A banner weekend for art in Detroit

Published on April 12, 2011 by in Detroit


It was an amazing weekend for art and community in Detroit. This was thanks in large part to the first ever Art X Detroit, a remarkably successful, five-day festival in Midtown showcasing the work of 38 local Kresge Arts grantees and several guests.

Zeena Parkins playing an electronic harp at MOCAD

Zeena Parkins at MOCAD | photo by Matthew Piper

But the festival coincided with much else:  gallery openings at 71 Garfield and Art Effect, a rousing performance at the DIA by New Music Detroit and Vicky Chow, the opening of two plays by local playwrights at the Matrix Theatre, the premiere of The Magic Flute at the Opera House, and the celebratory return of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, which performed two free concerts to packed, jubilant crowds. What did I miss?

Photo of installation/performance "Dear Detroit" by Russ Orlando

Russ Orlando performing "Dear Detroit" at MOCAD. Photo by David Lewinski (www.davelewinski.com)

Practically everyone I talked to over the weekend expressed the same sentiment: if only we each could have been in five or six places at once to experience everything we wanted to. The festival opened on Wednesday night with a party at MOCAD that drew a crowd of over 1,300. It continued through Sunday with free literary readings, music and dance performances, lectures and panel discussions, the unveiling of new public art, a multimedia performance at the DIA about Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, and a visual art show at MOCAD (a must-see, on view until April 24).

"Spellbound" by Senghor Reid, 2011

From what I saw and heard, nearly every venue was packed.  I’d never seen MOCAD as full for a concert as I did on Thursday night, when I went to hear music by composer Joel Peterson and the fabulous experimental harpist Zeena Parkins.

Those of us who made it to Leopold’s Books for a reading by Steve Hughes on Saturday night found ourselves just about elbow-to-elbow, but all the better to experience his barefaced tales of human folly, as hilarious as they are stingingly tragic.

Leopold's Books with the signature yellow X that marked it as a participating venue. Photo by Matthew Piper

Poet Vie Francis said she’d never seen as many people turn up for a poetry reading in Detroit as came to the Scarab Club Saturday night. I chatted with her on Sunday afternoon at the Cafe 1923 in Hamtramck. It was sunny and warm, with a perfect breeze coming through the open front door, and Francis was jubilant about the festival’s success. Never, she said, had she experienced such buzz, such enthusiastic participation, surrounding so much exceptional work across so many disciplines in Detroit. Never had she seen Detroit come closer to the connected, vibrant city she’s dreamed of and worked toward for 20 years. “I don’t even have words for it,” she said.

We talked about the excitement of seeing so many more people walking the streets of Midtown, and about the legitimizing effect the festival has had on homegrown artists, who are building fruitful new networks as a result of the Kresge fellowships. We also talked about the generosity and cooperation of the city’s cultural institutions, and about the challenge the festival has presented to the arts community:  to keep this momentum going, to keep working toward the city’s transformation through the human connections that art can inspire. Francis thinks that this transformation is more possible now than ever before, and after last weekend, I believe her.

A child playing in Tyree Guyton's installation "Street Folk," on display until April 24 on Edmund Place (between Woodward and John R) | Photo by Matthew Piper

19 Responses to “A banner weekend for art in Detroit”

  1. Mary Fortuna says:

    Matthew, I’m happy to read all the pieces you’ve been writing on arts in Detroit. Is there an e-mail where I can send you information about upcoming events and shows? I tried contacting you through Knight Arts but got no response to my inquiry.

    Thank you.

  2. jocelyn says:

    Thanks for the recap

  3. Tory S. says:

    Spellbound is an astounding painting. The symbolism and contrast in this painting really displays the spirit of Detroit.

  4. Marlin says:

    Mr. Reid is one of the best artist in Detroit

  5. Brittiney says:

    Senghor Reid is a really great artist! His exhibition was outstanding.

  6. Charne' H. says:

    Spellbound is a pretty awesome painting. The artist really puts Detroit on the map especially for using a J Dilla album cover in the painting! Great job Senghor!

  7. Jennifer A. says:

    Mr.Reid is an amazing artist and teacher. I’ve learned so much from him!

  8. Jack says:

    Senghor Reid is the man!!!!! Great teacher! Funny Guy! and a Great artist

  9. Robyn says:

    This is Robyn one of Mr.Reid students and i really enjoy his work of art that he does.. he is really a great artist….and his painting are one of the greatest works that i have seen. i hope one day to maybe be like him.! CONGRADS Mr.Reid..! =)

  10. Matthew Neal says:

    Yea man this picture is cooollld like SUPA DUPA koolllddd, your a great artist keep it up…..BOI !

  11. Ona Ventour says:

    Senghor Reid is not only an awesome artist, but a wonderful teacher with a great sense of texture, depth, and variety when it comes to artwork.

  12. Marcellos Thompson says:

    THis picture dope! And im a sneakerhead so if i come across this im gone have to pick some shoes up ha.

  13. John Robinson II says:

    My mans Senghor Reid is so cold, his composition is dope, his style is butta, and the concept behind his works are thought provoking. This man is a true 21st century genius.

  14. Abdul B. says:

    I visited “Street Folk” today and it was really a different form of art. Congrats Mr. Reid, your painting looks awesome!

  15. Mariah Gerald says:

    These artists really illustrates that Detroit has talent and in fact is on its way back up to the top! Great job Mr. Reid!!

  16. Brandy Cross says:

    spellbound is amazing. Mr. Reid is a great artist

  17. Rima Begum says:

    Spell bound was quite an amazing piece of art work by a very talented teacher. Mr. Reid’s painting seems well thought out and the vibrancy of colors and textures really compliments the entire feel of the painting itself. Detroit has talent in every aspect. Magnificent!

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