The Coronavirus has changed our world. Doctors and scientists are working around the clock. Parents are home with their kids. People are self-isolating. We’re trying our best to prevent this virus from spreading, and improvising along the way. And, artists are still creating. For the last 88 years, DAM has been defined by the ingenuity of Detroit artists. So, we’ve spoken with some of our artists, and here’s what they’re doing to help navigate these troubling times.

Cooped Up and Creative – Kelly Agius

DAM: What are you working on?

Kelly: Researching the belief that our soul resides within our feet and using that information to design hypothetical foot prosthetics that could either enhance or suppress our being’s connection to existence.

DAM: What are you watching and reading?

Kelly: To be honest, social media. It has been an active space to read up on and understand our current events.

DAM: Words of encouragement during this stressful time?

Kelly: If you aren’t protesting, I encourage you to use this quarantine time to inform yourself and listen to our Black communities.

DAM: What are you looking forward to?

Kelly: Change.

Pictured above, a photograph of the artist’s latest work, and the artist.



Cooped Up and Creative – Doug Cannell

DAM: What are you working on?

Doug: I’m well into a series of wall-hung abstract sculptures made primarily of wood. I am using various techniques like bending, laminating, carving and burning to coax out organic forms from the rectangular bits we call lumber.

DAM: What are you watching and reading?

Doug: I haven’t watched or read much at all. I listen to a lot of music and spend as much time outdoors as possible.

DAM: Words of encouragement during this stressful time?

Doug: We are going to emerge from this pandemic better people, knowing that we can do just fine without shopping malls and sushi bars. Right now, we are learning what is truly important.

DAM: What are you looking forward to?

Doug: A face-to-face conversation over a nice meal with friends that ends in hugs all around.

A recent piece by the artist, titled Memento, made of ash and bent beech.



Cooped Up and Creative – Carl Wilson

DAM: What are you working on?

Carl: I’m staying busy with several different projects. I’m carving small linoleum blocks for the rescheduled Power of the Press Festival; illustrating a motion comic for publishing on my website; and creating costumes and props for a performance exhibition next year.

DAM: What are you watching and reading?

Carl: I’m watching lots of Netflix; The Roosevelts on PBS, and Insecure, Veep, and Curb Your Enthusiasm for comic relief. I’m reading The Mothers by Brit Bennett; Home Baked by Alia Volz; and The New York Times when I can stand the truth in print.

DAM: Words of encouragement during this stressful time?

Carl: We can survive this if we’re smart! Listen to scientists and not the greedy robber barons overanxious to return to normal despite the cost in human lives. Don’t hesitate to take a nap. Keep creating!

DAM: What are you looking forward to?

Carl: I’m hoping soon someone different will occupy the oval office, and in the far, far future eating in restaurants again, drinking coffee with my friends, and looking at art in galleries.

Above, the artist, and below a digital scratchboard piece titled Daisy Chain, measuring 4 x 7 feet.



Cooped Up and Creative – Matt Fry

DAM: What are you working on?

Matt: Doing my best to make sure DAM weathers this storm and that our small staff is taken care of. At home, I’ve rediscovered music and a steady dose of NPR thanks to my vintage boomboxes. Beyond that, I’m spending quality time with Erin and our sweet girl, Cora.

DAM: What are you watching and reading?

Matt: I am watching The Last Dance, which chronicles the Chicago Bulls’ sixth and final NBA championship in the 90s. Wow is it good. Love the NBA during this period. Also watching lots of clips from Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, Trevor Noah, Samantha Bee, and John Oliver. I’m reading movie review excerpts from Pauline Kael’s book, For Keeps, my favorite chapters of Lost Horizon (James Hilton), and the service manual for my 1989 Toyota Van Wagon, which I am perpetually repairing. 🙂

DAM: Words of encouragement during this stressful time?

Matt: Keep up to date on this virus, act accordingly, and regulate your intake of the 24-hour news cycle. Talk with your parents, friends, and loved ones as much as you can. Humanity always prevails.

DAM: What are you looking forward to?

Matt: Seeing staff, artists, and visitors here at DAM. I miss people and places. Getting a haircut and ditching the Sasquatch vibe. Living to the century mark. Spending time with my family and friends. Internal combustion and wind in the face.

Matt and Cora at the Grand Circus Dog Park.

Cora wakes up.

Vintage Pioneer boomboxes.



