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Whitdel Arts

Patrick Maguire with his floor

Patrick Maguire with his floor installation at Whitdel in July 2012.

1111 Bellevue
Detroit MI 48207

1250 Hubbard, Suite B1, #112
Detroit MI 48209

Gallery hours are on Saturdays from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. Opening receptions are typically on Fridays from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

The gallery was located in the Whitdel Apartments building, rent-free from Southwest Solutions. In addition to the main space it had an Emerging Artists space.

On February 15, 2014, a racist gallery assistant treated one of the artists in the exhibition at the time in a racist manner. But that's not what caused the expulsion of Whitdel Arts in 2016.

In 2014, the gallery's board refused to disavow the racist gallery assistant. Worse, the board attempted to intimidate the artist into silence with threats, some less veiled than others.

The racist gallery assistant sounded the racist dog whistle of safety, and the board compounded the problem by continuing to frame the issue as one of safety instead of the real issue: an artist exhibiting in a gallery deserves respect in that gallery, regardless of his race.

This incident could have been defused immediately with a real apology and real corrective action (firing the racist gallery assistant). Instead, there was half an apology after the artist suggested to Southwest Solutions that the Whitdel Arts board should pay rent to Southwest Solutions for the use of the space.

The racist gallery assistant was a volunteer. But you can always cut loose volunteers who are doing something they're not supposed to do. The racist gallery assistant's racist behavior would not have been tolerated for long at the DIA, for example.

With hindsight, we can see that the 2014 incident with the racist gallery assistant was just another in a long stream of incidents reported to Southwest Solutions, and that Southwest Solutions, tired of the complaints, ended their generosity to Whitdel Arts in 2016. Quite likely complaints about the Crotch show finally convinced Southwest Solutions to cut Whitdel Arts loose.

Understandably, Southwest Solutions did not want the issue to be framed as one of censorship. People are quick to unthinkingly side with artists in cases of censorship. But here's the thing: freedom of expression of anything is all fine and good, until someone else's distasteful freedom of expression happens on your dime.

The early history of Whitdel Arts is rather nebulous. It seems that in 2009, Southwest Solutions had an understanding with some artists in the neighborhood, but nothing on paper. Attempts to formalize the arrangement seem to have begun with Aaron Timlin talking to Steven Gabrys of Southwest Solutions.

Thus Whitdel Arts was organized as a division of the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit (CAID). But over time, Timlin handed over operations to a board consisting almost entirely of young white women. Not surprisingly, almost only young white artists exhibited at Whitdel from 2011 forward.

There wouldn't be anything wrong with that if Whitdel Arts had been paying rent and utilities. But Southwest Solutions wasn't charging rent, and was paying for the utilities (water and energy, but no phone or Internet).

In return for this generosity, Southwest Solutions wanted Whitdel Arts to fulfill some sort of community mission. Does anyone even remember what Whitdel's community mission was supposed to be?

Starting in May 2014, Whitdel Arts made various half-hearted attempts to increase diversity in the board and in the staff; this was in response to pressure from Southwest Solutions. But in the end, Whitdel still lacked diversity where it really counts for an art gallery getting free rent in the Mexicantown of a predominantly black city: in the exhibiting artists.

This needs to be perfectly clear: Whitdel Arts was not paying rent, and Southwest Solutions was paying for some of the utilities. It seems that the only utility Whitdel Arts was paying for was the website. This was probably funded in part from donations and in part from the various membership and jury fees that artists were charged to be considered for exhibition (and of course even the most reasonable membership and jury fees tend to draw predominantly white artists).

In early 2016, Timlin tried to regain control of Whitdel Arts. As of July 2017, there has been no public announcement from Southwest Solutions. Some decisive action has already taken place, however, as the Whitdel Arts board has been evicted out of the Whitdel Apartments.

As this was going on, the Whitdel Arts people loved to talk about a "lease agreement" with Southwest Solutions. That is a very clever deception. "Lease" suggests that Whitdel Arts was paying money to Southwest Solutions. If people were aware of the generosity of Southwest Solutions, that would have dampened their eagerness to write letters in support for Whitdel Arts. Misled into thinking that Whitdel Arts was paying some kind of lease, it was easier for people to unfairly demonize Southwest Solutions.

The Whitdel Arts board claims ownership of the "Whitdel Arts" name. This presents no problem whatsoever if Southwest Solutions decides to have the space continue as an art gallery under new management, just rename the damn thing. There are a lot of lessons to be learned from the Whitdel mistake.

Upcoming exhibitions

I think that Crotch 2 is a hoax, but given the level of maturity of the Whitdel Arts board, I figured I should hedge my bets and at least mention it.

Past exhibitions

Past exhibitions at the current location

On January 3, 2018, Whitdel Arts announced a "new home" on Detroit's East Side. According to LoopNet as of January 4, 2018, the building has six spaces available for lease, four of which have rental rates of $12 per square foot per year, the other two are "not disclosed."

Past exhibitions at other spaces

Baltimore Gallery hosted Whitdel Arts for Emily Freese's Sculpture X exhibit, from October 7 to 21, 2017, with an opening reception on lucky Friday the 13th.

For a while in 2017, Whitdel Arts was at Marygrove College. The "themeless" exhibit opened on July 14, 2017. The Gallery at Marygrove College is in the school's Liberal Arts Building, but given that Marygrove will be shutting down the undergraduate programs, I don't know what will happen to that gallery.

The 2017 members' show opened at Marygrove College on June 16, 2017, with Joe Anthony Myrick as the Emerging Artist.

On May 6, 2017, Hatch Art in Hamtramck hosted a special fundraiser for Whitdel Arts. This was followed the next week with the opening of the 8-Bit exhibit, which ran to May 27. As usual, Whitdel Arts charged each artist a $15 entry fee to consider their work for the exhibit, which runs counter to the Hatch Art philosophy of not charging entry fees. Plus remember that an entry fee tends to discourage non-white artists no matter how small and nominal the fee may be.

The Woodbridge Company is another past benefactor of Whitdel Arts, providing a space on Commonwealth Street on May 13 and 14, 2016, for a solo show by Tisch Mikhail Lewis titled One Year Later.

The Whitdel Arts 2016 Members' Show took place at Inner State Gallery at the originally scheduled date and time of April 15, 2016, from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. (it became a one-night show, as that gallery already had Luke Chueh scheduled for the following week), while Julia Maiuri's solo show that would have taken place in the Emerging Artists space took place at Corktown Studios, also on the originally scheduled date but starting at 6:00 p.m.

Past exhibitions in the space provided rent-free by Southwest Solutions

Joe Culver

Joe Culver, an artist who exhibited frequently at Whitdel Arts.

Piecing together the list back to 2010, you're probably not going to find another Latino artist, and you'll probably find only two black artists and only one Asian artist. When these issues came to glaring attention in late 2014, Whitdel made token gestures to show a few more Latino artists, like the Local Show (which came and went without being recorded in the list of past exhibitions on the gallery's website; that may have taken place concurrently with We Just Want to Make Things).

The low numbers of black and Latino artists exhibited in the period from 2011 to 2016 are an embarrassment for a gallery located in the Mexicantown of a city that is predominantly black. But then attention faded away and it was back to business as usual: if white artists from the city can't fill up the gallery, seek out white artists from across the country. Now out of the building, the Whitdel Arts board seems determined not to accept any responsibility whatsoever for this failing.

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