Microgrant recipient Bree Gant said she appreciates how programs like Red Bull and DAW are connecting her city to a broader arts conversation. She returned in 2012 after college, and recalled how “there wasn’t a lot of arts infrastructure here, but there was space to write your own narrative.” Gant found support in nonprofits like the arts advocacy group Creative Many Michigan, but many of these have shuttered.
One profound loss was Baltimore Gallery, which championed emerging Black artists and curators. Founded in 2013 by Flaco Shalom, it’s where curator and current Kresge artist fellow Darryl DeAngelo Terrell organized their first exhibition. The Detroiter, who received their MFA in Chicago, moved home in March because of the lower cost of living, and now builds networks between the two cities. “Baltimore Gallery was a Black safe space,” Terrell said. “But people moving into the area were complaining about not feeling safe.” The gallery closed in June, as director Phillip Simpson wanted to focus on personal endeavors.
Its departure underscores the need for spaces that serve the Detroit community. One newcomer hoping to make its mark is the two-year-old Reyes | Finn, which showcases some out-of-towners but largely strives to work with artists “who have a strong connection to Detroit, whether that’s being born here or living here,” managing director Bridget Finn said. The gallery also aims to strengthen Detroit’s ties to outside markets by participating in art fairs. “It’s really important for us to work with people in Detroit and bring the work outside,” Finn added.
Artists I met said they want more national recognition of their community, whether from galleries, collectors, or publications. But they emphasized that they can have longevity, only if more investment happens on a local level. Terrell desires more Detroit-focused grants to decrease competition between artists. Gant wishes for more arts administration, particularly an arts council. “We say we’re an arts city, but we only just got a director of culture
,” she said.
Massey laments the lack of schools with arts curricula. But she’s taking action: In 2017, she purchased a 10,000-square-foot building on Detroit’s west side, to eventually transform into a nonprofit artist incubator. She envisions it as a school with 10 departments, as well as studios and residencies.
When we spoke again, over the phone, Massey rattled off some questions driving her: “On the local level, how do we make culture important again? How do you talk about artists having longevity? Who are the future artists?”
“I’d like to give my colleagues space where they can work and not worry about moving,” she continued. “Then they can give back.”