Picture a warm, engaging, creative and inspiring evening spent with people from all walks of life. You have come together to celebrate the 313th birthday of Detroit. You are eating a piece of Detroit’s birthday cake, while licking your fork clean, you bask in the energy of the room. You walk around absorbing a splendid and thought provoking photo documentation of Detroit’s past and present. You are witnessing a side of Detroit seen through the eyes of some of our most distinguished area photographers. Strawberries, olives, cheese and wine.
The air is filled with flirtatious laughter,
friendly new faces, and age-old friends.
Now you have this image in your mind, I invite you to come with me for a moment to the Detroit Artist’s Market. On this night, June 6, 2014, we are viewing the Photography of Carlos Diaz, Bruce Griffin, Scott Hocking, Oscar Hoff, Ali Elisabeth Lapetina, Vanessa Miller, Tom Stoye, Bill Schwab, and the legendary Bill Rauhauser, who has been shooting in Detroit for more than 50 years. Many of these photographers are CCS alumni and have been mentors to one another throughout the years. Not only are they amazing behind the lens, they hold workshops for people of all ages because they truly love their craft. This is one of the many reasons they are being highlighted during Detroit’s 313 Birthday Bash.
Many of us may know of the Detroit Artist’s Market (DAM) from Noel Night, where large groups of jovial Metro Detroiters bundle up and come together to enjoy our city’s wintertime celebration and festivities. The DAM is one of the standouts because of it’s rich history, its reputation for showcasing bright new artists, and of course the very warm vibe you feel when you hang out there.
This atmosphere stays true
to the very beginnings of the organization.
DAM was founded in 1932 during the Great Depression when our city was struggling for survival. At the time a group of local art patrons, led by Mrs. H. Lee Simpson, recognized that local artists needed a place to exhibit and sell their work, and the Market was born. The Detroit Artist’s Market created a vision of hope for many people through out many difficult times in our city, even still when Detroit is going through major changes before our very eyes. Besides staying true to it’s artists, youngsters and veteran alike, DAM’s founders had another goal: educating public taste through the exhibition and sale of work by the finest of Detroit’s local artists.”
I took this chance at the DAM to get to know some of the people there. I spoke with Bill Schwab, a featured photographer at the show. He shoots in a Neo Pictorialist Style, and photographs using methods utilized 100 years ago. His images are breath taking and when you look at his work, you may find it difficult to look away. Bill originally shot with film, but in the 1990’s digital camera use started becoming popular and he decided to switch to methods that predated his own existence. As he talked he noticed that I was hiding my own digital camera from him. He kind of smiled and said he had nothing against the digital age, he just preferred to stick to the roots of photography like his great grandfather. I asked about his great grandfather and was awe. His great grandfather was Frederick Lutge, a renegade photographer who ran to Detroit to escape persecution from his own country in the mid 1800’s. In 1870 he opened a photography studio on Monroe Street near Greek Town. I was astounded to hear that photography ran so deeply in Bill’s veins. His great grandfather was a photographer here in Detroit 144 years ago.
I listened to the story with delightful curiosity. As it turns out, people who know his story send him prints from all over the world of his great grandfathers work. Bill Schwab is adamant about his passion for photography, his love for Detroit, and his unfaltering respect for his photographer peers. He and the other brilliant photographers being showcased this month all have deep ties in our community and offer photography workshops to anyone interested in their individual crafts.
On ward march, the night continues,
and being a social mingler I was in heaven.
There are people of all ages at the DAM on the 6th, including budding artist Nick Bouloue, a first timer at DAM. Nick was there to support the works of two of his personal local photographer heroes, Bruce Griffin and Bill Shwab. Nick’s father is also an artist and Detroit activist, so he has been on the scene since he was a toddler. I also ran into Film Maker Ed Gardner who was chatting with artist Bryan Tillman and surrealist photographer Robert Stewart. Robert is well known for his images of Detroit’s very own vaudeville hero Satori Circus. Another local Photographer Brent Bacher brought his 4 year old daughter Erin. We talked briefly as he tried to keep up with the toddler’s pattering feet. I also made a new friend at DAM named Debbie Merlo, a retired Car Designer from Ford Motor Company. Debbie has been photographing images of Detroit on her commute back and forth to work from the East to the West Side for 33 years. After she retired she decided to paint those images. She discovered DAM one Noel night some years ago, now her dream is to have one of her pieces hanging there. When I asked Debbie, age 55, about her decision to focus on her art after all of these years, she said something very inspirational. “If I don’t now, then when will I?” Throughout the evening One person after another told me their journeys and how they landed at the DAM that night. The hour was getting late, and as things were wrapping up, hugs were once again shared and many, “until we meet agains,” were heard.
Indeed my night ended way too soon, but before I left I said my farewells to The Detroit Artist’s Market staff. They after all helped create the magic that night and were more than happy to assist me with anything that I needed. Dalia was my contact before the party and helped set things up for MCB and made sure she introduced me to everyone. The DAM’s Mark Fry showed me around as well, and said there were many new things on the horizon. He came over to the DAM earlier in the year after being the head of marketing at the DIA because he prefers working with living artists and being involved on the contemporary side of things, the here and now. Then I met Deena, also an artist, she started going to the DAM in the 1970’s. Her husband taught at Wayne State and they lived downtown for more than 25 years. She loved it so much that she began working at DAM in 2000.
When I asked her about how she felt about the new changes in the city, she was pleased to say that the Artist’s Market is thriving like she has not seen in years.
People were pouring in from all corners of the globe.
She recognizes that some artists have moved since the change, but added with a smile that they were seeking new places to be inspired like artists always do. One thing everyone I met at Detroit’s Birthday Party all have in common is their love for the Detroit Artist’s Market, and for our city. The feeling of love was so contagious that I know exactly where I am headed when I need a good dose of Homegrown Art.
If you are interested in a mentorship or volunteering or satiating your viewing pleasure, stop into the Detroit’s Artist Market, or visit them online at http://www.detroitartistsmarket.org/
Article and photos by
MCB's Sandy C. Hopkins