PLAYGROUND DETROIT has partnered with Ponyride to facilitate a new artist residency program that has been piloted with a Spring Artist-in-Residence, Romelle throughout May. The series of work hat has resulted during that time will be debuted at Ponyride with an exhibition, Through Healing, with an opening reception on Friday, June 3rd from 6-8pm. As part of the program she also presented an intimate talk upon her arrival and will facilitate a free community workshop on Sunday, May 22nd from 2-4pm (RSVP) to collaboratively create a piece of work to be donated to the space.

Romelle is an artist, designer and musician whose work can often be seen as an abstract expression of what she experiences in her everyday life. A metro Detroit native, she graduated from the University of Colorado with degrees in Studio Art & Advertising with a minor in Technology, Arts & Media and a certificate in Music Technology.

Her first solo exhibition, Through Healing encourages viewers to experience what healing from chronic illness feels like through a series of abstract works. The intent behind the body of work is to explore the modalities of healing by making art in a specific place and sharing this healing experience with others. The abstract paintings challenge the viewer to question the perception of the visual as it relates to experiencing how it feels to heal on a cosmic scale.

In addition to the paintings themselves, Romelle has constructed both the wood panels and the frames to represent the more literal building or regeneration of the city Detroit. Within this body of work, the artist incorporates various sizes, color arrangements and surface textures to highlight complex elements beyond what is initially perceived.

True healing can be recognized when a point of wellness has been reached. In many ways, the action of the artist moving back to her hometown of Detroit is a representation of that idea. Through Healing is a visual illustration of her personal experience with healing, reflective of both her own transformation, personally and also reflective of a city that is currently in the process of healing itself.

Photography credit, Rachel Roze.

Photography credit, Rachel Roze.

How long have you lived in Detroit? 

I lived in Metro-Detroit from the time I was four, until I graduated from high school. I went to college in Colorado and lived there for over five years. Now I am back in Detroit again after taking time to observe the city from afar.

It was an interesting experience talking to people in Colorado who knew nothing about Detroit, aside from what they heard about it on the news. I got tired of explaining it to people that had their mind set on the negative things about the city, since I knew there were so many amazing things happening in Detroit that the news wasn’t showing. As time went on, I realized I wanted to move back and that being a part of a creative movement in Detroit was really important to me.

How long have you been a practicing artist? 

Through college I thought I would absolutely be a graphic designer. There was no doubt in my mind, I wanted to design t-shirts until I was 85 years old. I continue to dabble in graphic design, but I do define myself as more of an artist now. I have always wanted to be an artist ever since I can remember.

What inspires you?

I was raised as a really athletic kid; I was a member of the University of Colorado Triathlon & Swim teams during college. A lot of my influences growing up were more often athletes like Mia Hamm & Michael Phelps. To this day, I am still inspired by athletics, sports & the strong mentality that drives people to physically achieve what they do.

In my work, a lot of influence comes from daily life and the interactions I have. I am really motivated by a lot of my friends that have introduced me to their involvement in political and social justice issues, such as the refugee situation in Syria, the Flint water crisis and even injustices right here in the United States incarceration system. I love learning from the people around me: I am inspired by the change that can be caused by waking people up from the mundane reality they observe.

Who are influential artists in your life?

I love following artists such as El Seed, and seeing how they are using art as a platform to bring light to much deeper issues within our world as a whole. Not only that, but seeing how they are using art to highlight solutions. I love that. Other artists that have been influential to my work include Gerhard Richter, Willem de Kooning, Ellsworth Kelley & Kazimir Malevich. In contemporary art, there are so many amazing artists to mention; I love the work of Revok, Pose, Hense and Retna to name a few.

What is your medium of choice? 

Right now I am focusing on large-scale abstract paintings. What draws me to this is the lack of explanation about the piece because there is often little or no context. Abstract work draws the viewer from looking at the object to internalizing the experience. The concept that people are forced to look at what I create and feel it immediately is something that really interests me. Making abstract art feels like letting go of any pretenses because it encourages people to address the subject matter beyond the painting. It doesn’t need to be analyzed based on “what” I am depicting, that’s really not what is important to me. For the most part what it “means,” is how it makes you feel.

