The pandemic has temporarily shut down the Red Children’s Art Museum, which artist Yvette Rock founded in Detroit’s North End, so Rock is bringing art to Detroiters through a mobile art gallery.
Most recently, Rock has been coaxing people out of their pandemic shells to enjoy children’s art through socially distanced exhibitions that are part of Live Coal Arts Mobile, a mobile gallery in an 18-foot trailer.
“Live Coal will continue its work of transformation through art and other creative forms that I believe are powerful tools,” Rock recently said in newsletter addressing Live Coal’s stance in recent months.
Most recently, the gallery has featured art made of popsicle sticks and other recycled objects, as well as an exhibition where a young Detroiter can have their drawing built out of Lego blocks.
Rock, 44 of Detroit, won’t let the pandemic or any other challenges distract her from her mission: to transform lives through art, education and community. Before there was the Live Coal Arts Mobile and RED, there was the Live Coal Gallery. It was created by Rock in 2012 in Detroit’s Woodbridge neighborhood with a goal of being inclusive.
“I was interested in finding ways to bridge the gap between younger, aspiring artists and established artists. I wanted to knock down some of the barriers that are put up in the art world.”
Rock says she has been successful in attracting people to the gallery who otherwise wouldn’t find themselves in that type of space. She recalls once having a visitor who had never been to the Detroit Institute of Arts.
“I value that we’ve been able to present work in an excellent way. I frame (students’) work instead of simply putting labeled tape on it,” she said. “We value artists at whatever stage they’re in.” Rock says it’s this respect that has led many aspiring artists to use her galleries to jump-start their successful careers.
One such artist is Rashaun Rucker, who had his first photography exhibit at Live Coal Arts Gallery. “Live Coal was definitely a nurturing place for my work when I began my art practice in the city,” said Rucker. He also said that the gallery helped many in the art community.
Financial challenges meant that the Live Coal Gallery had to close in 2015, but Rock found a way to continue her mission.
“If I don’t have a building, I’ll do it on wheels.” With this, the Live Coal Arts Mobile was born. By being able to travel, Live Coal Arts Mobile has made art more accessible, by setting up in various places in Detroit for exhibitions. After a few years of having a mobile gallery, Rock worked with the Central Detroit Christian Community Development Corp. to open the RED Children’s Art Museum in 2018.
The exhibit put on by the Arts Mobile last month was “Detroit Popsies” by her daughters Cedar and Arise. It featured spaces such as a bathroom created from popsicle sticks and other recycled objects.On Aug. 14, the Arts Mobile will feature “Lego Mosaics” by her sons Light and Temple Rock, who will turn submitted pictures into into Lego creations.
Public health permitting, Rock plans to reopen Red Children’s Art Museum in the fall. No more than two families will be permitted to enter during a given day. One of Rock’s upcoming projects is Detroit rePatched, a greenspace in Brightmoor created discover the relationship between environment and creativity.
One of Rock’s most notable moments was when she found herself consoling her students after they had gone through a tragedy. She recalls saying, “We are going to still make art. Let’s see where this goes in our journey together.” She remembers her students saying the art brought them joy.