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Q&A with Detroit artist Alyssa Klash: Art and Business can peacefully co-exist


Contrary to popular belief, making art isn’t just about being hit with a single bolt of inspiration that propels your work to genius level. It is more about working, working, working. It is about making stuff even when you don’t feel like making stuff. And then making some more.

posterThat is why Detroit artist Alyssa Klash is the kind of artist the city needs and embraces right now. Klash has paid her dues – and her tuition. She has worked the long hours for little pay and little recognition. She has made stuff even when she’d rather be in bed or drinking wine along the Seine. She’s a businesswoman and a creative.

Background: Klash graduated from Parsons School of Design receiving a BFA in illustration. While in New York City, she worked for designer Betsey Johnson and the artist Tara McPherson. Klash now currently works and plays in Detroit. Her animations have won local and national awards and have premiered at festivals across the country. Her artwork has been featured in The Metro Times, Real Detroit Weekly, Tv20, StereoGum, Critic Car and The Huffington Post.

Her latest works will be on display in a special show called “A Psychedelic Art Experience By Alyssa Klash.” Opening night is from 7 to 11 p .m. Feb. 28 at Our/Detroit, located at 2545 Bagley Avenue in Detroit. The show will continue through April 28 at Our/Detroit.

Here’s a question-and-answer session Klash was kind enough to do with me to give you a taste of her work, her philosophies and what’s next in her career.

mouthQ: You went to Parsons! Did Tim Gunn ever tell you to “make it work?” Kidding. But why did you choose Parsons?

A: Ha ha, no, Tim never told me to make it work, but I did ask him how many fashion students land jobs after graduation. He just laughed and then I said, “Seriously, I’m going into debt because of this school.” Tim replied, “Well, I don’t have the numbers, but 15 years ago it was 75 percent.” Anyway, I chose Parsons because I wanted to be a fashion designer! I was in the program for a year and decided to take a leave of absences for a bit to see if that career was what I really wanted. When I was about return to Parsons I had a dream I was in a stop-motion animation and these little green cactus characters dancing around me saying, “Alyssa, you should do illustration. You’ll have so much fun!” The next day I switched my major to illustration, and I’ve been having a lot of fun.

Q:  What is Betsey Johnson like? Did you ever think about becoming a clothing designer or couture? Do you make any clothing now?

A: Betsey Johnson is crazy, but when you’re in the design room with her she’s hyper focused. She’s a super strong and smart business woman. I think she doubted herself for a bit and let other designers take over which was ultimately her downfall. I was working in her NYC stores and in the design room with her when she was designing again. Sales definitely bounced back but I guess it wasn’t enough. I still love designing clothing! Lately I’ve been making fabrics based off my paintings and I hope to soon launch a mini clothing line. It’s always been a goal of mine to have a clothing line that is made 100 percent in the United States. All of my fabrics are made here and the garments I have produced are all sewn by me.

GuitarQ:  You talk about being creative AND running a business. Why do you think this is important? What can other Detroit artists learn from this philosophy?

A: It’s difficult going into the arts because you often hear that artist lack a sense of business. I believe all artists have it in them to make a living off of their work; it just depends on how badly that artist wants it. Often I’ll hear an artist say, “I’m burnt out from art school” or “I’m not inspired at the moment.” I find those responses to be complete B.S. If you want the art world, you have to want it bad and you have to work hard. It means getting up every morning and creating even if you’re not inspired. It means putting your work out there even if you don’t think it’s “great.” Running a creative business means being super focused on your goals but also having an extreme amount of faith in you and your work. Above all, artists need to stay true to their vision and not worry about criticism.

Q: Who inspires you and why?

A: All of the artists I went to school with at Parsons. and all of my new art friends I’ve made here in Detroit. Watching their work grow motivates me to push myself every time I create.

Q: What are you working on next?

A: A series of mythological beasts. It may be in the form of animations, paintings, or sculptures – I’m not sure yet.

Our/Detroit: A Psychedelic Art Experience by Alyssa Klash
Opening night February 28th 7-11 pm
Exhibit duration February 28th through April 28th
Address: Our/Detroit 2545 Bagley Avenue, Detroit, MI 48216

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