Downtown view is fresher through Woodward Windows
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A work from New York-based artist Beau Stanton that appears in Woodward Windows. The mixed media piece incorporates a photo of the inside of the Guardian Building and other photos Stanton took in the city.
Photo: Courtesy Mike Han
Seven empty storefronts on Woodward Avenue in downtown Detroit will have a more colorful façade for the next four months.
An art installation called Woodward Windows features 17 paintings and mixed media works from 15 artists in storefronts between Grand River and Park avenues. (See full artist list and video below.)
Organizers of the installation were the Detroit-based studio Street Culture Mash LLC and the Royal Oak-based gallery 323East LLC.
Mike Han, owner of Street Culture Mash and lead organizer of Woodward Windows, said the project is an attempt to demonstrate that art can be an effective marketing tool for business and that it will attract corporate sponsors that want to reach young professionals. That would allow for larger installations and actual commissions for the artists in future projects.
"We're activating vacant spaces, and hopefully, that will attract new business to them," Han said.
This is the third phase of Woodward Windows, which has featured 20 artists in total, said Jesse Cory, co-owner of 323East, which curated the installation and helped pay for supplies. The first went up in May and featured graffiti artists Fel3000Ft, Malt, Kobie Solomon and Sintex.
Not including in-kind donations of space, time and talent, the project has cost about $15,000 since Woodward Windows began, Han said.
Cindy Pasky, owner of the downtown staffing company Strategic Staffing Solutions, donated $10,000 to support the latest phase and plans to give at least another $10,000 this year.
Attracting artists to a neighborhood establishes a talented pool of people who are committed to making a footprint, she said. She wanted to show other CEOs and businesspeople downtown that art can have a positive impact.
"When people walk by and see (Han's) work, it's a good feeling and it creates a buzz. It tells people that this is a safe city and it's an accessible city," Pasky said.
The funding for the current phase allowed the organizers to expand the number of works, create video and "bring in high-caliber artists," Han said.
Among the new artists is New Yorker Ron English, an influential figure among street artists, Cory said.
Most of the funding went toward supplies for the artists, who did not receive a commission for Woodward Windows.
The funding also relieved Han from paying for costs out of pocket. Apart from buying supplies, Han has paid people to clean the spaces, some of which haven't had such attention in 15 years. He said he also has paid for power strips and lighting in spaces that only have one working electrical outlet.
The Farbman Group and Detroit Economic Growth Corp. temporarily donated the storefront spaces for the project.
Han is a member of the BING Institute's Emerging Leaders Roundtable. Through that, he met another member, Christina DiBartolomeo, title asset manager for Farbman.
"It seems to be a good use of space while looking for quality retailers," DiBartolomeo said of the first floor of the Lofts at Woodward building, which Farbman manages. "It's better to draw attention to a great space and bring some life to it."
For the original phase, artists painted directly on storefront windows, which was fine except when it came to clean up and the subsequent loss of the original work, Cory said. This time, organizers built wooden canvases for artists to work on and that can be moved to galleries later.
Cory said he did not require artists to stick to a particular theme.
"When you do something like this, you give the artists a medium and then they execute," he said. "We engage them because we know what their art looks like."
Besides bringing some life to the storefronts, the project could bring more artists to Detroit. Some of the artists featured are based outside Michigan, and at least two look to move to Detroit with the help of Woodward Windows' organizers.
Han is looking for spaces that could house outside artists who need a steppingstone toward establishing a presence in Detroit. The city is drawing more artists but "is a very hard place to engage" in because of its unusual real estate situation, he said.
The perception that space is cheap and abundant is misleading, Han said.
"A lot of stuff is not that cheap at all," he said. "It's hard to find a place that's not decrepit."
Beau Stanton, an artist from the New York City borough of Brooklyn whose work is featured during Woodward Windows, would like to use that steppingstone. He plans to move to Detroit this year as he prepares to open an art installation in September.
The work of Stanton, a California native, is inspired by history and architecture, making Detroit an appropriate follow-up to his work in New York, he said.
"I'm thinking about coming to Detroit for a good amount of time and at the very minimum create a body of work there," he said.
Detroit has drawn more buzz in the art world, with artists such as English and graffiti artist Banksy making pilgrimages to Detroit to work on projects in the past two years, Stanton said.
"At the very least," Stanton said, "it's a rite of passage to go out there and do something."
• Sean Desmond
• Matt Eaton
• Tristan Eaton
• Ron English
• Gregory Holm
• Dave Krieger
• Eno Laget
• Beau Stanton
• The Tenderloin Project
• Tom Thewes
• Chris Turner
• Jason Vaughn