Local Art Hubs

Increasing numbers of young artists are gathering in Detroit, forming an art hub where they can grow and practice. In contrast to a city where people only applaud renowned and well-funded artists, in Detroit everyone can be an artist without being worried about whether or not the art work would fit into a trendy gallery or institution. Historically, several sites in Detroit have served as gathering places for emerging musicians or artists who later grew to be recognized figures. These places with warm, family-like atmospheres would have positively challenged emerging artists to step forward and dare to try new things in experiments which eventually helped them grow.

For example, historically, Blue Bird Inn located in the city of Detroit was a main stage of small jazz concerts in 1950-60s where local community members spent their free time, merging into the soul of jazz. Musicians like Tommy Flanagan, Kenny Burrell, and the Jones Brothers played here and all became important jazz figures in New York City [1]. This would have been impossible without any appreciation of art in Detroit.


Blue Bird
Fig. 1: Blue Bird Inn, which served as a hub for local musicians. Source: Deliberately Considered (2011) [1]



There is another place where Detroiters can deeply engage with art: a gallery named Alley Culture is a wood-framed gallery located in Woodbridge near Detroit [2]. Its exhibitions focus on works of local contemporary artists. In addition to appreciating artworks, audiences can also attend various events here. To support local communities, the gallery hosts markets for exchanging seeds or selling organic foods [2]. It suddenly creates a close-knit community where people can socialize with neighbors and naturally mingle in local arts.

This small gallery may not be able to offer a magnificent exhibition by world-renowned artists, but its audience can feel a sense of belonging to the local community and learn how to appreciate art in their daily lives in a more friendly way. In this sense, Alley Culture resists the “homogenizing” trend of art galleries, daring to oppose the current dominance of “well”-educated and networked artists who symbolize a part of metropolitan cities [2]. Rather, this special gallery provides a small-scale, refreshing but impactful opportunity to create local community identity.


As a way to engage residents in such art experiences, a recent city plan suggested “Live + Make” projects that support local art events and help residents be engaged in art making for quality living [3]. If city residents turn abandoned lands into public places for art, the city will have a large area dedicated solely for art. Those areas are indicated in pink in the map below.

Live Make
Fig. 2: Detroit’s land use scenario-pink area will be dedicated to “LIKE+MAKE” project. Source: Detroit Future City, 2013. [2]

Works Cited

  1. Carducci, V. (2011b, August 18). Beneath the Pavement, the Beach! — Detroit Art from a Situationist Perspective, Part II. Deliberately Considered. Retrieved March 05, 2016, from http://www.deliberatelyconsidered.com/2011/08/beneath-the-pavement-the-beach-detroit-from-a-situationist-perspective-part-ii/
  2. Herscher, A. (2012). The Unreal Estate guide to Detroit. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
  3. Detroit Future City 2012 Detroit Strategic Framework Plan. (2013). Detroit, MI: Inland Press.

List of Figures

  1. Detroit Future City 2012 Detroit Strategic Framework Plan. (2013). Detroit, MI: Inland Press.
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