Over the past two years that I've been working toward my MFA at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, my standard (hackneyed?) retort to artists, critics, friends, janitors, anyone who wants to talk-about-art-in-Detroit, is that artists are going to have a hard time being self-sustaining here, and for reasons we're all aware of. Some have countered this, or have said, you know, that attitude isn't what this city needs right now. And I balk at that, because–and this is another story–the last thing the city needs is a bunch of people who care more about the art scene than the very real social and economic problems the city is facing.
Several universities in the area boast highly-ranked graduate programs, but only Wayne State University, University of Michigan, and Cranbrook offer MFA degrees in Fine Art. Even the College for Creative Studies, a private art school near Wayne State, grants only interdisciplinary and 'transportation' design MFAs, a testament to the lingering prominence of the automotive industry in the region. All of this is to say that, based on the ambition seen in the work of these students, I think many will end up pursuing their art practices someplace else.
Nearly all of the painters I surveyed of these three schools have returned to painting, so to speak. Many are working traditionally–paint on fabric or paper–and often abstractly, in many cases with an attention to materials and process. This isn't always the case, though. Wayne State had three painters out of six graduating–the work was shown in one group show–and none of them are making work about process. U-M had a number of solo and two-person shows, with two painters of the six MFAs.
Painters at Wayne State:
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