Essay’d: 30 Detroit Artists highlights the individual contributors to Detroit’s thriving and diverse art scene. Stemming from the popular website of the same name, Essay’d seeks to introduce readers to some of the contemporary art practitioners who live and work in Detroit or have participated in the Detroit art scene in an important way. Even those familiar with Detroit and its art ecosystem are sure to find new insight and perspective on artists that have made their careers in Detroit.
Four arts writers within the Detroit art scene—a professor, a gallerist, and two critics—create an ongoing series of short essays that focus briefly and intensely on standout artists. This blending of critical sensibilities and interests provides a unique perspective on a diverse place, offering many points of interest and access to one of the most vital and intriguing art environments in the country. While many artists have helped to grow and shape the local art tableau, the authors selected thirty for this volume, including Signal Return’s artistic director Lynne Avadenka; “The Detroit Portrait Series” artist Nicole Macdonald; 2012 DLECTRICITY performers Tzarinas of the Plane; and 2013 Kresge fellow Carl Wilson to name a few. This book is not a systematic attempt to identify the “best” or “most important” Detroit artists, or even to define what those terms mean. The position the essays take to their subjects is not critical but neither is it reverential. The objective is to create a platform for Detroit artists, not a pedestal.
Essay’d is an excellent introduction to the Detroit art landscape, as well as an opportunity to deepen one’s knowledge of the Detroit art scene and its players. Art lovers and regional history buffs will not want to miss this collection.
About the Author
Dennis Alan Nawrocki serves as adjunct faculty in the department of art and art history at Wayne State University. He directed Center Galleries at Detroit’s College for Creative Studies from 1990 to 1998, in addition to teaching art history there from 1990 to 2005. Author of Art in Detroit Public Places (Wayne State University Press, 2008) and a freelance critic, Nawrocki has reviewed national and international exhibitions for Art in America, Sculpture, American Ceramics, New Art Examiner, and Metro Times.
Steve Panton is the founder of 2739 Edwin and 9338 Campau galleries, and co-founder of the Hamtramck Neighborhood Arts Festival and the Free School of Hamtramck. Prior to founding 9338 Campau, he worked as a technologist and educator for thirty-five years, starting as an engineering apprentice and ending as the business manager for a medium-sized business unit. His personal interests are in interdisciplinary projects at the intersection of pedagogy, research, and exhibition making.
Matthew Piper has been writing about art in Detroit since 2011, when he served as the inaugural KnightArts Detroit blogger. His work has appeared in Bad at Sports, Detroit Research, Infinite Mile, and Model D. He has degrees from Wayne State University in English literature and film studies, and library and information science.
Sarah Rose Sharp is a Detroit-based writer, activist, photographer and multimedia artist. She writes about art and culture in Detroit for Art in America, Hyperallergic, KnightArts, ZIPR Magazine, and others. She was named a 2015 Kresge Literary Arts Fellow for Arts Criticism.