Cooped Up and Creative – Tylonn Sawyer

DAM: What are you working on?

Tylonn: Paintings, drawings, concepts. Creatively, I’m in this liminal space right now, so experimentation is key.

DAM: What are you watching and reading?

Tylonn: Watching Westworld, Insecure and Killing Eve.

DAM: Words of encouragement during this stressful time?

Tylonn: Remember all this good-will brought on by this circumstance. Hold on to it, when we can go out.

DAM: What are you looking forward to?

Tylonn: Change.

Above, the artist’s latest work.


Cooped Up and Creative – Patricia Riascos

DAM: What are you working on?

Patricia: I’ve been an artist for most of my life. It felt very exciting because I knew that I found exactly the path I wanted to follow. I was diagnosed with ALS three years ago. The focus of my life was turned completely upside down, and after the initial shock, I decided that I still wanted to keep creating, probably in a different manner. I decided to write a book, which encompassed my life as an immigrant, an artist, and finally a person with ALS. The title of the book is The Infinite Patience of Time.

Patricia’s book is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

DAM: What are you watching and reading?

Patricia: I am a Greek mythology enthusiast. I was lucky to find a series called Great Greek Myths. It’s beautifully put together with excellent artwork and skillful narratives. It’s available on Amazon Prime. Picasso is one of my favorite artists, I am reading “Picasso and the Painting that Shocked the World” by Miles J. Unger.

DAM: Words of encouragement during this stressful time?

Patricia: As a person living with ALS, I can say that life makes us lift weights that most of us don’t even feel capable of lifting, but we do it, mostly because there isn’t an option.

DAM: What are you looking forward to?

Patricia: In October, Candice Law’s Color and Ink Gallery, located in Hazel Park, will be featuring a retrospective of my work. Also, I’d like to continue enjoying the small things in life and appreciating the people that make it more bearable.

At top, the artist’s latest work, titled Waiting. Below, her book The Infinite Patience of Time. Check out for more works by the artist.

Cooped Up and Creative – Emily Wood

DAM: What are you working on?

Emily: Today I made a 1:30 scale model of the house I live in. My work always centers around Hamtramck houses, whether it’s painting, embroidery or ceramics – and I had a bunch of cardboard from frozen pizzas laying around so that just kind of happened.

DAM: What are you watching and reading?

Emily: In these difficult times I’m reading my favorite Jungian psychologist, Jungian psychologist, James Hollis. His book, Swamplands of the Soul, is all about how when we undergo a serious tragedy everything superficial gets winnowed out, and the one thing we are left with is our true calling in life, where we need to put all our energy for fulfillment.

DAM: Words of encouragement during this stressful time?

Emily: Listen to yourself, what is the thing that you feel guiltiest doing during this time? Do it, do it for a day or three days and see where it leads you. I only say this because every time in my life I have felt guilty about doing something but allowed myself to indulge in it – that is the stuff that ends up paying the bills in six months.
DAM: What are you looking forward to?

Emily: Long term – life with my partner (cheesy but 100% honest), and short term – the bars being open in hopefully two weeks! Hamtramck has a great bar culture, and I can’t wait to kick back with a beer, in the sun, on the Whiskey in the Jar patio, and chat and laugh and share all the dumb, crazy stuff we all did to try to get through this quarantine!

Above, the artist pictured with their latest work, a 1:30 scale model of their Hamtramck home. Check out for more works by the artist.


Cooped Up and Creative – Lester Johnson

DAM: What are you working on?

Lester: The work continues to be informed by traditional African and Australian Aboriginal cultures. Visual language is expanded in the current work utilizing remnant fabric design patterns.

DAM: What are you watching and reading?

Lester: Currently reading the following:

The Immortal life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot; Breathe a Letter to My Sons, by Imani Perry; The Water Dancer, by Ta-Nehisi Coates; Miles the Autobiography, by Quincy Troupe. Reading newspapers, for relevant current events, is a constant endeavor.

I am watching classic films that confirm our humanity. Music is a faithful companion, so I enjoy watching music videos on YouTube.

DAM: Words of encouragement during this stressful time?

Lester: Words of encouragement begin with trusting your faith. Giving honor, praise and support to trustworthy people. Communication is supportive and reassuring. It is essential to stay in touch with family and friends during this stressful time. A conversation via the telephone is my preferred method of communication.

