the Shepherd

the Shepherd

Library Street Collective co-founders Anthony & JJ Curis are proud to present their ambitious neighborhood-wide cultural revitalization effort in the East Village neighborhood of Detroit, known as Little Village. At the heart of this initiative lies the Shepherd, a one hundred ten-year-old Romanesque-style church, most recently identified as Good Shepherd before closing in 2016. The Shepherd has been transformed into a cultural arts center that offers multi-faceted programming, including exhibitions, public projects, and performance. The adaptive reuse of the church, led by architectural design firm Peterson Rich Office (PRO), maintains the integrity of the original architecture while creating two new gallery spaces, a public library, and abundant classroom and workshop space for the local community. The main gallery allows for programming opportunities on the mezzanine, while the church altar has been outfitted as a space for performance and musical programming. In addition, the grounds of the Shepherd offer over 3.5 acres of new, publicly accessible park and green space to the local community, designed by OSD. The Curises have worked closely with the City of Detroit, members of the East Village community, and other neighboring arts organizations to designate this area as Detroit’s next cultural district.

“We are delighted to share the exciting plans for the East Village on a new creative hub that will become an important part of the fabric of our city. By working closely with the local community, this new project will be an accessible and creative arts center that we can all be proud of in Detroit,” said Rochelle Riley, director of the City of Detroit’s Office of Arts, Culture and Entrepreneurship.

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The Curises view the Shepherd as a space that not only blurs the lines between commercial gallery, institution, and community arts center but also as an opportunity for collaboration with galleries, museums, and arts organizations, both locally and abroad. As part of this, Asmaa Walton, an independent curator and founder of Black Art Library, has curated the new Little Village Library. Located within one of the Shepherd's transepts, the library is a public archive dedicated to artists of color who have made significant contributions to the arts in Michigan and beyond. Moreover, the church's confessionals have been repurposed into reading booths, providing the public with a space to enjoy.

“Art is essential in starting important conversations and changing opinions. My work with Black Art Library has been dedicated to promoting arts education on Black art and visual culture, ensuring that this is accessible to all communities and filling gaps that our institutions have left. I am thrilled to partner with Anthony and JJ and curate the Little Village Library, which will create substantial change in Detroit, offering greater resources and making art more accessible to local communities,” said Asmaa Walton, curator of the Little Village Library.

The inaugural exhibition at the Shepherd will be an expansive survey of Charles McGee's (1942–2021) work in collaboration with the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD). Titled "Charles McGee: Time is Now," the exhibition will be curated by Jova Lynne, Artistic Director of MOCAD, and will run from May 18 to July 20, 2024. McGee’s career chronicled the Black experience and sustained optimism regarding the future of Detroit and its people.

Immediately adjacent to the Shepherd, the Curises have also spearheaded the development of a public sculpture garden, titled the Charles McGee Legacy Park, to honor the life of the late Detroit artist. The Legacy Park offers ample space for play and creative exploration, and features three large-scale sculptures, ranging from 8-12ft in height, as well as the debut of the artist's first figurative work in public sculpture. McGee completed the designs for the Legacy Park before his passing in 2021. The Legacy Park is financially supported by Dan and Jennifer Gilbert and the Curises through a partnership with Jefferson East, Inc., a multi-service neighborhood organization that serves low-income populations on Detroit’s east side and five adjoining historic neighborhoods.

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Portrait of Charles McGee, 2017. Photo by Sal Rodriguez. — undefined

Portrait of Charles McGee, 2017. Photo by Sal Rodriguez.

“My father loved the city of Detroit and its people, and the plans for East Village gave him great joy, especially knowing that it would anchor a cultural district in the city. This bold and important project is moving forward thanks to the vision of Anthony and JJ Curis, particularly their dedication to expanding the city’s public cultural resources for future generations. There is no better legacy for him than a meditative place that has the express purpose of enabling the public, especially children and younger generations, to experience and be inspired by art,” said Lyndsay McGee, Charles McGee’s daughter.

