Blog: Monica Bowman

Monica Bowman is the founder and director of The Butcher's Daughter contemporary art gallery in Ferndale. She earned her M.A. in Museum Studies from Georgetown University with a specialization in Contemporary Art from Sotheby's Institute of Art in New York in 2008.
During her studies she became interested in the contextualization of contemporary art and society. She asserts that art should be an enriching and integral part of everyone's life.

A central philosophy, "Art is an investment in yourself and your community" holistically shapes her work. This influence informs her curatorial decisions, business practice, and relationships.
Monica is the granddaughter, daughter, and sister of butchers: hence, the branding and name of the gallery. Her new initiatives such as the Young Collectors Program  and exhibition "Salons"  incorporate her desire to enrich the community through social interaction while satisfying her entrepreneurialism by offering cutting-edge contemporary art relevant to her clients.
Prior to obtaining her Masters, Monica was an account manager in an international automotive trading firm and earned a degree in art history. Her personal interests include critical theory, popular culture, and travel. A reflection on all of this, including contemporary art and more, can be found on her blog, Prime Cuts.
She is married to Dick Goody, director of the Oakland University Art Gallery, and lives in Ferndale.

Photograph © Marvin Shaouni Photography

Contact Marvin here
Monica Bowman - Most Recent Posts:

Post 4 - REGIONALISM: The New Cultural Capital

I've really enjoyed my time writing this blog for Metromode and sharing with you a small part of my life in contemporary art. To wrap up my series, I want to reassess the interconnectedness of the relationships within the local economy to once again stress the dependence of artists on their local community and environment.
When I was starting out in this field, I often had conversations about the dangers of an artist being dubbed "regional". Unlike sport teams, artists traditionally sought an audience outside of their hometowns to propagate and sale their work (the anomaly being artists working in wealthy urban centers like New York and London). Historically the reason for this was, among other practicalities, the finite amount of collectors within a geographic proximity. That said, much has changed today with the size and speed of information we can exchange, courtesy of refined technology.
Once, corner shop-chic Detroit brands like City Bird and Hugh would be destined to remain local gems. Today these small businesses are flourishing due to their affability, local flair, and web presence. Sometimes the concepts are strikingly new and sometimes an old idea can be a welcomed-back addition to the community, like the affordable Ferndale-to-Detroit eco-friendly bus service, The Night Move. The same can be said for art being made in Detroit today. The old regionalism is today's hot commodity: Authenticity and resilience.
The nation, perhaps the world, views Detroit as economic Ground Zero. Generally speaking, we can perceive empathy through the public's furor of post-apocalyptic news reports and photographs of the ruin of the city and translate that into an example of sustainable jobs in the creative sector. Local business partnerships, retention of local talent, and a lot of hard work are what it will take to regenerate the interest in the city. Each person in the community plays a role in the development and maintenance of the infrastructure in their neighborhood and surrounding city.
I believe together we have what it takes; I'm betting my future on it.


Post 3 - INFRASTRUCTURE: You, Me, and Them

Last blog I talked about how buying art is an investment in yourself and your community. Central to the theme of this entry is to further explain how other local organizations fit into the landscape of art in Detroit. The networks and resources available in Michigan rival many world-class cities and offer benefits not available in other cities. Finally, a positive perspective on housing prices in Michigan!
Seriously though, I am often asked in conversation and interviews about the gallery why I choose to return to Detroit after living in New York. This question, although expected, admittedly triggers a strange defensiveness inside me. In the old days this may have been called "Hometown Pride" or a by-product of Midwestern regionalism. The truth is, I know what Detroit has to offer and I know the quality of people who live here.

Did you know…
… that since 2006, Art Detroit Now has been coordinating Metro Detroit galleries and organizing synchronized events for a week each summer? In 2009, over 60 galleries participated by hosting gallery talks, openings, and special events. This year the focus is on public sculpture and urban landscape.
Russell Industrial Center (a former automotive stamping plant, circa 1915) boasts over 2.2 million square feet of enclosed space and is home to numerous artist-run gallery and studio spaces such as CAVE, MONA, or ORG?
… internationally recognized art activism is alive in Detroit in concepts such as the Ice House and Power House?

This blog is dedicated to the institutions that have come before me and continue to offer vital services to residents and visitors to the city. Perhaps the next time you have a guest in town, you'll access the following cursory list as a guide to cultural tourism in our community as it relates to contemporary art.

Non-Profit Institutions:
Detroit Institute of Arts - Founded in 1885, the DIA is the fifth-largest fine art museum in the nation, dedicated to creating "experiences that help each visitor find personal meaning in art" and home to Rivera Court.
Detroit Artist Market (DAM) - DAM has been dedicated to the providing a sustainable platform for the exhibition and sale of local artists' work for over 75 years.
The Heidelberg Project - One of Detroit's original urban art landscapes. 
Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) - Opened in 2006, the mission concerns itself with presenting "art at the forefront of contemporary culture. As a non-collecting institution, MOCAD is responsive to the cultural content of our time, fueling crucial dialogue, collaboration, and public engagement."

Local universities with art programs and galleries:

College for Creative Studies and Center Galleries
Cranbrook and Cranbrook Art Museum 
Oakland University and the OU Art Gallery
Wayne State University and the Elaine L. Jacob Gallery

Notable Ferndale fine art galleries:
The Butcher's Daughter
22747 Woodward Avenue, Suite 201
Lemberg Gallery
23241 Woodward Avenue
Susanne Hilberry Gallery

700 Livernois

Post 2 - COMMUNITY: Who is Contemporary Art About?

