Access Arts Detroit is an artist-run public art program that was established in 2008 to create opportunities for artists to exhibit site-specific art in the city of Detroit. The program – which is headed by Louis Casinelli, Alice Schneider and Andrew Thompson – features many different media, including installation, mural, sculpture, music and dance.

“Our primary exhibition space is Belle Isle Park, with a variety of locations throughout the park being utilized as exhibition space,” said Casinelli.

Casinelli explained that the idea for this came about during his undergrad education.

“A fellow student and I were both making and exhibiting work in the park independently. It seemed natural to invite others, artists and friends, to participate too,” he said.

Since 2009, AAD has facilitated more than 75 projects with stipends paid to a number of the artists. Casinelli explained that money for stipends is generated through an annual fundraiser with Supino Pizzeria in Eastern Market.

“The park’s administration has graciously worked with AAD for the past six years, allowing us to work in the nature trails, open fields, waterways, trees, fence lines and infrastructure,” Casinelli said. “AAD’s programming comes together through collaboration with the City of Detroit, the Belle Isle Conservancy and other community stakeholders.”

As to the importance of engaging Detroiters with nature and the environment through art, Casinelli said, “Part of life is public space. For AAD, this is fundamental. Public space without art is unfulfilled. As Detroit painter Rick Vian coined, ‘Life without art is stupid.’”

AAD engages Metro Detroiters by virtue of working in one of the most active public parks in the region.

“Every component of the park, natural or manmade, is critical to the conversation of site-specific public art,” Casinelli said. “Through their work, artists have connected with park goers through practices atypical to public spaces in Detroit.”

AAD operates under the idea that public space, natural or manmade, is meant for experimentation and exploration.

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