Jocelyn Rainey and Mike Willingham blessed Detroit is Different for April 2015 as my Visual Artist features. In Detroit is Different style today we close April with a Podcast interview. I talked Detroit and their families history in Detroit. Jocelyn and I talked about her love for House Music and travel. Also she gave great insight into ways to begin an art collection. Mike Willingham and I discussed the impact of hip-hop on his artistry. We also talked about one of my supporters in hip-hop RIP MC Breed.
Listen to the Detroit is Different Podcast today.
Jocelyn Rainey on Detroit is Different with Khary WAE Frazier
Mike Willingham on Detroit is Different with Khary WAE Frazier
One of the most symbolic figures in Detroit is the ‘Spirit of Detroit.’ Today artist Michael Willingham gives his interpretation. What if … Mike Willingham designed the Spirit of Detroit?
In 1955 the city of Detroit commissioned artist Marshall Fredericks to create the ‘Spirit of Detroit.’ The statue was completed in 1958 as the second largest bronze statue in the world. Fredericks created the piece inspired by the 2 Corinthians 3:17 quote ‘Now the Lord is that Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is Liberty.’
“My vision for the Spirit of Detroit is the Warrior,” Michael Willingham. “(Rapper Young) Jeezy says Detroit is the home of the hustler. The hustler has a warrior spirit, and that’s a spirit that won’t stop,” Willingham. The make-up of the Detroit warrior has many components: the athlete, the fighter, the endurance, and the look.
If Detroit were represented by an athlete, Mike’s would be Antonio Gates. Gates is the NFL superstar Tight End for the San Diego Chargers. He also is a Detroit born hero. In 1996 he led the Central High School Trailblazers to the only PSL won championship of the decade. “GOAT is from the hood. I remember hooping with him back in the day when I played more,” Willingham. Even in high school Antonio was recognized as an all-around athlete. The nickname GOAT carried with him throughout the city. He stands today as one of the only future NFL hall of fame football players who did not play college football. Antonio’s story of walking on to the San Diego Charger team for a Monday Night Football game and catching multiple touchdown passes matches Detroit’s spirit. Detroiters have always been unexpected, phenomenal, and world renown.
“300 Spartan’s have the uniform I’d have on a Detroit warrior. The cape and the shield protect you, but you can easily battle without it,” Willingham. The film 300 which chronicles Spartan battles displays a soldier shielded and cloaked for battle. The ease to maneuver with or without both is the versatility of Detroiters.
“A Detroit warrior would have a weapon that’s used for close kills. Hand to hand combat and tough situations is what Detroit was built n. I see the Detroit warrior having the Zulu spear,” Willingham. The African general Shaka Zulu that ruled an empire of southern Africa created a series of weaponry and war tactics to excel in battle. The Zulu spear was specifically designed for close kills in combat. Detroit’s harsh winters, hot summers, and tempered culture builds tough people ready for battle.
I believe Mike’s image of this warrior is an example of the fight Detroit has. This warrior would have the tools to win any war. This will match the struggles Detroit’s endured.
Jocelyn Rainey’s journey as an artist began from a vision in her dreams. Jocelyn is a surviving victim of gun violence. Her journey to recovery and full health is a blessing. Over time she gained back her strength from paralysis. During this time her hands were the final function she gathered returning to full health. As she recovered Jocelyn dreamed more and more of using her hands to become an artist. She envisioned paints, canvassing, and easels as colors filled her mind. So naturally upon discovering her passion she was drawn to the Center for Creative Studies college in Detroit.
Jocelyn was accepted into CCS with upon her fifth attempt. There she met her inspiration in Gilda Snowden. Snowden was a professor at CCS that encouraged, inspired, and supported Jocelyn. “I knew nothing about the culture, lifestyle, and history of art. Professor Snowden introduced me to that whole world,” Rainey. Gilda Snowden passed away and joined the ancestors in 2014. Above she’s pictured with Jocelyn and her daughter Katherine Snowden Boswell. Gilda was an internationally known abstract artist. For Jocelyn, Gilda was amazing. “I was welcomed into a world of creativity by Professor Snowden,” Jocelyn.