Depending on your experiences, when you think of contemporary art you may first think of hipsters, edgy hedge fund managers, or über-sophisticated parties in which everyone stands around admiring a used refrigerator on its back. These things (all recollections of yours truly) are just one side of the story.
I was asked to write this blog based on a comment I had made in a previous interview:
"Collecting art is an investment in yourself and your community."
While I made that comment a while ago now, it somehow seems even more authentic and true to me today that it did then. Since opening in September 2009, I have received a warm reception from collectors, local business owners, and the art community in general. So you know, each exhibition is kicked off with an opening reception in which the public is welcomed for the first viewing of the art, and this is often a chance to meet the artist(s). The attendance has been overwhelming and this is simple indication of a general desire for larger cultural offerings in the area; perhaps most encouraging is the dialogue that occurs as a result of the patrons interacting with one another and me when they looking at the art.
Last September I wrote a five part series on demystifying art collecting in my blog, Prime Cuts, called Adding it Up. The series was created to communicate in a concise, uncomplicated manner key elements important in understanding contemporary art: who buys art, why buy art, what is value, who determines prices, and how do you know what art to buy. These topics and the resulting discussions have only increased the community's interest in their personal roles.
The most concrete example I can give of this happened after the opening reception of the current exhibition, No Vacancy, at The Butcher's Daughter.  Artists in the show came from New York and as far away as San Francisco to meet and network with people from the surrounding Metro Detroit area. I noticed a group of three men gathered together and approached them to introduce myself. I was informed that one of them was a cousin of the artist from California and the other two were his friends. None of the men had ever attended an art opening. Shortly thereafter came an influx of people and I forgot about the men and our short introduction.
A few days after the opening reception I received the following email:

...I just wanted to state what a fantastic time I had last Saturday at the opening of No Vacancy. My friend hadn't seen his cousin Guy Overfelt in a while so it was an even more exciting time for him as he has never been to an art gallery show before. He was absolutely amazed at the type of people he met and talked to. He didn't realize that there were people that would actually listen to what he had to say about photography and art.

You see, we work together in a blue-collar industry and one really doesn't get to meet with an eclectic group of people. Not saying that there is no creativity in the people that we work with, it's just that most of the time we can't discuss certain topics or express our ideas and opinions about things because most of our co-workers don't understand or just don't care.  So I told him that he was going to have a great time and he did.  It was great for us three to finally get out of our usual drudgery and attend this event.  You did an excellent job and you deserve a lot of credit.  Thanks again.
It is instances such as this that affirm the intrinsic relationship between art, artist and community to me as well as underscore the ability of context to bridge people together. To invest in art, one must believe they play a role or have a connection to the artist's creation manifest. This step is essential in allowing artists to create work and cultural capital to grow in a community.
Take the cliché, "Rome wasn’t built in a day" and think of this as a metaphor for the work to be done in Detroit. In order to overcome social adversity in our communities we must support artists and local businesses that reinforce the society we envision for ourselves. Taking action, working to rebuild and reinforce infrastructure, rejecting apathy: all keys to reestablishing Detroit as a center for cultural significance. Buying and collecting art encourages social discourse and is an important part of the vitality of any urban center. What other commodity can offer that? 
To see the art that inspired the email, check out No Vacancy: Guy Overfelt on The Butcher's Daughter Prime Cuts blog.

Post 1: An Obligatory Choice

A lot is said to me about my courage to open a gallery during a recession. Truth be told: the choice to become an entrepreneur wasn't a courageous one; rather, it was obligatory. You see, upon graduation from Georgetown, industry jobs common for graduates entering the work force were scarcely available. Many institutions were downsizing and in some cases closing altogether. The situation was familiar to me; I was born and raised in Michigan.
Being no stranger to the results of an economic downturn, I was prepared to gather resources, utilize connections, and mobilize others in the community with very little budget and no previous experience running a small business to secure a spot for doing what I love and am trained to do. Sure, my background in international trade provided insight into commodity trading, however, this is not just any commodity. It's art.
You know that old saying, "Necessity is the mother of invention"? This was the case with the branding and marketing of The Butcher's Daughter. Drawing from my own personal experiences, I borrowed a philosophy I grew up with and understood: value for quality.  I also created strategic goals related to my interests and those relevant to the field of contemporary art.
This leads to what I feel is a huge innovation for art galleries in Michigan: the desire and capacity to not only represent artists or sell art, but also to provide context for WHY the art is relevant. The Butcher's Daughter does so by citing trends in the contemporary art market, placing the work within an art historical or academic framework using contemporary theory and discourse and, finally, supporting regional talent and community infrastructure.
The gallery often hosts events in conjunction with exhibitions to further explore the curatorial vision and artists behind the work on view in the gallery. These ideas are all documented in my Prime Cuts blog and on the gallery’s Twitter and Facebook page.
During the course of my guest spot blogging for Metromode, I plan to share my insights and perspective in regards to issues that affect you (no matter what role you feel art plays in your life):
Blog #2: COMMUNITY – "Who is Contemporary Art About?" This installment will address how contemporary art impacts your life
Blog #3: INFRASTRUCTURE – "You, Me and Them" will provide an overview of local art resources and illustrate the vitality of their services   
Blog #4: REGIONALISM – "The New Cultural Capital" will wrap up the series with a perspective on how creative capital saves local economies  
See, that's the beauty of context at work… the realization that you have an active role in cultivating cultural capital/local talent while enriching your life and the lives of others in the community.