Brooklyn-based artist, Kimia Ferdowsi Kline has been selected to be the Basil Alkazzi Artist in Residence for a five-week residency at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI from the New York Foundation for the Arts. The residency will result in an exhibition at the University’s large bi-level Elaine L. Jacob Gallery opening April 8 through June 24, 2016.

“Kimia Ferdowsi Kline recalls the moment she found out about the residency: “Coincidentally, I had just finished reading the New York Times article, “Last Stop on the L Train: Detroit” when I received the email notifying me of the residency. My immediate reaction was amazement at the serendipity, and then of course total excitement about the opportunity. I also felt deeply honored to learn that I was a semi-finalist for the Basil H. Alkazzi Award for Excellence”. – NYFA Website

The residency takes place from September 16 through October 21, 2015. NYFA includes a $5,000 stipend and takes care of the artist’s travel expenses. During her stay, Wayne State University provides Ferdowsi Kline with a studio space and on-campus housing (subsidized by NYFA).

“I can’t predict how the residency will impact my work” states Ferdowsi Kline, “but I’m very much looking forward to exploring Detroit and experiencing a new city–particularly one that has garnered such national attention for its creative community.”

PLAYGROUND DETROIT invited Kimia over to The Playground to learn more about her time spent in Detroit and how she got here.

Where are you originally from? How long have you lived in NYC?

I was born and raised in Nashville, TN. I moved to New York 3 years ago and have been working as an artist and curator there since 2012. I live in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

How long have you been a practicing artist?

I finished my MFA at the San Francisco Art Institute in 2011 and have been working as an artist ever since.

My paintings have recently been a lot about memory and romanticizing the landscapes of Iran–the country both my parents are from. I’ve never been able to visit Iran due to religious persecution, so the paintings serve as arenas for fictitious experience. The work is based on story, my family’s escape, and archetypal images from that region.

Tell us about your work with Wythe Hotel. What do you look for when curating the artwork for the hotel?

I view curating the collection there as an extension of my studio practice. It’s not so common for an artist to double as a curator, but it’s proven to be a really beautiful balance for me.When we started out, I was purchasing finished pieces: photographs, paintings, prints. But then we shifted our focus to purchasing sketchbooks and in progress works. Connecting our guests to the Brooklyn creative community is what we try to do in every room with the art we install, and sketchbooks are accessible and fascinating. They peel back a layer of mystery between the viewer and the artist, and that searching, creative “sketchbook space” is a really exciting one to witness. We also have a rotating installation space in the lobby that features site-specific work that engages with the concept of Brooklyn at large.

How did you become an artist in residence in Detroit?

The New York Foundation for the Arts is an organization that serves individual artists throughout the state of New York. Their goal is to empower emerging artists and arts organizations across all disciplines at critical stages in their creative lives and professional development. They are an incredible resource for artists living in New York. I owe every job and grant I’ve ever gotten to them.In early April, I applied for the Basil H. Alkazzi Award in Painting, which is a $20,000 cash grant for a painter through NYFA. The award is given to two painters every two years. This year I was the third runner up, and won the residency, solo show, and $5000 grant. Quite frankly, I still feel like I won first place!

How long is the residency?

The residency is five weeks, then I’ll come again in November for the MFA final reviews. I’ll also give a lecture on my work at that time. Then in April 2016 I have a solo show opening at their university gallery space, the Elaine L. Jacob Gallery. Housing and travel are included in the award, so I’m staying on Wayne State campus in an apartment. It’s a three minute walk between my studio and my apartment, so the set up couldn’t be any more convenient.

What has been your experience been like so far?

My experience has been amazing. This is my first time visiting Detroit, and after having lived in St. Louis for 4 years during college, I see quite a few parallels between the two cities. I feel very much at home here. The people have been tremendously warm and welcoming. The students have taken a lot of initiative to get to know me and have lots of questions about the art world in New York. I’ve loved learning about the Hiedelberg Project, visiting MOCAD, the newly opened Wasserman Projects, as well as the DIA.

What are your thoughts/impressions of Detroit?

Before arriving, I heard a lot of hype: things are so cheap, the city is incredibly dangerous, the art scene is exploding with excitement, etc. You hear all the stories of people moving here and buying buildings for $1. After being here now for a few weeks, I definitely realize it’s a lot of exaggeration. It’s not actually that cheap! And I feel perfectly safe. There seems to be some exciting things happening here in the art world, but it still seems a little sleepy. I’m sure that will change with time.

Do you feel it is very different to NYC or are there any similarities or comparisons you would make?

It feels very different from NYC, both in terms of the culture and pace of the city. They both have bad winters!

Do you have any thoughts on where Detroit will be in 10 years?

The relative affordability of the city is attracting a lot of attention of businesses and chains, and I think there will be more cookie cutter spots in the coming years. But I really am in no position to make predictions. It will depend largely on the initiatives of the residents of Detroit. There’s a lot of potential here. My hope for the city is that the change comes from within and is not imposed by outside developers.

What are you future plans after the residency is complete?

My plans are to head back to Brooklyn and make enough paintings to fill the massive space for my solo show here in April. I’m also curating two upcoming shows at Wythe Hotel in the next few months, so back to work on all fronts!


For anyone in the NYC area, her solo show “Landscapes for the Hungry” is up at Turn Gallery through October 16th.
FOLLOW HER: @alkeemi on Instagram and Twitter and my website is