While art galleries continue to navigate ways to safely reopen after months of closure, Art Mile in Detroit is doubling down on building community and celebrating the local arts scene through socially distanced experiences. During the inaugural weeklong digital event, work from over 55 local galleries and art institutions will be on view and for sale, alongside a slate of programming.
Art Mile is the brainchild of Bridget Finn and Terese Reyes of the Detroit gallery Reyes Finn and Cultural Counsel, in partnership with Red Bull Arts. Reyes and Finn began imagining a collaborative citywide exhibition in the aftermath of state shutdowns in March. With no definitive timeline for reopening in-person, or a clear idea of what art fairs in the near future will look like — many have moved online for the time being — Finn and Reyes were interested in creating a venue not only for local Detroit artists and galleries to sell their work, but also a way for the community to stay engaged and connect with new audiences.
“We were talking every day about different needs that we have with our own business, and also other like-minded businesses in Detroit: how are people going to begin to engage with the public, engage with the artists we work with, and also engage with each other?” says Finn. “We started trying to plan a way forward, and this is the result of that.”
The exhibition is a survey of the art scene in Detroit encompassing painting, photography, video, textiles, and sculpture. The event is unique in that it offers a very affordable entry point for younger collectors to pick up work; there are several works by emerging artists across galleries for under $100, and plenty of original pieces in the $500 range. There are also pieces by more established names, and featured work (not for sale) from museums including the Cranbrook Art Museum and Wayne State University Art Collection.
Reyes and Finn both worked in the New York art world before decamping to Detroit, and opened a new gallery space in the city’s Corktown neighborhood last year.
“Detroit’s art community is interesting because every institution has the capacity to be connected to one another in a way that’s much more tactile and engaged than somewhere like New York,” says Finn, nodding to the more affordable rents of Detroit. “It’s not always focused on this capital ‘A’ art experience, it can be based more on supporting the community or education.”
Art Mile was underwritten by Red Bull Arts, which helped build out the digital infrastructure and also flesh out programming throughout the week. Local Detroit DJ Omar-S headlined the opening celebration on July 29, and is the subject of a Red Bull exhibition, “Omar-S: Conant Gardens Party Store,” forthcoming this fall. The week will also feature a keynote panel, a video tour of Detroit’s Dabls Mbad African Bead Museum, several screenings of Maya Stovall’s video piece “Liquor Store Theatre” and a slate of video art curated by Lucy Mensah.
While Finn and Reyes haven’t been able to see each other in person since March, they’re optimistic about being able to open their doors in late September for their next exhibition of works by Chris Schanck. They also hope to continue Art Mile in the future, although whether digital or in-person remains to be seen. The event has already proven successful in at least one online community.
“I’ve never gotten more engagement on anything on Instagram personally, and since I’ve had a gallery,” notes Reyes.
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