Essay’d is a writing, curatorial, research, educational, services, and advocacy project based in Detroit. Our mission is to simultaneously transform the creative and economic dimensions of the Detroit art ecosystem. 

Below is a “cheat sheet” of some of things the ways Essay’d does this ….. for a short presentation with testimonials from people who have worked with Essay’d, click here.

Essay’d is an unprecedented survey of Detroit art
Essay’d broadens and deepens the audience for Detroit art
Essay’d puts Detroit artists in front of large (100,000+ people) audiences
Essay’d informs the decisions of leading commercial galleries
Essay’d informs the decisions of leading curators
Essay’d uplifts artists materially and spiritually
Essay’d helps build relationships of trust between writers and artists
Essay’d gives established art writers the freedom to discover new heights
Essay’d has uplifted the quality of art writing in Detroit through five workshops since the Fall of 2016
Essay’d has uplifted cultural production in Detroit through six curatorial workshops since Spring of 2018
Essay’d curatorial workshop participants go on to transform arts institutions in the city
Essay’d advocacy projects create a more equitable, transparent, and productive Detroit art ecosystem
Essay’d is conducting an unprecedented survey of how economic and cultural capital circulates in the Detroit art economy
Essay’d is a network of over 200 past and present collaborators based around co-founders Steve Panton and Matthew Piper

Some history

We began as an online writing project in Dec 2014, publishing short, illustrated essays about Detroit artists. After every 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 book form.

In 2017 we took on the art programming at Detroit’s Orchestra Hall and initiated the Art@TheMax program. This included a number of highly memorable exhibitions, installations, and events, and it 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 as part of their “Detroit Speaks” project. Subsequently, we have partnered with various organizations to put on other 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 curatorial 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 participants say about the workshops here.

In 2020, we began a research project to understand better how financial and cultural capital circulates in the Detroit art economy. Our intention is to publish short, targeted research dispatches on the Essay’d website and provide research as a service to decision-makers in foundations, municipalities, and commercial organizations. 

In parallel to the research project, we advocate for more transparency, productivity, and equity within the Detroit art ecosystem.

Through the process of 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