“It’s time to move on, it’s time to get goin’.” – Tom Petty
Six years ago, my brother John had the notion for a virtual magazine about theater and art, and as we started discussing and dreaming up what it could be, it soon blossomed into a publication on arts and culture to serve Detroiters. We dedicated it to a Motown that was “more vibrant than it has been in decades.” “But,” as we wrote then, “the healthier a city gets, the more its people need to ask of it. We see thedetroiter.com as a Critical Celebration of Detroit – an exploration of the things we love and hate about the city we call home.” And with that, we started “unearthing this great American city,” with a steady stream of reviews, interviews, features, and listings. (Catch that first edition here.) (For a look back at the last 6 years, please see here.)
For our launch, in my first arts feature I covered (the space formerly known as) detroit contemporary (now CAID) and discussed the power of art and artists to transform our landscape. It seems such talk would soon be hip and “cool” – economists like Richard Florida were coming to town to offer just that advice. But as the Heidelberg Project’s Jenenne Whitfield reminded at the time, “All of us here, already know this!” Our readers have known the essential value of the arts all along, and it’s for this reason that week in and week out, we rededicated ourselves to being a voice of and for the community – to educate, articulate, investigate, and celebrate all that’s happening here.
“Let’s give them something to talk about.” – Bonnie Rait
Before he moved out west, artist Christian Tedeschi (see reviews here and here) thanked us for creating a dialogue. I think we did. From a broad range of coverage encompassing big and small, popular and hidden, thedetroiter.com touched people and helped encourage dialogue and links between people in this all too often disparate community. When Andy Malone first created our gallery map for the “Shrinking Cities” event last year, even people in the know about the arts, were stunned by just how much this city had to offer, and this year’s Art Detroit Now really helped get the word out further. Dialogue across the map is essential to keep this momentum growing.
For me, running thedetroiter.com has brought so much – it brought me into contact with the community as a whole, giving me an opportunity to interact with people and places in a way I couldn’t possibly have done otherwise. I’ve grown a lot since coming to Detroit from Smallville. http://www.thedetroiter.com/DEC02/dec02topstory.html Being as immersed in the arts as I had to be to make this happen, also led to my getting involved with CAID and moving from there to help the University of Michigan’s School of Art & Design open their Detroit gallery – and engage with the community from a different angle. (http://www.whyproject.blogspot.com) Beyond all the events, places, exhibitions – it’s been the people and their sense of optimism and vision for the possibilities in this landscape – that have inspired me, that always made me think, and demonstrated the truth of what I wrote in that first article – that the arts and what people create can transform an environment.
“Change will do you good.” – Sheryl Crow
It’s hard to leave something you’ve felt so much a part of – so much so, that it’s really become a part of your identity. It’s harder still to say goodbye to all the people that made it such an important experience. But life calls me in another direction now. I think of the advice Charles McGee has shared with me in our conversations concerning the importance of exploring new vistas and that everything metamorphosizes over time.
And it does.
As I wrote about a few months ago, I’ve leapt to a new home and started down a new path. Change is essential and healthy, and sitting here writing in my Harlem apartment, I’m eager to tackle this new adventure with the same sort of energy that I brought to this web-magazine. Which means, as this change and metamorphosis comes to me, so too, must change be in store for thedetroiter.com.
“What lies ahead I have no way of knowin’” – Tom Petty
Well, I have some way of knowing. Back in February, I hinted at the changeover to come and that “you can’t just leave your baby with anyone.” In the Y-Arts – we’re fortunate to have found what we feel is just the right organization to care for our baby and help it continue to grow and evolve with the same spirit and dedication to community that thedetroiter.com was founded on.
Change is exciting, and as Detroit continues to change with developments on the riverfront, the greenways initiative, new construction, and more, it’s a thrill to imagine where this next phase for the city and thedetroiter.com will go from here. I look forward to unearthing this great American city as a reader and seeing what this thing we started has become six years from now. (And do know that the two founders will still be offering contributions on the editorial side of things from time to time.) Eager to find out what’s next? Look for words of introduction from the Y-Arts team right here in these virtual pages.
Before I sign off, I want to leave you with a few words from John and I written in the earliest days of the magazine that I think ring just as true today.
Nick: “If we are lucky, we have the opportunity to live in a place that we feel good about and feel that we can bring something to it to make it even better.
John: “Will Detroit look to the needs of its neighborhoods and make families a priority, or continue to think of development in strictly commercial terms?
