Annual Artworks Detroit fundraiser returns to Wasserman Projects for a good cause 

click to enlarge The annual Artworks Detroit fundraiser made its debut at Wasserman Projects last year.

Courtesy of Artworks Detroit

The annual Artworks Detroit fundraiser made its debut at Wasserman Projects last year.

A lot has changed since artist Carl Demeulenaere co-founded the Artworks Detroit fundraiser in 1996. The event will return for its second year to Eastern Market's hip and funky art gallery Wasserman Projects on Thursday, a far cry from the event's origins at the posh Edsel and Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores.

"It's been an evolution," says Demeulenaere.

Another change is that since 2017, the event has partnered with Matrix Human Services. In the beginning, the fundraiser partnered with the Midwest AIDS Prevention Project to provide prevention education. About a decade ago, the fundraiser switched partners to the Michigan AIDS Coalition. Then, around 2017, MAC became part of Matrix Human Services, which has a wider scope.

"Now, AIDS and HIV are considered the equivalent of a chronic illness that can be controlled, but there is no cure for it," Demeulenaere says. "There are so many drugs out there, and the cocktails that came out in the late '90s have slowly evolved and improved. So HIV and AIDS are looked at by the country and by younger folks as something that can be controlled. And that's a huge difference because when I started it seemed that we had had HIV and AIDS expand for a long, long time, and so many people I knew had passed away from it, that there was an urgency. The urgency is not there."

The focus on AIDS and HIV hasn't changed: Matrix operates one of the largest HIV/AIDS and STD outreach programs in Southeastern Michigan. But the organization does much more for Detroit.

Founded in 1906, the social services organization helps children, teens, adults, and seniors reach self-sufficiency. One of the largest nonprofits in Southeast Michigan, the organization has 550 employees at more than 50 program locations throughout the city and helps more than 20,000 people annually, according to Kerrie Mitchell, Matrix's VP of marketing and development. The Artworks Detroit event is now its signature fundraiser.

"It's a great way to celebrate the art community and also a really great way to celebrate Matrix Human Services, and all that we do within the community, but it's really about the people that we serve," Mitchell says.

"Our biggest program is Head Start, which is [ages] zero to five," she says. "And what we do is while we're educating the child in the classroom, we are working with the adults to make sure they have financial education, workforce development, and other kinds of resources. Even if we don't offer it, we make sure we partner with other nonprofits that do that work. All of that is combined to make sure that they're reaching another level of self-sufficiency."

This year's event features donated works of art that will be auctioned from more than 75 local artists, running the gamut from established artists like Sergio De Giusti, Scott Hocking, Hubert Massey, and Robert Sestok, to fresh faces like Sheefy McFly and Tylonn Sawyer. New this year, the event is hosted by influential collectors in Detroit's art community: Carmen and George N'Namdi, Karen and Ed Ogul, and Linda and David Whitaker. There will also be food, an open bar, and live entertainment.

The 24th Anniversary of Artworks Detroit is from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 12 at Wasserman Projects; 3434 Russell St., #502, Detroit; 313-818-3550; wassermanprojects.com. General admission tickets are $100 and are good from 6-10 p.m. VIP tickets are $150 and include an event preview at 5 p.m. until 6 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at artworksdetroit.org.

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