By Patsy Isenberg
A lot of people came to downtown Flint on Friday the 13th for ARTWALK, which takes place the second Friday of every month. ARTWALK is sponsored by The Greater Flint Arts Council (GFAC) and includes many galleries, bars and restaurants along and near Saginaw Street.
It was hot that night. But at least it wasn’t raining or windy. It was actually a perfect night for the event and it did not disappoint the festival goers. There was a very diverse and international flavor at this one. People were outside eating and drinking at several restaurants, just relaxing and having a good time. The art was stellar and the music was a real treat too.
During ARTWALK, downtown galleries, churches and even a few merchants offer special art exhibits, music and refreshments to the festival goers. Outside of the GFAC gallery, radio station 95.1 had set up a booth which drew people into the gallery where the special exhibit this night was a display of art by the Chaldean Artists of Michigan. This exhibit was curated by one of the artists, Sam Selou. The Chaldean artists were painters, photographers, potters and digital artists.
Selou’s work was either stand-alone or framed sculptures done in a media called hydrostone. These pieces greatly resemble metal and are done in neutral, warm colors. The work has a mythological look which is also a historical reference to the Chaldean history.
Another artist featured at the GFAC exhibit is Anees Rabie. He had several acrylic paintings on display. The paintings are beautiful, each done in a slightly different style but very skillfully. Rabie said he is from Iraq but has lived in the U.S. for 27 years. He was especially proud of one painting, an abstract that was an image of impossibly twisted arms and legs painted in shades of tan beige and brown. Rabie called this painting “Journey to Self Freedom.”
Yazi Shamina is showing several lovely pieces of pottery at the GFAC. They were displayed mostly in groups of three, varying in size but with each group sharing a similar colorization and glaze. Shamina’s style is evident in the smooth texture and narrow opening shared by each of the pieces.
Millage Proposal Reminders
Just inside the door to the GFAC gallery Lisa Land sat greeting visitors with a signup sheet and printed literature about the art in the gallery. On this night there was also a lot of literature available about the upcoming Arts Education & Cultural Enrichment Millage which will be on the ballot in Genesee County Aug. 7. On leaving the gallery she mentioned GFAC will benefit from this millage so that they can continue to disperse funds to many countywide organizations who are involved in the arts. If passed, the millage will not only provide $500,000 annually to the GFAC for this purpose but will also reduce or eliminate residents’ cost for events or classes available in several small and large institutions.
Places such as The Whiting and the Flint Institute of Arts (among other large venues) and smaller ones like The Friends of Berston Fieldhouse and The New McCree Theatre will receive funds from the millage. (See other EVM stories on the millage here, here and here) Lisa said that Charles Winfrey, executive director of The New McCree Theatre, has a good article coming out July 15 in The Courier about the benefits of the millage. The proposal is getting a lot of attention lately. Most everyone that night seemed to agree that since the arts are a source of pride for Flint, these funds will help to keep it going.
Across the street from the GFAC is MW Gallery. On the night of this ARTWALK the gallery still had its “20/20” exhibit on display. This exhibit is in its final weeks and was covered by East Village Magazine in April. It’s worth seeing this while it’s still there. But visitors to MW were treated to musicians and the chance to observe a Jamaican artist who now lives in Berlin. He was busy setting up his installation piece which will be on display in MW’s next exhibit. The musicians began outside on the Saginaw Street sidewalk between the MW Gallery and the YWCA.
Two young local African-style drummers could be heard from a distance. Michael Seaton and Zebyan Fields were drawing people to where they played. They were affiliated and mentored by the drummer in the jazz trio inside the gallery, Kevin Collins. The jazz trio consisted of Collins, Nicholas Peña and OvaCiir. The trio entertained ARTWALK guests while they took in the gorgeous art on display at MW.
The Berlin artist, Satch Hoyt, was setting up his piece which is constructed of hundreds of books on the black diaspora. He said he named the display “Say It Loud,” borrowed from the James Brown song of the same name. The piece will be interactive. Hoyt understandably wouldn’t allow photos on the night of ARTWALK since it isn’t yet completed. He shared the news that The Tate Modern museum in London is considering exhibiting this piece.
