Blog: George N'Namdi

George N'Namdi is the founder of the N'Namdi Center for Contemporary Art, a nonprofit organization dedicated to enlightenment through the arts. He is one of the nation's leading art dealers, with some 30 years experience as a gallery owner. He purchased his first piece of original art as an undergraduate student at Ohio State University.

After receiving a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Michigan, he left a successful practice to open his first gallery in 1981, in Detroit. Dr. N'Namdi has been an important fixture in the cultural revitalization of Detroit. In 2010 he was a recipient of an honorary doctorate from the College for Creative Studies.

George N'Namdi - Most Recent Posts:

Post 4: The Creative Corridor

Detroit houses a corridor filled with creative industries, and this could attract more businesses and tourists to the city by growing knowledge of this corridor that runs along Woodward. We will ease the navigation of the area by referring to it and the districts that it encompasses by a specific name. I would propose we brand it as The Creative Corridor.

Richard Florida, author of the global best-seller The Rise of the Creative Class, says that a creative economy is a must for a city's revitalization, and this corridor along Woodward has one of the densest groupings of creative industries in the state as well one of the most diverse. What better way to reference an area that has so many cultural, art, medical, technological, and educational industries.  
Mapping the Creative Corridor

The Creative Corridor begins at Woodward and West Grand Blvd. and runs to Woodward and Jefferson. The area encompasses New Center and Tech Town, then Midtown (the cultural center) followed by Fox Town, downtown Campus Martius, and finally, Hart Plaza.  The major institutions in the North Corridor are Henry Ford Health System, state of Michigan offices, and the Detroit Public Schools headquarters. 

The Midtown section houses the College for Creative Studies, Wayne State University and the Detroit Medical Center.  Also found in Midtown are many museums including the Detroit Institute of Art, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, MOCAD and the N'Namdi Center for Contemporary Art, and many other institutions and galleries.  The lower half of Midtown has The Max M. Fisher and Bonstelle Theatre and ends with The Fox Theatre, which is also where the sports and entertainment district start with Ford Field, Comerica Park and The Fillmore. The South Corridor is showcased by Compuware, Campus Martius Park, the Coleman Young Building and Hart Plaza.  It's important to realize all of this is along a short four-mile stretch of Woodward.

I frequently make the walk from West Grand Blvd to the river and I see more and more people out running and cycling, a sign that people are treating the area as a place not just for work and play, but as a place to live. As more and more people are making their residence here, it further drives art and cultural businesses like galleries. As more galleries are successful, they help drive nearby businesses like boutiques and restaurants.

How It Brings Business

The districts within the Creative Corridor would still keep their identities but from a marketing perspective it makes sense to encompass them all under one name when wooing potential businesses looking to move into Detroit. Much like other cities have branded what they have to offer, like Silicon Valley in California or the Automation Alley in Oakland County, Detroit should focus on the existing industries here. Unlike these other economic districts offering only one area of expertise, the corridor offers a diverse amount of experienced professionals to entrepreneurs and established business owners alike. By branding all our creative proficiency together, we can target many types of creative businesses in a succinct way.

How It Drives Tourism

When using the corridor in branding to tourists, I feel that Woodward serves as a mental rail for visitors until light rail arrives (and yes, it is coming).  It gives an easy reference point for all the major hot spots. Where is the Book Cadillac? Why, it's 2 blocks west of Woodward at Campus Martius. By branding the ease of navigating the downtown area, we'll provide tourists with the confidence they need to get around.

There are many ways we can brand the Creative Corridor to tourists, but to start, I feel we should be better utilizing the Pure Michigan ad campaign. This campaign has proven itself effective in attracting visitors from other states and I would hope they'd use that power to affect Detroit in a positive way. Currently they focus much of their time on the shores and up North. By fully showcasing the Creative Corridor and the ease of navigating it, I believe people would be planning their Detroit vacations.

The Creative Corridor is a major asset and driving force for the region. It is has poised Detroit for a comeback, and now it is on us to get the word out.

Post 3: Footprints on Detroit

Detroit is poised to become a popular tourist destination for art patrons. It is a city which has been described in many different ways by those who have visited the city and equally by those who have never been. Over the years I have played host to many visitors from artists, art patrons, and business consultants to family and friends. The one consistent thing they have gone away with is how the vibe of the city is so unique and interesting. I sometimes explain the assets of the city and what makes Detroit so different. 1) Detroit empowers its citizens, we feel we can make a difference, and 2) independent businesses are the norm and 3) arts and culture are important. I thought in discussing tourism we must first compare Detroit to other cities so I have a list of questions I'd like you to ask yourself before I begin.

Please select the city that goes with the following:

a.   The largest African American museum
b.   Over 12 live music venues in the Downtown area
c.   An internationally acclaimed Opera House
d.   Art museum ranked in the Top 10 nationally
e.   Houses a top design school
f.    3 international Music Festivals
g.   Over 6 major art institutions that were founded by African Americans and maintain all  or  part of their missions in preservation of African American Art
h.   3 casinos
i.    3 professional sports teams
j.    A music museum
k.   The second largest number of theatre seats

The answer is, of course, Detroit. Many of the answers above are well known, like the Detroit Opera House or our sports teams and casinos as well. Some of you may not know the answer to g., which is:  The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the Virgil H. Cultural Center, the Heidelberg Project, the Motown Museum, and the N'Namdi Center for Contemporary Art. Lastly, the Detroit Institute of Art houses the General Motors Center for African American Art, which is the only one in existence at a major museum.

