In 2012, residents of Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne Counties voted to approve a 0.2 mills property tax to benefit the Detroit Institute of Arts for ten years from January 2013 to December 2022 (a total of approximately $250M). Subsequently, in March 2022, the residents of these three counties (the “Tri-County” region) voted to renew this millage for another ten years (an estimated further $330M, for an estimated total public investment of $580M). The benefits that the residents of the Tri-County region receive in return for the millage are defined by Service Contracts, which are negotiated for each county for each ten-year millage period. The Service Contracts are negotiated and administered by Art Institute Authorities, whose members are appointed by each county’s Chief Executive and Commissioners.
This report provides a scorecard for the first ten years of the DIA Millage (2013-2022). It addresses the following four areas:
Born Detroit, MI, 1986/ Lives in Detroit, MI
It starts with a pig. A monolithic, mutilated mural of a pig, its intestines seeping out and wrapping around its neck. Cartoonish innards of the pig’s exposed underbelly appear referential to a confederate flag. A navy X shape with hearts instead of stars lay atop waves of red and white. Its insides are likened to a flaccid flag blowing in the wind. Drops of blood seep from its underbelly. The pig appears to be cut from its neck to the pelvic area of its hind legs.
Born Tegucigalpa, Honduras (date unknown) / B.A. and MFA., Visual Arts, University of Windsor, Ontario, Canada / Lives in Beverly Hills, MI
To sit down with Cherry Wood is to notice his poise and calm, traits that serve the observational interdisciplinary artist well. His voluminous output spans photography, drawing, painting, and performance, and has recently evolved to include time-based media, such as film and experimental music, as well. Through this approach, he explores race, language, geographic borders, sexuality, and identity. The Honduran-born creative is also the founder and publisher of Barbed Magazine, which has spotlighted LGBTQ, Black, Asian, Latinx, and other underrepresented artists in Metro Detroit since 2014.
Born Ypsilanti, MI, 1989. / BA, Columbia College Chicago, IL / Lives in Detroit
Multicolored waves of flame, giant eyes crying in the sky, and ominous portals are all common motifs in the artwork of Mary Tearz. Recognizable by its idiosyncratic style and eclectic array of subjects, Tearz’s work encompasses illustration, painting, and animation. Heavily influenced by cartoons, science fiction, and surrealism, her drawings illuminate a bizarre inner world of characters, places, and creatures, unplaceable to a specific space or time, existing in an obscure, far out dimension.
Chelsea A. Flowers is an artist and educator who holds a Master of Fine Arts in Sculpture from Cranbrook Academy of Art (2017), and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Denison University in Studio Art, with a concentration in Black Studies (2013). She is an alum of the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (2022). Flowers’ artistic practice and writing interests explore ideas of “otherness” through a social and cultural critique of her environment.
Precious Johnson-Arabitg is an artist, writer, dancer, and collector. Born in the American South, she began her journey into the arts during college where she discovered Argentine tango and soon thereafter undertook a two-year ethnography exploring the dance’s history and gender politics. Precious holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Chicago and a master’s degree in legal studies from the University of Illinois-Springfield. Her research and writing interests include intersections between deconstruction and nondualism; the construction of self; and critical theory in contemporary art practice.
Marissa Jezak is an artist/writer based in Detroit. She received a BFA in photography and critical theory from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit in 2014. In her work, she explores themes of healing, desire, and violence. Often using found materials reminiscent of childhood, her art emanates a melancholic nostalgia, alluding to feminine youth. Marissa’s ongoing research focuses on illness, trauma, and gender politics. In addition to many self-published works, her writing has been featured in runner magazine, and she has exhibited artworks internationally—recently at Biquini Wax EPS (CDMX) and Rudimento (Quito).
Summary: the total reported ongoing public and philanthropic support for Arts and Culture in Metropolitan Detroit is estimated to be approximately $47.0M / year.
Summary: based on a comparison with eight similar metropolitan art institutes across the United States, the DIA produces one-third as many exhibitions as would be expected from an institution with its financial and physical resources.
Background: A visitor to the Detroit Institute of Arts in mid-July 2022 would have seen a total of two exhibitions. The first was an annual show of work by Detroit-area School students. The second was a small installation of paintings and works on paper created by contemporaries of Van Gogh.
Born Detroit, 1990, Lives in Detroit
In Transcendence: A Portrait of Corey Teamer, a 2018 mural by Ijania Cortez at Brush and Baltimore, the eponymous figure rotates to face the viewer through three successive images. Each image is slightly larger and at a slightly higher elevation, and this, combined with the glowing orange, Rothko-esque background, reinforces the ascendant trajectory implied by the title.
