Handmade: French couple promotes work of local artists
The rebirth of the art community in and around Detroit has become a major attraction for many, including French-born and raised Emily Pitchford-Boeuf and business partner Fabien Cros. The two recently moved to the area and have started an online business that serves to elevate local artists.
“I’m part French and part American. My mother is American and my father is French. I grew up in France. I never lived in the U.S. and I felt it was important to learn my mother’s culture and part of my culture,” explains Pitchford-Boeuf. “When I first got here I thought I was going to look for a corporate job in New York or Chicago, but when I got to Detroit and discovered what the city had to offer — the vibrant art community — I fell in love with it, and decided it was the place and time to start my business.”
In August of 2014, not long after laying down roots in Ferndale, Pitchford-Boeuf and Cros launched USArt Boutique, an online art gallery that promotes local artists and their work. The couple, who met in China and attended college together in Nice, France, are currently showcasing the work of 15 artists in and around Detroit, including some who are already established.
“When we first started, we didn’t have any contacts, so we went to art openings and communities,” says the co-founder on developing their business. “Now that we’re starting to get some traction, many artists are reaching out to us. Many artists, especially in Detroit, have a lot of fascinating stories and things to say about their art.”
USArt Boutique works to advance each artist and his/her work as much as possible, and to offer a means for “exploring the city through art.” Pitchford-Boeuf, a painter since early childhood with a lifelong passion for art, says, “We want to sell artists not only on a platform where we can sell their work, but (have) a place where artists can express themselves and engage with the audience — so each artist has a video interview. We go out to the artist’s studio to get to know them and understand their art, and we record an interview with them and then we put it on our website.”
“We (also) want to make the art content available not just on our website, but in public places. We’ve actually organized an exhibit with our artists. Customers at the exhibit(s) can scan the QR code (beneath the artwork) on their phones and be directed to the artist’s video interview,” she adds. “The objective of that is to engage the viewer with the story behind the art, which actually makes it more interesting. It sometimes makes you appreciate the piece of art more.”
At present, artists are required to pay only for the QR code; however, that may soon change with the addition of an annual membership fee. “We just take a commission and they just pay for the code,” says Pitchford-Boeuf.
USArt Boutique currently features wood furniture by Babacar Lo, jewelry made by Tim Burke from repurposed used materials found in Detroit, and the photography of Andrew Ross Evans. Mediums represented by other artists include woven copper wire jewelry, paintings and glass. Prices range from roughly $70-$1,200. “We try to have as much affordable art as possible,” says Pitchford-Boeuf, who teaches French at the French Institute of Michigan in Bloomfield Hills with hopes of USArt Boutique becoming a full-time venture.
Plans for the future of the growing business include making a QR code available in public places, like airports, “where people wait and can take their time to listen to the artists and be engaged.”
Metro Detroiters interested in being considered as a featured artist with USArt Boutique should visit the website (usartboutique.com) for information and to schedule an appointment.
Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact USArt Boutique at usartboutique.com or email@example.com.