Nick: “The health of a city is a function of its inhabitants - our homes influence us as we influence them. I am now a part of this city, as it is a part of me. I am a Detroiter.
John: “I do believe there’s more reason for optimism about this city than there has been in decades. But then again, I am a Detroiter.
To all the Detroiters out there, thank you for your time and support, it’s been a pleasure serving you. – Nick Sousanis
Where do you start? There have been so many people that made this possible and the list of contributors reached out to about a hundred over this first six years, and of course all the supporters more behind the scenes.
Way back in the beginning, my brother and I were joined by photographers Christine Stamas and Aaron Mertes, and preservation contributor and filmmaker Francis Grunow, cartoons by Autumn Sousanis, plus commentary from Blue Sousanis, Scott Ligon on a rotating host of features, and life in the city from Scott Dillon and Michelle Diggs,. Of course, the site wouldn’t exist without Tommy “Sumo” Onyx – loudbaby.com, friend and webmaster extraordinaire, and occasional music contributor. Check out pictures and video of the first crew here.
Vince Carducci bugged us early on, and became a contributor and frequent counsel, huge supporter of what we’re up to. Later he and Greg Tom would give a lot of time and thought to how we could grow this publication even bigger. It didn’t all come to pass at the time, but it paved the way for the future, and it was a lot of fun thinking on it.
The next wave of contributors would include novelist Lynn Crawford in Fiction, and the dynamic dining duo of Stacy Muszynski and Vince Cavasin.
Eric (bad boy of lit) Novack came on board and brought a lot of energy and helped spread the word about what we were up to. He continues to be a force of nature in Detroit. William Erick (Rick) Graham came on board giving us a lot of stories from Jazz to Hip Hop and more, Jon Macha helped out a bit, Danielle Kaltz took a lot of pictures, and we got our first fabulous intern in Heather McMacken. More recently David Bartone picked up the lit baton for a time.
Along the way there were frequent contributions from Chris Hill and Dennis Nawrocki.
And somewhere in there, Tom Carbone arrived, taking on the herculean task of keeping track of all the arts happenings in this community. And for three years now, week in and week out, he’s done it all. He’s done an amazing job, and I’m thrilled to have him continue on with thedetroiter.com. He’s an institution in himself.
Rima Nickell’s “Beyond Food” column was a treat and paved the way for the current “Healthy Detroit” team of Gregg Newsom and Angela Kasmala. Ann Miceli stopped in Detroit for a while between her time in Africa and took on theater and other issues.
We even teamed up with Joe Giuliani and the Record Magazine for a while. Kurt Hough created our manhole cover. Leyland Devito provided great coverage of music and more throughout the city, and continues to do so this week! Dolores Slowinski has been an amazing supporter and joy to have on board – always doing the arts proud. Marvin Anderson has recently joined and already is making waves. Look for the two of them to continue to bring great words to the arts.
We had frequent travel columns from Remi Esordi and Scott Hocking told some tales from his travels. Our film critics included Mark Huston and Jim Doan.
Along with Carbone, Slowinski, Anderson, the Healthy Detroit team, Devito, current events editor and all things Detroit-o-phile, Nicole Rupersburg will be continuing to grace these pages with the new team going forward.
And a big shout out for Andy Malone, in part just for being Andy Malone, and for the creation of thedetroiter.com gallery maps – showing just how rich this community is. Look for more versions of the map in the coming year. (And the current version is online in the arts calendar and available at your favorite gallery.)
More thanks go out to those who contributed articles, photos, and more over the years including: Scot Kerivan, Jacque Liu, Mike Richison, Chato Hill, Susie Meredith, Deirdre King, Maureen Biermann, Frank Nemecek, Andy Moskalik&Teresa Petersen, Vonshea Thornton, Leah Giordano, Isaac David, Michelle Simon, Elizabeth Isaacson, Lindsey Harnish, Miroslav Kukovich, Steve Panton, Dmytro Doblevych, Lindsey Harnish, Janet Anderson, Sarah Bristol, Stephen Boyle, Jessica Banks, Melanie Manos, Maurice Greenia; Jr., Holly Smith, Dan Wickett, Nick Tobier, Garrett MacLean, James Dozier, Mark Cuzenza, Christine Stinson, Christopher Thompson, Sara Aldridge, John Bogojevich, Jazzcook. And there are no doubt a few more that I’m leaving out (and I promise to amend as I can.)
