By Amelia Kanan, CBSDetroit Blogger
Struggling artists, and artists in general, are typically not huge fans of “corporate America,” which brings up ideas of greed, gimmicky ad campaigns, outsourcing, monopolies, political influence, funding of wars, cheap but marked up products, marketing ploys and manipulation of the uneducated fuel these rants — along with a good amount of PBR.
It’s not hard to hate global companies that rake in billions each year. However, what happens when one of these global companies chooses you, an artist, to pay for your materials, lend you a studio space where you can work, build you a legitimate gallery in which you can showcase your art and on top of that, hypes up the event to get people to actually come and see/buy your work? It becomes a little more difficult to talk smack.
Sure, Red Bull isn’t Walmart. The Austrian based company is a privately owned machine. Also, Red Bull is green! The $2.5 billion manufacturing/marketing company is also very conscious of their carbon footprint and are consistent in the strides they make to lighten it.
Red Bull has begun to expand a demographic that has consisted of athletes, truckers and late night partiers. Artists have become the new target audience for the marketing animal and after opening House of Art’s in Portugal and Brazil, Red Bull has decided to open one in the Motor City. Here in Detroit, Red Bull has found eight local artists who won’t be complaining about the company’s billions of dollars. In fact, these artists are doing a little capitalizing of their own. Matt Gordon, Keri Mortimer, Frank Jonas, Jeff Risk, Mark Sarmel, Ben Saginaw, Crystal Vinson and Peter DeAngelo were the chosen artists for the first 8-10 weeks and all showed work in the Eastern Market gallery’s grand opening May 24th.
Curator Matt Eaton chose each due to their slightly differing mediums, personalities, passions and commitments. In these weeks, the artists have free access to their designated studio spaces, any/all of their needed materials to produce their creations, and space in the gallery to display their works for sale. At the end of those two months, eight new artists will be chosen by Eaton and this rotational plan is expected to last for the next three years since that’s the length of Red Bull’s lease with the E&B Brewery Loft building. If you do the math, that’s giving 48 local artists per year a chance to not just create without limitations but to be on display for the world to see.
The space itself is a work of art. The upper floors of the historic Brewery have been converted into loft spaces and the studio and gallery are located on the ground floor and basement levels. Red Bull hired a talented local architect (Tadd Heidgerken) to steer the helm of a pretty hush-hush rehab. The design stays true to the original structure and rawness that is the E & B Brewery Loft building. The polished concrete floors are the original concrete and resembles blown glass. Since the gallery is located in the underground part of the space, one must travel below and while tunneling through on this journey, passing through cavernous rooms and pockets, it’s easy to feel a little nervous, confused, unsure of what to expect. However, once happening upon the scene, all is paid back by a magnificent reveal. It’s all very New York.
If you’re interested in browsing, buying or experiencing some quality local art and architecture, House of Art is open every Saturday 10 a.m.-3 p.m. (opening weekends for new showcases will have special hours) and located at 1551 Winder St., Detroit, Mich.
Whatever Red Bull’s motive, one thing is for sure, any Detroit artist should be honored to accept this experience with the investment and opportunity that Red Bull can offer.
Amelia Kanan is freelance writer/photographer and a returning native of Detroit. A graduate of Columbia College in Chicago, she wrote for an Emmy nominated sketch comedy show and pursued her passion for documentary filmmaking in Los Angeles. An incomplete list of her loves: books, human rights, improv, the smell of new shoes, talking to strangers, libraries, France, yoga, furniture, music, sociology and pushing the limits.