Alley Culture and Tribal Culture Live In Detroit!

Alley Culture and Tribal Culture Live In Detroit!

Thirty some odd years ago a new-to-Detroit prep school transplant and Detroit News photographer wandered into the Belcrest Hotel bar looking for the infamous Cass Corridor. He bounced from one Cheshire cat smile on a bar stool to another until one pointed him towards the Gold Dollar Bar. In that era the Gold Dollar was a rather pungent transvestite show bar and Jumbos was a place that you could always find a hooker.  Somewhere in between, our wet-behind-the-ears, tweed jacketed reporter got his camera stolen. He never found what he was looking for.

What he missed was a large, loosely knitted cultural community tucked into every gritty nook and historic cranny from the edge of Downtown to Wayne State University. Fine artists, poets, musicians, and revolutionaries found fertile ground in what some called “the seedy, grimy Cass Corridor”. Eventually Stephen Goodfellow described it as “possibly the largest coherent cultural tribe in the United States”. The tribe still carefully tends that fertile ground.

alt textKathleen Rashid (sidewalk detail)

Sprouting twice yearly out of a garage   in the alley between Trumbull and Lincoln is “Alley Culture”. A significant Corridor gallery “Alley Culture” has produced solo, group exhibitions and full room installations since November 1995. The exhibitions are in the Spring and Fall. The spring 2009 exhibition, terraConstellate, is curated by Deb King.

terraConstellate brings together eight women artists; Detroiters Sue Carman Vian, Kathleen Rashid and Melanie Manos.  Evonne Davis and Emma Wilcox are from New Jersey. and web work is presented by Francesca da Rimini, Ruth Catlow and Juliet Davis. “Spanning broad sections of genre and intent – from Rimini’s provocative web-piece, dollyoko, to Kathleen Rashid’s quiet deliberation on everyday surroundings – these artists speak to identity and representation, perception and activism. Resulting from this constellation is a sense of understanding and solidarity between the artists”, said King.  Gilda Snowden, a Detroit artist and art professor takes us on a video tour of the exhibit (on the home page).

alt textMelanie Manos (close up)

You can take your own cyber tour of the following artists work: Juliet Davis of Department of Communication at the University of Tampa,  is an intermedia artist, writer, and researcher, teaching theory and practice in interactive media, visual culture, and media writing, with particular interest in cyberfeminism. Polystyrene Dreams can be found at —

Francesca da Rimini makes work using various media including text, video and computers. She often works in collaboration with others, particularly as she drifts through the internet, where she maintains a number of avatars and spaces including GashGirl, doll yoko, GenderFuckMeBaby’s Palace of Unparalled Cynicism and The Realm of the Puppet Mistress. Dollyoko is available at —

Ruth Catlow is an artist who also works as Co-director of Furtherfield, formed and run in partnership with artist, Marc Garrett since 1997. Ruth works with

alt textSue Carman-Vian, “The Eve Of St Agnes”

networked media in public physical spaces and on the Internet. She works with communities of artists and audiences, developing independent grass-roots expression and representation. She is exploring the potential of network technology for promoting distributed creativity.  This raises series of issues that give rise to a more permeable boundary between established arbiters of culture, artists and audiences. It radically changes the life of  artwork in the world, and the ways in which people find it. Domestic Idols is available at —

Coincidentally “Time and Place”: Art of Detroit’s Cass Corridor from the WSU Collection is on display at the Elaine L. Jacob Gallery through june 26th.  Over sixty works, most of which were created between 1960 and 1980 by more than twenty artists are in this exhibition that illustrates the energetic and bold work done by a group of young artists who were considered to be part of the Cass Corridor cultural tribe.

If you remember artists like Ann Mikolowski, Aris Koutroulis, Bradley Jones, Ellen Phelan,  Gordon Newton, Michael Luchs, Nancy Mitchnick, Robert Sestok, etc.  you can’t help but wax nostalgic and won’t want to miss this exhibit.  If you are a young artist like Chris Samuels who chatted with Gilda Snowden at “Alley Culture” about the opening of  The ORG  Gallery in the Russell Industrial Center you can’t help but be inspired.

While the future of Detroit is being questioned and discussed by politicians and business people, The Cass Corridor community of active and creative people continues to grow. If you are new to Detroit or unfamiliar with its vibrant culture, visiting it’s many galleries and performance spaces is a good place to start.