and Gallery 555 Co-Director
Monte (aka Jacob Martinez) started on the path of running a gallery
after graduating from the University of Michigan Art School in 2002
and needing to find studio space. The space he, Carl Goines, and
Andreas Garcias found in the Ann Arbor Technical Center, would become
555 on Third Street. After a year of making art there and showing
other UM students in its exhibition space, 555 moved to Ypsilanti
and dropped Third Street from its name. They stayed there for another
year before being forced out to planned redevelopment of the property.
(Note: This has yet to occur.) As fortune would have it, they met
up with Ric Geyer in Detroit at a Cool Cities Conference little
over a year ago. Geyer had been buying buildings in Detroit (including
nearby Gallery 4731) and stepped up to the plate offering the collective
a five year deal on the place. Today, 555 at 4884 Grand River Avenue
is not only a place to see art, but to have working artists in the
addition to Monte, 555 is run by Co-Director Carl Goines, Director
of Development Nicole Parker, Exhibitions Program Coordinator Dan
Gay, and Development and Communications Officer Sarah Evilisizor.
Gallery 555 features "Fabric of Fear: Art after 9/11."
Arts Editor Nick Sousanis' review of this powerful exhibition appears
currently in Metro
Times. (A version of that review will appear in archives at
a later point.) While there to review the show, Sousanis caught
up with Monte to ask him thedetroiter.com's famous Four Questions.
check out our art exhibitions calendar here.)
Why not Detroit? People
seem to be afraid of Detroit. There is a history of fear in Detroit,
but if you cultivate it right this can be a catalyst for change.
I guess that's one of my big things is creating change. I
mean if you really think about it, people are afraid of crime in
Detroit, but if you go to New York or Europe for that matter on
your vacation, you might get mugged. It's not less likely, perhaps
it's more likely here, but you can run into it no matter what big
city you go into. For me, I'm willing to accept that here if we're
going to be here.
has a lot of potential. When I first came to Detroit, I started to salivate at
all the buildings that were here. I wouldn't be here if I didn't think it was
possible to survive in Detroit. It should be survivable. We're here. First year.
We've made it, now can we make it for another 20? We have the Scarab
Club that just celebrated its 100th birthday, the Detroit
Artists Market just celebrated 75 years, not necessarily in the same building,
and the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit
is in its 27th year. So there are precedents for the arts making it in Detroit.
I hope that 555 can sustain this as well for that amount of time. It would be
great to come back in 25 years, come to this space and it would be like going
I also think the artists
of Detroit have to move out of Detroit and come back. I think
there's a lot of Michigan people who stay in Detroit and never leave
and don't get to see the possibilities of Detroit. If you go outside
of Detroit and live somewhere else for a year or two, then come
into Detroit, it's like, "Oh shit, there's a building there.
It looks like the one I had in Chicago, and you can buy it here!"
And in Chicago you can't.
I'm from Texas.
When I left it was like Detroit. It was bad hard times, Reaganomics was in, and
where I'm from, San Antonio, was depressed. When I left the arts were just starting
to take shape. I come back 10 years later and the arts are thriving. And I'm pissed
because I wasn't part of it. And still today I'm not part of it. And I'm still
pissed. People say, I'm from there, I should be part of their dialogue, I should
be part of what's going on there, but I'm not. But I'm here in Detroit, so I have
to cultivate it right here, right now. This is like my other education. Graduating
from UM with a Masters in Fine Arts is great, but my education doesn't stop just
because I graduated. So this is the other side of my life trying to educate myself
in the business of art.
We're trying to cultivate the arts - having a studio alongside
a gallery creates a certain kind of energy. We have artists working
in the space - already creating energy. We have artists coming from
other spaces into the gallery creating more energy. You mix those
two together, and when the general public comes in they're happy.
We've had people come into here and say, "Wow, I have a place
that I can go to that I feel comfortable, that's not a bar. I see
people that are just like me." They are able to talk to people
without having to get drunk (not that that doesn't happen here,
believe me it does happen!)
education comes from San Francisco where I lived for 10 years, living in a space
where the arts are thriving, where my friends lived, painted, and worked in artists'
lofts. I had a fourth floor to myself in downtown San Francisco, 14,000 square
feet - a thousand bucks! It was fantastic, next to the water, downtown. I say
that's part of my education because what I know and learned in San Francisco I'm
trying to cultivate here. Not to say that San Francisco is better, but the opportunities
that they've instilled in my head that I can apply to Detroit work. They work.
But we need support.
As to the answer to the question
"why art?" Because it's all I know how to do. You
can't pull that artistic outside of me. It is who I am.
IS THE FUTURE OF DETROIT?
The future of Detroit lies
in its youth. It's in cultivating respect for those who have
and those who don't have and cutting through the lines of racism.
If I was the mayor of Detroit, I'd be cultivating the arts. I mean
really cultivating them. Not saying I would be cultivating them
and using them for economical development, but bridging the economy
and the arts together. New York, LA and other big cities are known
for their arts. I think Detroit has that same potential.
is a metropolis rising if they want it to rise. Because that's what it was at
one time - a metropolis. That's why I started to salivate the first time I came
into Detroit. We're driving into town and I start seeing these huge buildings
in the distance, and it starts looking like a Batman movie. Then you drive in
and see all the crumbling buildings and you say, "Holy Fuck." [Editor's
Note: Robin probably never said such a thing.] Yeah, they're ugly, but you
see the potential. And that's why I'm here - because I think there's potential
IS THE FUTURE ART/ART GALLERIES IN DETROIT?
I was thinking about that over
the last few days after reading that article about Revolution Gallery
While it's not Detroit proper, it's still known as one of the important
contemporary arts spaces in Detroit and all of Michigan. And I'm
thinking, hey, that's bad, if you want to look at that as a bad
thing. So now it gives us and other Detroit arts organization a
boost to say, "C'mon people, get it together. Let's keep this
puppy on track. Let's move this thing forward." I'm not going
to die because the Revolution died. I want to make it worth even
more now because the Revolution died.
I think art
spaces in Detroit can survive if the community becomes a backbone. Then you at
least have a chance. No community, no patrons, no support - no art.
said to me art is dead, painting is dead. And I'm going, "painting is dead?"
I have a hundred people in the gallery that are painting and you're telling me
that painting is dead? As long as people are painting and making art, it's not
dead. I hate when people say that. Trends die. Art doesn't die.
Nick Sousanis email@example.com