Wednesday, August 4, 2010


About two years ago, I went to Detroit, Michigan to do some research at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Though my topic really had nothing to do with Detroit, other than that a very rich man had once lived there and bought a painting I am very interested in, I was instantly struck by the empty decay all around me in that city. It was the middle of winter, cold and barren, and the walk between my little bed-and-breakfast and the museum was strewn with huge old mansions, boarded up and abandoned, on still and empty streets. It was kind of magical, in a way, and certainly fascinating. I found myself dreaming of buying or squatting at one of these mansions and starting an artist collective.
I wasn't able to do so at the time, but it seems I wasn't the only one with the idea. An article in today's NYT, "Wringing Art out of Rubble in Detroit," discussed the growing creative community that has colonized Detroit's wide, empty avenues and broken-down buildings. Transplants from the hipster havens Portland, San Francisco, and Brooklyn as well as random places like Montana are banding together to come up with creative ideas, from installations to urban agriculture to selling a plot of land one inch at a time, which seem somehow easier to bring to fruition in a city this barren. One quote in particular describes this phenomenon to a tee: "There’s an excitement here...There’s a sense that it’s a frontier again, that it’s open, that you can do things without a lot of people telling you, ‘No, you can’t do that.’” This sensibility really reminds me of why creativity and creative lifestyles seem to flourish so well in Berlin--and also why that may soon not be the case, if the uptight German police continue to crack down as they were beginning to do during my time there. In a city that is "left behind," artistic types are free to create in the empty spaces. As one artist put it, "I'm really interested in the idea of our relics."
I couldn't have said it better myself.

PS. I found the image on this short post about Detroit from a couple months before my visit there.

1 comment:

Mack. said...

ahh sounds so cool!!!