A History of Detroit’s Visual Arts Scene: July 11 through September 8, 2014

July 15, 2014
Art by Robert Hyde

Art by Robert Hyde

This is a history of Detroit’s Visual Arts scene. It focuses on the time from 1978 to the present day.

Take One is an exhibit A History of Detroit’s Visual Arts Scene.  This is installed at the library of the University of Detroit Mercy, on the McNichols Campus.

It’s open Monday through Friday.  The Summer hours are Monday through Thursday 9AM to 6PM.  Fridays, the library is open from 9AM to 5PM.  It’s closed weekends until September.  

I’ll usually be there, but not always.  At some point, I’ll take a vacation, etc.  Eventually, I’ll do a paper handout, which will be available.

If you come see this show, note that it’s in two parts.  There are a series of showcases when you first walk into the library.  Then there are two more showcases far off to the side.

The location, directions and other information:


I have an extensive archive of show cards, flyers and posters.  I have enough material to do several such exhibits.  Maybe someday I’ll do another one.  There are a lot of artists and galleries that I did not have the space to represent.  During the run of the show, I might switch or shuffle a few of the art show cards.

The postcard or mailing card was my friend here.  If it’s a good-looking card, there’s a better chance that it got into the exhibit.  If it’s an ugly or bland card, I only put it in if I felt it had some historical importance.

Most of them had the year on it. If you put the date but not the year, people will have no idea what year it was, later.  Put the year on your cards and posters please.

This show is dedicated to the Detroit area artists, both past and present.  It is also dedicated to everyone else who tried to make it all work: the audience, then too, the museums and galleries.  Also, I thank those who took time to write about the local art scene.  Interviews, profiles and reviews are all important in regard to having a vigorous and healthy art scene.

As I was finishing installing this, I received word of the passing of Joy Hakanson Colby.  Thus this project is also in memory of her.  A number of articles that she wrote are included in exhibit.


Art by Jack Johgnson and Victor Pytko at "Studio 601" in downtown Detroit September 2007

Art by Jack Johnson and Victor Pytko at “Studio 601″ in downtown Detroit September 2007

Take Two will be an essay that I write on the history of Detroit’s Visual Arts Scene.  I’ll likely post it as one or 2 blog posts on my arts blog.  Then I’ll have paper copies to hand out too.

Take Three is a facebook page:


It will continue, even after the exhibit is dismantled.  Other people can put images or links on there too, so long as it relates directly to the subject at hand.


More Information:


Why I Don’t Watch Television

June 23, 2014
This is from a 1940 James Cagney film.  Note Television Given Scientific Test...

This is from a 1940 James Cagney film. Note “Television Given Scientific Test…”

I rarely, almost never watch television.  If I do, it’s usually a documentary on PBS.  I love documentaries.  I’ve thought about seeing if I can pull in Canadian station, but I’m usually too busy to give it a try.

When they switched to the digital box, that made me reduce my watching even more.  If I wanted to watch say The Simpsons, I have to struggle to try to get it tuned in.  The signal keeps fading.  The images become laced with digital pixel-blocks, then erodes into black or blue.

If you don’t need to watch television, why get cable?  It’d be nice to have some of those stations that show classic films or good nature or historical documentaries.  I wouldn’t rule it out entirely, maybe someday.

Of course, I do watch video.  I love cinema.  My DVD and VHS players are always running cartoons, silent movies, foreign films and other work.  Lately, I’ve been watching the original Twilight Zone series.

People say that TV is doing well, that it’s better than ever.  Maybe they’re talking mostly about cable TV.  Or maybe they’re just wrong.  There’s always some quality, in ways.  I’ve seen The Wire and The Sopranos etc. on DVD.

Yet most of the television I like is pre-1990.  Ernie Kovacs and the Sid Caesar sketch comedies are two of my all-time favorites.  I liked SCTV.  A few animated shows like Rocky and Bullwinkle were consistently funny.  Yet so there’s so much that I just can’t stand.  There are things that I might attempt to see eventually.  Yet I’m usually too busy living my life.

I’ll watch TV news when I have to, but I try to avoid it.  It seems distorted, like a form of brainwashing.

The commercials are the worst of all.  Some of the old ones have “camp value” now and I’ll look at them on home video.  Yet if I try to watch the current ones, they drive me up the wall.

When you stop watching television, you might go through withdrawal symptoms.  Or it might be easy for you.

If you don’t watch TV for a long time, then attempt to watch it again, it can be unpleasant.  If I turn on the tube and watch TV, it can be disconcerting.  Worse, it can be horrifying!  My greatest sense is that millions of people really live in this TV world.  I turn it on and it’s like “This is not my world!” or “I don’t live here and I don’t want to live here.”

