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The Avenue of Fashion gets a makeover

By Phreddy Wischusen
The Michigan Citizen

DETROIT — From Sept. 20-Sept. 22, 50 businesses on Detroit’s Avenue of Fashion (Livernois between 7 and 8 Mile ) are participating in a festival aimed at highlighting their diverse and thriving community. The three-day event called, Art on the Ave, will feature galleries, restaurants, retail, art projects and events. The affair will flank the Detroit Design Festival scheduled for Sept. 20.

Recently, Artplace America granted $200,000 to REVOLVE Detroit.  REVOLVE decided to invest that money in the Avenue of Fashion, making the festival possible.

According to their Web site, REVOLVE Detroit is a collaborative program of the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC) that partners with community leaders, building owners, entrepreneurs and artists to activate vacant storefronts with transformational businesses and art installations.

That grant money has helped building owner remodel empty store-fronts on Livernois, start new businesses and commission works of art by local, national and international artists.

Commissioned by REVOLVE, It took Michael Owen, a famous muralist from Baltimore, just four days to paint a mural dedicated to the African American music legacy in Detroit. Now J. Dilla, Derrick May, Aretha Franklin, Anita Baker, John Carter and Stevie Wonder grace two sides of a building owned by Garnette Archer. Archer, is the owner of Jo’s Gallery. She also helped organize the festival.

Jo’s Gallery opened in 1996 on Livernois and has been showing fine art made by African American ever since.  Four other African American-owned art galleries will be open on the Avenue of Fashion during the event, two of which — Sherwood Forest Art Gallery and Eric’s I’ve Been Framed — have been in the area for years. Two  — Art in Motion and Detroit Fiber Works — are brand new.  Art in Motion is a ceramics studio, founded by Pewabic Pottery instructor Kay Willingham.

Combined Najma Wilson and Mandisa Smith have over 50 years experience working with African textiles, felting, and many other fiber arts.  Not only will they have works for sale, their Detroit Fiber Works space will also afford the community opportunities to learn their craft.

Another Detroit-based fiber artist, Cristin Richard, will premier her piece entitled, “The Political Aesthetic of the Skin” during Art on the Ave.  Five women will model dresses designed and created by Richard. Richard’s work deals with body and identity, she says.  On. Sept. 20 between 8 and 10 p.m., she will unveil five new dresses she made from hog intestines and then tinted to match each of her models’ skin tones.  Although on paper, intestinal dresses might seem vile, Richard’s creations are incredibly beautiful and delicate. She learned the technique while studying Inuit culture at CCS. “The Inuit use every part of the animals they kill, including making parkas from the intestines,” she told the Citizen.  After searching to replicate their process with local sources, Richard started using hog intestines because “a cow’s intestines are too fatty, and a sheep’s too delicate.”

The shape of the dresses was inspired by the clothing of the famed Whirling Dervishes. “In order to overcome the political, people need a spiritual connection,” Richard muses.  For more information on Art on the Ave. visit


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