Those of us who know and love Detroit consider it a kind of half-finished heaven. We favor its brawny, threadbare aura, its onion-and-mustard-spangled coney dogs, its rambling thoroughfares from a time when Cadillac Eldorados ruled the roads. The city's lonely Gothic churches, historic Art Deco skyscrapers, and spacious island park are joined by a vast network of urban farms growing all sorts of delicious, fresh things in between swaths of concrete jungle. These farms, together with the city's new restaurants dispersed in pockets all over town, make an urban road trip the best way to explore Motown.
Start your cruise at Anthology Coffee (1401 Vermont St.), the city's newest specialty roaster. The warm, airy café is stashed away behind an obscure yet quintessentially New Detroit spot: a co-working space for local entrepreneurs and creative types in a former Corktown printing factory. There, owner Josh Longsdorf brews his single-origin beans at a Modbar espresso machine and a spacious pour-over bar.
Suitably caffeinated, you'll want to head northeast on Jefferson Avenue, through downtown and past the iconic Joe Louis fist-bump monument at Hart Plaza, keeping Canada on your right, until you arrive at Rose's Fine Food (10551 E. Jefferson Ave.). Run by cousins Lucy Carnaghi and Molly Mitchell, the 30-seat restaurant specializes in refined diner food, like brisket hash, huge cinnamon rolls, and old-fashioned egg creams. Consider taking your meal across the water on Belle Isle, an idyllic 1,000-acre island park with an Albert Kahn-designed aquarium and conservancy plunked in the middle of the Detroit River.
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On the 1st June 2015, Virgin Atlantic will launch direct flights to Detroit, the birthplace of Motown, Madonna and the motor car.
Flying daily from London Heathrow, we will be the only British airline to fly direct to this fascinating city. Customers can also take advantage of Delta Air Lines’ services and connect onwards to other US cities including New Orleans, St Louis, Indianapolis, Salt Lake City and Nashville.
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|Rose’s Fine Food, Detroit. Photo: Jesse David Green|
Is Rose’s Fine Food a diner? Let’s look at the facts: The space, on a decidedly not-hip main drag on Detroit’s east side, has been a diner on and off for decades (cousins Lucy Carnaghi and Molly Mitchell leased it, coffee cups and all, last July). The menu, with its bacon and pancakes and fried fish sandwiches, can read like a truck stop’s.
But then there are those “crybabys,” house-baked potato doughnuts glazed with maple and orange zest one day, wild raspberry the next—not to mention that plate of green-onion pancakes with herb-pickle sauce, and that bag of locally milled organic flour used to make the chunky biscuits.
Few diners take the eat local ethos as seriously as Rose’s; fewer still serve a rabbit sandwich on homemade bread. That’s the charm of Rose’s. (And charm is putting it lightly; it’s more like a gravitational pull—one that instantly makes you feel like a regular.) The cousins work to make their restaurant a place that is, as they say, “what real old-school diners were: for all people.” And they’ve succeeded.
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The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) is taking art to the streets around Metro Detroit for the sixth year in a row. The DIA announced on Friday the participating cities in this year’s popular Inside|Out program, which brings high-quality reproductions of masterpieces from the DIA’s collection to outdoor venues throughout the area.
Over the past five years, the DIA has installed more than 800 reproductions in over 100 communities. During the 2015 season, eight venues will be participating for the first time, including Midtown Detroit; the Osborn neighborhood in Detroit; Grosse Ile; Memphis; Ortonville; White Lake; Flat Rock; and Wolverine Lake.
“We are delighted at the continued success and popularity of Inside|Out,” said Graham W. J. Beal, DIA director. “Thanks to the Knight Foundation’s sponsorship, we are able to refresh the program and expand partnerships with metro Detroit community organizations.”
Highlights for next year include new images that better reflect the diversity of the museum’s collection and broad interests of communities. During the summer months, the DIA will partner with Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision to create an Inside|Out community garden exhibition. The exhibition will illuminate a handful of Detroit community gardens and provide new programming opportunities within the intersection of gardening, nutrition and art. The DIA will also partner with the Huron River Watershed Council to host an Inside|Out exhibition in the five Huron River Trail towns, an initiative to help develop an arts and culture component on the Huron riverfront.
