art & design

Detroit’s Jack of All Trades

June 7, 2012

Amy Devers

Amy Devers

Amy Devers takes jack-of-all-trades to a whole new level.  A furniture maker, designer, artist and carpenter, she hosted Ovation’s Designer People, promotes sustainable living ideas on the web series Urban Eco, and  judges international furniture design competitions. In short, her resume is insane. But first and foremost, she is a Detroit native, and we sat down with Amy to get her opinions on her hometown and its influence on her artistic career.

Growing up in Detroit, what influenced your career as an artist?

Even though I wasn’t conscious of it at the time, the auto industry really seeped in.  The language of the automobile speaks to so many aspects of modern life.  It is the vernacular of forward momentum, a continuing cycle of new growth and shedding of decay.  I’ve found myself creating furniture and interactive sculpture from salvaged auto parts, like a love seat made from a bench seat scavenged from a 1971 Ford Hornet.

'Amputated' by Amy Devers

‘Amputated’ by Amy Devers

What’s your favorite Detroit museum or place to visit?

The Diego Rivera courtyard at the Detroit Institute of Arts.  There are a series of murals about the Detroit auto industry that are phenomenal. They carved quite an impression into my brain.

What is the biggest misconception about Detroit?

People see Detroit as a bleak, industrial town, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Even in hard times, the people have such amazing soul and pride.  It’s like the town trains its people in the art of making something out of nothing, and it gives us a scrappiness. When I think of the enormous sculpture of Joe Louis’ fist to the elbow hanging as a pendulum, it is a visually powerful emblem of that attitude.  Detroit fosters a hardscrabble creativity among the people that is conducive to breaking boundaries.

picture frame by Amy Devers

‘Picture Frame’ (front) by Amy Devers

picture frame by Amy Devers

‘Picture Frame’ (back) by Amy Devers

What are your thoughts on Detroit’s growing art scene?

It’s not new that artists often flock to cheap neighborhoods.  But what is exciting is that with the economic downturn, the city of Detroit embraced this growth.  They didn’t legislate it or try to control it.  Instead they have recognized what a beautiful thing is happening and fully embraced this cultural growth.  They let it be an organic thing, and it has created a great co-mingling of artists from all over.

Check out more of Amy’s work and musings on her website, or follow her on twitter.

For more on the current surge of the arts in Detroit, check out Motor City RisingOvation‘s original series chronicling the artistic revolution to take back Detroit!  Airing Fridays at 10pm ET, only on Ovation.

Claudia Maittlen-Harris is a writer and comedian based in Los Angeles. She is the co-creator of the how-not-to dating/relationship blog, The Zeros Before the One.

Images: Courtesy of Amy Devers