Over the last year, Art X Detroit (AXD) has presented the work of 22 local artists throughout the neighborhoods of Detroit, and they plan to host a celebration of their art with the release of an eight-episode podcast “Living X” to be unveiled on Aug. 19 via Zoom.
In 2019, AXD set out to feature performances, exhibitions, and events from Kresge Artist Fellows, Gilda Award recipients, and Kresge Eminent Artists. Each project was displayed throughout 2019 and 2020, aside from the last set who were shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. All of the projects will get the opportunity to be presented in the Living X catalog.
AXD was a callback to the biennial art festivals hosted in the early 2010s, and when they originally sent out the call for proposals in 2019, their focus on Detroit’s resiliency and unity in uncertain times transformed to something even more relevant in the wake of the coronavirus.
“It’s really about how people are living and working as artists in Detroit,” says Cézanne Charles, AXD curator and director. “But on the other hand, it’s really about how they are doing that in such periods of uncertainty and upheaval and ambiguity. We were writing this brief and this curatorial theme of this art show in 2019. [I don’t think] any of us could have fully affirmed or predicted the level of upheaval and transformation that is being called for at this moment.”
According to Charles, the art is “really in tune” with the present moment, and will have its chance to be related back to it through their podcast series and the release of the catalog compiling all of the projects for easy viewing. While the majority of the projects have already been presented before COVID-19 hit in March, the few that did not get the opportunity to do so will be included as “works in progress.”
The 22 artists had projects that are tied to several neighborhoods around Detroit. Wanting to highlight the local scene, AXD looked for submissions rooted in the neighborhoods’ stories.
“We had always heard from our Kresge art fellows as well as artists in the city that there was so much vibrancy that was going on in the neighborhoods and close to the neighborhoods,” Charles says. “A lot of it requires the ability to have people who have connections in order to tell those stories and amplify artistic projects that happen. We really wanted to have a reason and opportunity with this festival to animate the neighborhoods, not by bringing in things in that are not of the neighborhood, but celebrating what was already going on there.”
According to Wendy Lewis Jackson, managing director of the Kresge Foundation, the key to revitalizing Detroit is to highlight the culture unique to the city and its neighborhoods. Art has been “the soul” of the community for decades, and Jackson worked through the Kresge Foundation to bring more attention to those artists through AXD.
“In order for Detroit to recover fully, the arts and culture sector needs to be a significant contributor to the city’s overall recovery,” Jackson says. “We have been investing in arts and culture projects across the city now for over a decade, and it really represents an opportunity for the arts to document the changing narrative and landscape of Detroit and its neighborhoods, and doing that through the arts have been a vital effort in the city’s overall rebound.”
To register for the Aug. 19 Zoom event, click here.