Wednesday, August 08, 2007

In the Detroit News today

Detroit's art scene fades: Area leaders see young talent moving away and local galleries closing
Jonnelle Marte / The Detroit News (click to see full story and pics)

Ann Gordon tried to stay.
She talked local galleries into showing her eccentric paintings and started Detroit Arts, a blog that gets about 30,000 hits a month and serves the Metro Detroit art community.
But like many local artists, Gordon wants more. The 26-year-old exemplifies the love-hate relationship many young artists in Metro Detroit have with the city: They feel compelled to stay and bolster the fledgling art scene, but they want to take off to cities like Los Angeles and New York, where there are more galleries and collectors willing to pay more.
"I think that (the number of artists who leave the city) has increased year by year as the opportunities becomes less and less," said Jef Bourgeau, director of the Museum of New Art in Pontiac. "Eight, nine years ago there were 20-something strong commercial galleries in the area that would represent Michigan artists, and we're down to about three."
Local art leaders say that while Detroit has a decent network of galleries, artists and collectors, the scene isn't as vibrant as it used to be. The lack of a distinct art district, the loss of some major galleries like Revolution and the Sybaris Gallery in the past decade, and the necessity for the existing galleries to show big-name artists from other states to make money are all factors that make it a struggle for upcoming artists to stick it out in the Motor City.
"Detroit is sort of a fickle town," Gordon said.
While there are clusters of galleries and studios, the distance between galleries generates less foot traffic and fewer sales, some gallery owners say.
"Because people come there, it's almost like the mall effect," said George R. N'Namdi, a gallery owner who said his locations in Chicago and New York get more visitors than his gallery in Detroit. "When you have a lot of galleries, you have a lot of 'stores,' and more people come."
Britton Tolliver, who graduated last year from the Cranbrook Academy of Art, said he will probably leave the Detroit area for a city with a stronger gallery presence.
"I would love to stay -- it's just the opportunities here in the art-making process aren't very great, so we'll probably end up moving to New York or LA.," said Tolliver, 31, who has paintings in Switzerland, Las Vegas and New York. The decline in galleries in the past 10 years has taken a toll on the local art market, discouraging buyers and leaving artists with fewer opportunities to sell their work.
Collectors' interest in Michigan art has waned over the years, said Bourgeau -- and other local art veterans agree.
"I think that although there is a collecting base, there isn't the kind of steady patronage that would be very useful for artists," said Susanne Hilberry, who owns the Susanne Hilberry Gallery in Ferndale. "I've been with the gallery for over 30 years, and there certainly have been some intense times and some slow times. From my perspective here, it's very slow."
The Sybaris Gallery, which attracted collectors from around the country and succeeded in sending works to the Metropolitan in New York, the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Art Institute of Chicago, closed in 2003, a move its owners blamed on the state's weak economy and a shrinking base of collectors. Two years later, Revolution Gallery, recognized nationally for its cutting-edge exhibits, shut its doors for similar reasons.
"One of the situations we must realize in the world of art, and let's just say in the world of survival, Detroit is not a city with a lot of jobs available," said Paul Kotula, former director of Revolution who runs Paul Kotula Projects, a gallery in Ferndale. "I'm fortunate, but again, it's a struggle."
Only a few local artists break into the city's private galleries and museums, which sometimes have to show the work of more nationally recognized artists to make a profit.
"I think that while there are a lot of opportunities for up-and-coming Detroit artists to show around the region, it's difficult to sell work," said Cooper Holoweski, 25, who graduated from the University of Michigan in 2004. "There's somewhat of a glass ceiling in the area that I think is unacknowledged."
"Sometimes it's a matter of economics," said Sharon Zimmerman, a local collector who focuses on buying the work of Detroit artists. "They need to bring in artists who have higher-priced work for sale, so sometimes it doesn't make sense for private galleries to show local artists."
Local curators and artists are taking it upon themselves to fill the void they see in Detroit by creating opportunities for local artists
"There is really no place for Michigan artists to get validated in a larger way that can help them to be able to stay here and create a career," said Bourgeau. "Most artists have to leave, go to New York or Chicago first, just to build a career."
You can reach Jonnelle Marte at


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Posted today at DNews website:

The gallery scene is weak. I did leave the state. The country. But not for more galleries. To get away and think about what my work can be and mean. Now. It's a time of unusual polarization: commerce vs. creativity. Always the case. But it's bad now. Very bad.

Will I return? Perhaps. But not to sell. To participate in something new and great. Something not in a gallery. Though who knows.

