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    The Detroit Artist Market @ 80

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    Oil painting by Zoltan Sepeshy

    Santa Clara Indian Pueblo. Zotan Sepeshy. 1926. Oil on Canvas; Patricia and Randell Collection (Photo Ron Scott)

    People were not sure what to expect when the announcement came from the Detroit Artist Market (DAM) about plans for an 80th birthday party. Using the Community Gallery at the Detroit Historical Museum, curated by Maureen Devine with assistance from Gary Eleinko, the historical retrospective provided the audience with a nostalgic walk down memory lane. Through extensive research and much effort by the organizers, the exhibit chronicles the founders, the artists, and the various locations of the Artist Market over a period of eighty years. For the opening on March 8, 2012 the Detroit artist community turned out to recognize a non-profit organization that has endured. The celebration did not disappoint.

    According to the DAM website, it “first opened in 1932, during the Great Depression, predating President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s WPA program by two years.” The history on the site goes on to tell of the leadership of Mrs. H. Lee Simpson along with co-founders Robert Hudson Tannahill, Mrs. Richard Hudson Webber, Mrs. Clarence Davock, Mrs. William H. Rea and Mrs. George Kamperman. The press release describes the founders as “stalwart supporters of the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Society of Arts and Crafts – [who] recognized that artists needed a place to exhibit and sell their work.” According to the historical account on the website, the founders had multiple objectives including building capacity in young artists to support themselves, cultivating a life-long interest in the arts, educating the public, facilitating the sale of works, running education programs, and encouraging the habits and tastes of new collectors.

    Photo by Matthew Lasinski

    Photo: Matthew Lasinski, Hughie Lee-Smith, and Fred Papsdorf helping to move the Market to 110 Madison Ave, Detroit Times, 1956

    The website describes how emerging and established artists in Southeast Michigan produced “thought-provoking contemporary exhibitions and programs” over the decades. It states, “DAM’s simple and powerful approach actively engaged – and still engages – artists, arts enthusiasts, collectors, students, and patrons in the appreciation and support of contemporary art.” This stands as a testament to DAM’s impact, which “is recognized throughout the Metro Detroit region and can also be found at the state and national levels.”

    Common Ground Artists

    Common Ground Artists, clockwise from chair: Arthur Wenk, Aris Koutroulis, Bill Jordan, George Ettl, Alden Smith, Bradley Jones, 1969 Photo credit: Ira Rosenberg, The Detroit Free Press, March 30, 1969

    During the 1970’s many artists worked in Common Ground, at the corner of Cass and Willis. Set against the downtown skyline, the area south of Wayne State University along Cass Avenue became known as the Cass Corridor. The loosely knit group of artists found their way out of the inhabited commercial properties and into many of the Detroit Artist Market’s exhibits.

    Cass Corridor Group Wall Photo

    From Lower Left Clockwise: Gary Mayer, 1980 Untitled drawing, Michael Hall, 1985, Time/Volcano, Oil Paint sticks on Paper, Gary Eleinko, 1989 Oil on canvas, Under the Cover of Night, Janet Hamrik, 1983, Untitled, Etching, Gilda Snowden, White Totem, Mel Rosas 1981, Vanity, Lithography

    This exhibition includes work from Sarkis Sarkisian, Hughie Lee- Smith, Harry Bertoia, Charles McGee, Maija Grotell and Richard DeVore who reflect the distinguished and long history of DAM. In all the exhibit has more than 100 works of art, lent by area collectors and artists.

    Russell Street

    James Nawara. Russell Street. 1992. Casein on Paper; (Photo by Ron Scott)

    Exhibition curator Maureen Devine said in a released statement, “The exhibition is presented as a visual timeline from modernism to contemporary art. We were amazed to find that more than 3,200 artists that have exhibited at DAM over the past eight decades.” In the same prepared release Nancy Sizer, Director of DAM added “We are thrilled to kickoff the celebration of DAM’s 80th Anniversary with this historical look back. We want people to see this exhibit and share with us their own stories, their own connections with DAM – then come visit our gallery and see what we are doing.”

    Peggy Midener

    Peggy Midener. 1951. Oil on board; Patricia and Randell Collection (Photo byRon Scott)

    Detroit Artists Market:

    The First 80 Years will be shown in the Community Gallery at the Detroit Historical Museum from February 24 through May 24, 2012. The exhibition is free with museum admission. The Detroit Historical Museum is located at 5401 Woodward Avenue, Detroit 48202. Museum hours are Wednesday-Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.; Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; and Sunday – Noon to 5:00 p.m.

    About the Detroit Artists Market

    The gallery is located at 4719 Woodward Avenue at Forest in Detroit (four blocks south of the Detroit Historical Museum). Hours are 11am to 6pm Tuesdays through Saturdays. Exhibitions and events are free of charge. On-site parking is available. For more information on DAM programs, please call (313) 832-8540, e-mail info@detroitartistsmarket.org or visit www.detroitartistsmarket.org. Detroit Artists Market (DAM) was established in 1932 and is the oldest, continuously operating nonprofit contemporary art gallery in the Detroit area.

    About the Detroit Historical Museum

    The Detroit Historical Museum, located at 5401 Woodward Ave. (NW corner of Kirby) in Midtown Detroit, is open to the public Wednesday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from Noon to 5 p.m. On Mondays and Tuesdays, the Museum is not open to the public but available for group tours by calling (313) 833-7979. Adult admission is $6. Seniors (60+), college students with valid college ID, and youth ages 5-18 pay $4. Admission for children ages four and under is free. Parking in the Museum’s lot is $4 at all times. For more information on the Museum and this exhibit, call (313) 833-1805 or visit www.detroithistorical.org.


    Ron Scott is a pseudonym for a writer based in the Detroit area.  View more articles by Ron Scott.


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