The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
The Russell Industrial Center is a recognizable monolith and a herald for the passage into Detroit from the northern suburbs. The highly visible ex-industrial facility, once an auto-body supplier, now houses a series of privately leased studio spaces, home to a vivid array of more than 150 local artists, makers and businesspeople.
This Saturday, Building 2 (of four total) held one of its intermittent open studio days, where residents of all stripes opened their doors to the public, allowing for an afternoon and evening of exploration through their Willy Wonka-esque art factory.
The offerings were as varied and unique as one might expect from a conglomerate of artists and independent craftspeople, including traditional media such as photography, painting and sculpture, as well as mixed media, crafts, puppetry and several spaces that seemed to be nothing so much as painstakingly assembled cabinets of curiosities and natural science oddities.
Some participants were standing by to engage on the subject of their art, while some were in full sale mode, with wares priced and displayed within an “Art Mart” that featured metalwork, paintings and hilarious collage items. Other Russell residents held back from the flow a little, but still left doors ajar, inviting onlookers to peek in on their creative spaces from the corridor, Rear Window-style.
Having personally relocated to Detroit in pursuit of the appropriate balance between time for art and the ability to support myself, spaces like the Russell Industrial Center are always a pleasure to visit. Like most processes, art requires time and space to incubate, and by converting some of Detroit’s copious ex-industrial sprawl into fertile ground for artists and self-made businesspeople, Russell Industrial is creating critical possibilities for Detroit, not to mention acting as the facility for a bunch of engaging artists.