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Just what Metro Detroit needs: An arty, meaty gallery

She is young, well-educated and just darn cool. So why is Monica Bowman living in Metro Detroit?

Bowman, a 32-year-old Michigan native, decided to start an art gallery in Ferndale – the first such establishment to open in this hipster spot on the Detroit city border in more than a decade.

Bowman calls The Butcher's Daughter, a contemporary art gallery that opened this month, a place where everyone can feel comfortable buying art – she even offers payment plans for young collectors.

But let's let her do the talking.

Q: You received a master's in museum studies at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and you worked for Sotheby's Institute of Art in New York. Nice. What brought you back to Detroit?

A: In the nineties, I found myself working in automotive global trade management in international logistics. As years passed and the automotive market declined, I returned to college. … In my experience, you have to go out and live somewhere else to make you appreciate what's here. When I was at Georgetown, I could choose whether I wanted to go to Sotheby's in London or New York. I chose New York. But the reality of the situation is I would never be able to make an impact there as I can here – face to face, body to body.

Q: What convinced you that Detroit was the right spot?
A: I was working on a catalog for a collector in New York who had a gallery there and a gallery in Detroit. He is a wonderful man with a large collection of African-American art. I was living in Harlem, researching his collection when an opportunity came up to open an art center here. It didn't work out, but it started me thinking. … Plus, my husband (Dick Goody, an associate professor of art and director of the Oakland University Art Gallery) works here, so I felt like this was the time to seize the moment.

Q: Is Ferndale, let alone Southeast Michigan, ready for a contemporary art gallery?
A: At my opening, there were more than 200 people here. I thought I was going to burst at the seams. They were so happy and excited. … I had a few ties with local art galleries here like Lemberg and Susanne Hilberry Gallery. I started talking to them about opening a gallery and they were extremely supportive. It went beyond my expectations. They didn't hold back and offered to help with things big and small, like how to set up my lighting and address construction projects. That kind of information is invaluable to someone starting out.

Q: How do you expect a region with massive unemployment to buy fancy-smanchy art?
A: I don't think we're an elitist place. I even keep cookies on my desk! I want to make people feel comfortable shopping for art (and) try to make art more accessible to young collectors. That is why I have a Young Collectors Program that lets people buy art via a payment plan. When I was young, I would go to antique shops and just browse. I had no money. But once a saleswoman came up and caught me. I was nervous. But she extended an option to me to come in every week and pay for the work I wanted on a payment plan. I did it, and at the end of five weeks, I owned a piece of art. It was a cheesy piece, but my brother has it in his home to this very day (a reproduction of Raphael's Madonna della Seggiola complete with gauche 10 lb. gold frame). … Collecting art is an investment in yourself and your community.

Q: So what's up with the name?
A: I come from a long-line of butchers. I'm the granddaughter, daughter and sister of butchers. While people often seem surprised or bemused by the name they certainly won't forget it. It's earnest and hard-working and it reflects my personality. Besides, art and meat have more in common than one might think. A frenched rack of lamb for instance. That's artful.

Check out Monica's gallery site and blog here.

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