3rd times (still) a charm
With a new class of fellows, Kresge Arts in Detroit has poured $1.3 million into the region's arts community
Published: June 29, 2011
Three years ago, the Kresge Foundation announced a new arts philanthropy program, Kresge Arts in Detroit, the cornerstone of which, they said, would be an annual selection of a dozen or more fellows and one eminent artist. Years would rotate between visual artists on odd numbered years and literary and performance artists on even ones. They promised the fellows would receive $25,000. Double that for the Eminent artist. And professional development workshops would be held throughout the year.
It couldn't have come at a better time.
Weeks before Kresge's announcement, Lansing had drastically slashed arts and culture funding. That's the way it'd been going.
ArtServe, a paramount arts advocacy group, says public funding for arts and culture has decreased by more than 93 percent in the past eight years in Michigan.
We went into 2010 thinking there'd be a little more than $6 million in the coffer. We were lucky to get the $2.1 million we ended up with.
John Bracey, executive director of the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs (MCACA), a state agency that works with nonprofit arts organizations, says funding this year increased slightly to $2.3 million.
To help alleviate the drought, the National Endowment for the Arts, with its $125 million grant budget, extended $1.9 million to Michigan this year. That money finds its way to Detroit institutions such as InsideOut Literary Arts, the College for Creative Studies, the Detroit Jazz Festival, Mosaic Youth Theatre and the Michigan Opera Theatre.
But Detroit needs more. Individual artists need more.
This week, Kresge Arts in Detroit celebrates its third year with a second round of fellows who work in visual art. And as the program has completed one full cycle, Kresge has now invested more than $1.3 million in individual Detroit artists.
This year's class is as diverse as the first: a compelling group of designers, sculptors, photographers, painters and installation artists, all of which could describe Jon Dunivant, the artistic brain behind Detroit's legendary Theatre Bizarre, who is perhaps one of this year's better-known fellows.
Let's get to know Dunivant and this new Kresge class a bit better.
A professor of fine art theory and practice at Eastern Michigan University, Lawrence Technological University and Oakland University, Corrie Baldauf received her Master of Fine Arts degree at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. Her work has been exhibited internationally. "I am fortunate to be welcomed into a community that sees the intellect in optimism and the alchemy in art," Baldauf says. "My current drawings, paintings, animations and sculptures notate and frame the inspiration, stimulation and influences in my surroundings. By observing people interacting with my artwork, I learn how I can bring familiarity and laughter to people of different walks of life." The notations in her circular timeline drawings highlight pauses and patterning of open spaces, representing the rhythm of occurrences happening in Detroit. "Imagine that each space is a stage for the words I hear you say, the descriptions in National Public Radio stories and news, anecdotes, as well as quotidian experiences. These drawings are visual manifestations of the experiences that seduce us to be alert and alive." As an artist, Baldauf says her role is to tap into and reflect the experiences and events in the Detroit area that compel disparate communities to interact and thrive.
If you've spent any amount of time driving around the west side of Detroit, you've driven by the wondrous work of one Olayami Dabls. Most likely, it was framed in your car's window as you cruised by, distracted. Perhaps you were compelled to pull over and check it out. It happens all the time. Using a wide range of materials, sites and scale, Dabls has been at it for more than 45 years. He says he uses his work to tell stories about African people and Africa's material culture. Some have referred to his frenetic, three-dimensional, restructured art pieces as the Heidelberg of the West Side. The artist is currently working on completing a 150-by-14 foot mural titled African Language. "I have discovered at least 18 examples of written scripts in a selection of African languages that were used during the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, a time when we were labor savages, primitive and uncivilized," Dabls says. "Our artifact or material culture during the same time was defined as demonic, ugly, idols, witchcraft and primitive. The languages were written in scripts using symbolism and pictographs. Using this same language, my work promotes positive images and enriching aspects of my people's contribution to world culture." Dabls is also the owner of the MBAD African Bead Museum at 6559 Grand River Ave. in Detroit — a section of the city Dabls likes to call Africa Town.
Mitch Cope & Gina Reichert: Design 99, Power House Project
In recent years, few Detroit artists have garnered the kind of attention that art partners Gina Reichert and Mitch Cope have. The couple founded Design 99 in 2007, intent on investigating new models of contemporary art by grafting art and design with practical architectural work. Their sense of design is both utilitarian and Detroit organic, as their work is in direct engagement with their residential Hamtramck neighborhood — with the goal being to improve and protect it. Working in any number of mediums, they also play the role of art ambassadors, often found leading groups of curious foreigners in and around the city. These "tours" might begin or end at the Power House, a project Cope and Reichert have been working on since 2008. We might think of the Power House as a test site for ideas and methods, low- and high-tech building systems, and a point of conversation for their entire neighborhood. Design 99 has exhibited widely, including the Van Abbemuseum in the Netherlands, the Smart Museum in Chicago, Kunsthalle Wien in Austria, the Detroit Institute of Arts, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit.
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