When husband-and-wife artists Eric & Candace Law of Color | Ink Studio outgrew their space in Berkley a few years ago, they wanted to stay nearby. But space was expensive. So they headed down John R in Hazel Park and ended up buying and rehabbing a 5800-square foot commercial building that had most recently been used for a sign shop.
The Laws worked with local architects Five/Eighths to completely gut and renovate the space into two studios, a community space and meeting room, a gallery, and a workshop for art classes. It's the only thing like it on the stretch of John R south of I-75 and a block-and-a-half north of 8 Mile Rd. The vibrant, airy building with a neat blue-green exterior is surrounded by weathered and vacant one-story commercial buildings; across the street is a gritty tire repair shop, down the way is an old pawnshop.
Color | Ink Studio
But the Laws' building may be a harbinger of things to come in Hazel Park. A growing number of artists, priced out of traditional artists' hubs in Detroit, Hamtramck, and Ferndale are settling in the city. Meanwhile, the city's leaders are have convened the Hazel Parks Arts Council, which meets monthly in the Color | Ink Studio community space, to try to figure out how to grow the local art scene.
Metromode convened a group of local artists and city leaders in Hazel Park to understand why artists are starting to move into the city and what it might mean for Hazel Park's future.
We learned that Hazel Park's affordability is a big attraction for working artists. Photographer Mara Magyarosi-Laytner and her husband chose to buy a home in Hazel Park in June because it was affordable and only 11 minutes to get to galleries and Magyarosi-Laytner's teaching job in Detroit.
"As somebody who usually had studios in bedrooms, my studio is three times the size of what it used to be," she says. "And it's lucky that it's in my house and that I don't have to go somewhere to deal with it."
Color | Ink Studio
Magyarosi-Laytnerwas also attracted to the city because of its arts council, which she sits on.
"As an artist, if the city even has an arts council then I feel like at a city level they feel like the arts are important. And so being an artist here is not the same as being an artist in another community."
Ceramics artist Katie Bramlage also works out of her home. She moved to Hazel Park with her partner after living with multiple roommates and utilizing shared studio spaces in Detroit, something she says was not sustainable for her life or for her art. She says she and her husband are dealing with "intense student debt" and Hazel Park offered a place they could live well and cheaply.
"It just made sense to like sink our teeth in," says Bramlage, who operates a space in Ferndale's Rust Belt Market. "I have my workshop and Rust Belt is 1.4 miles away, and Detroit is right around the corner too." She says that while many artists rely on their social media presence to gain followings, it makes a difference to her to be able to deliver work in-person to build stronger relationships with clientele.
Color | Ink Studio
Artist GRACE DETROIT had lived in Hazel Park before moving to Detroit. She lived in Midtown in collective housing but says she was eventually priced out as the area was redeveloped. Now she's back in Hazel Park and loves the affordability of the city, but she's a little concerned that what happened in Midtown could happen here too.
"I'm worried the rents are starting to go up in my neighborhood and I really want to stay in my neighborhood," she says. "People who are more well-funded than some of us are going to come in and scoop up all the good spots before we have a chance."
Artists Nicki Butler and Rob Zurenko moved to Hazel Park from Hamtramck for the same reason: affordability. They operate a neighborhood live-work space called STUDIOWERQ in a residential neighborhood, something Zurenko and Butler say they don't think would have worked well in Hamtramck.
"In the time that we have been here so far, we have not been short on opportunities," says Butler. STUDIOWERQ often hosts events for artists right in the neighborhood, and she says the neighbors are enthusiastic supporters and attendees.
The studio artists working out of there homes also express a desire for a more public face to the arts scene in Hazel Park.
"Because it's really hard to have an art scene when there's not any necessarily a place to be seen," says Zurenko. "We put together events in our home, but not everyone wants to go to someone's home."
The artists mentioned more permanent gallery spaces, pop-up gallery space, arts programming, and public arts and murals as ideas that they believe could strengthen the fabric of the arts scene in Hazel Park, better connect artists who live here and attract new ones to grow the scene.
"Artists love to go to art openings," says Zurenko. "It's part of their professional development. They need to see art, touch art, smell art."