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Located in the former rectory of the Shepherd is ALEO, a boutique bed & breakfast envisioned as a haven for artists and those seeking a cultural retreat in Little Village. The bed & breakfast showcases the work of nearly 30 Detroit-based artists or those with deep roots in the City throughout the six guest rooms and communal spaces. Additionally, the third floor of ALEO houses Modern Ancient Brown, the Foundation started by internationally renowned artist McArthur Binion in 2019. Modern Ancient Brown supports the intersection between the visual and literary arts in Detroit and sponsors two artist residency programs–one of which is facilitated out of ALEO. Throughout each year, the Foundation provides four visiting fellows—emerging and established BIPOC scholars, thinkers and writers whose practice involves research and creation in all aspects of the arts—with a private apartment and study space in the rectory.

Portait of artist McArthur Binion at Modern Ancient Brown. — undefined

Portait of artist McArthur Binion at Modern Ancient Brown.

Binion also played a hand in shaping the physical landscape at the Shepherd. Following up on a collaboration between the Curises and legendary skateboarder Tony Hawk in 2017 that led to a temporary skatepark being built in downtown Detroit, the Curises and Hawk, along with the support of professional skateboarder Alec Beck and artist McArthur Binion, partnered on a permanent skatepark for the grounds of the Shepherd, titled It Takes a Village. While Hawk and his team led the functional design of the park, while Binion oversaw the artistic design, enhancing the skatepark’s visual appeal.

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Beyond the skatepark and sculpture garden, the grounds surrounding the Shepherd have undergone an incredible transformation. Former parking lots, alleyways, and vacant lots have been converted into a series of interlocking outdoor destinations that seamlessly integrate with existing buildings. OSD, a multidisciplinary design group aimed at building resilient and equitable communities, led the design of the Shepherd’s expansive grounds. The centerpiece of the landscape is a pedestrian walkway called the Nave.

Immediately behind the Shepherd is BridgeHouse, consisting of two former residential structures now transformed into commercial spaces aimed at the culinary arts. Conceived by architect Ishtiaq Rafiuddin of Detroit-based studio Undecorated, BridgeHouse is encapsulated within a two-story deck, which provides outdoor space and viewing opportunities into the skatepark and grounds while functioning as a stage for intimate performances. James Beard award-winning chef Warda Bouguettaya will open a new pâtisserie in BridgeHouse to serve the neighborhood as well as guests at ALEO.

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“We’re approaching our 12th year with Library Street Collective and truly appreciate the support that Detroit has given us over the years. We’ve worked closely with the City of Detroit, members of the community and neighboring organizations to ensure that this project is inclusive, accessible, and representative of the neighborhood it serves,” said Anthony and JJ Curis.

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For media inquiries contact

Kate Morais
+1 212 202 3402

Library Street Collective

Since its inception in 2012, Library Street Collective has presented artists and programming that connects Detroit to the international arts community while maintaining crucial support to the local creative renaissance of the city. The gallery’s influence extends beyond its brick-and-mortar location into the city’s public, private and heritage spaces. A crucial aspect of Library Street Collective’s efforts involves raising awareness and funds for nonprofits and other worthy causes, particularly those based in Detroit.

The gallery has rapidly evolved to include exhibitions, collaborations and partnerships with major museums. Large-scale public projects are an essential aspect of the gallery’s programming that bring experiential contemporary art to the Detroit community; currently underway is an ambitious public arts campus in the East Village neighborhood of Detroit with plans to designate the area as the city’s next cultural district. At the heart of the plan is the Shepherd, a one hundred ten-year-old Romanesque-style church that will be transformed into a cultural arts center with multi-faceted programming focused on exhibitions, public projects, and performance. The arts and culture campus will not only blur the lines between commercial gallery, institution, and community arts center, but it will also spark new opportunities for collaboration with galleries, museums, and arts organizations, both locally and abroad.


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