Craft & Material Studies
In the packed metal workshop at Fortress Studios, a 16-foot gantry stands in the corner. Steven Kuypers (FA ‘09) and Steven McShane (CR ’10), artists and founders of The Fortress, built the mobile crane in the early days of the center to move around equipment they were starting to collect. When the two began to collaborate, they used the gantry for an alumni exhibition at the College for Creative Studies (CCS) in 2012.
A small kiln sits in another corner, and welders, lathes and saws fill the space. With one glance, the shop becomes an invitation for any artist with a “materials obsession,” which is how McShane describes himself.
McShane and Kuypers recently collaborated on a large-scale metal sculpture in this shop for the “Detroit Assemblage” exhibit, which runs through December 22. Located outside of the Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit, the interactive sculpture, “Revolving Exchanges,” comprises two flattened, 4-panel columns, the largest of which spans 7 feet. The sculpture took 6 days for Kuypers and McShane to construct then install at the site, but the professional facilities and equipment at The Fortress have helped ease Kuypers’ and McShane’s transition from students to independent artists.
“As a student, I worked in both the foundry and metal shop,” said Kuypers, who still works part-time in the model shop. “These are top-notch facilities. I knew from experience that finding equipment and space like I had at CCS was crucial to my ability to make the type of large, sculptural works I envisioned creating.
“We were looking for buildings in the city, but didn’t have any luck finding a feasible spot when we approached the owner to lease out a space. He suggested we consider buying the building through a seller-financed land contract. It was a feasible proposition since the building was already up and running.”
Kuypers and McShane built up their inventory of machinery and tools over time. Today, Fortress Studios functions as an art center in the North End neighborhood of Detroit. The Fortress provides low-cost living and studio facilities to emerging and established artists. Artists have access to the metal shop, as well as blacksmith and wood shops, a foundry, ceramics and jewelry studios and several pieces of heavy equipment. Applications for resident artists are accepted on a rolling basis, and several CCS students and alumni have spent time at The Fortress.
Currently, six other artists live and work at The Fortress, including a CCS student and 2 alumni.