Born and bred Detroit-based metalsmith artist Tiff Massey–the first Black woman to graduate from Cranbrook’s metal department–discusses her defining creative moments, the labor of her craft, and the realities of “what is happening on the ground” in her hometown with Arts.Black cofounder Taylor Renee Aldridge.
By Taylor Renee Aldridge at Arts.Black:
TRA: In Detroit, we see foundations providing support enabling artists to be more autonomous. Particularly, the Kresge Fellowship, which you are a recipient of, has allowed for more opportunities for this professionalization and agency of artists to happen. What has your experience as a Kresge Fellow been like, and how has it informed your practice as of late?
TM: The fellowship is life changing, really. The fellowship provides you with the tools for you to have longevity in the game and it’s also like a punch to the gut all at the same time. You never really see the aspect that this [the art industry] is a business. You know, it’s a business. It functions as one; there’s buying, selling, and making. But I feel like now I’m doing more business than I am making, and so I’m just trying to find a balance. More opportunities are just coming in since winning the fellowship.
TRA: You collaborated with Jeedo from Complex Movements recently to produce a song and video “Detroit is Black” which is ironically revolutionary even though it’s a factual statement. In the text that accompanies the video you wrote:
“I wanted to comment on what was truly taking place in Detroit at that particular moment, which unfortunately are current events. There’s a cover story, and then there’s the real thing; what happening on the ground. Everyone is talking about Detroit, but no one wants to talk about the real issues surrounding the city. The Detroit native narrative is missing. The native tongue is lacking in the conversation. What makes a city? What nurtures a city?”
Can you share what issues in particular you are referring to in that text?
TM: We need schools. We need recreation. We need food that is healthy. We need lights. We need water. You know? Detroit is like a “Hot & Ready” for individuals who come here to basically exploit the land; people who feel like it’s cheap and can just make some money real quick—I’ve never seen property values go up so quickly in my life. It’s basically to exclude the people who have been living here. How do we [long-time residents] fit into the equation to become business owners, entrepreneurs, or start a small business? Where are all the Black people, where do they fit in?
This story was originally published on Arts.Black.