Where are the extended projects? The gutsy public works? (Hocking's Tire Pyramid was perhaps a start. The D.D.D as well) Where are the maneuvers that move past dead gallery districts?

If people want a commercial painting career, then by all means leave. If people want an unprecedented creative challenge- one that isn't confined to being a studio hero....the sky's the limit.

Artists, don't let your creativity fall to a failure of imagination. Or worse, be delineated by the market. Art is hard. It's the toughest thing I know. There are easier ways to make money. The magic is in the challenge. To me. Sales feel good though.

xo i miss the city sb

10:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a pile! Just adding to the culture of negativity.

The article should have used its one positive line to expose exactly what creative maneuvers ARE happening here to move things around:

"Local curators and artists are taking it upon themselves to fill the void they see in Detroit by creating opportunities for local artists."

Where's that story?! We all know how bad things have gotten. Where's the story telling us about those fighting to change things here! That's the real story. That would be interesting. That's got plenty of spin and human interest.

I know several of the artists and young curators who spoke to the writer and gave such positive info. I was one of them too. She only picked on "but how did we get here" and not "now how do we change it for the good."


11:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To those who have given up and are moving, please ignore this! To all other artists and members of the art community - take this opportunity to give voice to your staying power and belief in change:

E-mail Jonnelle, author of the News article at:

12:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Great article on what depths Detroit's art scene has fallen to! And I'm serious. You've exposed the problem, now explore the solutions.

So now, when do you write Part II in the series: The article investigating how artists and curators are adapting and working creatively to change the status quo. That's the human interest story with lots of uplifting potential and spin! That would be a great read. That the battle is in the hands of the artists now.

We spoke about all that. I know others have. That's where the real story is at the moment: Those in the art community fighting to make things turn around, those artists who aren't moving away but digging their heels in deep to make this town work again. Those young artists who've graduated from the great art schools here and who have made that decision to stay. And they're numbers are growing, not diminishing. And they're the ones who will provide the critical mass to turn this downward tide.

In any city, major or not, it's always been the artists who've been at the forefront of positive change. They are the ones who enliven an area, and bring about real change and restoration.

Jef Bourgeau

12:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess I have a problem with articles like this because too many readers will use it to further validate the "last one out please turn out the light" mentality. There needs be a thorough understanding about the ways in which an arts community may wax and wane, and the underlying causes of this fluctuation.

Detroit will never have the number of galleries that NY or LA have, in the concentrations that are in those two places. Our landscape is not configured in the same way as a Chelsea, although it COULD if the stars aligned themselves area like Harmonie Park is perfectly configured to possibly be the pinpoint for such a art/gallery community. When I attended the reception at the N'Namdi Gallery last week there were several conversations that took place, with the participants [all with a few grey hairs] reminiscing about the time not-that-long-ago when Harmonie Park *was* populated with a number of galleries and surrounded by artist's studios.

We are in a drought now, which doesn't mean that it can't or won't get better. It is definitely tied to the economy and the depressed state of the state, as we all know. When this situation is alleviated, well, who knows. But I definitely dont blame the artists who have to do what they have to do...make choices based on their own personal wishes and desires. One must be proactive about one's career, and do what they think best to promote it. If that means exploring new communities with a different vibrancy, then that is what must be done.

I made the choice to stay after getting my MFA in 1980.... but that was at at time when there was an excitement and outlets like the Willis, Detroit Focus, and a plethora of other galleries to show my work. I was able to get teaching jobs, etc., to pay my meager rent and bar tab, join artists organizations that showed my work around the country and also internationally. The DIA had just done KICK OUT THE JAMS so there was a magnifying glass on Detroit artists; the daily papers had dedicated art writers who covered our shows regularily; one could count on getting a review after your show opened. The commercial galleries---Hilberry, Morris, Ross, Kidd, Feigenson, and others---brought in national and international artists and very often showed their work along side Metro Detroit art. The schools were [and still are] hotbeds of dialogue, with visiting artists and lecturers that fed this dialogue. There were also collectors and curators who made it their business to support the art being made here. The arts community was lively and multi-faceted.

On the positive end, I definitely see a similar kind of dynamic beginning to happen here again, with this blog, Jef's MONA, the DAM, CAID, MOCAD, the National Conference of Artists, George's future new gallery complex on Forest, the re-opening of the DIA, and other situations that have popped up in the last 2-3 years. When the economy becomes better hopefully it will not take long to see this upturn benefit the entire arts community.