Photography credit, Rachel Roze.

Photography credit, Rachel Roze.

What about your creative process have you found to be the most successful for you?

I have found that the most successful thing for me to do is visualize & meditate on completing the task at hand. I find the process is similar to when I was competing in swimming. Being able to envision myself attain something first helps me to actualize the final result which I have noticed is extremely helpful in both competitive sports, as well as my creative process.

What is the most important theme that your work revolves around? 

My focus on abstract work is something that has developed over time. Three years ago, I was still focusing on figure drawing. Now I feel like the abstract nature of what I do is so obvious, but I didn’t know that a few years ago. As I become more confident in myself as a person, I have noticed that it is also reflected in my work. Lately my art has reflected a lot deeper ideas with thicker layers as I uncover more about who I am.

What is the concept behind the work made during your residency?

The concept behind the work I have been making during my residency explores the idea of “healing,”  specifically from chronic illness. I got really sick two years ago and experienced years of dealing with chronic illness that was completely debilitating. Experiencing chronic illness eventually lead to me rearranging the way I approach my life from the ground up. Since this time period was so significant for me, I wanted to be able to give it the necessary time to develop as a theme, and also allow the theme a proper outlet for taking it on, visually. Since this experience was so life-altering, I imagine I will be making art relative to the topic of “healing” for a while.

How was your PLAYGROUND DETROIT X PONYRIDE Artist Residency experience?

Being involved in an incubator and co-working space has been a really amazing way to learn and meet people in fields I wouldn’t necessarily have the chance to work with. I have been able to use the woodshop at Ponyride which allowed me to figure out new ways to literally build my work. Throughout the building, I am always meeting people involved in various things around Detroit that add another dimension to being an artist-in-residence. It has allowed me to meet really genuine people, which you can never have enough of. And Ponyride has a lot of them.

Photography credit, Rachel Roze.

What do you love about Detroit?

What I love most about Detroit is the spirit of “doers”. It is the best feeling to be surrounded by people (especially in the art community) that tell each other, “you should do that, fuckin’ go for it.” No matter what it is, I always feel incredibly supported. I also love going to Detroit SOUP and riding my bike around the city whenever I can.

What are challenges as an artist working in Detroit?

Winters are really cold here. That is not a joke…. I think there are challenges about being an artist anywhere, and those problems aren’t necessarily exclusive to Detroit. If anything- it makes a lot more sense to be an artist here rather than anywhere else for a lot of reasons. There is space for everyone. Rent is still pretty affordable and the community of creative people here is extremely motivating. People are really pulling for you. Other artists genuinely want to see you succeed, which is something that makes Detroit really appealing to me. I see a lot more benefit to being an artist here rather than anywhere else and that’s why I love living here.

Describe what you imagine Detroit to be in 10 years.

In ten years, it would be really amazing to have an even stronger community of artists in Detroit. I can already tell that this place is well on its way to becoming even stronger than it is currently.



MAY 22, 2-4P // Through Healing: Painting Workshop with Artist-in-Residence Romelle

Join artist-in-residence Romelle for a free interactive painting workshop that allows participants to use upcycled materials to collectively create a collaborative piece of artwork that will be donated to Ponyride as a part of her residency. Romelle will discuss details of her creative process and the role that healing plays in making artwork.

Paint, materials & supplies provided!


JUNE 3, 6-8P // Through Healing: Romelle Solo Exhibition Opening Reception presented by PLAYGROUND DETROIT

Don’t miss the opening reception of “Through Healing,” her solo exhibition that encourages viewers to experience what healing from chronic illness feels like through a series of abstract works. The exhibition, presented by PLAYGROUND DETROIT, is a visual illustration of her personal experience with healing, reflective of both her own transformation, personally and also reflective of a city that is currently in the process of healing itself.

Thank you to our Sponsors: Our/Detroit, Ponyride, & Kiana Doggan