"My friend once told me that 'Detroit is a place where you show people where things used to be,'" says gallerist, steel company executive, and developer Gary Wasserman. "That's no longer true. Now you show people where great things are happening."
Wasserman plans on doing just that come September 25, when his new 9,000-square-foot gallery opens in a former fire station next to Detroit's Eastern Market. A Detroit native, philanthropist, and patron of the arts, he left the city about 15 years ago, most recently working in Miami and Naples before returning, convinced the city had a new energy and had broken what he called a cycle of survival and negativity. While the hype over Detroit's rebirth may seem like its been discussed extensively (especially for those from Detroit), Wasserman is an unabashed civic booster. He believes his new venue—an exhibition-hall style space that will rotate shows a few times a year, may or may not sell work from the main exhibition, and will support an array of multidisciplinary events—fits in with the city's organic model of growth. It's aim is to help create a broader dialogue, as opposed to a standard gallery churning through shows, and become a space dedicated to encouraging creativity, whether it's expressed through making furniture or growing the perfect apple (seeing how an upcoming show will feature an artist breeding chickens, an orchard isn't a stretch).
"I tell people not to look for a forest of cranes, you won't find that here in Detroit," he says. "You need to listen to the ground bubble up."
Curbed spoke to Wasserman about the state of Detroit, the gallery's philosophy, and why the arts can attract industry, but can't sustain them.