Wednesday, September 7, 2011

re: The Art Houses of Detroit

Why does everyone look at me weird when I tell them that Detroit is where Derek and I decided to go for our one year anniversary?

The rise/fall of and struggle to rebuild Detroit over the last few years has been interesting to watch. We'd been hearing about so much opportunity in the revitalization of Detroit - you can imagine that the news of abandoned buildings being sold for $500 spread like wildfire to anyone who pays four times that in rent every month - and wanted to see it firsthand.

When a city built on the wealth of the car industry loses its big stronghold in that market, and the only other surviving industries left in town include Faygo (drink of choice for Juggalos everywhere) and Better Made Snack Food* (whose best selling Rainbow Chips are actually just a bag of crispy-to-the-point-of-being-burned potato chips).... well? It makes it easy to see how so many buildings have ended up abandoned, and how people have moved elsewhere.

One upside of those abandoned buildings is the artists that they are attracting.

There are a group of several homes on Moran Street in Hamtramck that were purchased by Power House Production and left to the hands of various artists to beautiful and create out of the rubble. The houses aren't really open to the public at this point, but we happen to have an IN (thanks, Harrison) and were able to see the awesome Powerhouses up close and personal.

We started with Monica Canilao's Treasure Nest, which includes an elaborate porch collage, a chandelier room with rotating mass of lightable objects, an installation made of the soft wooden backs of destroyed Detroit furniture, a huge wooden bird on the side of the house and more.

photo credit: Juxtapoz

Saelee Oh's illustrations, with wooden installations by local architecture students:

(the hole in the floor existed even before the artists arrived. apparently the neighborhood folk used to congregate there at night, and one person would sit in the hole and tell ghost stories to the people sitting on the floor above):

Richard Colman & RETNA:

I'm not sure who made this light barn out back, but it was beautiful. The roof was filled with glass rods that filtered the sunlight into the darkened room and looked pretty rad. Apparently it works at night too:

It was really inspiring to see so many great artists currently hard at work to beautify and revitalize the area.

Closer to Downtown Detroit is one of the original "art house" projects by Tyree Guyton - The Heidelberg Project started in the 80s, encompasses an entire block, and encourages a lot of community interaction/artwork. (Check out the Google Maps Street View to get a good sense of this one).

3658 Heidelberg Street Detroit, MI 48207

We also visited Hamtramck Disneyland, which was built in the 90s (and looks a little more rickety than the Disneyland I grew up with).
12087 Klinger St (Alley in back)
Hamtramck, MI 48211

I really enjoyed seeing all these wonderfully creative spaces that my homeowner's association would have been shocked and appalled by. It makes me want to buy a $500 house, bust out my hammer and a glue gun and see what I could create. And the Faygo would flow freely ...

*Fun Fact: The Better Made Chip website boasts that Detroiters eat 7lbs of potato chips a year on average, whereas the rest of the country is hovering somewhere around 4lbs


Bek said...

you make detroit look hip, and that's really hard to do!

jendar said...

hi, I am friends with madalyn and she was showing me this post. I have a friend who's an artist in detroit and tells me about how much art is being done there. a few months ago there was an article in the new york times about how detroit is becoming the new brooklyn. whether that's true or not, I think it's great that all these artists are doing such greats things there. I am considering maybe buying a house there as it would definitely be a lot cheaper that a month's rent in my nyc apt.

Anonymous said...

the light-rod sculpture in the garage on Moran St. is by Katie Newell. Was much better before some of the glass rods were broken/removed. welcome to honkie Heidelberg.


Anonymous said...

. . . and the Jux houses are technically in Detroit, just north of the island of Hamtramck.

bex said...

Thanks for the update!

Eric Simmons said...

Just recently came across your article. My wife grew up about two blocks from the art houses in Moran. I had to check them out in person. Very cool. Hamtramck Disneyland is another great find. We do love our potato chips in the D, did you happen to try another local dish, Coney dogs.

bex said...

@EricSimmons I'm going to have to go back and try a Coney dog!!