I turn on the television and it’s like an alternative universe that I don’t want any part of.  It can be painful to have it on.  If it’s running in a bar or a doctor’s office, I try to look away.  I do some drawings or bury my head in a good book.  If possible, I put some music on.  I try to avoid the sound of it by using headphones.

To each his own, I suppose.  Yet for my money, the bad far outweighs the good.  Life is too short to waste much of my time on TV.  They don’t call it a “time-killer” for nothing.

The Old "Merry-Go-Round"

The Old “Merry-Go-Round”








The Detroit Bus System, early 2014

May 21, 2014


February 2014:

In the evening on February 12, I was riding the Dexter bus going the other way.  I saw the bus where this incident happened  It was surrounded by police cars, on the other side of Dexter.  I think that the bus was empty, at that point.  It was a crazy incident, detailed in the news website links below.

14-year-old DeJon McGhee was seriously wounded.  Hopefully he pulled through OK.

The next morning I had to wait nearly 2 hours for the Dexter bus, from 9:30 to 11:30 AM.  I just missed one at 9:25 or 9:30,& walked from near Grand Blvd. to Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and Cass.  Maybe I’ll have to break down and get a driver’s license and a car, should Detroit become IMPOSSIBLE to navigate via bus.

Let’s hope that it doesn’t come to that.



May 2014:

In the past 3 months, there have been some signs of improvement.   I’ve had 3 or 4 real “bus nightmares” since that 3 hour trip to work in February.  I haven’t seen any real violence.  There were a few disturbing signs.  People are under pressure and sometimes this makes them talk out of turn or misbehave.

Once, at about 9AM, a man tried to board the bus.  He was slobbering drunk.  The driver refused to let him on as he’d been banned.   This was because she claimed to give him every chance yet every time he caused trouble.  He’d attack her, not in a violent way but still abusive.  She’d had enough!  It was a very crowded bus too.  Luckily, I had a seat.

One passenger kept telling the guy “You’re on camera!  You’re on camera!”  Several male passengers offered to fight him!  If this guy had a weapon, then who knows what could have happened.  Fortunately, he backed down and got off of the bus.

Aside from long wait times and long ride times, I don’t mind riding the bus.  I get a lot of reading and drawing done.  Most fellow passengers are fine.

I overheard a conversation between a Vietnam veteran and a veteran of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.  That was really interesting.

Anyway, I’ll continue this series of postings eventually.  I’m hopeful, but it’s still very, very bad.






Union Depot (entirely based upon true stories)

April 10, 2014




This is an autobiographical two page “comic strip.”  I think that I did it in the late 1990’s.  Usually I’m better about dating my work.  You can click onto the image files, so as to better read them.

It was a blast hanging out at an abandoned train station!  It was torn down in 1974.  I think that we started to go there my Senior year in high school and kept it up through most of my college days.  There are more stories to tell, perhaps later.

This was over 40 years ago.  That’s hard to believe.  Since then, Detroit’s had a lot of urban explorers.  We were on the early side.




27 Canadian Cents (Lost and Found)

March 28, 2014

March 2014 041

A social experiment aka work of performance art:

In June or July, I put a 27 cents on top of this traffic light box.  It was Canadian money.  It’s near my bus stop, so I was there a lot.  I kept bringing the money closer to the edge, to make it easier to see.

For about eight months, the coins remained in place!  Then finally, last week, they were no longer there.

I wonder if people saw that it was Canadian money and left it?  Or was it totally unnoticed?  Maybe I’ll try it again someday at another location.  50 cents in American money, maybe?

March 2014 040

Zoot Suits

March 5, 2014


I ran across this article last weekend.  You should be able to “click onto it” to enlarge it and thus, better read it.  There’s a reference to 1942 in the article.  It might be from 1943.  On the reverse side there’s an article “Ex-Blackshirt Leader Held as Dangerous Alien.”  I’m not sure which Detroit newspaper this is from, but yes, a good find.

Here’s some other information about Zoot Suits:





Books That I’ve Read Recently/ Number 1

February 27, 2014
London Bridge by Gustave Doré

London Bridge by Gustave Doré

London: A pilgrimage   by Gustave Doré and Blanchard Jerrold



The Artist in Society: Rights, Rules and Responsibilities edited by Carol Becker and Ann Wiens


Art and Feminism Edited by Helena Reckitt, with a survey by Peggy Phelan


A Very Dangerous Citizen Abraham Lincoln Polonsky and the American Left by Paul Buhle and Dave Wagner


London: A pilgrimage   by Gustave Doré and Blanchard Jerrold



All That Is Solid Melts into Air by Marshall Berman


On the Town One Hundred Years of Spectacle in Times Square by Marshall Berman


Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain   by Maryanne Wolf



My Parents

February 1, 2014
A Family Portrait, 1960

A Family Portrait, 1960

My mother and father are both truly amazing and special people.  This is an attempt to put down a few of my thoughts and memories of them.  They’re both still around, in the their mid-80’s.  My dad will be 86 this month.

