Voices: Experiments with Organizational Writing is a program organized by Red Bull Arts Detroit Writing Fellow Brian Droitcour. The program includes a workshop for invited participants, and a public dialogue in which workshop participants share out. On May 11th from 7-8:30pm, all are invited to attend the public conversation.
A note from Brian Droitcour on Voices: Experiments with Organizational Writing:
I’m concerned with how art organizations express their values and goals to their audiences. The language they use can invite people in or keep them out. Big museums use an impersonal, austere tone to present an image of authority, and I’ve observed that small, grassroots organizations often imitate this model because it seems like the default, like how things ought to be done. But there are other ways to build trust and respect in a community than projecting authority.
For this event at Red Bull Arts, I’m bringing together representatives of four small art organizations in Detroit to try out new approaches to writing for their upcoming projects. We’ll work on these in a closed workshop, then share the results with the public at an open talk.
I’m Brian Droitcour, a critic and an editor at Art in America since 2014. Though my day job is in magazine publishing, I’ve been studying the way art institutions communicate for several years. It started when I signed up for an account on Yelp, where I wrote reviews of galleries and museums in a manner that suited the platform, to play around with the register and tone of art criticism. This lead to some more serious thinking about how writing about art often mystifies it, and how language can be used differently to open points of access. Last summer I was a resident at the Luminary in St. Louis, where I organized workshops with artists, educators, and administrators about institutional voice, and drew up some questions and recommendations that small organizations can consider when writing about their mission and programs. The event at Red Bull Arts Detroit builds on that project by attempting to put those ideas into practice.
Here’s some information about the people I’ve invited to take part in the workshop and what they’re hoping to discuss there:
Jessica Allie is Detroit native, curator, and arts facilitator who seeks to empower artists by providing access to resources and opportunity. Currently the Detroit Director of ProjectArt, a national organization that supports artist residencies and educational programs at public libraries, she is also the founder of what is now a roving site-specific installation project called Shylo Arts. Jessica is interested in the issues of writing about art experiences as they relate to community spaces which are often occupied by both children and adults of varying backgrounds.
Chido Johnson organizes cultural exchanges between Zimbabwe (his home country) and Detroit (his home since 2002), under the banner of the Zimbabwe Cultural Center in Detroit. These have included bringing students from the College for Creative Studies, where he is a professor of sculpture, to Mutare, and tours for Detroit jit and Zimbabwean jit, two distinct musical genres that happen to share a name. a Ephemera from these travels are presented in the front room of Chido’s house. This year the ZCCD will get a new name and a new freestanding home, and Chido is thinking about how to present the revamped institution in writing.
Mïïgun is an artist and poet who works with Culture Lab Detroit, an organization that fosters public art projects in communities around the city with the goal of sustainable development. Culture Lab also puts on dialogues with local and national thinkers and artists to address the questions raised by its work. As a community organizer, Mïïgun is concerned with ways of creating more inviting collaborative project opportunities, as well as introducing artists and projects to new audiences.
Gina Reichert runs Power House Productions with co-founder and husband Mitch Cope. Starting in 2008, they have bought houses near Detroit’s border with Hamtramck and turned them into spaces for performance, sound art, music classes, and experiments in off-the-grid living. In the lead up to an exhibition about their work at Stamps Gallery in Ann Arbor, Gina is preparing a book that presents the organization’s various activities in a coherent framework.