Motor City Cribs

Painter Tom Thewes' third-floor Midtown studio has a commanding view of Woodward Avenue and most of downtown.

Light pours in through a skylight and windows along two walls, suffusing the space atop one of Detroit's coolest art spaces, CPop Gallery. (The space housed a trophy shop and a bar in earlier incarnations.) In this idyllic setting, complete with a rooftop deck, Tom works on his eye-popping neo-futurist paintings.

Lots of people know him in his other role: owner of CPop. In 1999 Tom took over CPop from Rick Manore — who had started it in Royal Oak four years earlier — and renovated the Midtown building to give the gallery a new home.

Tom was a perfect candidate to take over CPop. Upon graduating from CCS he dove into the world of commercial art working for Graphic House on Jefferson. Later on he also did commercial work in town for a little company his father, Thomas Sr., co-founded: Compuware.

His background in commercial art not only helps to explain immaculate and intricate paintings but also his interest in presenting artists more apt to embrace pop culture than art history academia at his gallery.

When Tom started renovating the crumbling building next to the Majestic Theatre complex in 1999, the neighborhood was a lot more sparsely populated. "It seemed like I was one of three or four people living around here then — it felt like being an urban pioneer. I found the grittiness really inspirational."

These days, in part due to CPop and the Majestic, Midtown is more inhabited and developed. But it's still gritty enough — like the reputed crack house across Woodward on Willis that used to catch fire regularly up until last year.

"I loved superheroes when I was a kid — I always wanted to be Batman. That's one of the reasons why I love Detroit — it's totally Gotham City."

You can check out Tom Thewes' paintings at the CPOPpor2nity show opening 7-10 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 13, at CPop Gallery, 4160 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-9901.

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