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48 Hours in Detroit with Wasserman Projects

Detroit has been a buzz word in the art world as of late, as artists are getting priced out of New York and looking for an affordable place to create amongst a supportive community. The city has been experiencing what I’ll call a pre-Renaissance: it has still not risen from the ashes of economic ruin since the 1950s, but has started to attract artists, creatives, makers, movers and shakers, who in turn are attracted by the possibility of creation in a totally affordable metropolis. The city is still very rough around the edges, but nonetheless the spirit of possibility there is exciting. Being from not-so-far Buffalo, I’m ashamed to say I’d never been to Detroit until last week (also considering my extreme wanderlust and travel schedule, I should be particularly ashamed for not visiting before).

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Luckily, Gary Wasserman of Wasserman Projects broke my shameful existence, and invited me to Detroit to preview his gorgeous new arts space, but also to give me a jam-packed tour of his beloved city over the course of 48 hours. First of all, lets talk Wasserman Projects. The space has taken over part of a historically protected compound that once housed the Hook and Ladder House No. 5. Sprawling across two spaces within the complex is Wasserman’s exhibition space, “Process” space (for artist experimentation), and outdoor grounds that will function as a sculpture venue.

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For the inaugural show, Wasserman focused largely on fusing architecture and art, with a collaborative pavilion-meets sculpture by architect Nick Gelpi and painter Markus Linnenbrink. The timber-clad structure closed together to make a treehouse-like fort in the middle of the gallery space. Inside was a geometric sea of rainbow stripes, an all encompassing installation by Linnenbrink that made me feel like I’d stepped inside one of the coinciding paintings and sculptures that are hung outside of the pavilion.

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As I said, the space doubles as a performance center, but what I did not realize was that the pavilion itself was the pinnacle of this. Just like that, the pavilion was wheeled apart into two open fragments- revealing their rainbow center to all- with one half functioning as a pop up stage for a musical performance, and the other a comfortable ledge for the audience.

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This is not the only presence of sound as art in Wasserman’s debut. Both inside and out features work by local artist Jon Brumit, who I’d already been a fan of for his Sound House project with RETNA. Outside, Brumit has repurposed a corrugated metal grain silo, into a unique listening chamber. Seated inside, or standing for a different effect, visitors can really “feel” music in a different way. iPods or phones can be hooked up to the structure, which then reinterprets our recognizable tunes into low, earth-shattering tones that vibrate the entire piece.  Inside, Brumit’s sculptural stalls allow visitors to tweak and twitter with faux breakfast foods and sound equipment, akin to a breakfasty theremin.

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The upbeat and enjoyable Wasserman not only showed off his promising and inspiring space, but also shared his love of Detroit with our small group of writers. We took a spin around Murals in the Market, the mural project that was happening thanks to 1xRun, checked out the Eastern Market After Dark (so many vintage goodies), stop by the former Fox Theater that is now a parking garage, visited Omnicorp, a maker studio with so much space and equipment that my Brooklyn brethren would cry, visited the studios of local artists, learned the tales of Dabl’s African Bead Museum, and even had a bucolic brunch at Wasserman’s farm house outside of Detroit (I LOVED it).

I don’t know if it was the great Wasserman Projects space, the enthusiasm of Gary himself, the actual FRIENDLY group of writers invited on this trip, or the beauty in the architectural decay of Detroit, but my interest is piqued and I may be hooked. I’m truly excited to see what Wasserman has in store for the city, and I hope that Wasserman Projects becomes an arts destination for both locals and visitors from the art world.

 

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