The Irwin House Global Art Center & Gallery was supposed to open in 2019, but the death of Aretha Franklin last month changed that. Just blocks away from the New Bethel Baptist Church on Linwood Street where Franklin’s father was the minister and Franklin’s home on LaSalle Boulevard, the gallery is in the area that immediately became the center of attention upon news of her death.
As reported by Metro Times, gallery director Omo Misha explained the decision to open the gallery months before planned.
“Of course, right away people started to gather there. We’re sitting right in the center of the heart of where she lived and cultivated her career and legacy. So with that I just felt we have to rise to the occasion.”
Irwin House has been in the planning phases since 2012 by local residents Valerie Irwin and her late husband, Council B. Irwin, Jr. When they purchased the former house-turned-doctor’s office, they had every intention of displaying their art collection there.
Curators Misha, Sabrina Nelson, and John Sims have been searching for artists with works relating to Franklin since the Queen of Soul passed away on August 16. They hope to have the gallery fit for the Queen of Soul as soon as possible.
Artists whose are will be featured include: Amber Doe, Amir Bey, Cyrah Dardas, Arthur Bacon, Donald Calloway, Jessica Care Moore, John Sims, Kim Hunter, Ingrid LaFleur, Makeba Rainey, Marsha Battle Philpot, M.L. Liebler, Noreen Dean Dresser, Sabrina Nelson, Santo’nio, and Steven Lopez. All forms of art are being exhibited, with paintings, sculpture, photography, installation, digital, video, conceptual, and literary art touted to appear.
Throughout the exhibition, there will also be artist talks, readings, and performances.
According to Misha, the purpose of the exhibition is to help the community affected by Franklin’s death to find some closure and to celebrate her incredible life and career.
“Aretha touched people internationally and across cultures and generations, but Detroiters have a special relationship with Aretha — she was ours,” Misha said. “I think if you grew up and were around during any part of the 60’s and 70’s at the beginning and the height of her career, in some way she’s a part of each of our identities. I knew that artists would want to express their thoughts and feelings about Aretha and her impact on each of our lives and the city of Detroit. And we wanted to create a space for them to do that.”