Exploring Art in Detroit

Did you know that Detroit is home to a thriving art scene? Today, native Detroiter Ingrid LaFleur, founder and director of contemporary art gallery Maison LaFleur, takes us on a tour of just a few of the many artistic gems throughout the city.

Detroit’s art scene is growing by leaps and bounds in ways you would only believe until you see it for yourself. For that reason I designed a tour to show the creative side of that growth. I recently took a group through Detroit highlighting some of the most fascinating art projects happening right now. The tour was organized through D:Hive, known for being an excellent resource for all things Detroit.

We began in Eastern Market, one of many places in Detroit where graffiti abounds. When we parked I immediately recognized the work of street artist Shades who painted the door of world renown electronic music producer Derrick May. His iconic lips were unmistakable. We walked to the other side of the busy farmer’s market into a beautiful letterpress called Salt & Cedar. The 3,000 square foot space is neatly organized and filled with antique press equipment and furniture. Using a 500 year old tradition, proprietor and artist Megan O’Connell uses the letterpress technique to create invitations, business cards, experimental printing and book structures. We were able to witness book binding by hand.

From there we went to the Alley Project, a wonderfully accessible public art project nestled in a quiet neighborhood in Detroit’s Southwest. The project was developed by non-profit organization Young Nation with the intention of supporting youth and communities through culture and development. The highlights included a block of murals painted on garage doors and QR codes knitted into fences.

We took a short break in Mexicantown for the best hot chocolate at Cafe Con Leche, a colorful corner cafe filled with art work by local artists. It was a perfect way to warm up before our walk through the magical wonderland created by artist Olayami Dabls. For the past 12 years Dabls has been working on an ever expanding art installation that resides outside of his African Bead Museum on the westside of Detroit. Using iron, rocks and mirrors on vacant land and buildings, Dabls weaves a story that enacts the development of our society. Each visit is a new experience.

We ended the tour at Power House which rests on the border of Hamtramck. Power House is an artist-run neighborhood-based nonprofit organization that includes a number of projects such as a Skate Park. The house itself was purchased for $1900 in 2008 by husband and wife team Mitch Cope and Gina Reichert. Power House produces its own electricity from solar and wind power. The house is used as an art center and artist residency that has hosted over 23 artists and designers. Because they also facilitate the purchase of surrounding properties, Power House has become an anchor for a flowering arts community thus enabling their mission to revitalize neighborhoods through creative enterprise.

Detroit has become the hub for all things entrepreneurial and the creative industry is actively engaging in that spirit. I encourage you experience it for yourself.

Native Detroiter Ingrid LaFleur is founder and director of Maison LaFleur, a contemporary art gallery. With over a decade of curatorial and arts administrative experience to her credit, she has worked with artists and arts organizations in New York, Detroit, Nairobi, Johannesburg, and a host of other cities. A world traveler and self-described nomad, Ingrid has happily made her home-base Detroit.

Experience Art, Music and Culture at the Renovated Detroit Historical Museum

The Detroit Historical Museum, located in midtown Detroit’s cultural center, re-opened last week after a six-month renovation period with a Grand Re-Opening celebration that lasted for 55.5 hours straight. Regular hours commence today, November 27, with free admission for guests continuing!

In celebration, Nova Zorok, public relations and marketing coordinator at the Detroit Historical Society, fills us in on what to expect at the Museum this year. Visit detroithistorical.org for more information.

In May 2012, the Detroit Historical Museum closed for a six-month, $12 million renovation. It marks the most extensive renovation the Museum has received since the 1960s. Starting last Friday, November 23 at 9:30 a.m., the Museum hosted its free Grand Re-Opening weekend, opening its doors for 55.5 straight hours.

Five new, permanent exhibitions have been installed, joining enhanced versions of signature attractions such as the Streets of Old Detroit, America’s Motor City, and Frontiers to Factories: Detroiters at Work, 1701-1901. The Allesee Gallery of Culture allows the visitor to explore the people, places and things that are “distinctly Detroit,” with artifacts from four eras in history being displayed in chronological progression. Look for one of the original Tiger Stadium neon signs! Detroit: The Arsenal of Democracy showcases our region’s role in creating the mighty arsenal that changed the outcome of World War II, with an interactive station and personal stories of the war from Detroiters. Doorway to Freedom – Detroit and the Underground Railroad enables the visitor’s discovery of the city’s fundamental role in the epic story of the Underground Railroad. The Gallery of Innovation allows visitors to find inspiration in the struggles, contributions and successes of Detroit’s innovators, incorporating the use of an innovation station where children can create virtual soft drink flavors and car prototypes on a budget.

A generous donation made by Kid Rock allowed for the installation of the Kid Rock Music Lab, where more than 100 years of Detroit music is experienced in an interactive gallery. Lastly, Legends Plaza, an outdoor exhibit, celebrates Detroit’s rich cultural heritage with the display of the handprints of the city’s cultural icons. The signatures and handprints of such legends as Alice Cooper, Gordie Howe, Lily Tomlin and Barry Sanders can all be viewed in this ongoing plaza exhibit.

The Community and Booth-Wilkinson galleries will feature rotating exhibits highlighting Detroit neighborhoods and community groups and other limited-engagement exhibits. Opening in the Booth-Wilkinson Gallery on November 23 is Riding the Rails: How Rail Transportation Helped Build Detroit, which discusses Detroit’s early reliance on mass transportation, the introduction of the automobile in the 20th century and new initiatives to lessen dependence on the automobile in the 21st century. The Power of Hope, a tribute to the history of Focus: HOPE, a nationally recognized civil and human rights organization founded in 1968 after the Detroit riots, opens in the Community Gallery.

Don’t miss out on these exciting new features at the museum!

Nova Zorok graduated from Wayne State University and is the public relations and marketing coordinator at the Detroit Historical Society. She is originally from Arkansas and studied at the Boston Ballet on scholarship. She has been dancing since she was three and continues to take class at Ballet Americana in Taylor. She loves local music and lives in the historic neighborhood of Woodbridge in Detroit with her boyfriend.

Will you be making a visit to the Detroit Historical Museum this year? Share with us below!