DETROIT, MI – The Irwin House Global Art Center & Gallery will mark its grand opening with a grassroots tribute to Aretha Franklin. Located on Detroit’s historic West Grand Boulevard between LaSalle and C.L. Franklin Blvd. (Linwood), the emerging art space lies in the path of Aretha’s childhood home and her father’s church – New Bethel Baptist – where her great legacy began.
The exhibition – SuperNatural Woman: Tribute to the Queen – provides a space for creatives, on the local level, to respond to the spirit of Aretha Franklin with visual, literary, and performative arts. While there certainly have been, and will continue to be, widespread tributes to the Queen of Soul involving industry heavyweights, this exhibition allows Detroit community artists to participate in and share an intimate reflection of our own, where we can share memories and explore Aretha’s life, music and impact in our lives as a woman, matriarch, activist, and die-hard Detroiter.
“Detroit is reeling from Aretha’s loss in a way the rest of the world can only imagine. She was part of the fabric of the city and this was her neighborhood,” says Irwin Gallery Director, Omo Misha. “Many people here remember Aretha and her family from childhood and, of course, New Bethel still serves the community. These are memories and encounters that Detroiters have coveted for a lifetime. We are shaped by these moments…not only with Aretha but with all of our legendary artists. But, without contest, Aretha was The Queen…The Queen not only of Soul, but of all our hearts.”
The Irwin House is an outgrowth of the vision of the late Council B. Irwin, Jr. and his lovely wife, Valerie. Avid art enthusiasts and collectors, The Irwins traveled the world, acquiring art from the earth’s far reaches and patronizing Detroit area artists. This Center will become a public home for their proud collection and will showcase the works of under-represented artists from the local and international communities. Opening the art center has involved the hard-fought two-year rehabilitation of an early 20th century house, which once served as a doctor’s office on the historic Boulevard. Construction is still on-going on the 2nd level of the building but the main gallery is feverishly preparing to open for its inaugural exhibition – now appropriately and lovingly celebrating Ms. Franklin.
The exhibit will feature the work of established and emerging Detroit artists, along with invited guests. A growing list of participating artists include: Amber Doe, Amir Bey, Beau McCall, Cyrah Dardas, Arthur Bacon, Donald Calloway, jessica Care moore, John Sims, Kim Hunter, Ingrid LaFleur, Mahogany Jones, Marsha Battle Philpot, M.L. Liebler, Makeba Rainey, Noreen Dean Dresser, Sabrina Nelson, and Santo’nio. The tribute will also include an on-line component that will allow creatives all over the world to share their love for The Queen by uploading their original works. The on-line exhibit will accept submissions throughout the exhibition period and maintain permanent real estate on the web. Misha leads the exhibition’s curatorial team alongside conceptual artist and writer, John Sims, and Sabrina Nelson.
“Her force was both cultural and political,” Sims told NBC News. “Her love and advocacy for black people was undeniable and her feminism unshakable. Before there were Black Lives Matters and #Metoo, the Queen was challenging us to ‘think’ and ‘respect’ ourselves, and to become better partners, better citizens and better humans.”
SuperNatural Woman will open to the public at The Irwin House Global Art Center & Gallery on Friday, September 21, 2018 with an opening reception from 5:00-9:00 pm, featuring performances by Kim Hunter, Mahogany Jones, and M.L. Liebler. Exhibition runs through January 21, 2019. Public programming will include artist conversations, readings, and tribute performances through the close of show. Irwin House Gallery & Global Art Center, 2351 West Grand Blvd. Detroit, MI 48208 | Ph: 313.932.7690. Visit http://irwinhousegallery for scheduling and additional information.
Cover art by Makeba Rainey