Born Bogota, Colombia, 1976 / Lives in Detroit
In San Clara Del Cobre, Mexico, where a nineteen-year-old Juan Martinez went to trade school, and where copper working goes back to the pre-Columbian era, they do things the hard way. Standing in a close circle around a hot ingot, typically manufactured from recycled scrap, the copper-workers beat, in turn, to flatten the ingot to the desired thickness before creating the beautiful utilitarian objects for which the city is known. It is punishing labor, but there is a magic in the rhythmic blows, the cascading sparks, and the gradual transformation of the metal.
Born Gallup, NM, 1990 / BA The Evergreen State College, Wa / Lives in Detroit
In the hours that transition from sun to moon, Olivia Guterson’s artistic persona, Midnight Olive, emerges. For this interdisciplinary artist, the night welcomes freedom to be in conversation with herself and to respond to the observations and questions conjured throughout the day.
Hold this date: 7-8 pm on Tuesday, December 14
We’d like to invite you to join us for
Essay’d160 an online event to celebrate Essay’d Installments #151-160
Event link: http://bit.ly/Essayd160
Click the image above (or here) to read an article from the Detroit Metro Times about Bakpak Durden and other Black figurative painters in Detroit.
Click here to read more on the artists mentioned in this article (Bakpak Durden, Sydney James, Tylonn Sawyer, Mario Moore, and Richard Lewis).
Born Lapeer, MI, 1985/ Lives in Detroit, MI
Imagine it’s movie night. You’re huddled in front of the TV, feeling its familiar warm static dance across your face. Wedged tightly side by side with friends, you’re so awed by the magnetic power of the main character that you scour the Internet for hours searching for the perfect jacket to match theirs. What we don’t see is the influence that created the influencer, communities outside of the limelight that our favorite muses’ aesthetics have their roots in. Although it seems like fashion’s cultural influence trickles down from the heights of cinema and haute couture, Simone Else’s wearable art makes it clear that the “it factor” also rises from the underground.
Harper Woods, MI, 1995 / BFA, College for Creative Studies; BFA Wayne
State University / Lives in Bloomfield Hills, MI
When something living dies, its chemical relationship to this world changes. Scientists use carbon dating, therefore, to assess the age of something that lived long ago, to peer into the distant past. William Charles Black uses carbon to similar ends, exploring its propensity to decay, but also its ability to preserve. This tension between ephemerality and permanence, preservation and destruction, is a thread that weaves through Black’s entire body of work, allowing him to link past to present.
Julia Pompilius is a writer and arts administrator. Born and raised in Ferndale, MI, she has been witness to the flourishing metro-Detroit art scene since infancy. She writes about popular modes of visual communication, from social media to television, and their role in shaping a new media-saturated visual culture. She is interested in fine art—painting, sculpture, photography—that deals with this phenomenon. She recently completed a master’s degree in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, where she studied the sociology of art.
Born Chicago, IL, 1981 / BFA, San Francisco Art Institute, CA; MFA, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, IL / Lives in Detroit
“WHAT IS AN ALGORITHM?” Ask Mimi Onuoha and Mother Cyborg in their 2018 zine A People’s Guide to Artificial Intelligence. If the question appears startling in its directness, it may be because we have become accustomed to having the spotlight pointed in the opposite direction, to have algorithms direct their gaze on us. Onouha and Cyborg’s zine is a grassroots statement of non-conformity to this power dynamic.
Born Fukuoka, Japan, 1954 / B.A., English, International Christian University, Tokyo; B.A., Computer Science, Wayne State University; MFA Wayne State University / Lives in Royal Oak
Grief is finding yourself in an unfamiliar world suddenly absent a loved companion. But grief can also be the doorway into new ways of life you could never have anticipated. For Hiroko Lancour, this passage led from a career as a systems analyst to a full-time artistic practice.
Born Detroit, 1964 / BA, Oakland University; MLIS, Wayne State University / Lives in Detroit
“I‘m a Fellini fan,” confides painter, musician, archivist, and all-around cultural polymath John Bunkley. “The question I’m always asking myself is, ‘What would Fellini do if he came to Detroit?'” It is a good question. What would the late Italian director, whose films famously interpret everyday life as a magical synthesis of dream and reality, make of the otherworldly streetscapes and raw humanity of the beautiful city of Detroit?