of opportunities to explore contemporary art in Detroit. And the offerings are diverse – ranging from sculpture to street art, paintings to prints – with an emphasis on local, national and international artists. Explore and dabble in it, Detroit is the perfect city for new collectors to develop their eye and build their collections even on a small budget.
Collecting art has never been more important. As a physical expression or artifact of the place and time we live in, art has always been a tangible way to connect with the world around us – one of the only ways we can bring the events, ideas and culture of the world into our private lives. And in an increasingly ‘paperless’, cryptocurrency-driven world, we need art to ground us and connect us to our environments in a real way. In these times of great change for the city, art collecting is one of the few ways we can all be part of the progress – supporting the artists who create the artifacts of ‘here’ and ‘now’ and making these artifacts part of your own personal history.
With the rise in the development of downtown housing, developers are looking for unique ways to connect their resident communities with the city and provide opportunities for residents to support the city’s economy. Hence, building a new ‘lifestyle’ platform. Art is the perfect tool to do that with. The Scott at Brush Park is an interesting example. With dedicated art exhibition space in the lobby, The Scott has a quarterly budget to bring in new works from individual artists not only to activate the lobby but to provide residents with an art collecting opportunity right at home.
This Friday, June 1st, The Scott at Brush Park partners with NEXT:SPACE to present a new collection of woodblock prints from artist and designer Chad Wentzel. Trained in printmaking and now running a design studio, Wentzel had been looking for an opportunity to create a new collection of prints as a way to revisit his design roots. In multiple sessions at his Eastern Market studio and nearby Signal-Return, Wentzel created a unique collection of woodblock prints. Each print is one-of-a-kind and made with hand-carved blocks and vibrant, hand crafted, neon inks. The collection presents a colorful series four distinct block patterns of bold, geometric designs inspired by Bauhaus textiles and 80s beach towels among many other things. Stop by June 1st, 6:30-8:30P to discover ‘Chad Wentzel: New Woodblock Prints’ for yourself and maybe get a peek at The Scott Art Collection which includes more than 40 works from Detroit-based artists including Matt Eaton, Lisa Spindler, Paula Schubatis, Zuckerhosen, and more.
Art programs such as that at The Scott are an interesting tool not only for developers but also for artists and galleries seeking a new way to connect with the market. Presenting artwork within the residential context allows collectors to connect with it on a more intimate level, easily visualizing it within their own space. For most people, this is more difficult to achieve when viewing public art in a park, on a busy downtown block, or even on the white walls of a gallery.
Remember, art is all around us. Don’t just snap a photo, start by exploring galleries, events, even artist studios. Find what you like, collect for yourself, buy for a friend. Be your own curator, be bold, take risks and get the satisfaction of supporting our culture and economy.
Need a place to start?
Chad Wentzel: New Woodblock Prints
June 1| 6:30-8:30PM
The Scott at Brush Park 3150 Woodward Ave., Detroit, MI 48201
POP UP PRINT SALE
June 2 | 1:00-5:00PM
The Scott at Brush Park 3150 Woodward Ave., Detroit, MI 48201
Presented by NEXT:SPACE.
Open to the public but please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org by May 31st.