The DIA encourages each community to plan activities centered around its Inside|Out works. Previous events have included bike and walking tours, bus tours, talks at local libraries, festivals and more.
More than 80 reproductions will be in 10 communities from April to July, and then in 10 other communities from August to October. Each community will have from seven to 12 images clustered within walking or bike-riding distance.
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Let me introduce you to a few Detroiters I encountered when I returned to the city where I was born and worked for 25 years. After we moved away, for several years we kept a small condo there, overlooking the Detroit River. In the same way you never forget your mother, your heart never leaves your hometown.
I did not seek out Mike Duggan, the energetic new mayor and the first white one in four decades in the largely black city. Or the leaders of businesses and foundations that donated hundreds of millions to help free Detroit from bankruptcy. Or multibillionaire Dan Gilbert, Detroit’s sugar daddy, who founded Quicken Loans, the nation’s largest online mortgage lender. Gilbert moved Quicken to his hometown, bought more than 70 properties (mostly downtown and ripe for rehab), seeded dozens of start-ups, and employs an estimated 12,500 people.
My curiosity was not about the mighty directors of this unfolding drama but the small players who are creating a new city out of what was long dismissed as a wasteland. Some moved in with solid plans; some nurse airy dreams; some subsist on fortitude. Others pray that their candles, so far from the changes, might somehow catch a spark. Detroit’s decay is now its engine: Nowhere else in urban America can you do so much with so little money.
The new Detroit shines downtown. Nearby areas like Corktown and Midtown radiate energy. But around this incandescence skulks the old Detroit, acres of decay and ruin, prairies where the remaining houses stand aloof from each other. The plants that made the vehicles that built this town shed chunks of graffitied concrete. Glass is gone from a million windows, like eyes absent from faces.
I ricocheted from high hopes to despair. But the Detroiters I met, almost to a one, have faith in even an uncertain future. Indeed it’s what defines them. Those who couldn’t summon hope left long ago, if they could.
IT’S POSSIBLE TO DRIVE to downtown Detroit without confronting the still crippled Detroit. The city’s freeways are sunken, hiding its plight, the departure of more than half its peak population. Robert Hake did just that for months after he moved his growing custom sportswear company from the suburbs to the city’s Corktown neighborhood. Called MyLocker.net, it can ship a hundred hoodies for your family reunion in days. “My decision had nothing to do with reviving Detroit,” he tells me from behind his shiny, ten-foot desk, which reflects the skyline. Instead he’d snagged a good deal—an empty auto parts factory the size of two football fields. “But,” he says, “now that I’m part of it, I’m being drawn in.”
Hake, 41, overcame what he admits were deep doubts. Detroit was called Murder City U.S.A. in the 1970s for a reason. He recalls the trepidation he felt as a suburban kid riding into the city, when his parents warned: “Roll up your windows and lock your doors.”
Excited by the city’s new effervescence, he searched Google for graffiti artists, interviewed several, hired one, and gave him a key and instructions: “Do whatever you want, wherever you want, whenever you want.” The walls are adorned with icons of Detroit, from Faygo soda pop to boxer Joe Louis’s fist. He’s hiring locally, adding 70 Detroiters to almost double his full-time staff.
One morning Hake, who still lives in the suburbs, drove outside his comfort zone, onto streets that stretch like worn threads between the freeways. He hauled 400 colorful T-shirts designed by his staff to donate to an elementary school. On the ten-mile drive, he passed street after street of broken-down houses. At the school, though, “I found hallways full of happy, innocent, beautiful children,” he says. “It was heartbreaking to know that those children lived on those streets.”
He thought: How blind I have been. I should give a T-shirt to every kid in Detroit.
Robert Hake is emblematic of what’s happening in this once forlorn city. It is reinventing itself, building by building and idea by idea but, as important, person by person. More tangibly, freed from about $18 billion in debt, the city has money to do some of what needs to be done. It has replaced about 40,000 streetlights ruined by scrappers and time. Police response time has shrunk from almost an hour to less than 20 minutes. And roughly a hundred ramshackle homes are crushed each week.