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
A little further up on the east side of Saginaw Street is the beautiful gothic revival structure, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. This church was designed by Gordon Lloyd of Detroit. The construction of the building began in 1872. The church is a treasure trove of art and Flint history. Folks at the door were passing out a brochure called “The Windows of St. Paul’s.” Stained glass is of course another type of art. As it says in the brochure, the “memorials in the church honor eminent citizens of Flint’s past, including carriage makers and auto pioneers.”
One of these windows, “Easter Morning,” was the focus. That one was designed by Louise Comfort Tiffany of Tiffany & Co. All of the stained glass windows deserve attention and Flint resident Walt Peake is currently researching the histories behind these windows and becoming quite an expert. But there is another piece in this church that was pointed out by Doug and Sherry Lees. It’s the “Last Supper” mosaic on the wall at the back of the church, behind the altar. It consists of several hundred tiny tiles that were made by Albert Champion of AC Spark Plug in the very ovens where the porcelain spark plugs were made here in Flint at one time. And also, according to the brochure, “The cross atop the spire was hand forged by William A. Patterson in his Flint blacksmith shop.” Yet another hand-crafted piece which is part of the church.
Next stop up the stairs to Buckham Gallery, where the exhibit is called “Surreal to Sublime.” This consists of art by five very different artists. Their names are Tracie Hilder, Susan Hagen, Scott Wettlaufer, Olga Guse and Max Boschini.
Hagen’s many acrylic paintings on display are large, colorful and all feature women of fantasy. They’re very impressive. Beautiful women are depicted in extreme costumes. Some of the paintings include elements literally attached to give the pieces a more found-object/ 3-D effect. One large canvas of Hagen’s is “Nocturnal One” which is has an especially pleasant and unusual composition. The woman is seated in at what could be a provocative pose but that could be just a casual, relaxed position. It’s really up to the viewer. Hagen is also a highly skilled sculptor who works in wood.
The Tracie Hilder metallic print photographs are thought-provoking and moody still life pieces. They are muted colorizations that feel very quiet and peaceful, images that are always around us but that we often don’t take the time to appreciate. One of these captures the backs of seats at an auditorium or theater. On first glance it appears to be an abstract image but quickly makes its commonality known through the shapes, repetition and wood grain. That one is titled, “Seats.”
Max Boschini is an artist from Italy. He’s a photographer who, in this exhibit, captures churches in the process of being demolished. The churches are in Italy. A Buckham staff member pointed out that Boschini’s work that night was the most representational among the five featured artists in the “Surreal to Sublime” exhibit. The photographs make clear that the wrecking ball has been present, but the beauty is still evident. They’re dark and sensual in that you can almost feel and smell the dust in the air. And, in each photograph, there at least one element that hasn’t yet been damaged.
More Street Art
Out on the street again heading south on the west side of Saginaw Street was Flint resident Dan Lauber. He was showing his spray painted “Planetary Landscapes” to the visitors. Lauber is set up to create these paintings on the spot too. The images are all from his imagination and very colorful, almost neon. Crisp lines and multiple textures make the paintings really pop. He had several finished ones available but, as he told one visitor, he’s also willing to let the customer provide their input as to color or design.
The Importance of Festivals in Our City
ARTWALK is fun, stimulating and even educational. But it’s just one of the many festivals always happening in Flint. On Saturday night the well-attended Buckham Alley Fest took place and there was one at Riverfront Park before that. And just this morning a beautiful white horse-drawn carriage unexpectedly clip-clopped down Garland Street.
Anna Clark, author of The Poisoned City: Flint’s Water and the American Urban Tragedy, a recently published book about the water crisis, was interviewed for “Here and Now,” a show on National Public Radio. When asked what surprised her the most during her research for the book, she had this to say about Flint, “I don’t know if this was exactly a surprise, but it is one of the great gifts of having the opportunity to spend a few years working on this: I really love Flint…(the water crisis) can erase what is there in Flint, which is nearly 100,000 amazing people…(and) a lot of wonderful institutions that are doing great things in the community. There’s neighborhood festivals all the time. It’s just a great place to be.”
Banner photo is Anees Rabie’s “Journey to Self Freedom” showing at Greater Flint Arts Council, photo by Patsy Isenberg.
EVM staff writer Patsy Isenberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.