Detroit Galleries are Flourishing with Artistic Expression

By: Toni Cunningham | June 9, 2014

While most of us are familiar with the Detroit Institute of Arts (or the DIA, as the cool kids call it), it’s probably safe to say that the general public is less familiar with the smaller art galleries of downtown Detroit. Unless, that is, you have a degree in Art History or something like that.

Regardless, the DIA is a great museum to visit in order to learn about art and get your own hands-on experience with various workshops. Having said that, I’d like to introduce you to a few additional art galleries in downtown Detroit where you can expand your artistic noodle.

Pewabic Pottery, 10125 E. Jefferson Ave., Detroit, is a museum that showcases various ceramic works. Visitors can purchase vases, tiles, ornaments and other pieces made onsite by Pewabic artists during their visit.

According to Christina Devlin, Interim Chief Administrative Officer at Pewabic, the art gallery is a unique part of Detroit history that is just as important today as it was 111 years ago when it began.

“We are a community of educators, creators and innovators who are working to make ceramics accessible to everyone. Visitors can get a glimpse of artisans at work in historic pottery as well as educators and students at work in a contemporary studio environment,” Devlin said. “They can also learn about Pewabic’s history and the story of our founder Mary Chase Perry Stratton in our museum.”

Pewabic is free of charge and open to the public, and offers several different exhibitions throughout the year. Last Thursday, June 5, a pop-up called “Celebrate Detroit: A Critical Nostalgia” debuted, and on Friday, July 11, “Manufactured Mementos: New Work by Darien Johnson and Monica Wilson” will begin and will run through the end of August.

“There is an incredible energy and spirit in the Metro Detroit area, not just in Midtown but along Jefferson Corridor as well,” Devlin said. “We are seeing creative people moving in, not only artists but also entrepreneurs who are encouraging and supporting our cultural organizations, promoting a positive image for the city.”

Just over ten minutes away from Pewabic lies the Scarab Club, 217 Farnsworth St., Detroit, an art gallery that offers a wide variety of visual, literary and musical programming, including exhibitions, concerts, lectures, book signings, sketch sessions and more.

The Scarab Club hosts eight exhibitions in its main gallery every year, and even more exhibition member artwork can be found in the second floor lounge. Each third Thursday of the month, the Scarab Club hosts an emerging artist’s showcase where up-and-coming local artists get a one-night exhibition in the lounge.

Through Saturday, June 28, the gallery will host its annual “Blooms, Bug, Beasts” exhibition, which is an all-media exhibition focusing on flowers, insects, animals, landscapes and seascapes, according to Treena Flannery Ericson, Gallery Director of the Scarab Club.

The Scarab Club has a long history of supporting the arts: after the organization was founded in 1907, the building was opened to the public in 1928. It is listed on both the state and national registries of historic places, and features beams on the second floor level that bear the signatures of 200 plus artists, including Diego Rivera, Elmore Leonard and Marcel Duchamp.

“Detroit has a tremendous depth and breadth of talent in the visual and performing arts. It also benefits from having a large number of galleries and other institutions in which to showcase performances and exhibitions. The collaborative nature of artists and institutions helps the community to have a sense of place and pride in our (city) as well as furthering its reputation as a center for creative expression nationally and internationally,” Ericson said.

The majority of programming offered by the Scarab Club is free of charge, or at little cost to visitors. The gallery is open Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 5 p.m., and is open late for special events.

“At the Scarab Club, art is our focus, but building a stronger and more vibrant community is always our goal,” Ericson said.

A mere three minutes away from the Scarab Club lies 5e Gallery, 4605 Cass Ave., Detroit, a hip-hop cultural awareness movement that exhibits visual art and live performances of various mediums and genres.

“We often sponsor artist talks by industry professionals to purposely groom emerging artists toward resources for art career education, development and sustainability,” Sicari K. Ware, creator and founder or 5e Gallery, said.

5e Gallery sponsors events including community awareness programs, film screenings, b-boy/b-girl hip-hop dance competitions, open mic nights, monthly live art and jam sessions.

“Arts and culture not only add to the aesthetic of Detroit, they also are used as tools for transformation. I have successfully transformed three spaces in Detroit during my 5e Gallery journey utilizing creative arts and cultural expression,” Ware said. “Each has attracted diverse arrays of people to the areas in which they were located. I’d say the vitality of arts and culture in Detroit is truly in the eyes of the beholder. On one hand, cultural expression simply enhances the aesthetic and feel of the city. On the other hand, arts and culture can be viewed as a direct reflection of social political changes in our city serving as tools to highlight social justice issues impacting the many communities of Detroit.”

5e is Detroit’s first hip-hop art gallery, and is one of a kind. Whether you’re a visual artist, appreciator of hip-hop culture, or humanitarian, you’ll find something to appreciate. The thousand plus Detroiters who visit the gallery a month can’t be wrong, can they?

The downtown Detroit area is packed with art just waiting to be discovered. The next time you’re looking to spend an afternoon with your beau, best friend or mom, head to one of the aforementioned art galleries in downtown Detroit. You won’t regret it!