Cut & Paste: Lansing City Pulse

New art exhibit celebrates Michigan’s place in the Rust Belt

As much as we all care for our Great Lakes State, Michigan can certainly be associated with a lot of terrible things: Economic decline, population loss and urban decay, to name a few. But here we sit, smack dab in the middle of the Rust Belt, the portion of the United States that suffered the worst after the disappearance of its once-strong industrial sector.

Despite the absence of corporate backing in production, Midwest creatives of all varieties with a desire to produce works have proved since the ‘80s and ‘90s that if there is a will, there is way. In “Substrate,” (SCENE) Metrospace’s new exhibit opening Friday, visitors are shown the many ways in which, albeit on a smallscale, people are taking production back.

“A lot more artists and designers are producing well manufactured works,” said Ben Gaydos, professor of design and curator of “Substrate.” “And it doesn’t necessarily have that cut-and-paste aesthetic.”

“Substrate” explores the relationship between artist, landscape, the material environment and print and a wide variety of independently produced zines, art books andinstallations. The authors of the pieces themselves range anywhere from fine art photographers to graphic designers. Though aesthetically the content of the pieces offers a wide variety, Gaydos, who selected the works for the exhibit, said that a consistent thematic strand is sewn throughout.

“(This kind of production) is in no way exclusive to our region, but there is something about these works,” Gaydos said. “They are a reflection of our space.”

He pointed out a piece that perfectly teased the exhibit. Tate Shaw, a New York-based artist who runs a visual studies workshop, tasked six photographers to visually catalogue the state of their city, Rochester. The piece itself was printed on an antiquated Kodak press, the last printer of its kind in a manufacturer found in downtown Rochester, a region once known for mass production of printed materials.

Gaydos is no stranger to small-scale production or the Rust Belt. The 34-year-old Michigan native has spent his life in various locales until he wound up in Detroit. He is working on his own publication entitled “Flint Magazine,” an update on what a multimedia journal would look like, contrasting the digital and the physical.

With out noses buried in digital media, this may all seem like a novelty, but artist’s utilization of indie publishing is something Gaydos is confident has been gradually getting bigger since the pulp movement of the ‘90s.

And the Rust Belt, as it seems, is no better place to watch this art form find its day in the spotlight.

“There is something rooted in the work ethic of the Midwest,” said Gaydos. “Henry Ford started small scale productions in his garage, and I think there is a similarity that crosses over into the maker/publishing movement.”

“Substrate” (SCENE)

Metrospace 6-9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 24 FREE 110 Charles St., East Lansing (517) 319-6832,

Karen Stein