10/02/2012 12:38 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Inspired Detroit: New Show, New Blog, New Fellowship, New Museum

Detroit inspires. It is a community of contrasts and enduring possibilities. These contrasts and enduring possibilities feed the creative appetite of numerous artists. Media outlets praise the idea that artists can make a real and permanent change to Detroit's landscape. To celebrate Detroit's artists (and artists inspired by Detroit), DC3 (Detroit Creative Corridor Center) Accelerator Gallery presents, "Inspired Detroit," which showcases six artists inspired by Detroit (and who provide inspiration to Detroit).

These artists have added coal to the fire of ideas that create a glowing symbol of Detroit's possibilities. They have inspired a group of artists and art enthusiasts to create a new arts blogzine called ArtSibs, which will award a small fellowship each year to support arts journalism. ArtSibs and the Inspired Detroit show will also support the mission of the Live Coal Gallery (a new museum/gallery in the Woodbridge area of Detroit). Live Coal's owner states,

"Live Coal Gallery brings together all the pieces of my artistic life -- making art, mentoring youth, creating communities, using all my administrative experiences, love of learning, seeing another "light" in Detroit.

I'm trying to do something unique in my city by opening a museum that focuses on collecting the works of our aspiring high school artist and bringing emerging and established artists together for this purpose."

The Artists

Inspired Detroit's artists are established and emerging artists who, in addition to creating great art, have an artistic practice where they seek to encourage other artists.

  • Gilda Snowden was recently honored as an Art Giant of Detroit. Gilda is a Professor in the Fine Arts Department at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. In 2009, she was selected as a Kresge Artist Fellow, among many other recognitions.
  • Topher Crowder has been a local favorite for years, and has been increasingly getting the praise he deserves for his truly unique and visually stunning art work. Topher is a contributor to the newly formed art blogzine ArtSibs, and he is an Adjunct Professor at Macomb Community College and Schoolcraft College.
  • JenClare B. Gawaran is a prolific and gifted printmaker. JenClare is an Adjunct Professor at Wayne State University, Henry Ford Community College, and Macomb Community College. She is also the Director of Whitdel Arts (located in Southwest Detroit's Hubbard Farms neighborhood).
  • Yvette Rock is a rising art star in Detroit, which she now calls home (she was born in Paramaribo, Suriname, and she has spent time in Miami, New York City, and Ann Arbor). Yvette was the Artist-in-Residence for InsideOut Literary Arts Project from 1999 through 2004. She is a graduate from the prestigious Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art (BFA), and she received an MFA in painting from the University of Michigan (through the Rackham Merit Fellowship). She is also the founder and Director of the Detroit-based Live Coal Gallery
  • Kelly Darke is an artist's artist: She creates truthful and moving artwork through deep self-reflection. She is a contributor to ArtSibs, and she works as an art therapist. She received her BFA and a masters degree in Art Education/ Art Therapy from Wayne State University. Kelly and her jewelry were also highlighted on a Home and Garden Television show called "That's Clever!"

I am also one of the artists participating, and I am a contributor to ArtSibs.

The Show

Inspired Detroit runs from October 8 through October 31, with an opening on October 10, 2012, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. This opening is the official launch of the new blogzine The opening is free and open to the public (food and drink will be served). The opening will also feature DJ Ax. Some participating artists will provide inexpensive prints of their works to help support ArtSibs and Live Coal.

Accelerator Gallery is located in the award-winning A. Alfred Taubman Center for Design Education, College for Creative Studies (485 W. Milwaukee, Detroit, MI 48202) in the New Center area. For more information, call Katherine Maurer, Curator and Project Coordinator, at 313-664-1482 or 313-9578 or , or you can contact Colin Darke at

I sat down with Yvette Rock to learn more about her and her plans for the Detroit's art scene.

Yvette Rock Interview

Colin: What brought you to Detroit?

Yvette: I was born in Paramaribo, Suriname (former Dutch colony in South America). I moved to the U.S. in 1983, taking residence in Miami, FL. I attended arts-based schools and magnet programs throughout my elementary and secondary education. From 1993-1997 I attended Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York City. In 1997, I applied to one graduate school -- University of Michigan School of Art and Design. I received the Rackham Merit Fellowship, a full scholarship. In 1999 I graduated with a Masters of Fine Arts and stayed in Ann Arbor for two more years. It was during my last semester in graduate school that I first started coming to Detroit.

Colin: Why Detroit?

Yvette: In 1999 I was asked by the then Dean of Architecture and Urban Planning to participate in their first ever Detroit Design Charrette. For one week students stayed in a hostel in downtown Detroit, working many hours with professional architects and urban planners. I had the privilege of being the only art student working with well-known public artist Buster Simpson. My proposals consisted of creating "Window Galleries" throughout Detroit, using a building on Cass Avenue as my main subject (it was an abandoned building that still lies abandoned today; this is also part of the current photographic documentary work I am doing). From my first visit to Detroit, I was hooked. While some have the reaction to run -- I had the instinct to keep coming. In 2000, I conceived of a course called Detroit Connections, co-teaching it with Professor Janie Paul. The course allowed UM students and Detroit public school students to collaborate on academic and art projects. In 2001, I moved to Detroit's Woodbridge Historic Neighborhood. From 1999-2004 I also worked with InsideOut Literary Arts Project, having many responsibilities over the years, including: artist-in-residence, program director, and artistic director. My main work included teaching art to DPS students whose schools contracted InsideOut. In 2003 I started Bezalel Project, a YouthWorks-Detroit after-school program that focuses on academic, arts, and leadership training.

