Artists & Place: Insights/Incites on Site
Saturday, October 28, 8am-4pm
Artist Village | 17336 Lahser Rd | Detroit, MI 48219
Individual artists simultaneously occupy and transform the sites where they reside, work, and perform. This preconference explores artists’ roles in our understanding of “place”; how their literal and figurative positions in the arts ecosystem inform, inspire, activate, or sometimes suppress their creative work; and the funder’s role in supporting or impeding them. Discussion questions include: How are artists’ power and positionality used in place, especially in the historic preservation, equitable development, or transformation of community? What is the responsibility, if any, of funders to tear down walls that restrict access? In addition to these questions, we will interrogate common ideas and language used to describe creative work in places, including the premise that belonging to community is inherently geographic in nature.
The day will be facilitated by Ryan Myers-Johnson, Detroit-based choreographer and dancer, founder of Sidewalk Festival of Performing Arts, and assistant director of Kresge Arts in Detroit. The morning will start with an artist panel featuring stories and insights from Brad Kik, co-founder and co-director of Crosshatch Center for Art & Ecology in rural Michigan; Yosimar Reyes, LA-based artist and artist-in-residence at Define American; and Jenenne Whitfield, executive director of Detroit’s The Heidelberg Project. The afternoon panel will feature funder insights on the topic from rural, public agency, and private foundation perspectives: Sharon LaRue, executive director of Kentucky Foundation for Women; Matthew Richter, cultural space liaison at Seattle Office of Arts & Culture; and another funder to be confirmed. Each panel will be followed by 90-minute interactive, peer-to-peer sessions where participants can explore issues facing their own artists and communities.
7:00 amBreakfast available in hotel — Marquette (Level 5)
7:50 amBus loads (Motor Lobby)
8:00 amBus departs
8:45 amWelcome remarks and introductions
9:00 amSite tour
9:30 amMorning panel: Artists in Places and Communities
The morning will feature stories and insights from artists working in places and communities.
10:45Peer-to-peer break-out groups
Participants will break into facilitated small groups to discuss the insights shared in the morning panel and the role of arts philanthropy in promoting better support for artists working in place and community.
1:10 pmAfternoon panel: Funders, Place, and Support for Individual Artists
The afternoon panel will feature funder insights on the topic from rural, public agency, and private foundation perspectives.
2:25 pmPeer-to-peer break-out groups
Participants will continue working in their facilitated small groups to discuss the insights shared in the afternoon panel and to develop action items to take back to their organizations and funding communities.
3:30 pmReport backs and closing discussion
Ryan Myers-Johnson, facilitator
4:30 pmBus departs to Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center
Francene J. Blythe won several award recognitions for her leadership and diversity impact to Community Theater early in her career in her hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska. She has developed and produced cultural arts programming at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of the American Indian working with Native peoples throughout the Western Hemisphere, including the First Americans Festival, which celebrated the opening of the museum on the National Mall. She strategically directed the growth of the All Roads Film Project at the National Geographic Society as director, where she built an award-winning portfolio of grant awards supporting Native and Indigenous filmmakers and photographers worldwide. Blythe currently works at the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation as its director of programs. Blythe is Navajo, Dakota, and Eastern Cherokee.
Brad Kik is the co-founder and co-director of Crosshatch Center for Art & Ecology. His varied background — writing, film study, environmental activism, graphic design, community organizing, traditional music, ecology, local economy, and permaculture — plays a key role in directing Crosshatch’s work in the community. Kik serves on the boards of Earthwork Music, a collective of Michigan musicians, and the Alliance of Artist Communities (AAC), who support and advocate for artist residency programs. He co-chairs the ecological residencies cohort for the AAC, and helps convene and present their Emerging Programs Institute each year. He believes in the power of this line from Wendell Berry’s poem Wild Geese: “…to be / quiet in heart, and in eye / clear. What we need is here.”
Sharon LaRue, a licensed art therapist, developed a children’s coloring book to be used for child abuse prevention. In her many years working to eliminate interpersonal violence, she has facilitated Arts as Activism projects to fuel creativity and generate dialogue between diverse populations. She serves as the executive director of the Kentucky Foundation for Women, an organization that honors the feminist perspective of collective strength and recognizes art as a powerful catalyst for transformational change. LaRue gets her best ideas while walking and believes singing each day is good for the soul.
Ryan Myers-Johnson is an arts administrator, choreographer, and curator of place-based performance. She is the assistant director of Kresge Arts in Detroit, which has contributed over $4 million to the local creative economy through the Kresge Eminent Artist awards and through Kresge Artist Fellowships. Additionally, she is the founder and curator of Sidewalk Detroit, a community-centered arts presenting organization. Sidewalk Detroit celebrates the landscape and culture of Detroit through presentation of original, place-based performance, installation art, and land art. Activities include an annual street festival of performance and installation art utilizing the street, courtyards, alleys, and curious places in the outdoor built environment. Through Sidewalk, Myers-Johnson produces and curates an artist residency program focused on facilitating community centered experiences in Detroit’s Eliza Howell Park.
Yosimar Reyes is a poet, educator, performance artist, and public speaker. Currently he serves as the artist in residence at Define American. His work has been published in various online journals, and his first collection of poetry For Colored Boys Who Speak Softly was self-published after a collaboration with Carlos Santana. Reyes, who has toured and presented on university campuses all over the United States, was featured in the documentary 2nd Verse: The Rebirth of Poetry. He is currently working on a one-man show to premiere in the near future.
Matthew Richter joined the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture in 2013 as the cultural space liaison, a new position aimed at stabilizing and increasing the number of cultural square feet in Seattle. He is an arts entrepreneur and was the founding director of both the Consolidated Works contemporary arts center and the Rm 608 gallery for visual and performing arts. Prior to the Office of Arts & Culture, Richter spent two years building the Storefronts Seattle program at Shunpike. He has served as the performance editor of The Stranger and is a nationally published writer. He has created a series of Dinner Theater productions at On the Boards and elsewhere, is an accomplished theatrical director, a successful furniture designer, and has lectured internationally on the state of the arts.
Jenenne Whitfield, DD serves as the CEO of The Heidelberg Project. Under her direction, The Heidelberg Project (founded by Tyree Guyton) has risen to international status and is currently recognized as one of the most influential art environments in the world. Her leadership has enabled the project to extend its reach through joint projects with museums, universities, and other organizations throughout the world. Based upon the successes that Guyton began 30 years ago, Whitfield will lead the next chapter in the Heidelberg Project’s evolution with a new initiative called Heidelberg 3.0. Whitfield also lectures regularly, has taught courses at Wayne State University and the University of Michigan, and serves as a mentor to the next generation of art activists. Her favorite pastime is metaphysics, which she has studied for over 30 years.
- Melissa Franklin, The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage
- Adriana Gallego, National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures
- Esther Grimm, 3Arts
- Ruby Harper, Americans for the Arts
- Sigal Hemy, Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation
- Ebony McKinney, San Francisco Arts Commission, in memoriam
- Njia Kai, Detroit Artist and Community Member
- Heather Pontonio, Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation
- Eleanor Savage, The Jerome Foundation
- Cassandra Town, The Robert B. McMillen Foundation
with additional assistance from:
- Irene Borger, The Herb Alpert Award for the Arts
- Njia Kai, Detroit artist and community member
- Sacha Yanow, Arts Matters
This preconference is supported in part by 3Arts, Inc.