In the wake of the recently announced Detroit bankruptcy, and amid the uncertain fate of the Detroit Institute of the Arts’ collection, the Knight Foundation revealed the winners of Knight Arts Challenge: Detroit last week. 56 winners — from individuals, collectives and established organizations and institutions — were awarded grant money ranging from $5,000 to $120,000, given the chance for art to lift a community in the way an emergency manager and bankruptcy cannot: spiritually, mentally, passionately; with love and tenderness. While the Detroit bankruptcy proceedings will be fat cats and brass tacks, pushing elected officials and community members further out of the decision making, the Knight Challenge grant recipients will aim to return power to the people, on micro levels, yet with respect and agency given to the very people in the communities these artists and groups will work with. Thus, the award winners, in total given $2.1 million, represent a ray of hope in the city’s immediate future and may quickly change the landscape of the city if they are successful.
The Knight Arts Challenge: Detroit is an initiative of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and is a $9 million dollar campaign to draw from the talent of the city, to keep creative people in the city, as an investment in the arts of Detroit. It follows from the adage “Where culture can breed, people will breed” (I just made that up), but its a lot like “If you build it, they will come” in that it is the arts that build a city or community, that the vitality of the culture sustains the soul and makes people want to live somewhere, that they need to live there, even if there’s no public transportation, lack of basic services like trash removal or functioning street lamps; even if the rest of the country has given up on the place, it still has potential that can be seen and felt. Because art and music has a deep history in Detroit, as does innovation and invention.
The winning entries are diverse, and as all were required to take place in or affect Detroit directly, most of them are geared towards working with the communities of the city to instill positive change, empowerment and growth. They ranged from creating a lending library of contemporary Detroit artwork for residents to live with and potentially buy, creative writing workshops, hyperlocal radio broadcasts to create a sound collage while driving through the city, a residency program for musicians outside of Detroit to collaborate with the local musicians, a competition to foster more talent in contemporary Jazz, production of guitars made from reclaimed wood from demolished homes in the city, an artist residency program in city elementary school, seed money to expand an established film fest into a larger event with national status, a nationwide tour of an interactive project geared at engaging viewers with ground roots change, and many many more. One that I find compelling just from its blurb on the website is a video project conceived by the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History:
“To illuminate some of Detroit’s dark neighborhood streets physically and spiritually, the museum will commission a series of video art installations showcasing the faces and wisdom of the city’s elders. In conjunction with a team of Detroit media artists, distinguished filmmaker Julie Dash will create the works. Each will seek to bring light to the legacy, vitality and fabric of Detroit, while providing safe passage for residents in a city in which a recent survey said some 40 percent of streetlights were in disrepair.”
The phrase “40% of streetlights were in disrepair” is not an exaggeration, but should say “are not working at all”. So many streets in the city are completely dark at night, inviting all sorts of violent crime, not to mention further lowering the quality of life experienced by residents in those areas. The temporary lighting of these streets, with proud images and text of the city’s past will no doubt be a jolt to the senses. What is needed, of course, is for working streetlights to once again be installed. Ultimately, this will be more powerful than an artwork in terms of transformation. One hopes that this project acts as a catalyst for that to happen, by literally shining a light on a huge problem in the city.
I sincerely hope Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr is devising some way to get the street lamps, as well as other crucial needs of the city taken care of. Obviously, he isn’t interested in the arts, as he wants to strip the city of its culture for quick cash. Which art institution will be next on the chopping block? It seems important that now someone is trying to invest in the arts of Detroit. Along with Kresge, a more established arts grant in the Detroit region, a big push is being made to not only keep talent in the city and to nurture the arts, but together they breed an outlook on the art of Detroit as a whole: within five years time (or hell, right now) if someone wanted to quickly distinguish the art of Detroit, they would probably throw out words like “community engaged”, “guerrilla”, “activist”, or the foul phrase “social practice”. Not to poop in the punchbowl, but as a narcissistic artist bent on only furthering my own artistic hopes and dreams, I find this potentially disturbing, that a city’s identity could be considered along terms of social practice, as aesthetics are so often ignored with work that is community engaged. For now, though, I am more than happy to content to leave this issue for the future, a future where we can afford to consider beauty alone, and not pragmatism and politics. Knight Arts Challenge is opening doors that seemed demolished long ago. Hell, its national news that we just got a grocery store in downtown for christsakes.
