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Broad Strokes


The D doesn't just have art; it is art – art that evokes the pounding rhythm of machinery and pulsing street life, art that celebrates hard work and resurrection, and art that makes you believe in tomorrow.

detroit artist marketFrom the famous Diego Rivera mural in the Detroit Institute of Arts (see "Art for the Masses" on Page 36) to the Heidelberg Project, metro Detroit's art is a language and a feeling.

'Our goal is to make art connect with society," says Shaqe Kalaj of Livonia, artist in residence at Arts & Ideas Contemporary Art Gallery & Studio in Plymouth.

And, here in The D, it does. To experience it for yourself, start at galleries in Macomb and Oakland, work your way through the city toward the southern end of Wayne County, then west toward Ann Arbor and absorb it from all around.

Local and Representative

Begin your tour on the east side with a visit to Studio Gonzo in Roseville, a space owned and operated by longtime Detroit-area artist Ed Stross. Stross' gallery is constantly changing, but always represents the work of other emerging local talents.

While on the east side, stop by the Grosse Pointe Art Center, which has revolving shows that include performance art, photography, pottery and paintings throughout the year. A recent event brought a best-in-show honor for artist Kevin Martin of Grosse Pointe Woods for Roller Coaster, a mixed media work that showcased Martin's terrifyingly wonderful roller coaster of life.

Meanwhile, City Gallery in Mount Clemens displays the work of 20 local acrylic, oil, graphite and multimedia artists at a time, all for sale. The gallery also has a striking collection of historic photographs of the area.

Take I-94 or I-696 west to cross into Oakland, where you'll find a bevy of funky galleries, including Ariana Gallery in Royal Oak. Featuring gorgeous glassware and contemporary artists working in a variety of media, Ariana currently displays and sells signed and numbered posters of a special client – noted physician Jack Kevorkian, aka Dr. Death, who tried to legalize assisted suicide.

If folk art is more your style, take famed Woodward Avenue north to tony Birmingham, where the Hill Gallery has a collection of rare folk art plus fine art from national artists.

Continue south on Woodward to The Butcher's Daughter in Ferndale, which is the brainchild of Monica Bowman. The daughter, granddaughter and sister of butchers, she took a different life path and holds a master's degree in museum studies from Georgetown University. Bowman's gallery displays emerging and mid-career local artists who use modern media to create a context for today's urban life. Also in Ferndale, the Susanne Hilberry Gallery is a big, open stark-white space with the kind of striking modern art you would expect to see in a sophisticated, sprawling metropolis.

heidelberg projectActively Engaged

Cross 8 Mile Road from the suburbs into Detroit and see something you'll never forget: the Heidelberg Project. Resident Tyree Guyton famously made a statement about combating urban decay and violence with beauty by decorating an entire street with colorful paint and trash transformed into sculpture. Heidelberg is a gallery of real life, a singular piece of performance art, and it stands alone.

"We are actively engaged in art production, education and community development," says Heidelberg Development Director Sharon Luckerman, explaining that the Heidelberg Project is the third most-visited cultural site in Detroit.

The Detroit Artists Market has showcased emerging area talent since the Great Depression. Today, it features a variety of media from watercolor and sculpture to black-and-white photography and striking metal works. You'll find everything you like here, and discover new things you didn't yet know you liked.

The Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) is proof that New York and Los Angeles don't have a lock on dialogue-fueling art. In addition to an extensive collection of contemporary art, including illustrations, paintings, sculptures, multimedia pieces, and on and on and on, it also hosts lectures and film series about art, as well as hands-on workshops, guided tours and literary readings. MOCAD also has comprehensive on-site and online shops.

Drive south on I-75 to visit the Biddle Gallery (CLOSED) in Wyandotte, home to 100 artists working in traditional and non-traditional sculpture, glassware, ceramics, painting and photography. It's a big mix with something for everyone. The collection of handmade decorative pottery and tile is especially notable.

West of Detroit is the Glass Academy in Dearborn. Founded by Chris Nordin and Michelle Plucinsky, who own and operate the glass-design studio FURNACE Design Studio, this educational institution introduces glass working to those new to this art form. During Coffee Nights, which take place on the second Wednesday of every month from 4-9 p.m., local glass artists demonstrate their craft for the public.

The Soul of The D

city galleryHop on I-94 or I-275 to see what the west has to offer – and prepare to be delighted.