Most of us hold our parents in good regard.  That’s because most parents do much and go through a lot to earn that good regard.  I’m the oldest of nine children.  That means that I was there from the start.  My folks and I go way back.  I’ve known all my siblings since they were babies.

As with most large families, we went through some difficult times.  We’ve had our share of ups, downs and “days of topsy-turvy.”  In general though, we’ve done fine.  Things have turned out OK.

Both my parents grew up in Detroit.  They have strong memories of growing up in the city.  Dad used to go to jazz concerts in the 1940’s.  He saw acts from Duke Ellington to Spike Jones.  His mother’s maiden name was Rivard.  I’m related to the Rivard family that Rivard Street is named after.

Mom worked at Main Library, one of my favorite places.  Her mother was a librarian.  She also worked for the Detroit Public Library.  My great-aunt Thelma worked in the book department of the downtown Detroit J.L. Hudson’s store.

My parents always encouraged and supported my imagination.  They both are creative people themselves, in many ways.  I think that they enjoy how I turned out to be an artist.  They visit my exhibitions when they can.   I have a self-published xerox zine called The Poetic Express.  When it comes out each month my dad recites my new poetry to my mom.

We were always raised from a very humanist perspective.  They’re both on the side of the poor and struggling.  They were against war, racism, cruelty and exploitation.  Let’s be civil.  Let’s be kind!  Let’s dream!

My father and I.  We've worn each other out, it seems.

My father and I. We’ve worn each other out, it seems.

My father used to make little toys for us.  I remember these “blockheads.”  They were faces drawn onto foam rubber.  When you squeezed them, the faces changed.  They were like puppets.  We had a “bearskin rug” that was really just a rug based on a drawing of a large sort of teddy bear.  He’d lie down on it and tell us bedtime stories.  Sometime they were things that he knew  or memorized.  Often, he’d make up yarns off of the top of his head.  One of these was the legendary adventures of Ping Pong Pete, the Pineapple Pirate.

My mother also encouraged and appreciated our imaginative efforts, our drawings, games and stories.  Play can be key to wisdom and growth.

I’m a junior, so my dad is the original Maurice Greenia.  He was in both the Army and the Merchant Marines.  This was in the mid-1940’s, post World War Two.  He got to see the world a bit and to visit New York City.  He went to college at the University of Detroit.  He was involved in the Theater and acted in several plays.  There are still old photos of him in his stage make-up.*

From the "Varsity News" November 14, 1950

From the “Varsity News” November 14, 1950

Yes that’s Maurice Greenia on the LEFT not on the (right)

When I was a kid, he was a Detroit Public School teacher.  Science was a specialty, but he taught other classes as well, including “home room.”  Once in a while, I run into people who ask me “Did your dad teach science?”  Thus I’ve met or received emails from some of his old students.  They used to catch animals, bugs and snakes and bring them into class.

For awhile,  there was a Saturday “Mad Scientists Club.”  They’d do unique and fun science experiments.  Even though I was younger, he’d let me tag along.  When public television’s local “Mr. Science” went on vacation, dad got to substitute for him.  It was a brief stint as a “TV star.”  He did four or five shows.

Eventually, he left school teaching for a job at Detroit Edison.  He helped develop training programs to teach various workers how to do their jobs.

In the late 1980s he had a serious heart attack.  They didn’t think he’d live but he pulled through.  I think it was a combination of luck, good doctors and medical technology.  According to family legend, some of the hospital staff had never seen anyone come into the hospital in such a bad way and to leave in such a good way.  They threw a party to celebrate!  We’re glad to still have him some 25 years later.

In his retirement, he’s been an accomplished inventor.  In 2012, he showed his aquariums and filtration pumps at the old Aquarium on Belle Isle.

At the Belle Isle Aquarium, 2012

At the Belle Isle Aquarium, 2012

Dad’s had some hearing loss and he’s working on that problem.  Aside from that, his health seems fine.  My wonderful grandparents and Uncles and Aunts have all left us except for my Aunt Pat.  She’s my mom’s twin and  my Godmother.

My mother has an interesting personality.  I love her sense of humor and her outlook on life.  She really went though a lot, raising nine children.  She’s so smart.  They both have a lot of stories from their lives.  It great to get them going on Detroit history or family events.