As Jocelyn questioned her purpose, role, and focus at CCS. Meeting Gilda Snowden opened her eyes to the Arts. Professor Snowden introduced her to Dale Pryor, Shirley Woodson, Sherry Washington, and many more of the people that add to Detroit’s rich African American art community. Detroit is the home of the only two formal galleries of African American art that are housed in the Detroit Institute of the Arts. Groups like Friends of African American Art collectivize a community of collectors in support of Black artists. This culture, community, and experience Jocelyn felt inspires her to share this with her students.
Rainey launched the ‘FML313’ project to transition urban students to world scholars. She challenged her students to ‘Find Mona Lisa.’ This challenge became a community, parent, and student driven fund raiser that took a group of Detroit students to Paris France. Rainey not only led the group of students to France, she also sold her works to support the trip as well. In 2007 she took a group of the Black male students she taught arts & culture too, to an internationally recognized home of art and culture. Rainey’s inspiration was Gilda Snowden. She is driven to share a world of creativity to students who don’t recognize or witness it.
Watch Jocelyn Rainey share her story of Finding Mona Lisa 313 at the 2010 Detroit X TED Talk
I define art as an expressive interpretation of thoughts and emotions through creativity. Visual art is one of the most vivid forms of artistry. Detroit is a birthplace and home to an array of talented, eccentric, and experimental visual artists. This collective of Detroit artists have changed the world. Personally the drive and independence of Tyree Guyton’s commitment to the Heidelberg Project is my inspiration for Detroit is Different (my media), Creative Differences Marketing (my business), and If Detroit were Heaven (my music). Today I am glad to introduce you to the April 2015 features for Detroit is Different, the Visual Artists: Jocelyn Rainey and Mike Willingham.
Jocelyn Rainey is an arts professor at Wayne County Community College District. Currently (week of April 4 – 11, 2015) she’s in China with a group of Detroit high school students for a living arts project, “Finding Mona Lisa.” Finding Mona Lisa 313 is a documentary about Jocelyn Rainey’s commitment to her belief that through visual arts she will peak Black male students interests in arts, family, business, and most importantly themselves. Using visual art as a vehicle to expose and encourage her students is her goal.
Jocelyn has been an artist her whole life. Her works range in form, idea, and concept. I met Jocelyn years ago as a partner of the 1440 Studio Collective. Jocelyn was one of our neighbors and biggest 1440 supporters. During the summer of 2009 she was creating an abstract piece that was a 20 foot structure of a woman in jeans. Jocelyn stitched together a series of jeans, of varying material, texture, and fabric to create a piece that I witnessed come together before my eyes. Jocelyn is also has a charming sense of humor that challenges the idea of the introverted artist. Knowing her personality and passion for arts has expanded into classrooms reaching Detroiters is great. Knowing Jocelyn now is taking her students across the world for the appreciation of art is excellent!
Mike Willingham is one of my closest friends. I ‘m blessed to have a network of so many people from all walks of life. More than anyone else I believe Mike is most understanding of where I’ve gone, where I am, and where I plan to go. Mike’s expression has taken on many dynamics of visual art. The beauty of Mike’s works are his forms match his experience and growth. Willingham works as an artist daily drafting blueprints for automotive design. His aptitude and ease of glassworks and design is applied to a collection of artistry he makes as products and expression. Mike’s work has ranged from sketches, tattoos, air brushing, water color painting, digital sketching, and now his own form of sneaker artistry. Mike’s never limited in form, style or canvas. I find Mike’s artistry as a grounds for which to write my hip-hop lyrics. The genius of his impactful and lasting clothing line ‘Grind Ave’ helped inspire the ‘Detroit is Different’ brand.
Mike is a member of a collective of my closest friends (B, B Hen, BJ, Carl, Casey, Chico, Dawon, Derrick, Desean, Geno, Jerrin, LP, Mike G – R.I.P., Phil, Tristin, Zae). Since the 90’s we’ve all been together. As long as I’ve known Mike artistry has been a focus of his professional and personal life. Today he is one of the featured artists connecting with the Hip-hop & Art shows at Bob’s Classic Kicks. There you can see his new sneaker works like the ‘Black Lives Matter’ sneakers he made in honor of Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin. He also owns and operates the ‘Grind Ave’ clothing line.
I’m very excited to continue to share content about the people and places creating cultural for and from Detroit here at Detroit is Different. April 2015 I feature the Visual Artist: Jocelyn Rainey and Mike Willingham.