Sorrento & Beyond: John Sims Artist Residency

The Irwin House Global Art Center & Gallery welcomes Detroit native, conceptual artist, writer and producer, John Sims, as its inaugural Artist-In-Residence. While working and residing on site, Sims is developing a three-part multimedia project comprised of a VideoPoem, print installation, and book, based on his childhood block on Detroit’s West Side. Entitled Sorrento: Portrait of a Detroit Block, the project is Sims’ deeply personal response to the decay and desolation of his home street – a reflection of many Detroit neighborhoods, and a microcosm of urban communities decimated by systemic abandonment and neglect throughout the country.

Sims penned an essay about his 1980s recollections on the block and the pain of losing the physical anchors of childhood memories, in the context of downtown Detroit’s resurgence. The text led to the poem, D-City Blues, and an accompanying music video, which makes up the first part of the project. The poem was selected for inclusion in the newly released book edited by M.L. Liebler, RESPECT: The Poetry of Detroit Music (Michigan State University Press, 2019). The D-City Blues VideoPoem also fits within the DETROIT FUTURE HISTORY Exhibit, which explores local perspectives, memories, and imaginings for the future, and runs at the Irwin House Gallery through January 5, 2020.

In its entirety, Sims’ Sorrento work forms an exhibition project featuring the book, 30 portraiture plates, with 15 prints on each side of a corridor to mimic the feeling of walking down the block, along with the D-City Blues music VideoPoem, and video histories of the people who previously lived and remain on the block. While developing the project at the Irwin Gallery, the artist will engage the general public through three public programs during the course of his residency. The Sorrento project will be staged in Detroit and travel to other cities dealing with similar issues of gentrification and urban decay.

A Detroit native currently living in Sarasota, FL, John Sims creates both art and curatorial projects spanning the areas of installation, performance, text, music, film, and large-scale activism, informed by mathematics, design, racial politics, and sacred symbolism. He has lectured and exhibited widely including in Hungary, Spain, Israel and Argentina and most recently in Slovenia. In 2017, he made the National Coalition of Against Censorship’s list of Top Free Speech Offenders and Defenders, as a defender. Sims’ work has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, CNN, NBC News, The Guardian, The Root, ThinkProgress, Al Jazeera, Guernica, Art in America, Transition, Sculpture, Science News, Nature and Scientific American. He has written for CNN, Al Jazeera, The Huffington Post, Guernica Magazine, The Rumpus, and The Grio.

  • Sorrento & Beyond: Artist Talk with John Sims: Saturday, November 16, 2019, 4:00 – 6:00 pm.
  • Cocktail Reception and Film Screening, Saturday, November 23, 2019, 7:00 – 10:00 pm 
  • Residency Closing Reception and Sorrento Project Presentation, Tuesday, December 3, 2019, 7:00 – 9:00 pmRSVP: or

General hours are Thurs-Sun 12-6pm. Open by appointment other times. Irwin House Global Art Center & Gallery, 2351 W. Grand Blvd. (Between LaSalle & Linwood), Detroit, MI 48208. Ph: 313.932.7690 | IG: @irwinhousegallery | FB: /irwinhousegallery


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