From his studio a few blocks from MyLocker, Antonio “Shades” Agee, the graffiti artist who’s painting it, isn’t surprised that Hake only recently discovered Detroit’s gloom. It’s easiest to stay on the city’s bright side.
Agee grew up in Detroit. His Hispanic mother still lives in his childhood home, now one of the few on the block, in a neighborhood he doesn't like to visit. It’s not “the new Detroit.” Nor was Black Bottom, Detroit’s vibrant Harlem, where his father played jazz. It was bulldozed in the 1950s for redevelopment and a freeway.
At 44, he is trim from biking; he rarely drives. His right arm—“my painting arm”—is densely tattooed. From the multi-tinted panes of his loft in a former paintbrush factory, Agee has watched Corktown change. He’s a regular at the Detroit Institute of Bagels, just below his window, built for a cool half million dollars. “It still blows my mind to see a girl running down the street and she’s not being chased,” he says.
He’s genuine Detroit—gutsy, driven, growing up when he had to “find water in a cactus.” He says, “Detroit has originality because we don’t have any distractions.” At 15, he was drinking and drugging and tagging. Woodward Avenue, Detroit’s main street, now aglitter with shops and condos, “was so dead I could paint a wall and nobody would care.” Agee transcended the streets. His clients include Reebok, Quicken, and Fiat Chrysler, and even white suburbanites: He painted a grand piano with feel-good slogans and his signature giant lips.
He knows he’s part of a now popular brand, a Detroit that’s tough, resourceful, proud. He resents that the brand has become a talisman for people who hardly know Detroit but boast its name on their shirts. “This big flourishing,” he says, “it’s great! I love it. But most people, they wanna save Detroit. You can’t save Detroit. You gotta be Detroit.”
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On May 8-9, Detroit’s Hart Plaza will be transformed into the perfect venue for a brand new street skateboarding contest from the mind of Ryan Sheckler, one of the biggest names in the sport.
The new event, dubbed Red Bull Hart Lines, sets out to produce a high-energy, high-impact skateboard event featuring an innovative new contest format showcasing 21 of the world’s best skateboarders.
Red Bull Hart Lines will feature two distinctive lanes, each with its own unique set of skateable features. The course itself incorporates a mix of existing stair sets, rails and ledges in Hart Plaza, along with additional custom-built features designed by California RampWorks.
Watch the course animation above for a sneak preview.
Alongside Sheckler, many of the biggest stars in skateboarding will be on hand, including Torey Pudwill, Chris Cole, Nyjah Huston, Sean Malto, Ishod Wair, Felipe Gustavo, Wes Kremer, Riley Hawk, Curren Caples and many more. (See below for the full list.)
Each skater will be required to skate each lane once, then for their third run, the athlete can select either lane to better their score. The top score from each lane then will be averaged to determine the skater’s overall score.
“This is a start-to-finish contest, including an element of speed, with a very unique course design that allows each skater to express themselves,” said Sheckler, event creator and competitor. “If I had to explain the contest and skateboarding in one word, it would be ‘fun’ and that’s what I am going for.”
With the majority of the professional skateboarding scene based in California, Sheckler wanted to bring a street competition to a place where passion collides with innovation.
“Detroit is an amazing city with a rich history," he said. "Skateboarding has passion and I want to use that to impact the Midwest and skate scene as a whole.”
Pro Qualifiers: Friday, May 8 - 2-5 p.m.
Finals: Saturday, May 9 - 2-5 p.m.
1. Alec Majerus – USA – 19
2. Boo Johnson – USA – 22
3. Chris Cole – USA – 33
4. Curren Caples – USA – 19
5. David Gonzalez – COL – 24
6. David Reyes – USA – 25
7. Evan Smith – USA – 24
8. Felipe Gustavo – BR – 24
9. Ishod Wair – USA – 23
10. Justin Brock – USA – 27
11. Kyle Walker – USA – 21
12. Leo Romero – USA – 28
13. Nick Merlino – USA – 27
14. Nyjah Huston – USA – 20
15. Riley Hawk – USA – 22
16. Ryan Decenzo – CAN – 28
17. Ryan Sheckler – USA – 25
18. Sean Malto – USA – 25
19. Shane O’Neill – AU – 25
20. Torey Pudwill – USA – 24
21. Wes Kremer – USA – 25
22. Youness Amrani – BEL - 23
Motown. Motor City. But there’s another nickname that suits Detroit's character best of all, these days: Renaissance City. Certainly, the past 50 years haven’t always been kind to this once-mighty industrial capital. But while Detroit’s fortunes have risen and fallen, thanks to a startling new surge in Detroit tech, in the arts, in design and in independent business, the city is now poised at the start of a brilliant period of regeneration. Welcome, ladies and gentleman, to the new Detroit.
