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.

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Flickr photo credit - MI Travel

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