It is important to note that ALL of the recipients of Knight Arts Challenge will only get funding if the recipients find matching funds within one year. For more information on the Knight Arts Challenge, visit their website:
This week: after some needless reference to THC containing plants (look up 420 if confused) we get down to business. First we check in with Edition the new fair coming to town.
This week Amanda Browder travels to Detroit MI to interview Christina Roos and Thomas Bell about their newly formed residency Spread Art. We talk about the art scene in Detroit, their residency and what it was like moving from New York to Detroit.
Spread Art is an artist run creative Incubator designed to foster new works and collaborations by artists from around the world.www.spreadart.org
Spread Art is an artist-run creative incubator designed to foster new works through collaborations with artists, curators, and organizations from around the world. Spread Art supports emerging artists through group and solo exhibitions, music events, and performance showcases, and also facilitates opportunities for youth and adults to explore their creativity and increase self-awareness through art. Spread Art supports the creation and evolution of art festivals and cultural collaborations locally, nationally, and internationally.
August 30, 2013 · Print This Article
Stephanie Cristello published an interview with Richard Holland and Duncan MacKenzie on The Seen recently to talk about Bad at Sports’ plans for EXPO, including the upcoming print publication Dana Bassett is spearheading and the various interviews we will be conducting on site at the fair.
BAD AT SPORTS // INTERVIEW
Duncan MacKenzie and Richard Holland of Bad at Sports are two of the best in town to talk with about art. Known for their witty commentary and contemporary art talk platform Bad at Sports, they are most admired for their weekly podcasts and blog. The three of us sat down to discuss their involvement with EXPO/2013 – the recent venture of a newspaper that will be distributed throughout the fair spearheaded by What’s the T? columnist Dana Bassett entitled The EXPO Register, and the live interviews they will be fielding from their booth next to the /Dialogues stage. The lineup for this year’s panel is impressive, titled “One-on-One,” just one of many sports puns, MacKenzie and Holland will be in conversation with gallerists, directors, and curators, such as Solveig Øvstebø of the Renaissance Society, Elysia Borowy-Reeder of the MOCAD Detroit, and Director Charlie James, as well as artists William Powhida, José Lerma, and Sanford Biggers. While the details of these interviews are kept secret (you will just have to see them in person to find out), our conversation breaches the extent of Bad at Sports coverage at the fair, their plans for the paper, and MacKenzie and Holland’s bucket list – like an interview about interviews, or something along those lines.
Stephanie Cristello: Let’s start off by talking about some of the things you’re doing for the fair. You’re working with Dana Bassett to publish a newspaper reporting live?
Duncan MacKenzie: Yes, the newspaper is going to be called The EXPO Register and reflects our collective style – slightly goofy, a touch irreverent, yet fairly straight ahead. The great thing about working with Dana is that she has the same wry sense of humor as us, which will definitely be a part of it, but it will also be a sincere tool for the fair goers.
Richard Holland: At Bad at Sports we are slightly irreverent, but not extensively. We are respectful of our guests – we will make fun of them now and again, but at our core, we are the fan club newsletter. This newspaper will be a different side of that effort.
SC: So you will be reporting on trends, how much gossip is there going to be?
DM: 98% trash! No – there will be a chunk of it that’s gossip, but it’s light.
RH: We’re just trying not to get sued, that’s why we don’t have comments on our site anymore. After the fourth time we got threatened with a lawsuit…
From Modern Art Notes…
In an effort to spotlight the collections at the Detroit Institute of Arts that would be lost if the threatened sale of art in collections at the DIA are sold, all day long Modern Art Notes and many other sites will be spotlight art at the DIA. I’ll be featuring roughly an artwork an hour for the next ten hours. I hope this will help spotlight both the collection at the DIA and the access we have to Detroit’s art. I think that the more people think about what’s at the DIA, the more concerned they’ll be about what could happen there.
