Interview with Alivia Zivich and Daniel Sperry, founders of the gallery What Pipeline in Detroit
Two artists living across the hall from each other discussing about art in Detroit on the shared balcony. A gallery which is not a gallery. A parking lot in Southwest/Mexicantown. A taco truck.
Who are the founders of the gallery? What is your background?
What Pipeline was started by Daniel Sperry and myself (Alivia Zivich) in early 2013. We’re both artists, and Daniel works for the Wayne State University Art Collection so he knows a lot about Detroit’s iconoclastic history of artists and art patrons. We’re also both from Michigan, but I’ve lived all over, including LA for many years, and know a lot of artists. Our combined knowledge created a good foundation for an art gallery based here.
What did motivate you to open a gallery?
Early on in our friendship, Daniel and I lived across the hall from each other at an apartment building in Southwest Detroit, and usually got home from work at the same time. We’d sit on our shared balcony and talk about what was going on with art in Detroit, mostly complaining about what we didn’t like. We realized we needed to create the art space we wanted to see in the city.
Can you tell us about the meaning and the choice of the name of the gallery?
We had a list of names and words eight pages long. It had to be something we could live with for awhile. Finally, I thought about “pipeline” and how it was a very contemporary word, with important political connotations. It also represented what we were attempting. Daniel liked the word “what” in front of it and that was that. People sometimes relate it to the oil pipelines that travel underground around the world. It’s good to be aware of those pipelines.
What kind of art do you represent? What does connect the artists you represent?
We don’t represent artists. We don’t have the resources. It’s just a two-person, artist run space and we both work other jobs. Primarily we’re working with people we know. A few times people have approached us and it was a good fit. We’re hoping the artists we work with will bring us their big, weird ideas and let us help them realize those ideas. Most of the artists we work with have had artist-run spaces themselves and we’ve shown at some of their spaces, so there’s a natural exchange and network occurring, maybe even that network is being represented.
Can you tell us about Detroit and how its art scene is evolving?
Detroit is a car city and we have a big parking lot that we share with a bar called Giovanna’s. El Rodeo taco truck is parked out front most days, it’s much more popular than the gallery. Our neighborhood, Southwest/Mexicantown, has many stores, restaurants and bars in walking distance.
There’s people who have been in Detroit for many years, focusing on their personal interests and steadily developing those interests into sustained projects. There’s not much competitiveness, it’s a smaller community that can feel more supportive than being in a large city. That can also mean being vocally critical is difficult. We need to balance support, and general enthusiasm for change, with asking who exactly the change is for, and how art is used to pave the way for other development.
Detroit’s art scene is definitely evolving, or maybe adapting, like a blast of gamma rays recently hit the petri dish. We did a group show of local artists this past summer. We don’t usually do group shows but wanted to show some of what’s going on here right now. It felt like the time was right.
What is for you the role of the gallerist?
We try to be like organic gardeners.
Which artists are you showing at Paris Internationale?
We are showing Mary Ann Aitken, Will Benedict, Henning Bohl (we’ll also be hosting a solo exhibit by Henning at the Balice Hertling’s project space opening October 16), Bailey Scieszka (also performing at Paris Internationale), and Dylan Spaysky.
If you could choose to exhibit any artist, also from the past, who would you pick?
What would you do if you were not a gallerist?
I’d like to be an R&B backup singer. Daniel would be a marine biologist.
What Pipeline has participated in the 2nd edition of Paris Internationale in Paris from October 19th to 23rd 2016.