I agree with SB....if you desire to live off of the sales of art, this is not now the place to do that. But was it ever? All of the visual artists and actors I know have had to have jobs of some kind to financially support them and their art. Detroit has always been an interesting place to do this because it was so hard-scrabble---this toughness has influenced the art positively, both in look and in attitude.

12:27 PM  
Blogger John Hovig said...

Sorry, I don't know anything about Detroit or its art scene, but I love this site for its great breadth and depth of coverage, its huge volume of interesting images, and the high frequency of updates. If anything can keep Detroit art viable and healthy, this site certainly has the best chance. All the best!

12:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This site is moving West young man. Another emigre in Detroit's art diaspora.

I also think it ironic that the article opens with Ann Gordon posing as a gallery director who is giving up on Detroit and moving out. She never planned on keeping the gallery alive more than 3 shows, instead part of her self send-off plan to LA. Just enough extra padding to her resume when she arrived there.

I give her all the lauds in the world for maintaining this site as she has .. that's where unbelievable kudos are deserved.

In the end Ann is fickle. Not Detroit.

12:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one disapointed let down by the article! As someone who spoke to Jonnelle twice about the positive in the art community, I'm extremely angered at her one-sided cop-out....

However...I don't think we should use this as a way to point fingers at Ann. She has done a lot with this blog and the Yacht Club. She has done what she feels she can do, and she's moving on. Instead of slamming her, just use the things she has done as a way to find inspiration. Lets pick up where she left off, and focus only on the positive!

1:13 PM  
Blogger Mark Creegan said...

As an artist who lives in Jacksonville FL (try being an artist there! Its like being a chef in a town of annorexics!) I can completely relate to the frustration found in this article AND the feeling peeps have expressed for a more positive focus.

I echo Henry in his appreciation for this site. It actually been a nice education to me that there is great art being producted outside the common centers. I constantly use this site and Detroit in general in conversation to other Jax artists about what we could be. If I can come to this understanding it makes sense that curators and collectors in the main centers should as well.

This may be none of my beeswax. But what is preventing someone from continuing Yacht Club gallery? Maybe under another name? But it seems there is a momentum going so why assume things must end when Ann moves away?

Anyway, my best to all!

1:25 PM  
Blogger scrummage said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can feel this article. I just dont see an organized community and for an artist wanting to be a part of what ever is going on there seems to be very little inlet. Detroit's community is all over the place making it feel very elusive and pretty inconsequential. I dont know what there is to change anything about that.

1:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(Just $.02 in 100 words or less)

The college grads are moving out. GOOD! They should! You shouldn't live in one place your whole life, not in today's global reality. That limited focus would be a form of immense self-sabotage.

A healthy community is not a stagnant community. It is not one where people are born, live, work, die, repeat within a 12 block radius. Never was. That's an Americana myth. A healthy community sees an influx and exodus of new people and fresh ideas. This is healthy. Ann moving to LA is healthy for Detroit, for her, and for LA. To stay in one place, one state, one country is limiting, as would be getting all your degrees (BA, MA, PhD) from the same school. You are only exposed to a fraction of what is in the world, and people (especially artists) should be exposed to as much as possible.

What I would recommend worrying about is not where are the grads going, but where is the reciprocol influx? When I was shopping for Grad schools I did exhaustive research and comparisons (not just on every aspect of the schools, but the regions where they were located). What really sticks with me was a conversation I had with the Dir. of Columbia about Cranbrook: he said it was a better fit for me except for the economy of MI and the DOA art scene/support. Then he advised "Just go there for two years and move away when you graduate. Isn't that what everyone who goes to Cranbrook does?" How sad, I thought at the time.

I grew up in NY, moved to MI in 1999, moved to Seattle in 2005. Now as I write this I am knee-deep in Bananna boxes prepping for a reverse cross-country move. It's disheartening on a level to read an article like this as I'm about to uproot and return. It's also challenging. So I want to challenge some of you to shift your focus. Pick up Florida's "Rise of the Creative Class" and let's discuss what it takes to ATTRACT those individuals, instead of guilting people like Ann for moving why not give her a REASON to boomerang back eventually, after she's had the opportunity to explore and experience other places? Galleries is only one part. Things like a thriving art scene, thriving society, thriving economy. That would be healthier then spinning your wheels pointing fingers, blaming "fickle" grads. There is a distinct difference in strategy and result between KEEPING people and ATTRACTING people, though if you're just counting b odies it might look the same.

