The Artists’ Workshop Society was founded on November 1, 1964, by a group of artists in Detroit who sought to self-organize and create a communal space for creative expression of all kinds. The Society’s manifesto, written by author, activist, and music promoter John Sinclair, declared: “What we want is a place for artists—musicians, painters, poets, writers, filmmakers—who are committed to their art and to the concept of community involvement, to meet and work with one another in an open, warm, loving, supportive environment . . . a place for people to come together as equals in a community venture, the success of which depends solely upon those involved with it.”
The Society developed out of the short-lived Red Door Gallery in Detroit (1963–64), the city’s first avant-garde, interracial, multi-gender cooperative, and eventually became known as the Detroit Artists’ Workshop, which remains a diverse collective of artists to this day. From its inception, the ever-evolving group has been dedicated to breaking down barriers, experimentation, and building artist networks locally. As evidenced here from this collection of rare and one-of-a-kind materials, its mouthpieces were the small mimeographed poetry journals, newsletters, underground newspapers, and photographs that circulated both within Detroit and beyond. Along with these early publications, the work of photographer, activist, and Society member Leni Sinclair offers a unique glimpse into this revolutionary artistic moment whose influence continues to reverberate the world over.
Detroit Artists’ Workshop is organized by the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University and curated by Cary Loren, with Steven L. Bridges, MSU Broad Associate Curator. Support for this exhibition is provided by the Alan and Rebecca Ross endowed exhibitions fund.