Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Detroit, MI- Art Capital of the World?

Whenever I see pictures of the waste and devastation that was once the great city of Detroit, I'm instantly reminded of an article that asserted that the key to neighborhood gentrification (at least in NYC) was the introduction of artists. In fact, the writer called artists "the shock troops of gentrification." Of course, that is, no doubt, an over simplification, greed (as in the hearts of real estate developers) being the major ingredient in the toxic aftermath that so often results. Artists, no doubt, are in turn victimized by their own success and neighborhood altering effects, almost as much as the "original" inhabitants.

But here we are in what, despite everything, could still be an age of hope, change and new ideas... And I was just wondering, has the city of Detroit ever made a concentrated, concerted effort to lure artists on a national basis with sweetheart deals on housing, work and exhibition space, etc. to help rejuvenate and enliven their dying city? Surely they wouldn't be the only contributing factor, but artists do have a proven track record of generating change and transforming their environment from the most meager of resources, and in record time. Wouldn't it be great if for once in this country's history we actually gave artists the rights, privileges and accommodations afforded corporations throughout this country- or artists in other countries.

If you can transform a desert into a megalopolis by throwing money at it, why not revive a city by throwing together the most creative, productive people anywhere to be found? The money always follows. I can't think of a better time, or reason to try...

Detroit, MI- Art Capital of the 21st. Century! Why not?
Photo: Sean Hemmerle


Brian said...

I love the idea of Detroit as art capital of the 21st Century. What do we have?

Lots of vacant land:


People with very interesting ideas about what to do with abandoned houses:


Not to mention the affordable housing. Assuming you have a job and can make a living here, no small assumption I know, but assuming that, Detroit is a great place. Essays like the one you referenced portray the city as a post apocalyptic wasteland and it's just not accurate. Most of these buildings have been empty for many years. So it's disingenuous to relate these to the current crisis in the Big 3.

For a more balanced view of the city, I would recommend looking at a series the Detroit Free Press did last year called Driving Detroit. As Bill McGraw said "it's worse than you think, it's better too."


I'll also mention that I've been writing about the portrayal of Detroit in the media on my blog, for anyone who wants to check it out.


Stan B. said...

Brian- Thanks so much for stepping up and edifying one and all. Having never been there, it's great having an open minded, native's viewpoint in the mix rather than relying on media hit and runs.

I'm hardly the optimist, but despite everything, whenever I see portrayals of your city, I can't help but think of it as so much potential just waiting to be unleashed...

shemmerle said...

there is a fine little town (or borrough, as they say in pennsylvania) south of pittsburgh where artists are taking over previously blighted neighborhoods. have a look at braddock, pennsylvania when you have a minute.