I hope that I’m as sharp and together as my folks are, should I make it into my 80s.

They’re both big readers.  My dad’s reading habits rival my own.  It’s always great to visit and talk with them, a real treat.

MOCAD aftermath 019

MOCAD aftermath 020

Stuffed Animals on a Fire Escape: New York City in the 1990s

November 15, 2013


I’ve photographed a lot of street art.  Much of  this was in New York City.  I get there nearly every year and I always bring a camera.

I have many photos of the Heidelberg Project and other Detroit area art projects.  I’ve also shot a lot of my own street art, in Detroit and elsewhere.


This series was sometime in the 1990s.  If anyone has any information about this I’d to hear it.  I think it might have been around the Spanish Harlem neighborhood, maybe around 100th street.  I’d often go to the Graffiti Hall of Fame at 106th and Park Avenue.

This reminds me of the Heidelberg Project.  It also brings to mind other street art and “fine artists” who use discarded stuffed animals and other toys.  It looks like they’re having a party.





The Detroit Bus System 2013: Adventures become Nightmares

October 26, 2013


This morning I dropped a glove and the Dexter bus pulled right over it!  I asked the bus driver if he could pull the bus up so that I could retrieve the glove.  He did so and even waited for me.  Thanks!  When I tried to pay my fare, it took my two quarters but would not take my dollar.  After about ten tries, the automatic “dollar sucker” spat out a penny.  That did it.  I put my dollar in and found my seat.

I’ve been a regular rider on the Detroit bus system since the late 1960s.  I was in high school then.  It was so great being on my own and going around Detroit.

I still enjoy riding the bus sometimes.  The Dexter line has an especially vibrant and poetic view of the city streets, buildings, plants and people.  I’ve fantasized about taking routes I’ve never taken before, just for the city tour.  I wouldn’t do that now though.  I’ll wait until things stabilize or “get back to normal.”

These days, the adventure of the Detroit bus ride has leaned toward the nightmarish.  I’ve had a few frightening, strange, nerve-wracking rides.  These trips are not the norm.  Yet things seem worse now than ever before.  It seems that the media and the politicians have no or little idea of what is really going on.

When people are packed together like sardines, a bad collision could be even more catastrophic. Cars cut in front of buses, cutting it close.  I’ve seen this again and again.

There have been reports of passengers attacking drivers and each other.  I’ve been threatened verbally for having my shoes touch another person’s shoes and for having my shoulder bag lightly touch someone.  When you’re standing, packed in and the bus is making sudden stops, there’s only so much that you can do.

I see some drinking on the bus, some pot smoking.  Now there are news reports of someone smoking crack on a bus, in the daytime.  That’s way over the top.

The Woodward bus seems to be especially problematic.  I know that some of this is due to the suburban bus system SMART changing their policy.  They used to pick up Detroiters far more than they do now.  Thus the passengers were spread out some.  Without the SMART buses, all those passengers come back onto the Detroit DOT bus system.  Yet instead of adding more buses, they seem to be running even less.

I have to wait 30 to 60 minutes for a bus ride most of the time.

One Sunday last month, the Woodward bus was especially crowded.  There were drunken sports fans coming back from football and/or baseball games.  There were regular riders.  We were all packed quite tightly with 20 or 30 people standing in the aisles.  There was a guy with a huge plastic bag full of smelly cans and other returnables.  The driver had to try to get people to stand up, to give their seats to the elderly or people with babes in arms.

A woman had an enormous suitcase sitting on the floor in front of her.  Two or three people could have stood in that space.  It added to a claustrophobic sense.  There’s a tension in trying to keep your distance.  Even when you’re packed tightly into a moving vehicle, some people don’t want you to touch them or get too close.

When the lady with the suitcase got off, about eight to ten people had to exit the front door, wait until she left and then get back onto the bus again.  Halfway to the State Fairgrounds, I finally got a seat.  There were still plenty of people standing.

It was an especially intense bus ride.  It seemed very “third world” as if Detroit was Bombay or something.  It was just mind-boggling.  I’ve had rough and unusual experiences before but this was extreme.  Now and then, I have a difficult trip on other lines.  Yet  recent experiences convince me that this time it’s reached a new low.

Most of my fellow passengers seem fine.  I never have any problems with them aside from having to listen to their cellphone conversations.  The drivers seem fine too.  I think that some are even heroic in trying to make the best of a bad situation.  Their jobs get more and more difficult.  Then the city government and the emergency manager want them to take pay cuts!

We’ll get through this.  Hopefully it won’t take a series of true disasters to wake people up.






Alternatives and Futures:




Related stories from this blog:





Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.