In 2014, when the City of Detroit threatened to sell many of the Detroit Institute of Art’s prized artworks to help the Motor City exit bankruptcy, the question of art’s role in the city’s future came front and center. Ultimately, the museum raised nearly a billion dollars to preserve the city’s cultural heritage—and its Picassos. Two years before, in what has become known as a “grand bargain,” local residents, husband and wife duo Anthony and JJ Curis, decided to open the Library Street Collective on a once-barren stretch of land. The Collective is a gallery with a traditional artist roster and a mission to revitalize the city by commissioning artists from the city and around the world to make public art in the streets of Detroit.
“Me or JJ don’t have an art background,” says Anthony Curis to Creators. “At the time, I was redeveloping a building in downtown Detroit that was meant to be a restaurant.” Back then, downtown Detroit’s state of near-total abandonment led him to open a gallery instead, at the suggestion of his wife. “The model wasn’t focused as much on the brick and mortar as it was on what kind of change we can make in the city.” He explains, “When we opened the gallery, we were really focused on public art and how could we change the landscape, making the community a little bit more vibrant and interesting. We are very interested in and keen on our mission to engage the public and reach people. […]