Michigan’s biggest city has been closely associated with the spirit of innovation for more than a century, and no one person was more influential in shaping its dedication to invention than Henry Ford. The unveiling of his iconic Model T in 1908 was the first major step in cementing Detroit’s status as a capital of progress, and other automotive leaders soon followed Ford’s move. By the 1950s, Detroit was a flourishing boomtown, a symbol of American technological ingenuity and a cultural capital full of Art Deco theatres, sweeping avenues, and grandiose architecture.
Now, that same spirit of technological innovation is helping to foster Detroit’s phoenix-like rebirth. The city’s proliferation of available office spaces and low overhead costs has created welcoming turf for a new generation of start-ups and entrepreneurs. According to recent statistics, Detroit is growing at a faster pace than Silicon Valley – and is currently home to some of the country’s most-watched start-ups.
Nowhere encompasses that spirit better than TechTown: a business accelerator and hub of innovation, it’s at the heart of the Detroit tech start-up boom. Situated in New Center, it has served 1,026 companies and contributed more than 1,000 jobs to the local economy since 2007. Not to mention that the very history of Detroit-brand innovation infuses its on-trend, open-plan office: located within a renovated Albert Kahn building that once housed Chevrolet offices, the Corvette was designed on its third floor.
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A distant view of Diego Rivera (1886-1957) and Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) kissing is an unusual, if apt, photo panel introducing an important exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts; but it also reminds us of the baggage that accompanies us whenever we see shows of artists we think we know. While not an assertive attempt at revisionist art history, “Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Detroit” makes a solid case for Rivera’s stature as a major figure in 20th-century art, even if fashion, feminism and fetishism have conspired in his reputation being posthumously eclipsed by Kahlo’s. And it reveals the artists in a different light, suggesting that, like politics, all art is also (somewhat) local.
Having spent the first two decades of the 20th century in Paris, Rivera painted some respectable cubist paintings and was very much a part of that city’s artistic community. Then, inspired by the promise of radical political changes, he returned to his native Mexico in 1921; he is best known as the primary master of the celebrated mural movement that is still one of that country’s artistic crowning glories. By 1929 there was already an English-language publication celebrating his murals. And in late 1931 New York’s Museum of Modern Art accorded him the honor of its second one-man exhibition (Matisse was the first).
About a year earlier, in December 1930, the DIA’s then-director, William R. Valentiner, had met Rivera in San Francisco and, as recalled in his unpublished memoir, felt that the artist’s “interest in economic and industrial development . . . [was] particularly suited to portray Detroit and its industries.” With funding from Edsel Ford (Henry’s son), Valentiner invited Rivera to paint murals in the interior courtyard of what was then a relatively new museum building. The culture clash appears obvious: An artist known for his involvement with international Communism and for the left-wing political content of his art was commissioned to create a celebration of capitalism (officially “Detroit Industry”) in what was then one of its world hubs, with the tab being picked up by a prominent capitalist. What he delivered, after arriving in Detroit in April 1932, turned out to be a brilliant visual encomium to both the captains of industry and the workers who enabled their triumph.
Happily, the Rivera murals have survived lots of political battles—over both their content and (more recently) their monetary value—remaining among the greatest in situ works of art in our country. The current exhibition sheds light on the careers of both Rivera and Kahlo, who were married in 1929, by bringing together 48 works by the former and 26 by the latter. More importantly, it enlarges our understanding of how the DIA murals were painted, with its special focus on the year (1932-33) the two spent in Detroit.
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