Behind the Scenes in Detroit’s New Art Micro-Neighborhood

The founders of Detroit’s Library Street Collective have devoted a section of the city’s East Village neighborhood to public access to the arts. At the center of it all is ALEO, a bed and breakfast with art from its founders, and the new headquarters of McArthur Binion’s Modern Ancient Brown residency for BIPOC artists and writers.

Credit (all photos): Jason Keen. Courtesy Library Street Collective.

In 2012, collectors and dealers JJ and Anthony Curis opened the art gallery Library Street Collective in Detroit, with ambitions of supporting Motor City artists and museums from within the space’s four walls and beyond. Just a few years later, the partners debuted The Belt, an alleyway art walk and nightlife hub that helped reinvigorate the former Garment District. Now comes Little Village, a project whose scope goes beyond the confines of a downtown alleyway to bring an art- and architecture-centric town square to life in the city’s East Village neighborhood.

There, space to roam abounds in the form of a skate park designed by Tony Hawk with Modern Ancient Brown founder McArthur Binion, and a sculpture garden dedicated to Charles McGee, the late great hometown painter and sculptor. Also on the premises is The Shepherd: a century-old Romanesque church that, in one wing, will house an exhibition dedicated to McGee and curated by Jova Lynne of the Museum of Contemporary Arts Detroit; another will be inhabited by The Little Village Arts Library, whose titles will be curated by Asmaa Walton of The Black Art Library. Finally, in the rectory, four bed and breakfast rooms at ALEO will host visitors; two additional rooms are allocated to the Detroit outpost of Binion’s Modern Ancient Brown residency for artists who are Black, Indigenous, or people of color.

Binion, who will relocate the residency’s headquarters to ALEO once it opens, plays a pivotal role in the property and the project at large. The Curises view their “collaborator, friend, and mentor” as “one of the most important artists working today,” says Anthony, who emphasized the importance of Binion’s support for BIPOC writers and artists in an interview with Surface. For his part, Binion voiced a reciprocal respect for the Curises’ work. “I partner with Library Street Collective because they are committed to a long-term realignment of the social order in Detroit, specifically in the visual arts,” he says.

The property’s name is an acronym created from an erstwhile mural of an Angel, Lion, Eagle, and Ox that once graced the former church’s interior. There, guests can look forward to homey interiors by Holly Jonsson Studio, common spaces with the artists in residence, breakfast by James Beard-decorated chef Warda Bouguettaya, and contemporary artwork pulled from the Curises’ personal collection.

Combining a bed and breakfast, an artist residency, and an ambitious development built to benefit the public is a considerable undertaking—but to Anthony, it seemed like a logical next step. “There’s a lot of excitement in Detroit and we often host artists and arts patrons in the city. The former rectory gave us a unique opportunity to create a meaningful space for those looking to stay in an inspiring neighborhood,” he says. “Although ALEO will ultimately serve as a cultural retreat, we intend on programming the space in ways that give the community access to it.”

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