DETROIT – It’s not easy for an emerging artist to get their work seen. But the Poor Man’s Art Collective endeavors to make that goal a little more accessible.
“We created the Poor Man’s Art Collective in 2003 as a response to a lot of artists that I had come across who were having difficulties showing their work in galleries, contests and exhibitions,” said Geno Harris, the Collective’s co-founder. “It’s because they were emerging and or they did not have the experience or an art degree. So they felt a bit disenfranchised. And it was my experience as well with trying to shop my art around and trying to get some kind of direction or guidance.”
Mychal Noir is the Collective’s other co-founder.
“The Collective came about out of frustration, to be honest,” Noir picked up. “Geno and I had tried to go to several different galleries to get our work shown and we were always turned away because we were self-taught artists. So after all of the galleries and established places turned us away we just decided to rent out spaces and do it ourselves. We all just pooled our resources and rented out a space and just did the damn thing, so to speak. And it just grew from there.”
Thirteen years later, the Collective is still going strong. Their newest show, entitled Independent Artists United, opens July 15 at the Virgil Carr Center in downtown Detroit. It will feature the work of no less than 15 up and coming artists.
“The idea behind this show is kind of two-fold,” Harris explained. “As always, it’s to give the artists a platform to really show what art means to them. But also because Detroit is going through a resurgence we wanted to show Detroit that the creative set – the visual artists, spoken artists, fashion designers, you name it – are a part of that resurgence and that there is quality art out here in Detroit that is affordable for the everyday person.”
Noir said he is excited about the show.
“The Independent Artists United show is probably our 14th or 15th show since we started,” he said. “This is maybe the second time that an establishment has approached us, which is the Virgil Carr Center. So I guess, finally, our hard work is starting to pay off. We have several new artists in the Collective and I think it’s going to be a great show.”
It’s been 15 years since Noir first started painting.
“It was a natural progression for me,” he said. “I used to be a poet and I used to write, which is my first passion. And I met Keronce Sims, who is an artist, and he kind of just inspired me to pick up a paint brush. I never intended to take myself seriously as an artist but it just kind of stuck. It was the one thing that didn’t waver. My writing came and went but my painting stuck.
“People told me I was good at it, which made me enjoy it even more,” Noir continued. “I still don’t take myself too seriously as an artist because I think when you do that you lose your creative edge. I just do what I feel and let the art speak for itself. I don’t limit myself.”
Harris started creating art the same year he helped found the Collective.
“I had just got a job working at the Detroit Institute of Arts in the contemporary art department and I had moved into the River Park Lofts down on Jefferson,” Harris began. “Those loft spaces have these huge walls and I was trying to figure out what to do with them. I was watching one of my favorite shows on HGTV and the designer at the time had taken some every day grocery bags and did a wall treatment and made the wall look like suede. So I asked myself how could I do a smaller version and create some art? I just started figuring out what I was going to do.”
Soon Harris was creating art with rapid frequency.
“Katrina Redd opened up the Redd Apple Gallery and I showed her one of my art pieces and she liked it,” Harris said. “She showed it and she sold it within a day. Then she asked for more and I gave her four or five pieces and she sold them all within a week.”
Harris is hoping for similar results for the Independent Artists United show. Featured artists include Harris and Noir as well as Reggie Abstrkt, Steven Athanas, Verbert Bennett, Jr., Judy Bowmen, Jay Coleman, Labeeb A. Hameed, Jack Kenny, Christie Love, Jimmie Scott Robinson, Dawud Shabazz, Venti Valdez, Duane Vaughn and Rosemarie Wilson.
Looking back over the past 13 years, Harris said he is happy with what the Collective has accomplished.
“We’re proud as gay men to be contributing to Detroit’s cultural renaissance,” he said. “We want to help show what the lgbt community has to offer.”