Detroit is fertile soil for artists. I have planted my roots here and intend on staying here for the long haul. While I am not a native, I consider myself a Detroiter because I am investing my life and my family's life here. I have been asked the question, "Why Detroit" by many friends and family members. I have heard it said that people have a "call" on their lives to be at a certain place at a certain time. My call is to be in Detroit, now. As an artist I have just begun to scratch the surface of the art possibilities. I have just started networking and marketing my work. It has not been easy. I have felt at times that paintings that display social content have a harder time getting into galleries -- I believe it. At the same time, I have not compromised my convictions and intend on creating works with social content even more boldly. I am currently trying to find artists peers who are willing to visit my studio and give me some critical feedback. So far, I have had John Hegarty and Senghor Reid come out to critique my work; both critiques have made an impact on my current work as far as technique and studio practice. I also hope to visit the studios of other Detroit artists in order to build my relationships in the art community and let artists know about my new business, Live Coal Gallery.

Colin: Why are you opening a gallery?

Yvette: I am an artist. At first, I thought I would open a space where I can show my work and store it. Then an idea that I first had ten years ago sprung to life -- starting my own business in Detroit. Live Coal Gallery brings together all the pieces of my artistic life -- making art, mentoring youth, creating communities, using all my administrative experiences, love of learning, seeing another "light" in Detroit. I'm trying to do something unique in my city by opening a museum that focuses on collecting the works of our aspiring high school artist and bringing emerging and established artists together for this purpose. I had so much support as a young artist. My high school art teachers at New World School of the Arts taught me so diligently and pointed me towards a career in art. They are the ones who told me about Cooper Union and believed in me. So many of our Detroit youth just need someone to believe that they can make it.

So, about the difference between being a gallery and museum. The name of the business came before I had to get my permit from the city. Because of my zoning, I cannot be a commercial art gallery, but I can be an art museum. This model actually helped me to clarify my business plans. I have hopes to purchase a space in the future that would allow me to function as a gallery and museum.

Colin: How are you opening a gallery? Would this have been possible in New York?

Yvette: I could not do this in NY. I don't have the resources. It's possible here in Detroit because of price and need. For one, I am able to convert my first floor into the museum, after receiving a permit from the city (which is quite a lot of work, but worth it). I can't imagine going through NYC's system of acquiring a space as well as the business taxes that would be imposed. Detroit to me is a small town with a big city radius. You get to know your neighbors pretty quickly. I recently applied for a small business grant and had to receive a minimum of 250 Facebook® votes to qualify for the grant--I got 292! We marketed on Facebook®, but also walked our streets telling neighbors about LCG. Everyone we met was excited about the prospect of an art space opening in Woodbridge.

I will honestly tell you that I lack experience as an art dealer and am not interested in becoming some art dealer guru. I am more like a for-profit with a non-profit mission whose focus is to build an art community. I am learning a lot about what it takes to open a small business by doing the research, reading books and talking to others who have experience with the various facets of having a small business.

Colin: What is your biggest surprise about the art scene in Detroit?

Yvette: It's everywhere. There's definitely a strong movement of art in the city--both private and public. I am thankful for organizations like Kresge Foundation who support the arts as they have. It's been amazing to see some of my peers receive fellowships in order to do what they love to do. Our city would be in an even greater plight if artists did not have a stake here.

Colin: What is your process for making art?

Yvette: I think, I sketch, I think, I write, I think, I research, I think, I create. Thinking is fuel for the fire of creating my art. I have four children--yes, four. Many people ask me how in the world I can produce the work I produce with four children under eight years old. I simply reply that I'm not going to wait until they're older to make art. When my four- year old son walks into my studio demanding a paintbrush (he already set up the water, paint, and paper), what can I object to? My children all love to make art--they inspire me! As Robert Hoey, Pastor of Messiah Church says to me, "they are your greatest masterpieces."

Another process I use is looking at the works of other artists. Some of the artists who inspire me include: Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, the Mexican Muralists, Vincent Van Gogh, and Whitfield Lovell.

Colin: What makes a successful artist?

Yvette: Be yourself. Don't lose focus and vision by making work to please others. Spend time journaling. Carry your "art tools" with you when possible (sketchbook, camera, journal, recorder, etc.). Find other artists to critique your work. Be willing to start over. Give back to your community. Be diligent about marketing your work (if you actually want it seen by the public when you're still living). Don't give up when you get those rejection letters from galleries. | |



Call of the Songbird, by Yvette Rock



What does it mean to be an attorney, by Colin Darke (copyright protected), Acrylic on panel

Burst, by Kelly Darke, 30x50, mixed media

Familiar Inheritance, by JenClare B. Gawaran, 30" x 40", serigraph, chine colle, colored pencil, 2012

Yves Saint Laurent Patent Leather "Tribute" Peep-Toe Platform, by Topher Crowder, Acrylic on canvas, 50" x 71"

Untitled, by Gilda Snowden