DAM: What are you looking forward to?

Lester: Gratefully looking forward to participating in the Dell Pryor Exhibition at DAM, 2020. The tentative title of the artwork currently in progress for the exhibition is: A Tribute to Miriam Makeba.

Above, Bahia #3973 and Nelson Mandela #3956 from a recent show, Clarion Calls, UM – Rotunda Gallery, Ann Arbor, 2019.


Cooped Up and Creative – Leah Waldo

DAM: What are you working on?

Leah: My partner passed away suddenly at the end of October, and I have been writing and making artwork as a way to keep breathing and process my grief. Nadr loved to draw and paint so I’ve been doing that as a way to connect with him. I am currently working on my first sculpture since he transitioned. It’s based on a poem I wrote recently:

This Body of Light

has become a House of Grief

In just one moment, one word:

Hello, from someone else’s voice.


I miss you is the color on the walls,

Misery and torment decorates my skin.

The windows let the cold cruel night in.

The wind howls with my pain and sorrow,

A constant, terrible ache.


Before I was in a paradise I never knew existed.

Now I know where I live: I live in a nightmare

and I will never wake up.


Here’s how I live in this place.

I limp through each moment

Struggling to breathe,

drowning in the painful ocean of loss.


I’ve been shattered into pieces impossible to count,

dully wandering for days looking to find what is no longer there.


My love has been torn from me

My life has been stolen.


I live in a place that no one knows

But me.

No one can get here

And no one can leave.

DAM: What are you watching and reading?

Leah: I’m currently reading a few books on grief, including Patti Smith’s memoir, Year of the Monkey.

DAM: Words of encouragement during this stressful time?

Leah: As an introvert, I’m savoring the quiet days in my home studio. While I love people, I enjoy being alone to think, create, and heal. I recommend creating space in each day to write, meditate, read, sketch, or something else to ‘be’ with this current slower pace. I made a video for a friend on simple techniques to reduce anxiety and stress. I uploaded it to YouTube so it can be accessed anywhere. Feel free to share it!

DAM: What are you looking forward to?

Leah: I’m looking forward to traveling. I love to explore new places and learn about other cultures. Once the virus is under control, I will be visiting my Nadr’s family in Egypt and will spend time on the Red Sea, one of his favorite places.

Above, photos of the artist’s recent sculpture and painting.


Cooped Up and Creative – Leanna Hicks

DAM: What are you working on?

Leanna: I am working on a new oil painting series called Source Energy. Even though my shows fell through in April and May, I’m continuing to prepare for opportunities further down the road.

DAM: What are you watching and reading?

Leanna: I do most of my watching on my walks with my dog. The streets of Detroit are prime time TV. I’m reading A Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion.

DAM: Words of encouragement during this stressful time?

Leanna: All of your feelings are valid. Lean into the uncertainty and try to find peace in acceptance of the circumstances and the beauty of your being. You are stronger than you know.

DAM: What are you looking forward to?

Leanna: I’m looking forward to my friends, family, and people I don’t know feeling more secure, supported, and protected. And I’m really excited to share my paintings with Detroit.

Above, a photo of the artist, and a photo of her recent painting ‘The Spin Cycle: Life is Holy’.


Cooped Up and Creative – Dorothy Jett-Carter

DAM: What are you working on?

Dorothy: Pieces inspired by my husband Rod, he always wanted me to develop non-wearable fiber art. ‘Walk With Me’ and ‘Walk With Me 2’ are made of silk burlap (not to be confused with jute burlap) from Cameroon. The figures are painted with fabric dye, and I’ve added hand beading, fabric applique, and embroidery.

DAM: What are you watching and reading?

Dorothy: Lots of movies and I’m working on my book. As little news as possible.

DAM: Words of encouragement during this stressful time?

Dorothy: Remember, we’ve been through this before with the Swine Flu in 2009-2010. I would never minimize the unfortunate loss of life, however most of us are still here. Stay inside and each day do one thing that you love, like your art, and one thing that you don’t love, like cleaning the oven. You’ll get a great feeling of accomplishment from both.

DAM: What are you looking forward to?

Dorothy: I’m looking forward to the number of cases to decrease so we’ll know fewer people will continue to be affected.



Shown above from left to right, ‘Walk With Me’ and ‘Walk With Me 2’, by Dorothy Jett-Carter.