Local and student artists will refresh downtown art exhibit

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published April 14, 2015

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FERNDALE — For the past three years, residents and visitors in Ferndale have been able to walk in any area of the downtown district near Nine Mile Road and Woodward Avenue and see a piece of art.

Whether it was the Belier Rouge red ram at the corner of West Nine Mile and Livernois Street, or the Bent Brush sculpture at East Nine Mile and Woodward, art has been scattered across the city as part of the Ferndale Downtown Development Authority’s “ARTWN” art exhibit since 2012.

Now, with art still a priority, the DDA will be unveiling a revised art exhibition, renamed “ART Town the Exhibit,” and featuring not only local artists’ pieces, but also work from Ferndale School District students.

“This started out as a program put together to encourage more public and private art, and to also really showcase the art that was already happening within our downtown,” DDA Executive Director Cristina Sheppard-Decius said. “We are a very creative community and we really wanted to showcase it, so that is why we called ourselves ‘Art Town.’”

The first two of 10 pieces to be highlighted in the exhibit were purchased from renowned graffiti and street artist Kobie Solomon. Solomon was at the Funky Ferndale Art Fair last fall, and Sheppard-Decius said the DDA board agreed to purchase two of his pieces.

Solomon said he went to school to be an illustrator and ended up doing murals almost by default 20 years ago. With the pieces going up having been made in Ferndale, Solomon said he is excited to bring awareness to graffiti as an art medium.

“It is nice to have this displayed as a permanent fixture, and a lot of public art has been popping up down (in Detroit), and now the people in the suburbs will get this opportunity, so it is cool it is moving up Woodward,” he said. “I am constantly thinking about bringing awareness to the medium, as we are a little behind the times, as other regions in the country have already had this debate 20-plus years ago. We are catching up here with (graffiti) as a potential art form, and I think people will be very surprised around here.”

The next six pieces selected for the exhibit came from the “Artist in You” program through Ferndale schools. Pieces selected from students artists will be enlarged on canvas prints and displayed on building walls around the city.

The school program also includes three $500 scholarships for student artists.

“A great reason to be involved is because you are supporting students and furthering their education in art, which is part of the reason ‘Art Town’ was really developed,” Sheppard-Decius said. “We want to further art in our community and support it both as a physical representation out on the street, but also support creative people to pursue it and give them that platform.”

The final two pieces of art will be chosen from a call for artists that the DDA has open until April 15. The DDA will select two entries and display them for two years in a spot around the downtown district, as well as pay the artists a $500 honorarium.

While the first art exhibit had a lot of sculptures that became part of the city, Sheppard-Decius said this time around they are looking to diversify the mediums represented.

“We are looking for different mediums that are suitable for outdoors, and something that may be interactive, potentially,” she said. “We want people to use their imaginations and think about what they put together.”

Sheppard-Decius said the DDA is hoping to have all the pieces selected and in place by the end of May, in time for the DDA’s numerous summer events. With Ferndale being a creative community, she said she has little doubt  that the exhibit will be a success.

“I think our downtown and community is very much an artistic community, and we feel creativity in everything we do is important,” Sheppard-Decius said. “That is a core value of what our community is, and something we want to make sure lives on for a long time. And art really does provide for economic development.”

For more information on “ART Town the Exhibit” or to submit work, visit www.downtown ferndale.com.

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