Like, Wow: Orion Fest Includes Gary Grimshaw, Detroit's Iconic Concert Poster Artist

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Gary Grimshaw, 67: You know his vivid and iconic work.

One rock music legend at this weekend's Orion Music + More festival won't be on stage.

Gary Grimshaw, an influential poster designer whose career began with the MC5 in the mid-1960s, will sell and sign his flowing, vivid graphics Sunday at a Rock 'n' Roll Emporium tent on Belle Isle.   

You know his iconic work, even if you don't recognize the 67-year-old local artist's name. Think psychedlia meets silk-screening -- a trippy mix of fluid fonts, unnatural colors and optics that seem to vibrate.   

Grimshaw, 67, still creates gaudy graphics to promote events such as a concert last month at MOCAD in Midtown Detroit and a University of Michigan Dearborn performance-lecture in April by John Sinclair, another local legend who managed the MC5 from 1966-69. Grimshaw shows those new posters and vintage ones in a Facebook album and his sales website.  

He hooked up with the MC5 (punk rockers before it was called that) through Lincoln Park High classmate Rob Tyner, the band's late vocalist. The artist went on to Wayne State in 1963 and moved into a Cass Corridor apartment -- staying in that neighborhood through 1989, as he reminisces at a Tribes of the Cass Corridor discussion forum.

"Plunging into the Cass Corridor was like an ice-cold shower, a wake-up call," he recalls. "My entry into the culture of the Cass Corridor was a revelation of the diversity of humankind. I began to learn how little I knew."

In addition to working with the MC5, Grimshaw was "Minister of Art" for the White Panther Party, a political collective founded in 1968 by Sinclair, his wife Leni and Larry Plamondon, and was active in the Rainbow People's Party and the Detroit Artists Workshop,

Last year, Grimshaw and Leni Sinclair published a paperback titled "Detroit Rocks! A Pictorial History of Motor City Rock and Roll 1965 to 1975."


Part of Grimshaw's poster for an earlier Belle Isle event -- 46 years earlier.

His Wikipedia page, a terse two paragraphs that understate his impact, notes:

Dring the heyday of Detroit's Grande Ballroom, Grimshaw was one of the two primary psychedelic poster artists contracted by promoter and DJ Russ Gibb.

He designed the Grande's first poster, promoting inaugural shows by the MC5 on Oct. 7-8, 1966, A 2005 reproduction is $15 at Grimshaw's site.

Another design from that Age of Aquarius, done when the artist was 21, shows that his Belle Isle appearance Sunday represents a neat 46-year career arc for this figure in Detroit rock history.

The poster, excerpted above, is from an island gathering April 30, 1967 -- "Detroit Love-In -- Bring Food & Music to Share." Unlike now, a "Picnic for People" was free back then.   

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