About Essay’d

Essay’d is an art writing, curatorial, and educational project based in Detroit. We also pursue various research, advocacy, and services activities.

We began as an online writing project in Dec 2014 publishing short, illustrated essays about Detroit artists. After each ten artists we had an exhibition of their work. Early on, Wayne State University Press began publishing each year’s worth of (thirty) illustrated essays in a book form.

In 2017 we took on the art programming at Detroit’s Orchestra Hall and initiated the Art@TheMax program. This has included a number of highly memorable exhibitions, installations, and events, and has resulted in the work of Essay’d artists being seen by hundreds of thousands of the DSO’s patrons.

In Sept 2016, the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit asked us to put on a writing workshop in conjunction with an exhibition by Sanford Biggers. Two of the participants from this workshop went on to write for Essay’d. Subsequently we have partnered with various organizations to put on several more writing/publishing workshops. In total over 30 people have written for the Essay’d project, many of whom have taken the workshops. 

Since the spring of 2018 we have run a series of “Questions of Curating” workshops, often in collaboration with MOCAD. In these intensive, highly collaborative workshops participants apply curatorial principles to develop their own projects. The results have been quite spectacular with each cohort going on to produce significant projects. You can read what the participant say about the workshops here.

Through our work, we are committed to the transition of art writing and curating in Detroit from low-performing (and often unpaid) activities to high-performing (and paid) activities. 

In 2020 we launched a research and advocacy project to work towards (i) art institutions that are lean, inclusive, and flexible, (ii) a dynamic and equitable art ecosystem, and (iii) a bigger art economy for cultural producers in Detroit.

Through slowly building the Essay’d project, we’ve developed an unprecedented community of artists, writers, curators, venues, art professionals, and general art appreciators. If you have any comments or questions, please don’t hesitate to contact: steve (at) essayd.org or matthew (at) essayd.org

Steve Panton / Matthew Piper