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Art Is In Market is in the house — three Detroit mall houses, to be exact

Partridge Creek’s Art Is In Market location features a car display with clothing for sale.
Partridge Creek’s Art Is In Market location features a car display with clothing for sale.
Wendy Clem

(cross-posted in Detroit Insider Deals)

With Detroit’s governmental/economic news teetering daily on some degree of dismal, a pressing question for our survival might well be: Can the art and creativity of Motown and Michigan’s talented people be the answer to our rise from bankruptcy ashes?

The Art Is In Market is substantially already leading, handily taking us through the collective debris. It gets the nod for innovation, as well as providing quality goods and focused dedication in our hometown.

AIIM (a play on “Artisan” Market) consists of 15,000 square feet in three bustling shopping malls that are open 362 days a year. It provides overall more than 150 local artists and crafters the chance to share their wares with average shoppers. Those include consumers who may not otherwise frequent art festivals or museums, and here they receive the unmistakable AIIM message: “We have outside-the-box thinkers who easily rival anything artsy that Hollywood or New York’s fashion district could throw at a buying public.”

Located in Novi’s 12 Oaks Mall, Livonia’s Laurel Park Place and The Mall at Partridge Creek in Clinton Township, Art Is In Market offers a free stop to celebrate all there is to soak up from our hub city, Detroit.

Since its 2005 inception and debut in Livonia, AIIM provides more than a mere shopping experience. It’s sure-win concept showcases a wide variety of original products, created by Michigan artists and inventors, who also staff the stores in shifts to provide unequaled, informative service. Potential consumers are graciously greeted upon entry, then receive an amiable tour of the premises during initial visits. Such experiences are like a glittering road rally through a uniquely creative vein.

Every vestige of artistry is found at AIIM. First, it is the quintessential Tour of Detroit, introducing talent from all corners — talent that captures the many facets of this hard-shell place built on industry and blue collars — working-class glimpses of what we were, are and aspire to be. Then, that artistry gathers clothing, food, books, photography, pottery and other artwork, car-oriented products, jewelry and other accessories and variable gift ideas for locals or tourists to scoop up.

“This began as a two-month experiment over the holiday season at Laurel Park,” says creator and President Debbie LaPratt, a Walled Lake resident and artist of 35 years. She and other artists were already attending more than 30 juried art and craft shows per year, spanning from Detroit to Chicago and the southern states to the eastern seaboard.

“Rather than continue all the travel involved in such shows, we secured a spot in the mall to reach customers. That way, the people could come to us, actually learn about our art, and find original gifts at a variety of prices. Now, that two months’ experiment has stretched into eight years. We love what we do and we love Detroit!”

LaPratt, who studied at the Anton Art Center and Oakland Community College, specializes in capturing sculpture-like impressions of architectural details throughout the city, forming them into glazed tiles. Those are created from often overlooked items, such as manhole covers, iron fences, and ceiling tiles — which she then “signs” with a fingerprint, symbolically leaving her own mark on Detroit’s history.

“I find some things that people do not see on their daily walks and allow them to take a piece home of our old storied Detroit past,” she said. “It is my intent to shine a spotlight on the importance of not only historical preservation but also local pride.”

Numerous artists also dedicate a portion of their profits to organizations or causes, such as support for U.S. military veterans, or the Free to Be Yoga Tees that embrace the suffering polar bears, whose natural food supply is in jeopardy. The latter is an eco-friendly company, with some shirts made of organic bamboo or a blend of organic cotton and recycled plastic bottles.

“We are also always trying to do something special at the store,” LaPratt added. “In September, we’re going to sponsor the Leukemia and Lymphoma Foundation in a customer appreciation event. And, we plan one to honor the William LaPratt Foundation for the Awareness of the Arts and the Advancement of Spinal Cord Research.”

The latter organization was established to highlight art’s place in humanity as well as bring to light the issue of spinal cord injuries after LaPratt’s husband and co-founder, Bill LaPratt, suffered such an injury in 2008. A passionate supporter of AIIM and driving force behind his wife’s vision, he died in November, 2012.

It would be hard to enter an Art Is In Market and not find at least one item to be passionate about. Always eye-catching, the stock provides art lovers with the stunningly impressive glassworks of Marlette’s Arlene Wilkinson; shining copper sculptures of Whitmore Lake’s Gordie Anderson; award-winning Impressionist painter and Norman Rockwell school student Victor Thomason of Detroit; exquisite nature, structural and travel photographs of global lens specialists Terri Moore, Betty Arnold and Linda Worthington; whimsical mixed media pieces and ceramic landscape renderings of La Pratt and others; and Hamtramck native’s lustrous wood-carving expert, Pamela Falzon.

Expect to find food items — such as Motown Soups, Desserts/Dips/Baked Goods — produced by volunteers at Motown United Ministries in Utica since 2003, who has donated $231,000 directly to local homeless shelters, soup kitchens and food pantries.

Detroit Snob, with its be-jeweled apparel, began with the dream of native Desiree Cooper, who leads the charge for the city’s plentiful spaces, lack of conformity and “serial optimism” by promoting the special urban/suburban pride found here.

Bizzy Fizz Bath Treats, the 2004 brain-child and science experiment of Laura Bisel’s then 6-year-old son, Skylar, offers a line of products so well-received that they are now included in the gift baskets for celebrities and media members at the star-studded Golden Globes, Academy Awards and Primetime Emmy Awards.

Jewelry and textile designer Dorothy Jett-Carter began her journey into art more than 30 years ago at Cass Tech High School. Her travels have taken her as far as Senegal, West Africa, where she studied the Wolof village women’s intricate beading techniques and now incorporates that influence in her art.

“My work has a distinct ethnic flair, but is influenced by many cultures,” the West Bloomfield resident said. The jewelry pieces, which are classically elegant, offer one version of Celtic Legends of Mermaids and her clothing line incorporates beading into rich textiles.

Jett-Carter’s talent has earned her numerous awards, from local to national, and her work has appeared in many fine art galleries as well as museums and high-end boutiques and stores.

While people from throughout the greater-Detroit area notice AIIM’s fresh ideas and original perspectives, it remains LaPratt’s dream to have a Detroit retail location, too.

“I just LOVE our city, and I want everyone else to feel the same way,” she says, while sharing her customary friendly grin.

WDIV-TV Channel 4 honored the enterprise as Best Art Gallery in 2012. As the artists take turns manning the counters and displays for sales and general info on all artists, the approach beats any franchise out there — especially any manned by apathetic employees glued to cell phones or work gossip rather than adhering to customer service.

The AIIM environment also allows artists the chance to host demonstrations, training, classes and events year round.

Future plans include expanding to even more locations, and AIIM continues to be approached by more malls, who LaPratt refers to as “very supportive and really happy with AIIM.”

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