• Art H o p p e r .org

    Art Shorts

    There Has Been a Void


    Correction – January 17, 2012

    The editor would like to clarify that Marsha Miro did not leave the Free Press to directly begin planning the formation of MOCAD, which did not open until 2006. In addition, Joy Hakanson Colby’s tenure at the Detroit News spanned 60, not 40 years. Articles represent the views of the respective author and not necessarily the views of Arthopper.org. We encourage a diversity of opinion and strive for transparency and accuracy.

    There Has Been a Void

    A Void

    For this first issue of Arthopper, I think it’s appropriate to start off and talk about the lack of art criticism in Southeastern Michigan; Specifically the major newspapers that abandoned art reviews a decade ago. As those of us who have been around for a while, recall Marsha Miro writing for the Detroit Free Press and Joy Hakanson Colby writing for the Detroit News. They were the two art critics having a column on regular basis, often in the Sunday paper. They had the respect of the art community and worked hard at articulating the visual artwork that came from Detroit and the surrounding area. Ms. Miro held the position for twenty-one years from 1974 – 1995 when she left to head up the efforts at MOCAD. Ms. Coby came to the News in 1946 and worked nearly forty sixty years that gave her the ability to see the evolution of the art scene that included the changes that took place at the Detroit Institute of Arts. She retired in 2006 and her position was not replaced.

    It’s ironic that the Booth/Scripps family was the founders of Cranbrook, yet abandoned coverage in their newspaper. The Metro Times has over the years has reviewed new exhibitions, but often treated the writing as informational, largely ignoring any attempt at criticism. With the number of galleries, and institutions having exhibitions on a regular basis, one would think that creating an art beat would be a natural and attractive instinct. As the Kresge Foundation has illustrated through its Kresge Arts in Detroit program, there are plenty of highly qualified writers, capable of the kind of criticism that the Detroit art community deserves. It’s not as if we are seeking a section devoted to the arts, like we see weekly in the New York Times, but a commitment to educating the public about the vibrant work that continues to flourish in Southeastern Michigan.

    To those of you who seek to write creatively and critically about the arts, please consider submitting to the Arthopper. As the Internet consumes our lives and our source of communication, Arthopper hopes to fill the void… by bringing the reader new information and lively commentary on the arts in Southeastern Michigan.

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

    • Susan

      Nice article Ron. By the way, Joy’s name is Joy Hakanson Colby. She has moved from Michigan to be closer to her children.

      • Anonymous

        Thank you for the information about Joy and for reading Arthopper. The article is now corrected.

    • Mary

      Thanks for the link to a new publication, Ron. I look forward to seeing what develops here. I have just a couple of points to add, speaking as someone who follows visual arts coverage closely, and did what I could to contribute to the pot in my day.

      First, what’s out there: The Detroit News features weekly reviews and articles by Michael Hodges. No, he’s not Joy Hakanson Colby, but he does a respectable job with the space they give him. Give the man his props, he’s doing more writing about art in Detroit than almost anyone in the last couple of years. Readers looking for arts coverage should also check in regularly with thedetroiter.com. Colin Darke is working hard to raise their standards and publish thoughtful reviews. He’s always looking for contributors. Vince Carducci’s Motown Review of Art blog gets serious about “big picture” stories; Vince is less concerned with regular gallery reviews than with larger concepts that connect Detroit to the rest of the world. There has also been some activity at KnightArts.org. Robert del Valle at Real Detroit does his best to keep tabs on the Detroit art community with his Stage & Canvas column. Hour Detroit has been known to do a serious art story when they see something on the radar that interests them. From what I can tell, the arts editor at Metro Times has gone AWOL since September or October, at least as far as visual arts are concerned. It’s just not a priority for him. I’m probably missing some sites, these are the ones I check in with most frequently.



      KnightArts recently announced the finalists in their Community Arts Journalism Challenge. You can read about the Detroit project here. Oh, boy. More citizen journalists.


      The lack of serious critical writing about art in Detroit is nothing new. I’ve been bitching about it for 25 years. Not since the Detroit Focus Quarterly and dedicated publications launched by Glen Mannisto and others, both of which last published in the mid-nineties, has there been regular critical writing where writers got paid for their work. The project I headed up many years ago was an all-volunteer effort. I exhausted my own resources, and those of my friends, within three years. You can only go so far if you’re relying entirely on volunteers.

      I think the key is for any publication to take its job seriously enough to pay the writers, even a nominal fee. That will go a long way toward bringing some thoughtful critical writers out of the woodwork. I don’t like to work for free, and neither do any serious writers I know.

      • Anonymous

        @Mary – Thank you for the insightful comments about the status of online citizen art journalism as well as the existing coverage in the daily newspapers. In the future I will write a round up article of all the arts coverage across the region.

        I hear your last paragraph loud and clear.

        Currently this is a volunteer effort, like many start-ups. My intention from the beginning is to work towards a sustainable model in which writers and corespondents are compensated for their work. This will take a bit of time and hopefully the readers and writers will be patient with Arthopper.org as we work at realizing this ultimate goal.

        The other goal of Arthopper is to foster a wider regional community in the arts. There are many close metropolitan areas that have a ton of interesting and exciting things happening in the arts. Arthopper is a forum for all those involved to interact, communicate and enjoy the excellent visual arts and culture of the Great Lakes region.

        More to come,


    • Graham

      This looks like it could be an interesting site. Cincinnati has a wealth of quality art criticism for its size. Have a look at http://aeqai.com Great articles are featured regularly by some pretty good writers. Maria Seda-Reder, Chris Reeves, and Keith Banner write darn good stuff. http://citybeat art coverage can be pretty good as well. Alan Pocaro has been writing some clear-eyed stuff for them lately and I think him an Jane Durell write for aeqai as well. There’s already a lot of good criticism around, but I like the idea of a region wide focus. I’d echo the comment Mary left though, you can only rely on the generosity of others for so long. Paying writers for their work is a way to let people know you’re serious.

      • http://www.arthopper.org/ Art Hopper Editor


        Thank you for your comments. I agree that Cincinnati has an abundance of quality art criticism. The amount of visual art and current writing and criticism in a variety of geographically close metropolitan areas served as one of the reasons for starting Arthopper.org. We seek to demonstrate that art criticism and the visual arts in general are not zero sum games. Through collaboration and strategic geographic links, we hope to provide a forum for a variety of arts discussions across the region as a whole.

        Paying writers for their work is an essential part of this endeavor. We are working towards the ultimate goal of a sustainable and equitable publication.


        Jimmy Kuehnle

    Support Provided By

    Arthopper Sponsor
    Cuyahoga Arts and Culture Arthopper Sponsor