Drawing on the art of promotional creativity

Patrick Dunn
Special to The Detroit News

A gallery setting is unfamiliar territory for most of the artists featured in the Ann Arbor Art Center’s new show, “GIG: The Art of Michigan Music,” although many are professionals with decades of experience.

The show, which runs through Jan. 30, spotlights art made for Michigan bands by Michigan artists. That includes concert posters, T-shirts, album covers and performance photographs. All are visual works of art and important facets of any band’s image, but their creators rarely receive prominent credit.

“It almost seems like they’re surprised that their work is going to hang in a gallery, and we’re going to make a label and identify the artist,” says Megan Winkel, gallery director for the art center.

Ann Arbor-based photographer Chuck Marshall, who curated the show, says that’s exactly what inspired his concept for “GIG.”

“When you look at a band’s album or you see their flyers, a lot of the time you don’t know who did that,” Marshall says. “I thought this show would be a good way to show people that that T-shirt that you love, that poster you adore — this guy actually made that.”

“GIG” marks Marshall’s first time curating an art show. His idea was selected as part of the art center’s efforts to engage guest curators from the community.

“Chuck is combining his two passions: visual arts and music,” Winkel says. “As a guest curator, he just brought so much energy to this project that it’s been great working with him.”

Marshall’s original plan for “GIG” included eight featured artists, but art center staff encouraged him to expand the exhibit’s scope. The final show includes about 150 works by 20 different artists. Some, like Troy artist Mark Arminski, have spent decades making a living creating art for local bands. Arminski had a business painting murals when he started designing flyers for bands in the early ’80s. He says he wanted to go against the grain of the Xeroxed black-and-white flyers many punk bands were making at the time.

“I thought it’d be kind of cool to do color, psychedelic posters again,” Arminski says. “It was just for fun. Then the demand overtook the mural business and I had to make a choice of which to pursue.”

Arminski says he’s “lucky” to have scored gigs over the years designing posters and other merchandise for major Michigan-bred artists including Iggy Pop, Patti Smith and Kid Rock, some of which will be featured in “GIG.”

Detroit artist Robert Nixon will also be featured in the exhibit. He has worked on every album released by the Detroit rock band Crud, and his B-movie poster throwback album cover for “Crud On Monster Island” will be featured in “GIG.”

“I’m not up on the stage,” Nixon says. “I’m not making music. But I’m crafting their image.”

Patrick Dunn is an Ann Arbor-based freelance writer.

GIG: The Art of Michigan Music

Through Jan. 30

10 a.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Thurs.; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Fri.; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sat.; Noon-5 p.m. Sun.

Ann Arbor Art Center

117 W. Liberty, Ann Arbor


(734) 994-8004