89.1 WEMU

creative:impact - Artrain's Past Will Help Fund Its Future With Paris Auction

Nov 13, 2018

Back in 1986, artists submitted graffiti art to decorate the outside of the "Artrain" railcars.  Later this month, renderings of those pieces will go up for auction in Paris, France, where the proceeds will benefit art programs, here at home.  A treasure trove of art of the past will help fund the art of the future.  WEMU's David Fair and Arts Alliance president and CEO Deb Polich take you back and look forward in this week's "creative:impact."


Deb Polich, President and CEO of the Arts Alliance

Creative industries in Washtenaw County add hundreds of millions of dollars to the local economy.  In the weeks and months to come, 89.1 WEMU's David Fair and co-host Deb Polich, the President and CEO of The Arts Alliance, explore the myriad of contributors that make up the creative sector in Washtenaw County.

Artrain History

In 1971, a group of Michigan-based arts activists who believed that the arts should be available to everyone, everywhere, conceptualized Artrain as a train that housed world-class art exhibitions and traveled to communities in need.  The newly-formed Michigan Council for the Arts (MCA and now, MCACA) founded Artrain in Detroit as its flagship program.  Lead by MCA’s first executive director, Mr. E. Ray Scott and chairman, former Michigan First Lady Mrs. Helen Milliken, MCA had three goals in mind: to foster the development of local arts organizations throughout Michigan; to provide people in Michigan’s villages, towns and cities access to outstanding art exhibitions and to promote the MCA. 

In its first year, 191,000 visitors in 28 Michigan communities climbed onboard.  Within two years, The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) took notice and asked Artrain to share its programs across the country.  Sponsored by the NEA, Artrain headed out on its first national tour to eight‐states in the Rocky Mountains in 1973.  Artrain became an independent nonprofit in 1975 and has since shared award-winning exhibitions and many of the world’s greatest artists with millions of people during in hundreds of towns across the United States. Countless individuals – from schoolchildren to grandparents – have experienced Artrain.

Many have gone on to make art a part of their lives as practitioners, consumers, supporters, advocates and/or volunteers.  In recognition of its legacy, Artrain received the National Medal for Museum Service – the nation’s highest award for museums – in 2006.

Artrain’s mission is to deliver discovery and, through the power of arts and culture, transform lives, organizations and communities.  With its award winning community building program at its core, Artrain  partners with artists and/or arts and cultural institutions to produce and deliver art-infused outreach programs of all types – art, culture, history, science, environment and more – to people in villages, towns and cities to expand personal horizons and strengthen local cultural infrastructure. Artrain defines community broadly: geographically or as people connected by common interests.

Originally delivering its programs on a museum-on-a-train that used America’s rail system, Artrain retired its rail museum in 2008.  Today, Artrain uses a variety of delivery methods.  With its award winning community building program at its core, Artrain  partners with artists and/or arts and cultural institutions to produce and deliver art-infused outreach programs of all types – art, culture, history, science, environment and more – to people in villages, towns and cities to expand personal horizons and strengthen local cultural infrastructure.  Artrain defines community broadly: geographically or as people connected by common interests.

The Artrain Graffiti Train and the "Signs of the Times: Pop Art and Photo-Realism in America" Exhibition

Artrain commissioned urban artists to paint the exterior of the Artrain’s railcars for its 1986 tour of the "Signs of the Times: Pop Art and Photo-Realism in America" exhibition.  These train painters, or graffiti artists, whose beginning traced back to painting murals on unattended train cars, were invited to paint 12 murals on the cars over the course of four days. Many of their murals used familiar images from Pop Art. Commissioning graffiti artists caused quite a bit of controversy for Artrain.  It was covered widely by the media and the subject of many lively debates.  The exterior train artists included:

Works Displayed:  

"Eyes of the Tiger" by Duster

"Art Train" by Bill "Blast" Cordero

"Artrain Graffiti Train" by Duster

"Artrain Graffiti Train Submission" by Vulcan

Harry Chalfant Series - "Artrain Graffiti Train" by Harry Chalfant  

Resources:

Artrain USA

Artcurial

"Signs of the Times: Pop Art and Photo-Realism in America Exhibition" 

Artcurial Live Bid

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu