has the story.
- You had to be there.
- Black expressionism goes all the way back to the founding of the visual arts on the African continent.
It flowed through time into this room.
It passed through many definitions and transitions, until it comes to you.
- [Narrator] The Marygrove Conservancy Detroit, most Monday nights, is "The Breakfast Club."
- Please give him your undivided attention.
Look at that handsome face, look at him smiling.
- [Narrator] Artist, art lovers, collectors, looking, talking and buying art.
- I'm happy 'cause it brings artists out of the woodwork.
- My name is Miriam Hull, I'm a acrylic painter.
- I mostly do line work.
Portraiture is what I really dabble in and I'm really inspired by Detroit's underground community.
- I was a technical illustrator for GM for over 40 years, so, that was my profession.
I'm a photorealistic artist.
- And I'm proud to say I am a folk artist.
- Alright, - Alright, now!
- "Breakfast Club" started about 2009.
- [Narrator] Henry Harper, Antiques dealer on Detroit's east side and art aficionado... - Here is Tashif Turner of Detroit.
And actually getting to be a national art rockstar.
- [Narrator] Art, Harper realized, something to look forward to coming home to.
- Art just enhances one's life.
- [Narrator] Artists check in, show their wares, get some advice.
- Yeah so, yeah, the piece is "The Black Narrative."
And it's ironic, you know, prior to me coming here to drop it off, I got pulled over by the police.
So it's just- - You did?
- Yeah, you know- - With this in the car?
- Yeah, this in the car.
- That should've been interesting.
It's something new in this millennia, about the business of art.
Art is now a business beyond what it used to be.
It was reserved for the one percenters.
- [Narrator] Ah, the very rich.
Harper's been a procurer of antiques for some of them.
But this "Breakfast Club," that goes in a different direction - Now, what "Breakfast Club" has done, was to make art absolutely democratic.
- But now, as you go through life and you evolve up the stage of creativity, you're going to have to define who you are and what you are.
Are you a cubist?
Are you an impressionist?
Along the road of life you're going to be experimenting with art, you're going be experimenting with techniques.
You are going to be looking to find yourselves.
Now, once you find yourself, you have to define yourself.
When you make out a resume, you're going to have to tell people what type of artist you are.
I am a black expressionist artist.
- It's not like this elitist, like, the wine and cheese, critiquing our power, Caucasian, walking around.
- I have one work this evening; 30 by 40, I have the up arrow.
- It's very welcoming, it's very home, It's very community.
- It's acrylic, it's called, it has two names: "The Reunion" and it's also called "The Homecoming."
- It's really very therapeutic, because they get to talk about, in front of a crowd on top of that.
And then, there's, like, an African culture.
There's a call and response and African traditions and culture.
- Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.
My name is Damien Leonte.
(audience applauding) - So you put a call out and get a response back.
That is exactly what happens at "Breakfast Club."
Some artists are showman.
Andy Warhol was a showman.
- Some years back, I did the first one, in 1989.
You had to be there.
(audience laughing) - Picasso was a showman.
- It was in Australia.
You had to be there.
(audience laughing softly) I threw rocks at wild parakeets.
You had to be there.
- The showman, showman, showman.
- And for hours, these parakeets attacked me every time they saw me.
(audience laughing) You had to be there.
- And the showman's rights to the top.
- It's 36 by 48, untitled right now, because it's untitled right now.
- The art is a byproduct of the showmanship.
- On acrylics.
- [Henry] You got to stay with your craft.
Stay what you believe in and really get it out there.
And now, it's easier now.
In the old days, art dealers, it really happened here in Detroit, it was sad, it happened all over the country, nobody wanted black art.
They saw it as "black art," rather than part of the American story.
- I would say I'm an abstract artist.
- However now, brown people, black people, all got an American story to tell.
And the way to tell it is by executing beautiful works of art.
(audience applauding) - So, these two pieces here, first one is, they're both ink.
So, that is ink on paper and that one is ink on wood.
So that style, I feel like I've been developing that for the past 20 years.
'Cause I spent the first 10 years mastering ink, and then I spent the next 10 years mastering wood.
So I wanted to bring 'em together.
- If you look closely you will see that this is a Nigerian woman, and she has a scar on her face.
The scar comes from marauding, people who came to her village, because of her religion.
But her attitude is "I'm still not turning back."
So, that's why I called it "No Turning Back."
And this piece is $250.
(audience applauding) - [Narrator] Some fine eating can be found here, but for newcomers, "The Breakfast Club," that name might be confusing.
- I hear people say, "Well, if you all have dinner in the evening, why do you call it 'The Breakfast Club?'"
So, I have to explain the history to 'em.
- [Narrator] It's when Harold Braggs and Henry Harper started meeting regularly for breakfast.
- And then we start talking and then people would overhear us at that restaurant talking about art and then people would start joining the meeting.
And that first Judy Bowman painting was the real "Breakfast Club."
Mr. Braggs told me a long time ago, he said, "This is gonna be historic."
And I said, "What?
"Two old guys meeting talking about art?
"How could that be a historic?"
- [Narrator] Artists, Art collectors, with coffee, bacon and eggs.