Start at Arts & Ideas in Plymouth, a contemporary studio where exhibits focus on critical thinking and personal expression. The gallery also offers interactive weekly drop-in classes for teens and adults who want to hone their talent. "We want art to truly be an interactive experience," says artist in residence Kalaj.

Visit the nearby Northville Art House for art, jewelry and fine crafts from more than 30 native artists. You may find something there you didn't expect, including fabric manipulation art from Ann Avery of Northville who crafts strange and whimsical fabric people and objects.

The River Gallery in Chelsea hosts rotating fine art exhibits featuring emerging local artists, including Patrick Dostine, a watercolorist who uses simple, bold strokes to reveal the soul of The D: industrial decay, water themes and more.

Wrap up your trip in Ann Arbor, where you'll find a wealth of galleries. Notable art showcases include The Gallery Project, a nonprofit collaborative with a mission, according to the gallery promoters, to show contemporary art that is "culturally aware, individualistic, courageous and thought provoking."

The Selo/Shevel Gallery focuses on handcrafted American and folk art from around the world. Visit for a diverse collection of locally crafted hand-blown glass, ceramics, wood and textile art. Also see rare finds of indigenous art from Africa and New Guinea and objets d'art from Asia and Central America.

Giving and Taking

Metro Detroit art is a sleek, black barge in the distance, a tough and glistening riverfront, a rusting bottling plant, the shriek of a 5 p.m. stop-work whistle and the sweetness of 10 a.m. church bells. It's a language all its own, an image of everyday life, something from which one can learn, and something that both gives and takes.

Most importantly, it's art that must be discovered, seen and experienced.

 Christy Strawser is a metro Detroit journalist and travel enthusiast who loves art, music and books.

A Rare Experiencepewabic

Richly detailed Pewabic tiles are an icon of the metro Detroit art scene and can be found throughout the area in places as diverse as the Detroit Public Library, Most Holy Redeemer Church, Comerica Park, and the People Mover Millender Center and Cadillac Center stations. Founded in 1903 by artist Mary Chase Perry Stratton, Pewabic continues as a ceramic design studio with a museum, exhibition gallery and store, where visitors can watch Pewabic artists at work and pick out their own piece of notable pottery.

"We are a historic working pottery site just like we were 108 years ago – Pewabic is a rare American visitor experience," says Pewabic's Executive Director Terese Ireland. "It is a very cool place."

To schedule a guided tour or hands-on workshop, call 313-822-0954. For store hours or to purchase Pewabic pottery online, visit pewabic.org.

Pewabic Pottery
10125 E. Jefferson Ave.
Detroit, 48214 DD

Getting There

1. Ariana Gallery
119 S. Main St.
Royal Oak, 48067 O
(248) 546-8810

2. Arts & Ideas Contemporary
Art Gallery & Studio
15095 Northville Road
Plymouth, 48170 GN
(734) 420-0775

3. Biddle Gallery (CLOSED)
2840 Biddle Ave.
Wyandotte, 48192 DW
(734) 281-4779

4. The Butcher's Daughter
22747 Woodward Ave.
Ferndale, 48220 O
(248) 808-6536

5. City Gallery
292 Cass Ave.
Mount Clemens, 48043 M
(586) 469-8781

6. Detroit Artists Market
4719 Woodward Ave.
Detroit, 48201 DD

7. Gallery Project
215 S. Fourth Ave.
Ann Arbor, 48104 BD
(734) 997-7012

8. The Glass Academy
25331 Trowbridge
Dearborn, 48124 DW
313-561-GLAS (4527)

9. Grosse Pointe Art Center
16900 Kercheval
Grosse Pointe, 48230 DW

10. Heidelberg Project
3600 block of Heidelberg St.
Detroit, 48201 DW

11. Hill Gallery
407 W. Brown St.
Birmingham, 48009 O
(248) 540-9288

12. Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit
4454 Woodward Ave.
Detroit, 48201 DD

13. Northville Art House
215 W. Cady St.
Northville, 48167 GN
(248) 344-0497

14. River Gallery
120 S. Main St.
Chelsea, 48118 BD
(734) 433-0826

15. Selo/Shevel Gallery
301 S. Main St.
Ann Arbor, 48104 BD
(734) 761-6263

16. Studio Gonzo
28305 S. Gratiot Ave.
Roseville, 48066 M
(586) 776-6129

17. Susanne Hilberry Gallery
700 Livernois
Ferndale, 48220 O
(248) 541-4700

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