Swords into Plowshares hosts Detroit art exhibit

Michael H. Hodges
Detroit News Fine Arts Writer

Swords into Plowshares, a gallery too often overlooked, has a show up of Detroit artists titled “Art4Detroit4” that’s well worth ducking into the next time you’re in Grand Circus Park.

The gallery is run by its next-door neighbor, Central United Methodist Church. The Rev. George Covintree curated the exhibition and said it was “a way for the church to celebrate the grit and grace of the city of Detroit.”

“Art4Detroit4,” which runs through Dec. 31, includes works from some of Detroit’s more interesting artists, including photographer Bruce Giffin and sculptor Sergio De Giusti. And of particular interest are the multicolor stencils by students at Western International High School in a room at the back of the gallery.

Created in late fall 2015, the high schoolers’ artwork emerged from a partnership between the Green Living Science educational program sponsored by Detroit’s Recycle Here! and the after-school public service program buildOn.

Taking nothing away from the adults at the front of the gallery, but the student work, created in workshops with artist Eno Laget, is pretty stunning. Consider the beautifully crafted “Freedom?” by Joceline Ayala and Anna Gordill, in which an anguished Statue of Liberty presses her blue hands against her face.

Joceline Ayala and Anna Gordillo’s “Freedom?” at the Swords into Plowshares gallery in Detroit.

Also striking is Renee Castro’s “Education for Girls,” a three-color stencil of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager, and now Nobel Prize winner, whom the Taliban tried to kill for promoting the right of girls to go to school. Rendered in red, black and a few artfully placed touches of green, the portrait is simple and remarkably affecting.

“I think the work is amazing,” said Covintree. “The theme for the project was ‘violence,’ and the results are very powerful and immediate.”

In the front of the gallery, Bruce Giffin’s extra-large portraits of ordinary Detroiters read like a visual essay in income inequality. Particularly likable is “Kyriaki,” in which a wizened, older woman demonstrates plucky sartorial style, despite clearly being down on her luck.

By contrast, “Ecce Homo,” a close-up of an African-American man’s soulful face, is likely to draw even the most insensitive viewer in through the power of the fellow’s sad, green eyes.

Carl Wilson’s linocut “Renaissance Man,” with its frantic, four-armed figure with dreadlocks out walking two dogs in the blistering sunlight is intricate and fun, as are Wilson’s other prints nearby.

In Eno Laget’s “Separate Lies,” a poignant, young Aretha Franklin stares out at the viewer above the legend, “Respect Yourself Detroit.”

“Separate Lies” by Eno Laget features a young Aretha Franklin.

It’s a colorful variation of the marvelous wheat-paste prints that Laget plastered all over downtown six or seven years ago — back when underground art was one of the first signs that something novel and hopeful was stirring in the city of Detroit.


(313) 222-6021

Twitter: @mhodgesartguy


Through Dec. 31

Swords into Plowshares Peace Center and Gallery, 33 E. Adams, Detroit

1-5 p.m. Thurs.-Sat.

(313) 963-7575