This list contains only things located in the midtown Cultural Center and the Downtown areas. The metropolitan area has a vast array of cultural and art institutions, from Cranbrook, the Oakland University gallery and Meadow Brook Theatre, The Henry Ford, Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center, the Holocaust Memorial Center, and the Arab American National Museum, just to name a few.  

Tourism, an industry focusing on art patrons, is one that Detroit and the metro area can easily support. The city is within a four-hour drive radius of over forty million people and has an international border. We offer an incredible art collection along with live music and theatre, beautiful hotels, world-class dining, and an exciting night life. These assets within the geographic location of the city make the future of Detroit's tourism industry promising.

Post 2: Guest Curators Provoke the Eye

Continuing with yesterday's thoughts on what brings great artists to an area and allows them to create the works we all want to see, I want to share a bit about our guest curator program.  At the N'Namdi Center for Contemporary Art, we are continuously looking to identify up-and-coming, under-represented artists, along with bringing in well known and highly respected artists to exhibit. Locating that kind of talent and attracting them here takes a well networked creative group of people with a critical eye.

Our guest curators for the year are comprised of an eclectic group carrying stellar resumes and varying interests and artistic specialties. The type of exhibitions, juried shows, and artists they'll bring will offer visitors a unique experience with uncommon art.

Our first curator, Michael Stone-Richards, Ph.D. and associate professor at the College for Creative Studies, was selected because of the conceptual elements involving words and manipulation of space that is seen throughout his work. He intends to bring a group of artists to take the stunning space and vaulted roofing of the N'Namdi Center to project an embodied sense of new departures and transitions in the creation of a multi-visual and richly sensuous environment of sensations and thought. Artists in ceramics, video, photography, fabric, and painting will transform the space of the gallery into an environment of new trajectories, departures, and transitions.

Another of our guest curators is Dennis Alan Nawrocki, adjunct professor at the College for Creative Studies. This exhibition, scheduled for 2012, will feature local artists and local art and be both a blast from the past and a look into the future. Featuring classics of art from Cass Corridor, and a sampling of fresh offerings from a new generation of Detroit artists, works will include found objects, sculpture, heavily textured items, and thick clotted paint.

Rebecca Mazzei, assistant Dean of the College for Creative studies, will bring an exhibit concentrated on artists from Detroit and Chicago that are self taught. She has an eye for talented artists that lack formal training but offer engaging and provocative pieces.  

These shows are opportunities for artists to come to explore Detroit while exposing their work to spectators and collectors who've yet to experience what they have to offer. Another opportunity offered to artists is the upcoming "Language of Abstraction: Communicating with direct route to the intellect", which is a national juried exhibition curated by national artist/educator Najjar Abdul-Musawwir, professor of art at the University of Southern Illinois. Artists working in 2D and 3D form from around the United States are invited to make online submissions for the theme "Language of Abstraction: Communicating with direct route to the intellect."

The exhibition will be held in winter 2012.  Works will be juried on the use of abstraction as a visual language for formalism and narrative expression.  

Opportunities like those at our non-profit, The N'Namdi Center for Contemporary Art, give artists exposure and allow them to focus on creating art. The more we offer these types of opportunities, the more we expose the art collectors to the works available, the more we make Detroit a destination for both artists and art admirers.

Post 1: Sugar Hill Art District gets contemporary spice

The Sugar Hill Art District is primed to be a driving force in the rejuvenation of the city of Detroit, particularly the midtown cultural district. The area, recently designated as historic, is located between Forest Ave on the north, Canfield on the South, Woodward on the west and John R on the east.  Currently it is anchored by the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit and the N'Namdi Center for Contemporary Art. With all of the development and rebirth, it is my belief that it will also soon be home to many artists. The opportunities for artists here in Detroit are tremendous with the region being the largest collector of contemporary art.
The district's history plays into its appeal as it was once home to a vibrant cultural and entertainment community during the '40s thru the early '60s. There were hotels, the Carver and the Randora along with numerous night clubs, Flame Bar and Sunny Wilson's, to name a few.  The district changed during the 1960s and the cultural area began to lose its luster.
Today, the district is working to restore its shine. In the coming months The Movement Project, located within the N'Namdi complex, will be home to Yvette Cobb's Yoga and Dance Center, giving the community another creative outlet. Seva Restaurant of Ann Arbor will bring its award- winning restaurant and wine bar to The N'Namdi Center and will offer patio seating along the sculpture garden and walkway that encompass an outdoor performance space and leads to many businesses and institutions and residences throughout the district.
With spaces like the N'Namdi Center giving artists a place to exhibit new works and meet with each other for educational programming along with the nearby 71 Garfield building, a green, loft style apartment building offering artists a place to live along with spaces to work, the area has much to offer the art community. Detroit has a history of being innovative, and as it is going through its current reinvention, it creates the type of environment in which artists thrive. The ability to showcase their work coupled with the world-class entertainment and dining, educational institutions and programming, and affordable housing should make artists feel welcome here. As art and cultural experiences in the city increase, it will help to draw professionals from all industries to the region.
Other conveniences like an already financed 225-car parking deck, and the planned Sugar Hill building, to be located at Garfield and John R, will be a five-story building offering retail space on the ground floor and four floors of residences, and other area institutions such as the Detroit Artist Market, The Whitney, and the First Congregational Church's Underground Railroad will also help Sugar Hill and Midtown in attracting a vibrant artistic community to the area.
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