The New DAW Website

Detroitartistsworkshop.com is an extension of the former detroitartistsworkshop.org website (2004-2012) which was edited and designed by James Semark. Many parts of the original website are included here, alongside newer articles, artworks and publications from original sources of the DAW —its colleagues and influences. Semark had a manic energy and devotion: he wanted to realize a Workshop revival. We now hope to keep our progress modest; to help preserve the Workshop past before its gone; by organizing articles, books, lectures and displays. The work of Semark and others deserve recognition, and will be given an outlet and voice in this forum.

This growing history of the Workshop will show their continued evolution into the late ‘60s ‘70s, and to occasionally feature new works from its membership. The major point is to keep the works of this unique arts collective available and alive –to celebrate and recognize the contributions of this legendary first avant-garde of Detroit.

Mike Kelley Foundation

This website was made possible by generous support from the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts. During his lifetime, artist Mike Kelley understood the importance of local community and grass roots politics. It deeply informed his life and art. The website design was made by Anneke Auer, a longtime friend and Workshop supporter.

All artwork, articles and blogs are copyright owned by the individual artists and authors. Please ask permission for their use or reproduction. Many living Workshop artists, writers and friends of the DAW have contributed to the creation of this website. Please link back to this website, and include sources if used here. We thank you all for your support.

Writing and contributions to this website are done completely on a volunteer basis. This website is a work in progress. Please send us corrections if they need to be made. We welcome your thoughts, suggestions and ideas; please email them to: info@detroitartistsworkshop.com

Cary Loren, editor, 2014
c/o Book Beat: 248.968.1190


James Semark, 2010 - © Monika Berenyi

James Semark, 2010 – © Monika Berenyi

Introduction to the 2004 DAW Website:

Then (1964)…

A group of young Detroit artists – at first primarily poets and musicians, most of the students at Wayne State University – got together in the late summer of 1964 and decided to do something to make Detroit a viable and vital place to work. These people formed the nucleus of the new group, the Artists Workshop Society, a totally cooperative organization designed and structured to draw upon the resources of every participating individual in order to perpetuate itself – and to promote community thinking on an artistic and personal level – through its own cohesive community nature…

The Artists Workshop Society was formed in October of 1964 by sixteen charter members, all of whom donated five dollars each toward the cost of renting a suitable facility out of which they could operate. By the 1st of November, the society presented the first in what became a series of weekly Sunday afternoon “events,” which integrated jazz, poetry readings, and exhibitions of graphic art, and were presented with no admission charge to interested members of the community…

The goal was to pull together the active and potential artists in the Detroit area into a working, cooperative community of human beings that would offer each individual an open, supportive artistic environment. We saw Detroit as essentially virgin ground – there was everything to be done, the raw material was at hand, and we started working to exploit the situation in the best interests of every artistically-oriented individual in the community…

…and Now (2004)…

Now – the vision is still alive. Forty years later, in November 2004, we will celebrate the founding of the Workshop, by artists and for artists of all types.

Now – do we have another chance? Many of the original members have left their mark on this community and are part of its heritage. Younger generations have emerged, seeking their own expression, seeking their roots. Is it possible – do we have a window of opportunity – to blend the heritage of the past with what is new?

As always, we of the Artists Workshop represent a commitment to cultural synergy, based on expressions of all people. We encourage the “alternative expression, a style or form nobody has tried before, something never heard, seen or felt until this moment. We support a rapidly evolving art form as it was in the mid-sixties, when we said, “Every year, you put on new ears!” If our approach seems radical, it is because we are passing on the legacy of John Coltrane, Sun Ra, Ornette Coleman and others who discovered their individual musical languages many years ago.

Now, we believe the community needs the Artists Workshop and its unique approach, more than ever. While much has happened in the last forty years, cultural expression is still one of Detroit’s major exports. The difference is, the role has changed – we are no longer just an “artists market.” Instead, we have an ability – a potential ability – to play a significant role in the emerging civilization of the 21st century. What an opportunity!

–James Semark, introduction to the 2004 DAW website