Of Artists, Goats and Chickens

Aaron Timlin: Detroit Artists Market

Aaron Timlin,
founded the Detroit Contemporary in 1998. He currently serves as executive director of the 70-year old Detroit Artists Market.
Founded in 1932, the Detroit Artists Market educates the Detroit metropolitan community about the work of emerging and established Detroit and Michigan artists through exhibitions, sales, and related programs.


You can cast a shadow in Detroit, whereas in New York you would be in the shadows. There is all kinds of potential in rebuilding a city and rethinking an urban landscape. [It is already there in] New York, Chicago and San Francisco. But Detroit has so many empty canvases to paint and to fill.


I was born into [art]. My dad (Detroit sculptor Hugh Timlin) has been a sculptor for 40-something years. … It was in my life 10 years before I came around. It was a necessity too, when I was growing up. To draw, to make bread and to spin our clothing and everything, and that's all art, that's all creative expression.

I started Detroit Contemporary in 1998, because around that time the Focus Gallery, Willis Gather, and Michigan Gallery all closed. These were all pretty major galleries in the city, and the casinos were getting ready to open. So I thought that that was the least I could do with this vacant, rundown, 100 year old building I had bought on Rosa Parks. I didn't know what would come of it. I had thoughts and visions about music and lots of people and art and different events and stuff and have come to do that.

I recently walked into two friends' homes that are in the suburbs - pretty much the same. One is just a normal suburban home, posters maybe, if even that. … The other friend's home had tons of art in it, and it had a totally different feeling. There was this spiritual presence there that just made me feel - like there was a whole different world there. …

But when you just go in some home that just has posters or nothing, then there's no other world than the one you are exchanging with the friend. And that's what all this art is, it's all these other worlds. … They are ideas and however long they last, it is important that they are expressed. However long the universe lasts it's going to be a beautiful journey and at least we expressed ourselves through the journey.


Being a 70-year-old arts organization, I believe the oldest non-profit contemporary arts gallery in Michigan, the Detroit Artists Market should have a home of its own. [The DAM rents its current space.] It should be an arts center. That's what we need in Detroit. We've got all the art. We have got the fifth or sixth largest museum in the country, though it is not necessarily contemporary focused. Now we need a contemporary center that will attract people here and then the offshoot of that will be that they will go out to eat at the restaurants, they'll stop by the galleries, and hopefully those people will be those nationally, internationally recognized curators, writers and artists.

My one-year plan was passed last month at the board meeting. It includes artists-in-residency programs, international artists exchange, a sculptural project along Woodward, a collaborative effort with FLAK which is a non-profit architectural group, and working with Art On The Move to create a sculpture park. We'll also have a schedule of music events, lectures, symposiums, and a artists' resource center for artists to learn how to build web sites and put together artists portfolios to submit to galleries.


I'd like to see it be the next art center, the next place where people see the next new young art movement. I'd like to see the rethinking of Detroit include urban farming, mass transit, … I want to see goats and chickens down here, and sheep. We've got enough pastureland around here that we can do that and make it a really unique, urban landscape.

I want to see the end of citywide city council elections. … All the other real cities like Chicago and Boston have matured enough and have their city council members elected by district. So we keep getting the same old, lazy, worthless city council members each year because people keep electing them based on their name. …

And all the other things that are already happening like the music scene and all that kind of stuff. The art scene needs to get where the music scene is. …

We need to get it back to what it was - "the Paris of the Midwest." The tree lined streets - we need to get the trees back. That's why "Greening of Detroit" is an important organization [whose] mission is to replant Detroit with trees.

Detroit Artists Market
4719 Woodward Ave.
Detroit, MI 48201
Wednesday-Sunday 11:00 am to 6:00 pm

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