At 6pm on Thursday, June 28th, the Ferndale Downtown Development Authority (DDA) will host ARTWN: Small Plates and Big Art. ARTWN (pronounced “art town”) promises an evening of art exploration and fun as it celebrates the creative culture of Ferndale. The “small plates” portion will take place at Ferndale’s popular Rust Belt Market, but the party will overflow into the entire downtown area for guided tours of the 11-piece sculpture exhibit that will be unveiled that evening and occupy the streets of Ferndale for two years (“big art”). Being a supporter of art in Ferndale and an avid Rust Belt shopper, I was more than enthused to speak with Chris Hughes and Cristina Sheppard-Decius of the Ferndale DDA about the value of public art, the ARTWN curator and artists (get ready for a surprise!), The Death of Street Art, and their Usher-esque “black tie and sneakers” dress code. Read the interview below and get more information about ARTWN on their Facebook page.
Jane Fader: The most important question first: What is a black tie and sneakers event? What kind of fashion statement are you making?
Ferndale DDA: The event will require a lot of walking (even though we do have a shuttle service). So, we wanted people to comfortable. But we also wanted dress that was a little “dressier” than usual. Any kind of dress is welcome, we just thought it would be fun to step it up a bit – a little bling, something fun. But comfortable.
JF: Who are the artists whose work is included? How were they chosen?
DDA: All the artists will be shared at the event and we are kind of keeping that part of it under wraps until then. They were chosen by the curator of the show, John Sauve who runs the Sauve Art Foundation. He has done this in other cities and is, himself, an artist. Several of the artists are from Michigan, one from Ferndale, others from across the country. Stay tuned.
JF: How does art benefit the community in general and Ferndale specifically?
DDA: Aside from the fact that public art enhances the quality of life of a community overall, it also serves as an economic development tool in the sense that it attracts more consumers, attracts more artists, who attract others. There are tons of stories and documents about Public Art and its benefits. In many states and communities 1% of the budget is dedicated to art. Not so here, or at least not yet. Regarding Ferndale specifically, Downtown Ferndale has changed its destiny with its open-minded approach to nearly everything. That grand embrace of diversity nurtures the creative culture that exists here – whether we are talking about the business entrepreneur who has their own unique approach or artists inspired to change and create place. ARTWN and the event, the exhibit – sponsored by MotorCity Casino Hotel, and the whole concept, is a program intended to establish Downtown Ferndale as a destination for those seeking art and all that goes with it. The sculptures installed so far have generated lots of comments and debate. We hope they will continue to do so cause even when the conversations turn critical, it is still a conversation worth having. And people are interacting with each other and at large. It’s actually very exciting.
JF: Do you have any thoughts on the recent debates surrounding The Detroit Beautification Project‘s public art in Hamtramck? How does Ferndale’s statement on public art compare to the message coming from Hamtramck?
DDA: Cristina Sheppard-Decius, Ferndale DDA Executive Director, says that art is meant to stir the imagination and art is subjective. One thing we have learned is that everyone cannot agree on one thing, but that is art. It is not meant to have one meaning. ARTWN was not meant to consist of commissioned pieces, meaning that we didn’t dictate what the art should look like or what materials they should use. It is an invitational curated by the Sauve Art Foundation. And even when Ferndale has dictated the sentiment of the art in the past with the Crow’s Nest, public art benches and various murals, it still doesn’t make everyone happy. We have struggled with graffiti in the past year as Hamtramck has to some degree, and whether you believe in the practice or theory that creating more public art discourages graffiti artists, it is worth a try.
This article brought to you by the good folks at Urbane Apartments Royal Oak Michigan, Urbane Apartments Ferndale Michigan,Urbane Apartments Birmingham Michigan, and Urbane Apartments Dearborn Michigan