Thanks to everyone, it’s been fantastic. – Nick
Last time we talked of Detroit’s art past and art Detroit’s future – how in linking the community together, the Art Detroit Now event can raise the level of consciousness and thus our potential. Art Detroit Now is now here, poised to let everyone know what those of you who’ve been with us week in and week out over the last six years already know – this arts community rocks! And it has for a long time. We’re pleased to have supported artists, galleries, and institutions with a steady diet of reviews, coverage, and listings.
Some thanks are due. To Andy Malone, designer of the gallery maps available at all galleries and online on our arts calendar. Andy designed the original arts venue map, which debuted last year during the “Shrinking Cities” event, and due to high demand, disappeared in hungry hands, almost that quickly. To Tom Carbone, steadfast arts calendar man extraordinaire, who every single week for the last three years has provided the most comprehensive listings of openings and events in the area, and this week, it’s all happening at once. To the folks behind Art Detroit Now, particularly Marc Schwartz for dreaming this up, and having the persistence to reach out and hold together such a diverse and spread out community. And of course, to all of the artists and venue operators, who persevere through determination because they have to, who help all of us to see our world a little differently and inspire hope for a better tomorrow. It’s a pleasure to unearth all those who truly make this a great American city.
So, check out our arts calendar for the rundown of everything (and we do mean everything), and have a great time enjoying all that the arts of our region has to offer. – Nick Sousanis
… and a contest.
As a bit of fun, we thought we’d offer a small prize – a “thedetroiter.com” bright orange t-shirt – to the person who attends the most galleries over the ADN weekend. (Excluding one James Dozier!) As proof of attendance, we not only want a list of all the galleries attended, but a few words about each – some description, a favorite thing seen, a story, something that places you there and perhaps to offer to our readers who didn’t make it to quite so many places, a bit of the flavor of the venue. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday, May 16 to be eligible. We’ll post the winner the following week. Don’t forget our weekly printable arts calendar that you can carry with you, so you won’t miss a thing!!
“Although a number of artists have moved to New York recently, many more are staying here because they have faith in Detroit’s potential as an art center. By nature, creative people are optimists and builders. Detroit needs them now more than ever before.” Joy Hakanson Colby wrote those words in the Detroit Anniversary Catalogue celebrating the nation’s bicentennial. Her words ring true today.
I’ve been doing a lot of reading about Detroit’s art history of late – in working on my forthcoming (really) book on Charles McGee. Looking at Detroit past while observing Detroit current, makes me think about Detroit future.
What has always encouraged me in talking to, working alongside, and just knowing Detroit artists, is the sense of hope, of possibility – to make something grow from something that once was. Some such folks that I’ve had the pleasure of writing about include Scott Hocking, and Clinton Snider (or the two together), urban explorers looking at the city with a new eye, and there are many others. And of course there is Tyree Guyton and the beauty and attention he’s brought to the street (and beyond) that he’s reclaimed.
Let’s turn to Charles McGee again for something he said in an interview for Detroit Focus back in 1978, “We can make it work here but we have to do it together.” And furthermore, “We must raise the level of consciousness in and about the arts to the same degree as the very best work here.”
So we’re on the verge of Art Detroit Now, an event to link all the arts venues in the region, and make a showcase of all that’s going on here. Regular readers of this online publication know just how much has been going on in the arts in our community, but the ADN event is a great opportunity to work together and show the community at large how strong and plentiful Detroit arts are.
And they are. And by raising the level of consciousness together, we’ll continue to realize this community’s potential. To Art Detroit Now and Art Detroit Tomorrow. – Nick Sousanis
It seems for the last few months, I’ve been checking and rechecking the Free Press website, curious to see what’s new with the mayor that hour. For a while there, I was also back and forth between the freep.com and the New York Times online, seeing what was up with New York’s now-departed governor.
I’ve been drawn up into it, and as I gather from the sheer daily volume of articles on the subject and the outpouring of comments on each and every one of them, it’s a sad waste of a lot more people’s time than just mine.
In his seminal speech addressing the issue of race in this country, presidential candidate Barack Obama spoke of “distractions” – the sorts of things that keep us from focusing on what’s really important for this country.
And that’s just what this is – a distraction.
But there are plenty of really important things going on that we do need to be mindful of. As the country entered its 6th year of war in Iraq, over 4,000 American soldiers have died there, and the number of Iraqis killed in that same time period is beyond belief. On the day the Detroit mayor was arraigned in court, on a much smaller headline, located further down the page, a soldier from Detroiter was named as one of the dead. At this time, according the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, of major metropolitan regions, the Detroit-Warren-Livonia area is suffering from the highest level of unemployment in the country. 5.8% of Michigan children do not have health insurance. All things that affect us in very real ways.
