Detroit Art Week invites world to Motor City
Get ready for the city's newest cultural festival, Detroit Art Week, which kicks off Friday.
Arts entrepreneur and marketing professional Amani Olu conceived the idea over a year ago as a way of getting the word out on local artists.
"Our vision is to help establish Detroit as a global destination for contemporary art," said Olu, who moved from New York City two years ago, "leveraging what's already happening here. We're saying, 'The art being made in Detroit is important. Come see for yourself.' "
Despite the name, however, this year's DAW will just be a three-day festival.
"That's a long story," said Olu with a laugh. "Let's just say I was very ambitious."
Next year, he added, they'll reach for four or five days, and eventually hope to fill an entire week. But even at three days, that will still leave you plenty to do.
For a complete schedule and updates, register at detroitartweek.org.
The fun includes openings at the Detroit Institute of Arts and PLAYGROUND DETROIT, artists' talks by the likes of Mario Moore, a party in a way-cool old mansion to benefit Detroit Cristo Rey High School, and visits to the studios where Tyree Guyton, Cristin Richard, Scott Hocking and other artists work.
Over a dozen other galleries, from Detroit's What Pipeline to Reyes Project in Birmingham, will also be participating in Detroit Art Week. All events are free, with the exception of Saturday's fundraiser for Cristo Rey.
Friday's kickoff will be the opening of "Rhythm, Repetition, and Vocab" at the DIA, a two-person show featuring fiber artist Carole Harris and painter Allie McGhee.
The exhibition will be up through Nov. 4.
"Detroit Art Week is a great idea," said Harris, a 2015 Kresge Artist Fellow. "The art happening in Detroit these past years has been overlooked by the rest of the world. I'm delighted somebody’s trying to shine a light on what we’re doing here."
While McGhee creates intricately painted, sculptural canvases -- often folded over on themselves, Harris works in the traditional art of quilting in a highly untraditional way.
The artist, who trained at Wayne State, integrates techniques from Japanese boro, in which tattered, distressed fabrics are stitched together to create a striking whole.
"I see the beauty in ageing," said Harris, who has four recent quilts in the DIA show. "Perhaps that comes from being of a certain age. But everything doesn't have to be shiny and new and polished."
The big opening Saturday evening will be "A Difficult Pair" at PLAYGROUND DETROIT, featuring work by Victoria Shaheen and George Vidas.
Both Detroiters use materials -- primarily ceramic for Shaheen, neon for Vidas -- commonly associated with industrial and commercial processes, and it's that connection that's part of what intrigues each artist.
Vidas, whose neon is often quite witty, did his art training at Alfred University in upstate New York, but came to Detroit in 2010 in part "because it's a city that romanticizes neon."
You may be more familiar with Vidas' work than you think.
During the day he makes commercial neon signs for businesses. The one at the short-lived Eastern Market restaurant La Rodinella was his, as is another at Supino Pizzeria.
This is the first time in a couple years that Vidas -- who's also, intriguingly, made art by "modifying" U.S. currency -- has neon in a show. "They're not super-abstract," he said of his pieces. "Lately, they tend to be words."
And while Cranbrook Academy of Art grad Shaheen has always worked in ceramics (she did an internship one summer at Kohler in Wisconsin), she's lately integrated bits of neon into her own work.
"I've always been obsessed with raw color," Shaheen said. "And some glazes just want light. It's a beautiful thing, getting a colored beam of light to interact with the clay. And yes, neon was the answer."
While DAW founder Olu worked with all sorts of art exhibitions and projects in New York, he admits Detroit Art Week is probably his most-ambitious undertaking.
Well-connected in the art world, he's invited curators and dealers from all across the country, and thinks they'll discover something unique here -- a sort of creative liberty that's harder to find in Chicago or New York.
"Work being made here isn't coming from the pressure of making rent, or the larger demands of the commercial art market," Olu said. "In Detroit, there's room to breathe."
And that makes a difference.
More than 100 artists, 30 galleries and studios, and 17 cultural partners will participate in the three-day event. Here are a few select activities:
4:30-5:45 p.m: Artists talk with Carole Harris and Allie McGhee at Detroit Institute of Arts (5200 Woodward, Detroit)
6-8 p.m: Opening reception for Harris and McGhee’s “Rhytym, Repetition, and Vocab“ at DIA
4:30-5:30 p.m: Artist talk with Mario Moore, David Klein Gallery (1520 Washington Blvd., Detroit)
6-9 p.m: Opening reception for “A Difficult Pair” with Victoria Shaheen and George Vidas, at PLAYGROUND DETROIT (2845 Gratiot, Detroit)
9 p.m-Midnight: Fête benefiting Detroit Cristo Rey High School, Stanley Kresge Estate, 74 Arden Park, Detroit, with music by Waajeed, Black Noi$e and BEIGE
Tickets for fundraiser: $30 per person (+ $3.72 handling fee)
7-10 p.m: “Rejecting Reality,” a multi-sensory performance featuring Pamela Z, Red Bull House of Art, 1551 Winder, Detroit.