Michigan kicked off 2016 with all kinds of breaking litigation news. Leading the pack, before the horrific revelations of Flint’s water crisis and the Detroit Public School shutdown, artist Katherine Craig filed suit in US District Court in Detroit against Princeton Enterprises, the owner of a building at 2937 East Grand Boulevard that hosts her 2009 public artwork “The Illuminated Mural.” The building went up for auction last summer and was purchased by Princeton Enterprises with the intention of redeveloping it as multifamily or loft housing — a project that would potentially threaten or outright destroy Craig’s artwork. Craig is seeking an injunction against actions by the developer that would compromise or destroy her iconic mural, which is comprised of 100-plus gallons of paint and is a signature piece in her oeuvre.
Her suit epitomizes one of the fundamental tensions of the use of art as a spearhead for gentrification: developers are more than happy to accommodate artists when their interventions bring new interest and value to properties or neighborhoods — and Craig’s mural has inarguably become one of Detroit’s best-loved works of public art — but once these holdings have sufficiently appreciated, little consideration is paid to the sweat, material, and professional equity that went into the works, from both the artists and surrounding communities. In a conversation with Hyperallergic, Amy Keller, part of Craig’s legal team at Wexler Wallace LLP, pointed out that this is not strictly an issue in Detroit: one of Chicago’s most cherished public murals, William Walker’s “All of Mankind,” was unceremoniously whitewashed off the face of the Strangers Home Missionary Baptist Church in 2012 to pave the way for a development deal.
“I grew up just outside of Detroit,” said Keller. “Witnessing its redevelopment over the past few years has been incredibly exciting. Just like any city, responsible and mindful development is paramount to ensuring good community relations. This is especially important when redeveloping a neighborhood, as developers should respect the rights of current residents, businesses, and artists who have shaped the fabric of those communities.”
IACOPO PASQUI: I honestly do not remember, I have never been a particularly ambitious child. I remember that I really liked nature and history. I want to be someone who does something good for photography, and possibly be remembered and eventually live off what I love to do.
JC: Who or what is inspiring you at the moment?
IP: What I perceive, see and feel around me! Also I am really inspired by everyday life.
JC: What are you up to right now?
IP: I am at a rather crucial stage. I am analyzing my work done to date and understanding what and how to move forward. My most recent work is about teens and I made it during an artist residency. I’m not entirely sure how to move forward just yet. I will also be starting work on a project about the “exodus” understood through its various forms and not just contemporary exodus we see here in Europe. I believe, for the reason mentioned before, to work on an inner exodus, probably mine. I will close my eyes and I’ll try to take pictures with the heart.
JC: Have you had mentors along the way?
IP: I never had the pleasure of dealing with the great masters. My teachers have been friends and photographers who have more experience than me and above all friends, I also like to learn from people who are not photographers. I like to share with them ideas and impressions, you can learn so much. However, there is a photographer who lives in my city, the first person with whom I came in contact, who taught me a lot in terms of human and aging of the eye.
JC: Where are you based right now and how is it shaping you?
IP: I am living in Pescara, a small town in central Italy. I grew up here but I do not belong to this area. I often wonder who I would be if I lived in another place. I think they were the people I met here in recent years that have helped me become what I am. The photograph helped me to know these places foreign to me. I come from another region of Italy - Tuscany and is in that place that I feel at home.
JC: One piece of advice to photography graduates?
IP: Think twice before embarking on the road. For many of us it is a kind of vocation but we must be prepared for the journey. It’s hard, but it depends on which way you choose. I have a very high view of photography and what it is for me. I try to avoid doing commercial photography, I prefer to do other jobs that have nothing to do with photography and then I try to focus on my personal work. If they love photography “tout court” should not find it difficult to work with commercial photography. They must believe, believe in themselves and in their language, and above all be contemporary, be hard. They must dare, with style. and they must be independent. Today many people believe they can be photographers. Do not just get a room, a style similar to some great author, you have to distinguish and bring out its uniqueness.
JC: If all else fails - what is your plan B?
IP: Plan B, I really love this question because basically I do not have a real plan B. I would love to continue my academic career, possibly with a PhD but the road is pretty rough. I love teaching. If it does not go I will devote to the care of photo books, clearly not mine, I’d also have a small library specializing in photo books and small but significant exhibitions, something not possible in Italy if you are “alone” and I still have to emigrate.
JC: Is it important to you to be a part of a creative community?
IP: It’s important to me to be part of a creative community. Unfortunately, the creative community tend increasingly to individualism and competition that, at least here in Italy, there is no real concept of community. There are many colleagues with whom I had the pleasure and the honor to work with which we have done good things and worked in a synergistic climate, exchange and support, this is a very rare but when it occurs in an authentic way is fantastic.