Never am I more impressed with the curatorial efforts of Steve Panton, then when I see an installment of the ongoing Essay’d series at his gallery, 9338 Campau, in Hamtramck. Panton already has established his reputation as one of the most innovative and intuitive curators around the Detroit art scene, with his first gallery 2739 Edwin, that he ran out of his own Hamtramck living space. Panton’s passion for research and his interest in local history has translated into a gift for tracking and uncovering artistic diamonds in the rough, and the shows at Edwin were a proving ground for unheard-of talents, and a showcase for the rising stars of Detroit outsider art.
During the first year of programming at his new gallery, which sits at street level on Hamtramck’s Jos Campau main strip, Panton has presented an array of fresh and established talent in the vaulted gallery space, including painter Saffell Gardner, months before the announcement as a 2015 Kresge Visual Art Fellow, fiber artist Lynn Bennett-Carpenter, and experimental musician Frank Pahl—a longstanding participant in the Detroit cultural scene, who is enjoying a Renaissance of interest at the moment. In addition to his ambitious move into a full gallery space, Panton piloted Essay’d, which presents essays on canonical Detroit artists, written monthly by Panton, Dennis A. Nawrocki, Matthew Piper, and myself. Roughly every three months, when a new “class” of ten artists has been essayed, Panton presents a group show at the gallery, and it is here that his curatorial skills are put to the test.