That said, the economy of MI is a reality, too. (though if you read Florida's work he purports that the two are linked: economy and vital art scene, and that building the art scene will rebound the economy). I have to admit in moving back I am immensely releived by the fact that my job will remain rooted in strong economy of the West coast. But don't forget that it was Seattle that posted the famous "Will the Last one to leave please turn out the lights?" billboard. Look where they are now, and more importantly: look how they got there. Revise, specify, emulate.

2:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Damn, Ann is hot for eating alot of tacos and ice cream samiches. That phot even got some leg in. I'm gunna wreck that picture tonight.

5:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"focus only on the positive!"

Please, please don't do that. It's a terrible idea.

This article filled a needed gap in reportage. True, we all know Detroit is in bad shape but the act of collecting all the isolated instances and unifying them as a trend is an important analysis.

What the article misses is the other reason people are leaving. Isolation.

Detroit is absolutely ideal for raw and aggressive experimentation. To the most serious here, art as a product is no temptation.

Staying here, however, is just not sustainable. Not for lack of an economy so much as lack of an audience. There aren't enough people. The dialogue isn't intense enough. Part of the reason for that is the distraction of constantly considering how to save this place. You're either trying to save it or leaving. So if you care about Detroit you stay and if you care about art you leave. And if you care about both, you stay begrudgingly or leave reluctantly.

It will be great though. I guarantee it. This kind of an article is going to help too. Though I appreciate your view Gilda, maybe we do have to turn off the lights. Let it go. Stop trying to save a dying art system and instead start a new one up again. There's no reason for (no excitement in) moving to Detroit just to struggle, but there is plenty of reason (and so much excitement in) coming here for the beginning of something new.

I'm leaving at the end of the month for New York. But I'd love to come back. And I'd love to bring people here. And many of the other artists who are leaving have told me they'd like to come back.

Don't focus on the positive. Don't focus on the negative either. Things will happen as they will and in the end, if we can let it die, it will be better than ever.

In short, good things come from great things but great things come from nothing.

6:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Curtis, I have no problem with you or others leaving. I am happy you are taking courageous steps for yourself, and that some of your peers are doing so also. It was never a prerequisite that you stay in this spot. I will always listen to you, and be interested in what you do wherever you are because I honestly care…. I thank the computer gods for Facebook, Blogs, Myspace and email, for making this process of communication easy! I heartily encourage anyone who needs to follow their bliss to do so……this country was 'founded' by explorers and others who needed to see what was happening on the other side of the mountain range.

Those art systems have died and been reborn, died and then reborn time and time again. I don’t worry about their ultimate re-emergence. Dialogue not intense enough? Depends on where you look. If one looks for it in the daily papers, yes, I would agree. But I stopped looking there years ago. There are pockets of artists around here that are thriving, talking, sharing but this isn't apparent because the media chooses to ignore them. I interact with an arts group that has gotten my work exhibited in places my ass has never been.

Whether a place is sustainable or not depends on what each individual needs for that sustenance. If one is hungry, one must go to where their diet is. Saving this place? Who is trying to do that? All of the artists I know are busy making work, living lives. One can proselytize until the cows come home and milk themselves…but are those on soapboxes doing their artwork or just preaching? I prefer to do my work. My work is painting, and teaching, raising my little girl and being there for my friends. I have chosen to do this in Detroit. This choice was good for me. It may not be good for others.

I am in a different stage of my career and have seen this arts community re-invent itself several times, which is why I will never 'turn out the lights'. The perspective of thirty years tells me to just wait…..there is always something coming; but I am not asking or imploring artists at the beginning of their careers to necessarily wait for this 'something".

This community will reinvent itself again, just as I have had to do when confronted by issues that required me to question my choice of this career. Like when I graduated and didn’t know which path to take; or like the times when my rent was due and I had been laid off; or when I was sick of doing telephone sales; or when I decided to have a baby. Each time I questioned my choice of career and the lack of money,I began mumbling to myself that there is STILL TIME to go to Medical school….then I turned on my music and found solace in my studio, painting. Painting for Me---not thinking about an audience or whether Detroit survived or not. Each and every time I had a doubt, I was reminded of my reasons for getting into all of this IN THE FIRST PLACE, and it had nothing to do with my particular zip code.

7:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The most exciting thing happening in Detroit art right now is collective of the best young artists in Detroit putting together a new gallery/studio in the Russell that’s gana be the shit. Yes that’s right, the shit. Everyone should come check it out. It’s a great space and they’re having a fundraising party on Saturday to raise money to finish construction. Come hep.

