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Much has been written in recent years about artists moving to Detroit, priced out of other urban centers known for their cultural and creative output, and landing in Detroit as an affordable new home. 

Much less is reported about the artists who honed their practices, built their studios, and earned their livings for decades here in Michigan.

essaydDennis A. Nawrocki, Matthew Piper, Steve Panton and Sarah Rose Sharp knew the wealth of talent that originated right here in Metro Detroit, and together, started to draft the individual narratives of many of the region’s artists, known at local galleries, art centers, and some who had earned national acclaim. They posted the artist’s stories as the writing project Essay’d, an online repository that over time, has become a compendium of Detroit’s artistic talent. By choosing the artists they write about, the four declare they are not writing about the “best” artists, but rather shaping a lens, a narrative overview of Detroit art. 

Certain commonalities emerge among the artists. Many have degrees from the College for Creative Studies or the Cranbrook Academy of Art. Some of their practices explicitly reference Detoit. Just as many have nothing to do with the city. Some are Michigan natives, others have settled here more recently. All of the art is by and for the region. 

Now, the first 30 essays have made their way to print courtesy of Wayne State University Press, with the book launch for Essay’d taking place Thursday, August 4th, from 5 to 8pm at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit. Following the launch, an after party has been announced a block away at the N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art, which is currently hosting the exhibit for Essay’d, Installments #51-60, featuring the artworks by those most recently profiled, including Robert Sestok, Biba Bell and Mel Rosas. All previous exhibitions have taken place at the gallery 9338 Campau in Hamtramck. 

Additionally, the Anton Art Center in Mount Clemens has been hosting a series of artist talks by Essay’d artists. Earlier this summer, lecturers included Scott Hocking and Tylonn Sawyer. On August 10th, they will host Susan Goethel Campbell, and rounding out the series on August 31st, Meg Heeres is the featured speaker. All talks are free and open to the public, and copies of Essay’d are available.

Phil Gilchrist, Executive Director of the Anton Art Center, sees these lectures as a significant way to feature artists throughout the region, and continue the work of Essay'd off the page. 

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