Beyond Chicago: Buick Opened Doors To Detroit’s World of Art and Design

Artist Graem White’s Studio | Home @ Hamtrack District | Photo by: @mjtam

While the city of Detroit along with Mayor Dave Bing‘s mission is to re-transform Detroit, world class auto-maker GM / Buick is doing their part in showing off Detroit a bit by hosting a media #BuickDesign Tour. This event shed light on Detroit’s wealth of artists who play a big role in redefining the city’s stamp on making it a destination city that we should all check out.

I was amongst the invited media (along with my Chicagonista LIVE! co-host @DuongSheahan) that attended this all day event consisting of  traditional and new media attendees. The group started the tour from the hosting gallery Re:View Gallery and then we traveled and visited four local artist studios.

Our first stop, a studio in the Hamtramck district occupied by artist and sculptor Graem Whyte. When asked what is his signature work, Whyte was quick to answer that he is always evolving and that his sculpture are always made with a specific purpose in mind.

“Sculptor Graem Whyte draws from mythical, cultural and scientific references to fuse fragments of disparate elements together into larger cohesive wholes. Injected with layers of whimsy and humor, Whyte’s mixed media sculptures open a dialogue about the future and how we relate to a world that has been greatly demystified.”

Repurposed Ping Pong Table – Artist: Graem White | Photo by: @mjtam
Coffee table with a built in steel encased percolator – Artist: Graem White | Photo by: @mjtam
Graem White, Sculptor / Artist | Photo by: @mjtam

Our second stop are with two local artists Adam Shirley and Andy Kem whose studios are in the Russell Industrial Center. This huge building served as an underground art district for many years and it has only been the last 5 years since most people have heard of it. A variety of artists like woodworkers, glass makers, sculptors, painters, are currently running studios inside. Simone DeSousa, Re:View Gallery owner who lead the tour said that everything she learned was from being in the Russell Industrial Center.

Russell Industrial Building – Detroit’s Art District | Photo by: @mjtam
Russell Industrial Building | Photo by: @mjtam
Simone DeSousa – Re:View Gallery Owner | Photo by: @mjtam

Adam Shirley – works primarily with steel. Shirley creates objects that exist in a state “somewhere between a thought or idea and the process of transformation into physical form.”

By Artist Adam Shirley | Photo by: @mjtam
Artist, Adam Shirley | Photo by: @mjtam

“Andy Kem designs and builds functional objects and spatial sculpture through an acute investigation of the complex challenges presented by the proportions and structures necessitated by the objects’ use.”

Artist, Andy Kem | Photo by: @mjtam
By Artist, Andy Kem | Photo by: @mjtam
Artist, Andy Kem | Photo by: @mjtam

Corktown Historic District known as Detroit’s oldest neighborhood was our last artist stop. There we visited Bryan Baker‘s letterpress studio where  he demonstrated traditional printing.

“Bryan Christopher Baker’s letterpress studio, Stukenborg Press, has spent the last year exploring the astronomical number of variations possible while utilizing a limited set of variables: six-sided dice. After years of printing from traditional hand-set type, Baker has begun a series of limited edition prints that are composed and printed solely from dice.”

Artist, Bryan Baker | Photo by: @mjtam
Artist, Bryan Baker | Photo by: @mjtam
Artist, Bryan Baker | Photo by: @mjtam
Artist, Bryan Baker | Photo by: @mjtam

The all day tour concluded back to the Re:View Gallery. Creative Designer for Buick – General Motors Color and Trim Studio, Ven Lai spoke about how the consumer’s lifestyle  plays a big role on creating a concept for the the design of the car.

“Like any good artist, I am keenly aware of my surroundings,” notes Lai. “I am always looking for new and unique sources of inspiration to combine with my research and a vehicle’s design vision to create intriguing color and material concepts.” – Ven Lai

Re:View Gallery | Photo by: @mjtam
Ven Lai – Creative Designer for Buick | Photo by: @mjtam

All touring attendees drove the newest 2013 Buick vehicles traveling between artist studios. The Buick Enclave kept me cool, comfortable, and arrived at my destinations in style!

2013 Buick Enclave

I am grateful to GM for the opportunity to join this tour. While Detroit’s bad reputation may take a while longer to diminish, I’m glad that the community are working hard in making the city a better place for all to live.

Disclaimer: GM provided my airfare and hotel accommodation. Opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

8 thoughts on “Beyond Chicago: Buick Opened Doors To Detroit’s World of Art and Design

  1. Sounds like you had a great trip, MJ! I’ve been reading many articles about the innovative ideas Detroit is using to bring back the City. Inspiring!


    1. It was really an amazing trip, Mary! No way I would’ve been able to visit these places on my own without Buick hosting and guiding us through.

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