Tiny launchpad: 'Garage' cofounder Daughdrill does Detroit
Anyone want to relocate to Detroit? For many, images of decline and destruction in a once great American city make that a question with an easy answer: no way. But for an increasing number of artists, Detroit's decay is a siren song, according to an August 3 New York Times piece that focuses on the work of artist and former Charlottesvillian but now Detroitian Kate Daughdrill, best known locally for her work as co-founder and curator of the tiny downtown arts venue The Garage on the west side of Lee Park.
Daughdrill's new creative effort in Detroit–- dubbed Soup–- is a once-a-month meeting of the city's creative types who pay a $5 fee for a bowl of soup, salad, and dessert. At the end of the event, participants vote on the projects. The winning idea is given the money collected for Soup.
"It started with 15 people who wanted to make a grant for each other," says Daughdrill, noting that since publication of the Times piece, she's been contacted by other artists across Detroit wanting to start Soup in their own neighborhoods. "If you're doing things with heart," she says, "it gives rise to really meaningful creative gestures."
In September 2009 , after six years in Charlottesville, Daughdrill arrived in Detroit for grad school at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. Now, after nearly a year, she says, she plans on staying after next spring's graduation.
"If I had to describe why I love it, it's because there's a necessity to develop these grassroots, long term investigations," she says, citing the "freedom and the urgency" to think and act creatively in the Motor City as it struggles to reinvent itself.
Her ideal of blending art and community, she says, grew out of her experience cofounding The Garage, the tiny space on North First Street, between Market and Jefferson streets, which she noticed in summer 2008 as she walked downtown.
"The door was open, and a car wasn't inside; and she envisioned it as the gallery that it is right now," says Garage co-founder Sam Bush, noting that it wasn't long before Daughdrill's vision for the space, owned by Christ Episcopal Church, was reality.
"It was a pretty simple process," says Bush, 24, who at the time was a UVA student who played music during Christ Church's services and who is now one of the congregation's paid music ministers. The Church's administrative offices are in the brick house next to the garage, so Daughdrill, who was dating Bush at the time, "ran upstairs and asked the minister, Paul Walker," says Bush. "On the spot, he said yes."
While their relationship ended when Daughdrill moved to Michigan, the Garage appears to be going strong. And despite its church connection, Bush says, the idea has never been to feature Christian musicians or to cater to a religious audience.
"I don't think people affiliate The Garage with Christ Church," says Bush. "From the start, the Garage was meant to be simply a gift to the community with no strings attached."
The next music show at The Garage takes place Friday, August 20 with local musician Wes Wing, a cellist who uses a loop pedal to harmonize with himself. Hanging on the walls through the month of August are photos and a photographic map of Charlottesville by brothers Jacob and Max Dreyer. The Garage door opens prior to the 8pm opening act from Richmond, Nick Coward and the Last Battle. All performances end by 10pm, Bush says, in an effort to prevent neighborhood controversy like that which plagued Belmont with noisy shows at the now mysteriously closed Bel Rio.
The Garage was embroiled in one controversy, however, back in 2008 when Daughdrill unwittingly launched a lawsuit by providing an image of the space taken by Daily Progress photographer Matthew Rosenberg for use as a publicity image on the then-active blog cvillain.com. Rosenberg sued cvillain for copyright infringement, demanding $385,000 in compensation. Cvillain eventually settled for $750 and soon after, Cvillian's owners turned the blog over to new owners, citing Rosenberg's suit and other frustrations. With that brouhaha long passed, Bush says he hopes acts and the audiences will continue to line up at the Garage.
"It's always had a life of its own," says Bush, noting that word is spreading across the country, evidenced by the number of bands contacting him with interest in getting a gig. "I don't know where we're going from here," he says, "but it feels like it's still moving forward"
Those interested in staying abreast of upcoming Garage performances can sign up for emailed announcements in the blog section of thegarage-cville.com.