Detroit is at a cross roads with a burgeoning cultural revolution at odds with the powers of convention and mendacity, the results of which are best represented by slick new ball stadiums, casinos and glossy redevelopment. Detroit’s unique automobile culture is what first put it on the map. Detroit’s rich artistic sub-culture, however, is what has always had the potential to transform Detroit into a great city. Unfortunately, it is the insidious, mindless, carburetor mentality that continues to prevail. When will we realize that the rich, grass roots culture of Detroit is truly it’s life blood; it is our best hope of becoming a great city of the 21st century, a destination, a place to which people and businesses will want to make their home.

Detroit’s identity cannot be allowed to be absorbed into the mindlessness and cultural deadness of the carburetor mentality. Detroiters don’t want to become the Casino Mecca of the Midwest. I am part of a growing number who are proud of our Detroit heritage and committed to retrieving the Detroit art community from the esoteric junk yard, from the merely decorative or dispensable. We are committed to being seen and heard: local artists must have a voice, for they are the heart and soul of all great cities. Free speech cannot be allowed to wither and die on the vine. By way of example, I refer here to the latest incident in the Orwellian battle over The Heidleberg Project: in early February, 2000 the city showed up with a tow truck and, without any legal notice (in fact, on the one year anniversary of the last major city sponsored demolition), and in defiance of a restraining order barring such attacks, began removing Tyree Guyton’s installation, “The Rosa Parks Bus.” The city argues that it is an “attractive nuisance” and wants it to go away. But is that really an adequate justification for depriving artists and other citizens their due process? It is just another disgraceful slap in the face to those who fought and died for civil rights in this city and throughout America. This flagrant disregard for due process doesn’t just effect artists. For example, every day, vehicles are being towed away, at owner’s expense, without the legal 48 hours notice, or an officer’s signature.

The point is this: the qualifying and defining of art is not the function of politicians. It can only amount to censorship and the eventual deprivation of free speech rights that effect everyone. It is through free speech and free expression that we are identified as a people. Through our artists we begin to understand who we are, which is essential to becoming a dynamic community. The City of Detroit needs to start celebrating its own creative giants (not to mention ordinary law abiding citizens) not persecuting them. We need to wake up and realize there is a positive, grass roots, cultural revolution going on in the city that must be championed.

Recognizing the unique driving energy that can be found only in Detroit, The Maniscalco Gallery was founded by Robert Maniscalco in 1997 as an exhibition space and contemporary art center for talented local and international artists, both established and emerging. The Maniscalco Gallery’s focus is not on art which comments cynically upon art but rather on art which is an exploration of life and of living. The Maniscalco Gallery – it’s Art to Believe!

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