gallery that’s helping build Detroit’s newest skatepark

DETROIT – A new skate park is being built in Detroit’s East Village, and a one-night-only art show is helping to raise much-needed funds for the park. Set to open next spring alongside Charles McGee Legacy Park, the skate park is backed by Tony Hawk and NewLine Skateparks, a company that has built carefully designed skate parks around the world.

On September 2, the Library Street Collective along with the non-profit organization Jefferson East, Inc. held a benefit exhibition called It takes a village taking over the downtown gallery as well as the neighboring Louis Buhl & Co. The show featured the works of over 70 local artists to support future construction.

We chatted with Library Street Collective’s Anthony Curis, a Detroit native, about fundraising, the new park, and what it means to celebrate a decade of art in Downtown Detroit.

How did the fundraising go for you?

It was great, the turnout was really outstanding. There was so much support from the artists that were participating, to stakeholders in the project like Tony Hawk and McArthur Binion, and Joshua Elling from Jefferson East, Inc. was also there. And just the city as a whole. This one was pretty special.

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How did you get involved with the skate park, Jefferson East, Inc., McArthur Binion and Tony Hawk?

We are in the process of transitioning an old freestanding church into a cultural arts center that will have two gallery spaces, a library, and a bunch of other things. We started that project a few years ago and it’s under construction now, it’s called Bariu. That’s where Jefferson East got involved. We’ve done work with them in the past, but in terms of some of the public spaces we’re doing at Bariu, they were an ideal non-profit partner for this project.

McArthur Binion’s involvement with the skate park came from the establishment and residence of McArthur: Modern Ancient Brown to be located in Shepherd. He has been very interested in being involved in the neighborhood in various capacities.

So when it came time to start talking about the skatepark, Tony Hawk and a few people from his team got involved. We wanted it to take the form of something a little non-traditional, maybe something that felt more sculptural or artistic in some way. So we started those conversations with McArthur and he was very generous and excited to be involved. So here it almost became a collaboration in a way with Tony and McArthur in terms of the functional aspects of the park as well as the artistic kind of design elements of the park.

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JJ and Anthony Curis at their home in Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan. (Courtesy of Library Street Collective)

How was Charles McGee Legacy Park born?

So Heritage Park is the last project Charles ever worked on. We started talking about that project long before the Shepherd project came along. We have this interest in the intersection of art and activism, really trying to find creative ways to bring people together and engage our community of artists based here in Detroit. We have this plan for the future where we would develop or improve public parkscapes and include artists in those conversations. So Charles, being the figure that he is, was an obvious choice to do it. Then when Shepherd came along, all of a sudden it came together to do it in this place and have a park there where Charles could direct the design. Unfortunately, in the middle of the process, Charles passed away. But the design of the park was 100% completely from the ideas of Charles and Charles.

Can you talk about some of the art that will be featured in the park?

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So there are three sets of sculptures and those sets each take a different shape and form based on different bodies of work by Charles over the last 50-60 years. It’s these 12-by-14-foot figurative sculptures, which is really Charles’ first truly figurative work that he’s done. The other two groups have their own ideas behind them. Charles was really interested in this concept of creating sculptures and a space that was attractive and accessible to children and the community as a whole. And he wanted to find a way to lessen the way public art can sometimes be a little confusing or inaccessible. Charles really wanted these works to exist among people and create them in a way to really engage with them physically, allowing the visitor to become a part of the work in some way.

Was there anything you were looking for with the artists you worked with for the fundraiser?

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We left it open and wide. We mentioned the idea of ​​themes of community and togetherness, and obviously, skateboarding and other activities. We didn’t want to tell them what to do, we left it more to the idea of ​​creating a public space and to see how each artist reacted to that in different ways.

Were there any pieces that really stood out to you?

It’s a fairly large painting by artist Tyrell Winston, who is now based here in Detroit, and it’s part of a series of works he calls Punishment Paintings. They are usually athletes or celebrities and he writes their signatures over and over for various reasons. He actually involved Tony in the process and flew to California, went to Tony and they worked on the painting together. Tony started the signatures and then Tyrell abstracted them into the painting you saw in the exhibit.

What does it mean to you to play a part in this skatepark?

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My wife and I have always been interested in looking at the gallery beyond the bricks and mortar. When we first opened the gallery 10 years ago, we were always deeply interested in finding ways to impact our community. It became our mission in a way where we put as much emphasis on what we do outside the gallery as we do inside the gallery. So this project is a very special project for us. It’s really exciting and we’re just thrilled.

Your gallery is now celebrating 10 years, congratulations, how does the future look for you and the gallery?

A lot of our time now is centered in the East Village. We are working closely with the East Village Association, Jefferson East, Inc. and other stakeholders in that neighborhood to really find ways to bring arts and culture into the identity of the neighborhood, but doing so in a way that residents are not only receptive to. but excited about it.

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To learn more about the Library Street Collective, as well as more about the Charles McGee Legacy Park, visit LSCGallery.com.

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