Sat. Aug 11th
food+beer w/$10 donation
DJ George Rahme

Russell Industrial Center
1600 Clay Ave., Detroit
3rd Floor

8:04 PM  
Blogger art blogs are fun said...

This was one of the last things I wrote to the writer:

"...and you might want mention that our building space in hamtramck will be available for anyone (oct) to take over and start another gallery space or use for an artist studio. It might go with an upbeat conclusion that even though detroit can be frustrating and I am leaving...there are still tons of opportunities and one can make it happen if they just take a chance! Every bit helps...that's why I do the blog and started the gallery!" ann

9:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

these writers have an agenda, and if statements made to them dont fit within it, they ignore it.

earlier this year I was interviewed at length about a gallery that was in the news. I had nothing to say that was negative or derogatory; I told the writer the truth as I knew it, which was basically laudatory. The specific quotes made by me were not used; they would not have fit within the negative temperature of the article, which I supposed was determined before the interview began.

as a result,I ask writers ahead of time what the focus of any article will be. If they cant answer me, I have my answer.

10:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Ann,

Best of luck in L.A. Its a very exciting place to be. You may be a small fish in a big pond unlike Detroit but if you work as hard as you have you'll manage just fine.

I just recently moved from Detroit to San Francisco about 2 months ago. I went to grad school in L.A., moved back to Detroit for 4 years due to my wife's educational pursuits, and couldn't wait to go back to the West coast.

Now I'm here and while SF isn't L.A. or NYC, I've applied for more art jobs here in the last 6 weeks then were even posted in Detroit over 4 years.

Persistence paid off and I recently accepted a gallery director position at a major art institution in the bay area, an opportunity I would have never had in Detroit.

Detroit is a wonderful place. The history, sociology, music, and leaving my friends and family wasn't easy, but it was in my best interest and pursuit of happiness to leave and from a professional stand point I don't regret my decision and I'm sure you won't as well.

I hope you manage to keep a blog going. I will make it down to L.A. from time to time and maybe a few Detroit ex-pats can meet up sometime, chat, form a collective, who knows?



10:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ann's blogging is terrific but her paintings are really bad. maybe that is why she can't get shown here.

10:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

since you are so bold as to offer that particular opinion about Ann's paintings, why cant you use your true name?

11:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Craig: "maybe we do have to turn off the lights. Let it go. Stop trying to save a dying art system and instead start a new one up again. " very impressive sentiment, I applaud you wholeheartedly on this point.

Gilda, "the perspective of thirty years tells me to just wait…..there is always something coming;" Why such a hopeful/hopeless stance? Detroits #1 problem in all sectors is a population that is JUST WAITING for "someone" to come in with a fix for them. My favorite quote: "If not me, then who?"

Ann, how much is "affordable" on the space? I have a non-complete (no moonlighting, no consulting) clause in my contract, but I might be willing to fund the space if someone else wanted to run with it.

12:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

*Gilda, "the perspective of thirty years tells me to just wait…..there is always something coming;"
Why such a hopeful/hopeless stance? Detroits #1 problem in all sectors is a population that is JUST WAITING for "someone" to come in with a fix for them. My favorite quote: "If not me, then who?"*

M., I think you may have misunderstood or misread my comment about my perspective. Or maybe it was my inability to explain myself clearly.

What I said should be seen is the same context as waiting for that eventual change in seasons, from Winter to Spring to Summer and so on. No amount of 'wishing' is going to make them come any faster, but we are positive that they will arrive. It is with that idea in mind that I am positive that a change, a new atmosphere for the arts, a more POSITIVE and PRODUCTIVE one will arrive in this region. I certainly don't see this as a "hopeless stance" . It is a realistic one, even considering the fact that there are some aspects to urban development and politics that I dont have any control over.

But I, and many many of the residents of this arts community are NOT sitting on our hands "JUST WAITING for "someone" to come in with a fix for them", and I resent the implication. There are legions of working artists, writers, and arts educators who are doing double and triple duty to enliven this community. Ann is a good example of one of the younger ones; there are others who have been here, and have even longer perspectives than I do who work behind the scenes but do not get notice. I can supply many names, examples.

I have my hands full being a part of the solution while I am "waiting"...teaching art full time; running a small gallery that gives one person shows to emerging artists; contributing to several artist-run organizations; donating artworks regularily to deserving charities; making my studio available for community group tours; maintaining an email alert for art news and competitions; sitting on advisory boards for art education and art galleries;maintaining an online presence so I can keep in touch with young art alums from my school, and artists in the community; add to all of this that I am raising a 15 year old daughter. I used to write art reviews, but had to let that go. Oh and I forgot, I paint and show my works in several galleries.