How can you help support the DIA? Share artwork here on MAN and at other sites with your friends. If you live in Michigan, tell your elected officials that the future of Detroit is important to you and that you don’t support a fire sale of the city’s future. Best of all: Join me in becoming a member of the Detroit Institute of Arts.
Oh, Detroit. Has it been two years already?! It seems but a day since I took my first Michigan left and brought my Subaru to a stop in the center of your simultaneously horrifying and humbling splendor. From those early moments, I knew our relationship would be as tenuous as your gloriously rusted patina. I came equipped with my New York Times-fueled expectations and, to my 21st century grand narrative, you countered with the arresting reality of day-to-day life in an urban center lacking in infrastructure, population, and amenities. From you, I experienced the creativity that emerges from near lawlessness; I witnessed the ingenuity required to survive and, indeed, thrive in urban wilderness; and I was charmed by the entrepreneurial spirit that nurtured makers, doers, and hackers alongside BYO basement strip clubs and speakeasy-style soul food joints. What resonates with me still is the unwavering commitment to a locality where life is a unique brand of struggle but, even so, there is palpable energy created around cumulative gestures of grassroots transformation. Detroit is a truly contemporary American city—engaged with the potential of the present—sending up smoke signals to the future while building on the recently razed past.
So Detroit, it’s been real, but a working girl has got to eat, (specifically, she’s got to eat fresh produce other than the lemons and limes purchased at liquor stores), so this B@S blogger is moving on!
In September, I accepted a position in Portland and, beginning next Wednesday, I will be continuing my correspondence from the Pacific Northwest’s veritable hipster haven notorious for crafting, composting, and pre-retirement. Despite its bicycle riding, NPR listening, backyard chicken tending demographic, not all of Portland is steeped in cliché. Surprisingly, this city holds remarkable likeness to the Dirty D. There are hardcore, ambidextrous makers here—creative entrepreneurs who have eschewed the traditional a-list urban locale to continue canning, woodworking, and weaving from the comfort of a spacious home studio. A spirit of resourcefulness and resilience abounds. Like Detroit, the stability of full-time employment is hard to come by, but within this piece-meal existence, comes a freedom that facilitates forging alternative ways of living, working, and remaining creatively and culturally fulfilled. Portland’s got some hustle too, B@S!
Thanks largely to Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, Portland has become the subject of popular myth and, I’ll admit, there is something about this city beyond the grunge and facial hair that begs the question: “Do you remember the 90s?” From what I’ve seen so far, much of the cultural work produced in Portland does bear the vague glimmer of an outstretched Clinton-thumb. Far from the 90s articulated by Jeff Koons and new genre public art, the Portlandia version is defined by expressions of optimism and imagination that often leverage the space of art and exhibitions as sites to launch fantastical alternatives.
Consider the work of Wayne Bund, Portland-based photographer recently featured at Cock Gallery, whose riveting portraiture explores sexual identity through the incarnation of fantasy—a veritable feast of cinematic unconscious that is as compelling as it is uncanny.
On view at the Henry Gallery is Like a Valentine, a solo-exhibition of Seattle-based ceramist Jeffry Mitchell, that features an other world of playful flora and fauna whose irresistible sweetness is perforated by gilded glory holes.
And just last weekend, I had the opportunity to experience an installation by Patrick Rock, visual artist and director of rocksbox, whose practice in studio and art space is notorious for combining blithe humor with biting art world irreverence. Requiem combined a room-scale bouncy playground with light effects, Mozart, and Dumbo, in a space resembling a church-y community center that would be hosting a pancake breakfast the next morning. The experience was cacophonous and disorienting… But I liked it.
Conversations with these three folks forthcoming, but first, an interview with MK Guth, an artist whose multifaceted practice includes sculpture, performance, image making, and Fluxus-style game playing. Not to reveal too much, but our conversation explored the logistics of participatory art: engaging various publics, embracing the unknown, and looping the experience back by transforming a collective process into a compelling art object. Stay tuned: MK Guth, next Wednesday 12/19, B@S blog!