In spring 2023, a church that closed in Detroit, Michigan in 2016 will reopen as the Shepherd, a cultural center to elevate local artists and the creative community.
The project was spearheaded by Anthony Curis and JJ Curis, co-owners of the Library Street Collective art gallery. The new cultural center will house art galleries, a sculpture park and a skate park. Its official name, ‘the Shepherd’, pays homage to the former Good Shepherd Catholic Church and hopes to “usher this new identity for the building itself and maybe even the immediate neighborhood,” said Anthony Curis in a Detroit News interview.
“My father loved the city of Detroit and its people,” said Lyndsay McGee, the artist’s daughter, when interviewed by the Detroit Free Press about the project. “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.”
The Shepherd’s inaugural exhibition will feature the work of Charles McGee, a well-known local artist and muralist who died in 2021. McGcee was the co-founder of the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit and a mentor to many local artists in the city. In addition to his exhibit, a sculpture garden named in his honor, the Charles McGee Legacy Park, is to be placed next to the church and contain three large sculptures by McGee.
Robert F. Smith’s Philanthropic Work to Support Arts Initiatives
Robert F. Smith is a major supporter of the arts, especially as it pertains to African American culture. Smith is founding director and President of Fund II Foundation, a charitable foundation that provides grants to nonprofit organizations that align with its values. Fund II Foundation’s mission is to “preserve the African American experience, safeguard human rights, provide music education, preserve the environment while promoting the benefits of the outdoors, and sustain critical American values such as entrepreneurship.”
Smith and Fund II Foundation have supported arts initiatives over the years jointly and individually. For example, Smith is a proud supporter of the Sphinx Organization, a nonprofit focused on increasing representation of Black and Latinx classical artists. Fund II Foundation made a $3 million donation to Sphinx Organization in 2019. Additionally, t Sphinx holds an annual performance competition and awards the Robert Frederick Smith prize to an outstanding young classical musician.
But Smith isn’t only interested in the uplift that music can provide. In 2018, Smith donated $1 million to Open Space Institute to upgrade and revitalize its cultural performance center at the Denny Farrell Riverbank State Park in New York’s Harlem neighborhood. The center has now been renamed in honor of Smith. Years earlier, Smith provided the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture with funds for scholarships, digital archives and preservation efforts.
Additionally, Smith’s own visage was a subject in the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition, “Men of Change,” which just ended its run at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, also in Detroit. The exhibition can next be seen at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African-American History and Culture, in Baltimore, on Jan. 29, 2022.
Learn more about the “Men of Change” exhibition as well as the Black artists and perspectives the show has brought to communities across the country.