You can take my name out of the above paragraph and add in the names of many others in this community......they are doing the same things. If I know anything about my colleagues in the arts sector is that they have a work ethic that is to be envied. Other sectors of this community could learn from us.

I certainly want to applaud you for offering to help with the running of Ann's gallery. It is a sweet space, and should be maintained.

2:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In response to Curtis..... I like what you said...and in my reckoning, I think as local artists move out,it would be great if outside aretists were invited in.
I bet there would be dozens willing to move into Detroit for its raw and intensive and bottom of the barrel beauty with the minimum of shared space, work and live-in and a little economic help.....just for the experience to
blow the roof off. And of course , I would want to. short term or longer....but I bet a two month "exchange" would really raise eyebrows. How about next the heat and the squalor. Long live heat and squalor.

3:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

gilda: "just wait" implies inaction, whereas what you describe implies action. Action creates change, not inaction. I hope that you do not encourage people to "just wait". Encourage them to go out and make their tiny contributions to change, and lead by example which it seems as though you are.

Not run, fund. I have a non-compete clause and can not contribute even in a consultant position. But I can write checks. :-)

4:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was speaking rhetorically when I used the word 'wait' in my earlier post, and hoped it would be interpreted as such. It has never been my way to advocate sitting around passively; you are correct that I have always suggested, by my actions in the community and in conversation with others that one must not let the "grass grow beneath one's feet", to use a tired expression.

And pardon me for misspeaking about the financial help you may wish to give to the gallery---that would be very generous and a most tangible expression of support for that space.

8:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


The Museum of New Art has initiated an ongoing exchange with artists from other cities coming here, and sending Detroiters there. Chicago was the first such effort. Now we're working on Toronto. In the winter we are planning to swap artists with Berlin. I told all this to Jonnelle.

As well as our DETROIT NOW: 12x12 series, showcasing a different Detroit artist every month.

All positive and all left out.

MONA has also helped spearhead a new art collective called MOVING WALLS and given them the use of one of our galleries for their own projects.

And others are doing similar positive projects across town.

Those are the stories left out, and more.

I suppose part of the trick in dealing with the press is just to answer their questions with your onw answers - ignore the questions.


1:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Imagine one article that gave adequate space and voice to all the viewpoints, and listed each and every minutia and trivial success. Who would take the time to read that BOOK? You are missing the forest for the trees, in my opinion. Yes, you are all making small contirbutions. But as a WHOLE, despite and in the face of these few and oft repeated contributions, the scene remains woefully inadequate. It is the reporters responsibility to take into account what's going on in your little corner of the world and then temper that by REPORTing the larger trends.

You're tearing a valid article apart on the grounds that there is not enough arts coverage in this city. That defies logic. The reporter set out to discuss why art graduates are leaving. It is not implicit in that thesis statement that she also list your 12x12 show. Really, people, gain some perspective.

4:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous, it is a question of CHOICE on the part of the editorial staff of the papers. Tell me, why and how would the temperature of the reportage go from positive to negative so quickly? Because the editorial staff DECIDED to scale down to practically nothing the coverage on the arts in this community.

When Colby, Miro, Provenzano, Cohen, etc, were writing about the arts scene in the two daily papers here they were covering shows, doing human interest articles, scholarly articles on artistic themes and movements, listed an arts calendar----every week. You talk about a book....well, if all of the articles written were compiled it would make a most wonderful book, and yes, people would read it.

There is still plenty for art writers to cover, even with the natural attrition of young artists leaving, because there are other artists,arts organizations,exhibits, etc .,coming here. Your statement that about the woeful inadequacies is totally wrong, and for them to ignore situations like Jef's is criminal.

The only thing that changed was the ownership of the papers: from families who had a stake in the community to "carpetbagger" publishers whose only requirement is that the articles be brief enough for the reader to finish while taking a dump. They have no stake in this community, only the bottom line for their rags. That article was NOT valid because it only showed one side. For them to think that they could print it without the resultant uproar shows just how far removed the editorial staff is from the reality of the community they report on.

9:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"You're tearing a valid article apart on the grounds that there is not enough arts coverage in this city. That defies logic. The reporter set out to discuss why art graduates are leaving. It is not implicit in that thesis statement that she also list your 12x12 show. Really, people, gain some perspective."

