Daimlers support builds artistic bridge
Last year, Jef Bourgeau, founder and director of Museum of New Art in Pontiac, bravely initiated the Changing Cities art exhibit exchange without any funding.
The program would give Detroit-area artists a world stage, lending prominence and cachet to their artwork. At the same time, it would give Detroiters the opportunity to see artwork from all over the world. Bourgeau was determined to circumvent a system that favors established art markets like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
The first swap was with Chicago. The Berlin exchange is No. 2. Nine German artists visited Detroit for the July 5-Aug. 9 run of their show at MONA. Their trip was covered by German government funds. Now Detroit artists are set to show their work Nov. 29-Jan. 4 at Galerie Eva Bracke in Berlin.
Bourgeau never dreamed of getting funds to fly the Detroit artists overseas. He’s proud of his museum’s history of doing big projects with next to no money. But Daimler Financial Services got wind of his plans and suggested he write a proposal. So in June, Bourgeau, 48, pitched Daimler.
“It was perfect for us,” said Leila Matta, brand identity and design manager for Daimler. The company was immediately attracted to an art exchange linking its two headquarters. The Farmington Hills office is headquarters for United States, Canada, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil. Meanwhile, Daimler Financial Services Group, which includes the North American company, is headquartered in Berlin.
Daimler officials promised to give $12,000 — enough to fly the 11 Detroit artists and the museum director to Berlin, ship their work there, and leave whatever is left for lodging. Gallery director Eva Bracke helped locate hotel rooms for only $80 a night.
“Just the opportunity to show my work in Berlin is big enough for me. I didn’t expect to go to Berlin, too,” said Mary Fortuna, a Royal Oak artist and exhibition director at Paint Creek Center for the Arts in Rochester. She will show her dolls in the exhibit.
Participating artists include Fortuna; Dietmar Krumrey of Mt. Pleasant, video; Rachel Hunt of Bloomfield Township, textiles; Cyrus Karimipour of Bloomfield Township, photography; Marla Karimipour of Bloomfield Township, oil painting; Alison Wong of Birmingham, oil painting, colored pencil and graphite; Hartmut Austen of Rochester Hills, painting and drawing; Kelly Frank of Birmingham, photography; Jacque Liu of Pontiac, mixed media; Vagner Whitehead of Ferndale, photographic- and time-based media; and Kyohei Abe of Royal Oak, photography.
“Daimler has allowed this project to broaden well beyond a simple exchange of artworks to an exchange of the artists themselves providing a true cultural bridge between these sister cities,” said Bourgeau, a Rochester resident.
When the Germans came to Detroit, the local artists played tour guides.
They visited Comerica Cityfest in Detroit’s New Center neighborhood; the Heidelberg Project, an outdoor art environment on Detroit’s east side; Eastern Market, and many other Detroit neighborhoods. Later, they broke into smaller groups to visit restaurants and tourist attractions.
“They loved Detroit,” Bourgeau said. “They couldn’t get enough of it.”
Photographer Frank, who is completing an MFA in photography at Cranbrook Academy of Art, continues to e-mail Astrid Sourkova and Max Schulze, who both work in painting and drawing. Despite differences in media, Frank has found common ground in aesthetic thinking.
“Berlin is such a major place in the art world now,” said Frank, 26, of Birmingham. “I feel like I’m doing work that is pertinent to the scene now, like what other artists are doing even in other parts of the world.”
She looks forward to visiting Berlin in November. “I’m so excited and very thankful to Daimler,” she said. “It’s a great, great opportunity. It’s going to be huge to go there. And I’m extremely thankful to Jef and MONA.”
Daimler Financial Services Americas also supports the visual arts through partnerships with Cranbrook in Bloomfield Hills; Art Road Nonprofit in Livonia; and Beyond Basics in Bloomfield Hills.