What Pipeline – Detroit


Esspresents interviewed artist and gallery co-owner Alivia Zivich on the her new gallery space, What Pipeline in the southwest side of Detroit. If you are in the Detroit area, we highly recommend visiting the space at 3525 W. Vernor Hwy, Detroit, MI 48216.  For a list of upcoming events check out their website at:



Ess:  With the recent media coverage on Detroit and the economic hardships the city has experienced in the last several decades, why start a gallery space in Detroit? Who are the people involved?

AZ:  The space is run by myself and Daniel Sperry, an artist who works at Wayne State University’s art collection. It seemed overdue to do a contemporary art gallery in Detroit, the larger art world has been looking at the city for a few years now.

Ess:  Having lived and traveled abroad for so many years, how do you see Detroit’s art culture in comparison to other places and within its own community?  Detroit is notorious for music, but traditionally, contemporary art has been something all together different.

AZ:  I’m learning more about Detroit’s art culture and history every day. There are many artists here who have never left, or who have a history here, who studied with the original Cass Corridor artists and witnessed Sam Wagstaff’s duration at the Detroit Institute of Art.  Detroit was and remains a very international town, in part because of the auto and music industry, and its art world has benefited from that position.  Major collectors of contemporary art have homes in Detroit’s suburbs and house large portions of their collections here.  Oakland County, to the north of Detroit, is one of the wealthiest counties in the country.  So I think in terms of the art world as a kind of small, elite economy, it’s not that much different than other places.
The flip side is the community art model being advanced by foundations such as Kresge and Knight.  There’s a lot of money to apply for if the work is posited as being community oriented.  It’s a form of redevelopment for the city and does add to the overall interest in this region. The deciding factors behind this planning seem at times to take the audience more into account than the art.  Our gallery is somewhat in response to this use of art as a redevelopment tool; we like to think all art is good for the community, regardless of whether it has that explicit intent.

Ess:  You just had your second show, and have scheduled shows for the upcoming year.  In this short time, what was What Pipeline’s initial statement or program verse, and how has your experience in the last few months changed it or expanded it?  What has the experience been like so far?

AZ:  Our mission was low overhead and a very clean, basic space to show art that interests us.  The response has been really positive and it feels good.  We haven’t really changed any direction, the experience has been affirming so far.  Just a few moments of “oh shit, we’re really doing this!”

And check out this review of the recent show:


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