I'm saying she had more than enough positive input and three weeks to explore the whole picture, not just our little 12x12 effort, but from everyone else who talked to her, and there were plenty: to write a truly incisive story on the art scene. My point was that I fed her a mountain of positive, and she sliced off negatives. There are plenty of studios, plenty of artists, plenty of galleries, plenty of students - working hard and not leaving the area.

To quote from an art's writer on this:

Gordon’s Yacht Club Gallery in Hamtramck was always supposed to be temporary; she had been planning on leaving. Her presence here has been enlivening, but does her leaving warrant a story about a cross-town trend?

Here are some facts about the actual growth of arts in the Detroit area: Enrollment in the art departments at Wayne State University and College for Creative studies is increasing each year. And as several artists and critics have pointed out in bulk e-mails back and forth since Marte’s piece was published last week, MoCAD has done a lot to reinvigorate and extend the community with enterprising programming and space to roam. There are more galleries and artists studios popping up at Russell Industrial Center. For the past few years at Motor City Brewery on Canfield, Graem Whyte has consistently put up weekly exhibitions by local artists selling affordable stuff.
...But on the other hand, at least our system of continual rebirth never grows stale. The art marketplace existent in most big cities is a racket. If you want a scene with the usual schlock in a district on a boardwalk, leave. Please. What we have here in Detroit is a different model, one without strollers and pugs caballed on the sidewalks. After living in Chicago, I’m sick of tripping over heels and wheels. I’d rather hang out some place where you can still smoke and draw on the walls.

1:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


12:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

gilda/jef- I think Anon#13's point is that those are all different articles from the one that Jonnelle was writing. It seems as though because of the void of art writing everyone is looking to her article to be all-inclusive when it only set out to explore one trend. It is not up to Jonnelle to reverse a pervasive lak of reporting, that takes more than one person.

Back to my earlier "if not you, then who" point: anyone posting on this blog (with the help of spellcheck in some cases) is perfectly capable of writing the articles that they're complaining are missing. From what I remember of the news scene out there, lack of writers probably has more to do with the lack of articles than some conspiracy to shut out the arts community.

I'm sure you would find the regular rags open to arts reporting, etc. But, if not, start a Zine. Printing is CHEAP-CHEAP-CHEAP in MI. If you're so confident that the real story of the detroit art scene is important and compelling and that people need/want to read that book, print it.

Lots of complaining about the status quo--- where is the change going to come from?

12:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There was an obvious agenda in writing this article that I think deviated from the facts.

When interviewed, I had 20 great things to say about the Detroit art scene and about 3 negative ones. I gave my sincere feelings about the state of the detroit art scene.

Essentially the negative ones where featured while the positive ones were generally overlooked.

It seems as though I am not the only one who feels this way.

I get the impression that if we all had nothing but great things to say during our interviews, very little would have changed the angle of this piece of journalism.

I understand that every journalist comes into a story w/ preconceived ideas and bais', but when most interviews seem to refute that, then it seems the angle of your story should shift.

3:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two years ago both major Detroit papers cut back on their arts reporting. They were told: no more art reviews, just home-spun human interest. i.e, The bubble gum on a DIA painting was written up for a week. Joy was asked to write a piece on how to keep your front lawn greener than your neighbor's.

Since that time, all the art critics (Frank P./Keri C. at the Freep and Joy Colby at the News) are gone.

M. - you just don't walk into a major paper and slap down an article. Especially if it deals with the Arts.

And if you want to write an art- zine, go ahead. But who's going to read it - maybe other artists. And where and how are you going to distribute it. And who's going to write it for you and go to all the openings, - Ann's going to LA.

The does a great job too. But the arts need a larger audience to read through the crap writer's like Jonnelle buries the art's scene under.

12:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

M.,we have a history of artists self-publishing zines and journals.

Historically,Mary Fortuna's GROUND UP, Detroit Focus Quarterly, were zines that fed the need for sharing info.

Mary did a Herculanean job in organizing, printing, distributing the mag. If only there had been blogs then. But maybe it was good there weren't, because this series of issues, for as long as it lasted, was a fabulous occurence, a tribute to ground level hard work to get the word out. I think most who remember it treasure their copies.

The Detroit Focus Quarterly had articles, artists pages, theme issues, calendars of events, and art reviews. Most if not all of the artist/writers in the area wrote for both the Quarterly and Ground Up.