People say, and I understand what they mean, that they’re tired of politics, they don’t want to talk about it, much less think about it. That’s exactly the trouble with these things that distract us. We forget that politics is not a game played out by politicians – it’s about “We, the People.” In order to form a more perfect union – politics is how the whole that is all of us, are able to make decisions – for all of us. And those decisions affect all of us – whether you’re searching for a job, living without health insurance, or sent off to war – the political process determines how the country moves.
As we get caught up in distractions, we lose sight of what’s going on right around us. Back in August as the “surge” in Iraq was starting, while driving up Van Dyke near 6 mile, I caught these words painted on the front of a decaying building: “Where’s the 20,000 troops to protect our own children and communities.” Having spent most my time in midtown and downtown, and resided in the Market, I, like so many of us, have been witness to places happily doing better all the time, and from that vantage point of development and renewal, we tend to forget that once you stray a little bit beyond those areas, this building, which has become someone’s silent plea – is more typical of the situation you’ll find.
A second hand-painted sign on the building, half-covered by foliage politely asks, “Please secure our community to protect our children and families. Thank you.” This commitment to community is what we should expect of our political system and the sort of problem that’s real, that’s in our backyard, that demands our attention.
Everything else is just a distraction. – Nick Sousanis
I’m running through the streets of New York and its Central Park in a pretty steady downpour. Dodging puddles, soaked through, I can’t help but reflect upon Detroit.
No, no, I’m not contemplating the eerie similarity between newspaper headlines in the two cities about sex scandals of major political figures that have bookended my leaving Detroit and arrival here in New York. What I am thinking of, removed from my former home and immersed in my new one, is what makes a place vital, what serves as its heart. The rain has kept the majority of folks inside this morning, it’s a little emptier than my run a few days prior – then a gorgeous sunny day, hours before the St. Patrick’s Day parade, where even midmorning, the park was filled with activity. This green space is an oasis, a respite from the haste of keeping up with the city (and yes, here I am running, I’m not unaware of the irony in that) and a shelter from the din – I can hear my breathing and myself think.
To be sure, the park is clearly a breath of fresh air, a site for rejuvenation. But it serves as something further – it’s a unifier of the widely diverse people that make up this city. From the north, where I enter the park a short distance from my Harlem apartment, I continue through the park south, passing a mile or so of museums just outside the park, and ponds, ball fields, and more on the inside. On the far south end of my loop, the addresses are a bit more posh – but from whichever address one enters, we all share this same space. This park is everyone’s, and it’s by no means the only such place in town, as smaller oases are scattered throughout the neighborhoods, an essential part of life here.
Inevitably, I can’t help but draw comparisons to Belle Isle, which shares the same architect in Frederick Law Olmsted. The island is a gem, even neglected, it holds up well to this celebrated place. But its very island nature that makes it so unique, also serves to its detriment, as you have to go to it, and thus people also find reasons not to. “Islands” also are often used to describe the fractured nature of our community, where things as nearby as across the street may never come into contact. What Central Park has going for it (besides funding and such) can be described in one word, “central.” It took tremendous foresight and vision on the part of folks long ago to decide to set aside this enormous plot of land in the heart of the city, thus it’s kept thriving and truly become a heart for the city.
As Detroit’s in the process of rebuilding – an exciting time to be a Detroiter – it’s also a unique time to seize on some of the decay that befell the city, its return to the rural – where pheasants are as prevalent as people in such places – and perhaps set aside rather than rebuild. We’re seeing such a renewed dedication to public space with the River Walk, the transformation of the Dequindre Cut, and the University Cultural Center Association’s Midtown Loop. It’s amazing how much energy flooded along the riverside when the walk officially opened, and people are hungry for these other projects to come to fruition.
All of these projects are vital, they need support and encouragement. As I run through this unbelievable vast open space in a city whose property values are astronomical, I want to think Detroiters should think big, think about taking more land for green space as central in the city as possible – and not think about doing such as a sacrifice but as a necessity. Let’s turn around the trend where Detroit is selling its parks, and instead grow them. Grow them centrally and create places for people to breathe, create places for people to come together.
If our elected officials really don’t want to quit on the people they have sworn to serve, perhaps they can consider a return to our agrarian roots (what should truly be considered humanity’s oldest profession) and spend a little more green on the creation of green space. This might be the sort of legacy one would want to be remembered for…. – Nick Sousanis
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