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A group of LGBTQ artists are planning a multi-venue art exhibit to run in June throughout Detroit for Pride month. Called Mighty Real/Queer Detroit, it is the brainchild of visual and performance artist Patrick Burton.
“The exhibition will explore queer art by emerging and established Detroit artists,” Burton said. “It will celebrate LGBTQ artists, past and present, from Detroit and its metropolitan area, whose works manifest distinct but intersecting backgrounds.”
Mighty Real/Queer Detroit will occur in multiple venues simultaneously, including two evenings of music, film, spoken word and performance work at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Confirmed galleries include Collected Detroit, Galerie Camille, Hatch, M Contemporary, Scarab Club and the Cass Café.
The idea first came to Burton a couple of years ago, he said, but initially the plans weren’t quite as grand. Burton was attending an opening at the Scarab Club and chatting up Scarab Club Board Member and BTL columnist Charles Alexander.
“I remember seeing a few artists that were included in the show and I just had this kind of surreal idea,” Burton said. “I wanted to put a show together to celebrate the experience of others — to reveal the community emerging from a desire for visibility. And to show how real and good that desire is.”
Alexander told Burton he should launch such an exhibit in Detroit.
“He said, ‘You should do it. Write a proposal,’” Burton recalled. “Then there were so many artists that came to my mind as I started thinking; I had maybe 40 artists I had identified on a piece of paper. I said why don’t I do three galleries. So I continued to reach out to galleries I had a connection with or some kind of relationship with the gallery director and it just kept expanding. That’s when I realized it was too much for me to do myself, so I started talking to other artists about being involved in the planning. … It was really Charles Alexander who pushed me into doing this.”
So, logically, Burton started pushing others to become involved. Curating the exhibit with him will be photographer S. Kay Young, art consultant Peter Gahan and artist Geno Harris.
“I’ve been friends with Patrick for a very long time and I’ve been a part of his performance art and I’m an exhibiting artist in Detroit and I loved the idea,” Young said. “It seems like this is an under celebrated group of artists and we want to celebrate who we are and show Detroit that we are mighty real.”
Harris was asked to help curate by Gahan.
“Peter had contacted me and wanted me to be a part of Kresge’s Fine Arts Building,” Harris said. “And upon him and I talking and selecting one of my art pieces to go in their office he started telling me about the idea Patrick had come up with and he felt that I would be able to bring a different aspect to it. So he floated my name to the committee and the rest of history.
“My viewpoint, what I bring to it, is a lot of emerging artists,” Harris continued. “I deal with a lot of emerging artists and a lot of the artists involved are career artists so it’s a good fit.”
Burton said the show will, in addition to serving as an artist showcase, pay an homage to the AIDS crisis.
“As part of the visibility I want to showcase, Mighty Real/Queer Detroit will address loss and remembrance by including significant, rarely seen and unexhibited art objects,” Burton said. “Works by artists who died of AIDS in the 1980s and ’90s will be exhibited for the first time, including work by artists Brian Buczak, Timothy Gass, Marcus Mannino and Constatine Tsatsanis. A special tribute will be offered to the legendary Detroit artist LeRoy Foster and the recently deceased Jack O. Summers.”
The exhibition celebrates around 100 artists including Joan Jett Blakk, Charzette Torrence, Alvaro Jurado, Carl Demeulenaere, Jon Strand, James Stephens, Deborah Rockman, Audrey Banks, S. Kay Young, Fernando Calderon, Heather Gardner, Carl George and Darryl Terrell.
In conjunction with the exhibition, a calendar of events highlighting panel discussions, artist talks, performances, and poetry readings will be issued in all media. In addition, a catalogue of selected artwork, including essays examining the exhibit from a variety of historical, cultural and personal perspectives, will be available.
“The project, of course, has merit because there are in the Detroit LGBTQ community many excellent, talented artists, writers, poets and impersonators,” Alexander said. “Their work will unquestionably be a fine addition to the Detroit art scene.
“LeRoy Foster is a real, real plus to this exhibition,” Alexander went on. “Foster, who was known as the black Michelangelo, needs further exhibiting.”
If you are interested in being included in the Mighty Real/Queer Detroit exhibition, email Patrick Burton for submission guidelines at firstname.lastname@example.org.