The heartbeat of the city

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Our art scene exists, regardless of what you may have heard or read.

For proof, here's your annual arts issue. Beyond our usual, extensive list of this season's exhibits and performances, we set out to profile some new spaces, schemes and collaborations. Before we knew it, there was a list of more start-ups than we had room to cover.

While Detroit's not lacking in supply of artists and galleries, we are lacking in demand — that is, if you're talking about people who will hand over cash in a drive-thru exchange for a painting.

Artists: You know you share in that responsibility. You're certainly not making it easy for your audience. In fact, you seem to be charging forward with an alternative model for dealing your stuff, promoting the exchange of ideas over the sale of goods.

That's not how a market's made. Or is it?

Case in point: When checking out the Web site for the new UFO Factory in Eastern Market, I notice there's no phone number on the "Kontakt" page. Click on "Store" and instead of objects to fill your shopping cart, you get a blurred image of a door sealed shut like some still frame from a late-night Warner Bros. monster movie.

Oh, and the Factory is only open Saturday night. Sure, you can get in — if you really want to. It's as if the gallery's owners, Dion Fischer, Davin Brainard and Warn Defever, ask their audience: Just how curious are you?

Stopping in at U-M's new Work: Detroit gallery on Woodward Avenue, I hear a couple more stories, illustrating that artists are shaping Detroit's market so that their work isn't first and foremost viewed as a commodity. I talk to historian and artist Jiam DesJardins. Aptly attired in a butter-yellow button-down, black sport coat and feathered chapeau, DesJardins, who's lived former lives as a publisher and entertainer, tells me he has erased himself from Google. I believe what he means to say is that when he's working on an exciting new project, whether writing a film or stroking a painting, he doesn't publicize it.

Also at Work: Detroit, I chat with painter Anne Fracassa. On a recent trip to New York City, she ran into prolific Detroit artist Jack Johnson at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Actually, she saw Johnson on the street in front of the Met, where he was hustling his paintings for 20 bucks a pop ("It's easier to apologize than ask permission," Johnson says). Fracassa watched a young girl plead with her mommy to purchase Johnson's work as a souvenir. When Johnson couldn't break Mom's 100-dollar bill, he gave the girl the art and a hug for free. He finished the day with cash — and I betcha he also birthed a collector.

That's common with him, I've heard, giving art away. He's currently got work in, count 'em, eight shows. Some of it is priced in the thousand-dollar range, yet he occasionally sells huge pieces for nothing more than the cost of screws and glue, because it buys him the freedom to create whatever he wants, no holds barred. Call it the price of his pleasure. It's the heartbeat of the city. Our art scene is so lawless yet uncorrupted, I wonder why that isn't the scandal in the news. —Rebecca Mazzei

Corridor city slicker
by Christina Hill
Robert Ray rides into town with a bounty

Plan 313 from Outer Space
by Sean Bieri
The UFO factory explores the existential void

Teaching the terrain
by Glen Mannisto
A new collaboration between Detroit and Ann Arbor

Dance in Detroit? Say what?
by Meghana Keshavan
Meet Music Hall’s Meg Paul and her hit-of-a-husband, Vince

Enter here for design
by Constance C. Bodurow
Between store space and art place

This old house
by Glen Mannisto
Sound digs built on ideas and dreams

Life in the factory
by Deborah Hochberg
What’s drawing artists into the Russell Industrial Center?

Writing on the wall
by Deborah Hochberg
Freedom to act at DIP Gallery

Call for entries
by Penelope Bowler
All artists need apply

On being born
by Charles Maldonado
An art collective hatches in Hamtramck

Space savers
by Michael Jackman
How artists and developers are giving two troubled buildings new leases on life

What’s in a name?
by Rebecca Mazzei
YAH shouts out to the city

New plays, new stages
by Michael Jackman
From Tennessee Williams to fresh, local talents

Rebecca Mazzei is Metro Times arts and culture editor. Send comments to [email protected]
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