Are you ready for the juicy details of the DAM panel discussion that took place today? Detroit's oldest running gallery is on shaky ground and is in desperate need of restructuring. Although, there are specific issues that are to blame with DAM slow decline, the lagging Michigan economy and lack of art enthusiasm still sits at the top of the list of culprits. Yes, DAM has problems but look at other galleries. Revolution is closing. Others have already closed. There is a buzz with new spaces downtown, all sharing a lot of numbers in common (555, 4731, and 101up) but collectors and avid art seers haven't felt at ease with these new spaces. Trust is key and if galleries continue on like unstable parents to artists and collectors no one will benefit or ever feel comfortable spending money or showing.
As I sat down in the basement level of the Detroit Historical Museum, the discussion felt more like a first day back at school. Marilyn Weaton, who sits on the Detroit Art Council and also runs a strategic planning business, was brought onboard with DAM to assess the situation and provide the DAM board with statistical data to help determine what should be done. Wheaton, very organized composed a numbered list of questions that lead the discussion in a precise, prompt way of straight to the point dialogue.
Points of concern were the questionable uniqueness of DAM's mission, and the quality of exhibitions, staff and special events and educational programs. Others in attendance included Sergio DiGuisti, John Cynar, and other established artists and teachers of Detroit. Being the runt of the group I still spoke up and agreed with others that Detroit is in need of more galleries. Michigan has a number of art institutions but has few galleries for graduating students to show at. It was also agreed that DAM is in not only need of a new managing director, but also a larger staff to include an exhibition director and a fundraising director. With cutbacks and art funding at a low, this makes it difficult to hire a staff when there simply isn't enough money to go around.
Again this brings me back to the sad point: if there is no money how do galleries turn things around? Well, it seems that it doesn't necessarily take money to put a show on but it takes a group of devoted individuals to do so. I found the meeting very beneficial because it shows that the Detroit art community will band together to stop another gallery from being put pasture. Let's just hope that the root problem can be solved and there will soon be enough money to go back into the arts.