- I started going and meeting with these people, because I didn't know any artists.
I didn't know anything about the Detroit art scene.
I didn't know any of that.
We would bring our work in and talk about it and more and more people started hearing about it and it just started expanding.
And then it exploded.
- [Narrator] They moved meetings to evenings, but kept calling it "The Breakfast Club."
After COVID, they'd grown so big, they moved to the Marygrove Campus Dining Hall.
- With my interest or my background in antiques and art, going to auctions, what do they say at auctions?
(bell dinging) They don't ring the bell, but they say "sold."
Well, I went and found an antique cowbell and every time you sell something, it just adds to the spontaneity of the evening.
- This one right here is 18 by 24.
That one I actually sold already.
Then- - Wait, did it sell here?
- Yeah, it sold here- - Sold!
(bell dinging) - Artists will never know how to price their work.
And how work is priced is a very difficult, difficult.
Online, they'll tell you per square inch and those kinds of, that doesn't work.
But they tell people that.
- I had no idea that you could sell stuff for $10,000.
I never thought that me, a black man, would be able to do something like, never ever.
- Like, pricing wise, I don't know how that kind of goes, honestly.
So yeah, I'm just starting to figure it out.
But, I feel like if you keep applying pressure to your art, your price should just keep going up.
So yeah, just stay busy with it.
Can just tell they're pretty much my pieces.
- [Narrator] Oshun Williams started as a graphic artist.
He put appliques on clothes he sold.
- The flower patch.
- Those appliques, now part of his painted work, inspired by his daughters.
- I said I haven't seen my kids in a couple of years, so like, that's why I paint, like, little girls, and I paint pictures of them and stuff.
Basically, I'm self-taught, pretty much.
I never went to school for it.
You always gotta be positive.
Yeah, that's about it.
Thank you, bye.
(audience applauding) I never sold my stuff because I didn't know how to price it.
That was like my biggest thing.
I never was really selling art.
I'll probably sell maybe like, two, four pieces a year.
Now, I'm selling a couple pieces a week.
- The title of this piece is "Night School."
I heard a story about Frederick Douglass being taught to read illegally.
For black people, there are anti-literacy laws going around.
- [Narrator] Jonathan Harris, his studios in Corktown.
He became a national sensation a couple years ago with his painting "Critical Race Theory."
- And even when I was in school, like, I studied graphic design and I was just told like, "Oh, if you really want to succeed you have to go to California."
Like, I still had a pamphlet of the different companies in California and Chicago or New York, that the teacher had gave us.
And, now it's like, "Cool, I'm not even in that world "and I'm able to do what I want to do in the city of Detroit; at home."
- I saw how this really was something unique that Detroit has.
I don't know if it's anywhere else in the country.
Hi, My name is Melinda Ruth.
They're bringing emerging artists and it's like a direct connect to the art world.
And I have two pieces.
The smaller one is actually mixed media linocut.
- [Narrator] Melinda Ruth Rushings, from Texas, with a PhD in the health science field, arriving in the midst of COVID.
- And I moved up here for a postdoc fellowship at the University of Michigan.
Block print ink overlaid with India ink.
Before coming here, I was in a show, in a gallery in Chicago and they had mentioned how there's a big art scene in Detroit.
Instead of moving and living in Ann Arbor, I wanted to live in Detroit, because I wanted to pursue this art.
And it was actually like a black and white study that I was working on.
I think artists, but especially for black artists, it's hard getting into this industry and it's hard finding where you kind of fit in.
But this one brings people that are more seasoned, that are vets in the industry.
I'm asking for $400.
But the linocut, it has already been sold, so, thank you.
- Did it sell here?
(bell dinging) (audience applauding) - When I first came to "The Breakfast Club," they asked me, "What kind of artist did I want to be?"
And from the very beginning I said, "I want my work to be in museums.
"I want my children and grandchildren "to come and say 'that's my grandma's work,' "or 'that's my great grandma's work.'"
- [Narrator] Judy Bowman, collage maker, retired educator and original "Breakfast Clubber," says "she got serious about her art seven years ago."
- They start telling me, guiding me towards that venue that I wanted to be in and sure enough, my work is now in museums.
- Detroit artist, Judy Bowman, was in the Armory Show, which was the most important art exhibition in New York City.
And she sold out.
And then, she went to Basel this year and she sold out.
- And so, I guess I came at the right time, because people were really surprised how quickly my career went.
It's like, "whoa, this is a lot!"
- With me, I kind of just want to compete with the best, 'cause like, that's what I do.
So, I just want to like, be around the best, because I want to be the best.
- I think it is the least expensive art school in the world.
- And that's why I always tell artists, you know, "Just show up.
"Even if you don't have nothing, you gonna learn something.
"You gonna see something that's gonna inspire you.
"You know, if you show up with a open mind, "you're definitely gonna leave different."
- I have not heard this kind of vitality is anywhere yet.
People always say, "Why don't we brand it?
"Why don't we do all..." I ain't doing all that.
I don't wanna do all that.
It's just encouraging artists, to do the best and be the best that they can be.