Stephen Mack Jones, author of the August Snow series, shares his favorite things about Detroit. In this eight part series, Jones talks classic cocktails, historic buildings, Joe Louis and everything in between.
“New York has closed itself off to the young and struggling. New York City has been taken away from you . . . So, my advice is: find a new city.” Legendary rock musician, poet, novelist and 2010 National Book Award winner Patti Smith. She then suggested Detroit as a city where artists could thrive.
I love me some NYC. You’ll not find another city in the world that has the Big Apple’s uniquely electrifying cross-current energy, bristling spectrum of influential cultural vision, and mix of people and personalities from all corners of the globe colliding, collaborating, embracing, and engaging 24-7-365. And if truth be told, I’ve fantasized about playing flag football in Central Park with famous New Yorkers like Denzel Washington, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Jay-Z, while Christopher Walken tap dances in the end zone. All while renown sports reporter and novelist Mike Lupica gives the play-by-play between big bites of a delicious chicken shawarma from Samesa at 30 Rock.
So, yeah. It’s a good thing when I dream about having my ribs cracked in a touch football game in NYC’s Central Park.
That said, rock goddess and high-priestess of poetry Patti Smith is right: these days, the city that will push your limits, support your efforts and inspire your vision as an artist is Detroit. Will it still be a struggle? Oh, hell yes! No cry babies, wimps, or whiners need apply! To get it, you’ve got to bring it. Detroit is a city forged from Herculean struggles; industrial, cultural, social, political, and racial. But upon this border-town anvil, greatness is shaped. Take for instance artist Lynne Avadenka. Print maker, book artist, and mixed-media artist, Lynne, explores the depth, breadth, history, and future of Jewish religion, history, mythology, and cultural experience through her art. Her work has been displayed and collected worldwide—from theUS Library of Congress, the British Library-London, and the Meermanno Museum, The Hague – Netherlands to the Israel Museum -Jerusalem, and OTC Art & Design Gallery – Shenzhen, China.
Oh, and lest I forget, the Watson Library at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City.
Additionally, Lynne spearheads a unique community arts outreach organization in the Eastern Market District. Signal-Return “is a Detroit nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving and teaching traditional letterpress printing, and building a community center for art, craft, design and collaboration.” Take a look at some of the stunning collectible work created by artists at Signal Return, including brilliant artists like Sue Carman-Vian, Tyanna Buie, Sabrina Nelson, Ryan Standfest, and Andy Krieger, who have put their wonderous talents to work creating posters for Detroit area nonprofit organizations.
Lynne Avadenka is just one brilliant example of Detroit’s rich and complex art scene. If I had a few more column inches, I could tell you about Detroit’s modern and classical dance scene. Or the College for Creative Studies animation students who now make the magic happen at Disney-Pixar. Or incredible musicians like Ara Topouzian, Xiao Dong Wei, or Passalacqua. Or how Kresge Arts in Detroit Eminent Artists Shirley Woodson (2021) and Marie Woo (2020) have brought vibrant worlds alive on canvas and in clay. I could, of course, go on, but that’s about all the space I have.
As many of you know, August Snow—when not dispensing his particular brand of rapid-fire justice—enjoys art, a result of his mother’s talent for and love of oil painting. While his marine sniper’s eye may have taught him the lethal art of delivering death at two hundred yards, his mother taught this same snipers’ eye to see and appreciate life, beauty, and new possibilities through the arts. Head to the Detroit Institute of Arts (www.dia.org) or N’Ndami Center for Contemporary Art or Detroit Artists Market, to name just a few galleries available to stroll through. You might even see August contemplating the purchase of a piece by a soon-to-blow-up Detroit artist.