Attention Readers
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, C & G Newspapers has temporarily suspended its print publications. We look forward to resuming our print operation in the coming weeks. In the meantime, continue to find local news on our website and look for us on Facebook and Twitter. We hope you stay healthy and safe.

Local artist to sculpt live at Ford Arts, Beats & Eats

This is the first year that the festival will partner with the DIA

By: Victoria Mitchell | Royal Oak Review | Published September 2, 2015

 Brantley sculpts one of his newest pieces inside his Royal Oak studio. His newest collection is inspired by power and overcoming obstacles.

Brantley sculpts one of his newest pieces inside his Royal Oak studio. His newest collection is inspired by power and overcoming obstacles.

Photo by Victoria Mitchell


ROYAL OAK — When Austen Brantley began sculpting in high school, he had found the space where he belonged.

Brantley, 19, attended Norup International School and is a 2013 graduate of Berkley High School. He now works, lives and displays his art in Royal Oak.

His sculptures bare the soul of someone with a seemingly longer life, as he draws inspiration from Renaissance and classical sculptors and African art.

Brantley said that since graduating high school, he has worked at his craft and has asked other artists for critiques to make him better.

The teen will show his talent during the 18th annual Ford Arts, Beats & Eats in downtown Royal Oak Sept. 4-7. More than 360,000 people attended the festival last year during its fifth consecutive year in Royal Oak.

“I’m really excited,” Brantley said, adding that he looks forward to participating in the Royal Oak festival for the first time.

Brantley will be sculpting live at the OUR Credit Union stage and will have his work on display and for sale during the four-day event.

“I like to be able to work outside on my sculptures and show people the process,” he said. “An art fair is more personal, so I’m able to talk with people and make new friends.”

He most likes to meet people who own his pieces and see the photos they show him of where they placed his works.

The 2015 event will mark the first year that Ford Arts, Beats & Eats has partnered with the Detroit Institute of Arts as the presenting sponsor of artist demonstrations, which for the DIA will be an extension of its Think Like An Artist exhibit.

Event organizers said the DIA will present three onstage art demonstrations each day. The presentations will last 15-30 minutes and will be onstage in the OUR Credit Union parking lot across from Oakland Community College.

“It’s a great way for our guests to meet artists, see how they make their work and just kind of give a different angle on what is one of the top art fairs in the country that we bring to Royal Oak each year,” said event producer Jonathan Witz.

Witz said he looked forward to welcoming the artists, including Brantley, to the event.

“He’s incredible,” Witz said. “And he’s one of the youngest artists we have in the show.”

The inspirations behind Brantley’s newest series are power and overcoming obstacles.

At the end of his junior year of high school, Brantley was confronted by students who didn’t embrace what made him unique. So, while a younger Brantley was discovering his love of sculpting human forms, others his age were quick to ridicule.

He recalls a pivotal point in his life when he entered the ceramics classroom and all of his pieces were broken.

“I think that was the first time I really felt like an artist, because I felt like it must have been real enough for people to want to bother it, so I should keep going,” he said. “And I kind of said to myself, to keep myself from going crazy, ‘They can break every piece but not me,’ and I just kept working harder after that.”

Brantley began sculpting in his mother’s basement and the passion grew from there.

“I started finishing pieces and I started liking it,” he said.  “It almost seemed like they would talk back to me, and it kind of built like a conversation.”

Sometimes his pieces begin with a sketched concept, while other times he sculpts freehand. He sculpts every day.

“It’s really introspective to sculpt every day,” he said. “I’m learning more about myself every time I do.

“At first it was something to free my mind, and then I wanted to be able to say more and do more things, so I started studying more and more.”

Brantley’s nearly 500 pieces begin at $300 and are owned by 120 collectors.

His artwork is displayed at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Sherwood Forest Art Gallery and other museums and galleries in the metro Detroit area, including 822 Gallery on 11 Mile Road in Royal Oak.

Brantley will join more than 135 artists from throughout North America — including Canada and Mexico — for the juried fine art show during Ford Arts, Beats & Eats. The artists will be vying for cash awards totaling $7,500.

In addition to sculpture, organizers said the juried show will feature art from a variety of mediums including ceramics, digital art, drawing, fabric and fiber, glass, graphics and printmaking, jewelry, metal, mixed media, painting, photography and wood.

Returning artists include Vince Pernicano with his layered glass landscapes, and digital photographer James Parker with his evocative work telling stories of a disappearing American landscape.

Printmaker Tim Gralewski once again will be selling a specially designed work of art showcasing the Royal Oak logo with sale proceeds benefitting the Royal Oak Commission for the Arts.