Art scene is alive and bursting in Hamtramck

(Editor-at-Large Walter Wasacz writes a weekly column on life in Hamtramck.)

By Walter Wasacz

The arts scene is on a roll once again in Hamtramck. It feels a bit like deja vu all over again, recalling the burst of creative energy in the early 1990s.

That’s when artists who’d recently moved into the city put on a still talked about exhibition called Generators and Transmissions in what was then a raw space on Edwin St. west of Jos. Campau.

The show featured contributions by Michael Hall, a sculptor/academic of international renown, who was then living in a nearby loft on Jos. Campau; one of his former students at Cranbrook Academy of Art, Gary Zych; Dmytro Szylak, a factory worker/folk artist and creator of the now famous Hamtramck Disneyland, muralist Dennis Orlowski and other younger talent, many of them recent grads of Detroit’s Center (now College) for Creative Studies.

Zych, of course, became a two-term mayor of the city beginning in 1998, and now lives in New York City. Hall bought a building on Caniff, called the bottom floor G.A.S. (which stands for Great American Stuff, a gallery consisting mostly of his private collection of folk art), and still quietly sculpts at another building that he converted into a studio across the street.
The space that hosted Generators and Transmissions is now 2739 Edwin, a gallery that has “loaned” its space to curators called the Bohemian National Home in Exile. German free jazz saxophonist Peter Brotzmann performed there, and this month, a performance by another jazz innovator, Joe McPhee, is scheduled. Another show with readings and images by Aaron Johnson-Ortiz called Exile and Utopia is also on the calendar for June.

More readings come by way of Public Pool, another local art hotspot, which opened its second successful show last month called Nocturnal Translations. Eight of the artists in the exhibit will read from “dreambooks” inspired by, yes, dreams. There will also be a performance by minimalist composer James Cornish. Dream Narratives: short operas for floating quartet and voice is presented on June 12. The show includes a performance by the Mack Avenue Dance Company.
And this weekend — That’s today, Friday, June 4, if you’re reading your copy of the Review the day it’s published — Popp’s Packing presents the films Blood Tea & Red String, a stop motion fairy tale, and Jan Svankmajer’s Faust.

It’s also the closing weekend of another show, The Golden Casket of Earthly Marvels, that opened last month. The opening reception featured the launch of a helium-filled balloon made from earth-friendly materials and a dance at dusk that featured a collaboration between Kathy Liesen of North Corktown’s The Lot — an outdoor gallery also worth checking out — and Davin Brainard and Wade Kergen of Metal Dungeon and Time Stereo. Fantastic stuff. Check it out. Popp’s Packing is at 12138 St. Aubin at Carpenter.

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