The Detroit Artists Market is celebrating its 90th birthday with a new, multigenerational exhibit featuring several artists who have honed their skills in Detroit. The special anniversary exhibition, titled “Detroit Expat Artists: Homecoming,” showcases a variety of artists working in different media and genres over the last 50 years. 

Artists featured in the exhibit include Matthew Bandsuch, Christopher Batten, McArthur Binion, Melvin Clark, Brenda Goodman, Garry Grant, Artis Lane, Al Loving, Joshua Newth, Yolanda Sharpe, Eric Smith, Nick Sousanis, and Michael Kelly Williams. The exhibition was curated by Stephanie James and Elizabeth Youngblood.  

“American Black Journal” host Stephen Henderson sits down with James to learn more about the works on display, the participating artists, and how Detroit Artists Market has contributed to the city’s vibrant art scene.  

Full Transcript:

Stephen Henderson, Host, American Black Journal: Ninty years of the Detroit Artists Market. It is one of my favorite places in town, not just to buy art, but to just go see local artists. Talk about the significance, first, of that anniversary.

Stephanie James, Curator, Detroit Expat Artists: Homecoming: Yeah. You know, the Detroit Artists Market is a wonderful jewel in Detroit. Most people don’t realize that it is as old as it is. Founded in 1932, when things were falling apart in Detroit and the rest of the country. And yet, there was this handful of art supporters and advocates and patrons that wanted to keep arts alive in the Detroit community and have done so all these years.

Stephen Henderson: Yeah.

Stephanie James: And that’s part of, I’m sorry, I was just going to say that was just also part of the inspiration for putting together this show.

Stephen Henderson: Yeah. No, I was going to say, this show celebrates artists who are from here and have gone on to, in some cases, fame and fortune, but certainly productive artists live elsewhere. Talk about Detroit Expat Artists: Homecoming.

Stephanie James: Yeah. So, the show, the exhibit features visual artists whose artistic talents were honed here in the Motor City and have created extraordinary opportunities for them to live and work in other parts of the country. My cohort, Elizabeth Youngblood and I were drawing on our history of involvement in the Detroit arts community, along with recommendations from some of our committee members, and we selected artists from multi-generations working in a variety of media and styles and whose art practices spanned more than 50 years.

Stephen Henderson: Yeah. Talk about some of the artists who are included. There are some names here that people will recognize.

Stephanie James:  Yeah, yeah. Some of the wonderful aspects of it being multigenerational. We have a number of seasoned, mature artists such as Artis Lane, who I don’t think would mind sharing that she’s in her mid 90’s now. Artis Lane, MacArthur Binion, Brenda Goodman, the work of the late Al Loving. And then we have a number of mid-career artists such as Yolanda Sharpe, and Michael Kelly Williams, Eric Smith, Melvin Clark. Oh, who am I leaving out? And then emerging artists like Matthew Bandsuch, and Joshua Nunez, and Christopher Batt, this is the danger in naming names, I’ve lost count, there’s 13 artists.

Stephen Henderson:  And talk about how you sort of choose them and feature them here. What is it about these artists that we’re celebrating?

Stephanie James: We’re interested in showing the diversity of styles and genres that Detroit artists have taken on and have further developed in their different areas. Artists like Nick Sousanis, who works in a not the typical genre we think about in the fine arts, in comic and graphic novels, but has created quite a name for herself in those areas, and of course, has a long history in Detroit as a leader in the arts community. And folks like MacArthur Binion, who has been known to many Detroiters and art enthusiasts for decades, but really got on the map in 2017 when he was featured in the Vienna Biennale and received a wonderful critical reception there. And so, his work is very much in demand.

Stephen Henderson: Yeah. Talk about the importance of opportunity, and, umm, yeah, well, opportunity, really, for young artists now in Detroit. I mean, this is celebrating folks who were here and have gone on to other things. I feel like the artist market is still a place where aspiring artists and new artists can really find their footing and find an audience.

Stephanie James: Right, Stephen. That’s exactly right. And what the Artists Market has sought to do all these years as part of our mission, not only to cultivate artists and give our opportunity to artists but also to cultivate a collecting community and a supportive community for these artists.

Yes, several of the artists in this show had a history of showing at the Detroit Artists Market in the years when they were in Detroit. And then, for some, this is their first time being shown at the Artist Market. You know, there’s been a lot of attention placed on Detroit’s arts community in recent years. And sometimes the media has suggested that it may have it’s happening as a result of the influx of transplants and folks moving to Detroit, from artists moving to Detroit from other parts of the country, because of the accessible spaces in all, and other parts of the world even relocating here.

But the reality is, Detroit has always had a thriving and vibrant arts community, and we’ve always had institutions that have nurtured these artists and supported these artists. I mean, the Detroit Institute of Arts, Cranbrook Academy of Art, Your Heritage House, The National Conference of Artists Michigan Chapter, Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts, which eventually became the Center for Creative Studies, and then, College for Creative Studies, those were the training grounds for a lot of these artists, and they still acknowledge that today.

Stephen Henderson: Okay, Stephanie James, congratulations on the exhibit. And of course, congratulations to The Detroit Artists Market on 90 years here in Detroit. Thanks for being with us on American Black Journal.

Stephanie James: Thank you for having us.

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