Their demise was not because there was not enough to write about. Detroit Focus Gallery moved into another direction [it used to occupy the ground floor that is not the Greektown Casino before moving to a loft space in 743 Beaubien, then closing].

Mary pushed GROUND UP forward for as long as she could but ultimately had to go back into the studio to do her work. The 2 years, I think, that it lasted were dynamic.

Currently there are the Alley Culture Quarterly; Bryant Tillman's online mag,, Dozier's Arts Calendar, Deb King's Markszine, in addition to Ann's blog. I am sure I am leaving out some.

I understand that MsMarte's article was not, could not, be all inclusive. But it is being revealed that she deliberately chose to ignore the majority of information from the people she interviewed. This says to me that there was definitely a preconceived point of view that the paper was going to print, and they just needed various quotes to "prove" their point. I am not being naive when I say this, because this attitude was confirmed for me when I was interviewed for an arts article earlier this year.

It seems as if either this community is being accused of being lazy, apathetic or unimaginative about methods of promoting itself, or the so-called mainstream media just cant wait to put the nail in the coffin of the visual arts community by only printing the negative side of any issue concerning it. By design.

What their motives are are beyond me. Or maybe it has to do with a very very subtle reproach to the city of Detroit; after all, why would anyone want to come here or stay her? Of course I am being sarcastic.

12:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chris M., none of the detroit-based news outlets rank as "major papers": we're not talking about the Sun, the Times, or the Tribune here. I know a lot of people who've "walked in and slapped down an article" (though normally you send a querry letter first). They're not on some literary pedastle lording over you, you don't have to feel intimidated by their measly circulation or more measly profit margins, and their slushpile is nothing that they're too terribly proud of, either.

Gilda: I was in the literary/zine publishing scene before I moved. The "zine" scene in MI is not something to crow about. It's pitiful compared to any other region (which is why Found is now located out of CA), esp Seattle where there are THOUSANDS of Zines and bookstores that sell nothing else. Of your list only markzine, and this blog are available thru a basic google querry. So if your point is that the Zine scene is covered and there's no room for improvement per my suggestion: incorrect assumption (not to mention that 6 is not a thriving scene/history). As for Ground Up, you can get a set of issues 1-17 for $250 which is a decent appreciation rate. But a Hurculean task? 15 year olds are doing it with cafepress,, &

"It seems as if either this community is being accused of being lazy, apathetic or unimaginative about methods of promoting itself, or the so-called mainstream media just cant wait to put the nail in the coffin of the visual arts community by only printing the negative side of any issue concerning it. By design."

There is no great conspiracy, which must mean the later. And I have to say given everything I remember and have observed in the last few weeks, I put dibs firmly on the former. Though I would say lazy, apathetic, and unprofessional. Concentrate on those issues and the newspapers might take interest again, if the community takes interest again. No one has brought up a significant, newsworthy, arts item that the papers have deliberately ignored covering. They've covered MOCAD... oh, wait, not the way YOU wanted them to? They've covered student shows and individual artists, and stupid best of lists... it seems to me that the art scene is getting the coverage it deserves. If you want more, you need to do more. And remember that the media does not owe you anything. Not even the truth. Or the truth as you see it with your rosy glasses.

What seperates Detroit from thriving art scenes? Well, I never heard anyone in NY or Seattle complain about a conspiracy "keeping the art scene down". Perhaps it's the limited mentality of those who never leave that keeps those natives who've gained a larger context from returning? It is one of the most negative, backstabbing, catclawing, doomsday communities I've ever encountered. The writing scene was just as fucked up, too. In other places, writers encouraged eachothers success, and were encouraged by it. In MI they took every opportunity to tear eachother down. Much like what I see in the dialogue on this blog's "detroit art works" section. Just my two cents.

2:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I moved away because Detroit's fire wasn't hot enough, and my guess is that most leave for much the same reason. Nobody's pushing young artists in Detroit. I mean, they push, but not like they could, or should, or for that matter, would if they really wanted it. There's a lot of small-time opportunity, but not a lot of serious drive.

The people who stay in Detroit, people like Gilda, Jef, Mary Fortuna, and others; people whose fire burns hot enough for the entire city, they're the reason Detroit art maintains what little clout it does have. The students and recent graduates are too negative, and in some cases, just angry. They burn hot for a year or two, but once their light finally dims, they do like I did and venture to another city in search of fire.

And as for the rest of the community, maybe they're just wore thin after the 9-5. Some people just don't want it bad enough, while others are busy killing themselves trying to stoke the flame.

3:52 PM  

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