The Rebirth of Detroit Amid Modern Day Ruins
Detroit’s iconic structures — Diego Rivera’s industry murals, Joe Louis’ fist and the majestic Fox Theater — are forceful reminders that this is a city of gritty fighters, builders and creators. But as the meltdown of the United States auto industry continues to stab at the heart of Detroit, the city’s modern-day ruins have become tragic symbols of a city struggling with abandonment and decay.
As Detroit continues the fight of its life, artists and visionaries are slowly returning to the city to take advantage of the cheap rent and open spaces. While some have compared Detroit to a war zone, its burgeoning artistic community looks at it like a playground.
"I see the magic here. This city has been known to come back," artist Tyree Guyton said. "There's this new energy that's creating art all over the city. [A colleague] said in the past that the new industry in the city of Detroit is art and culture. I believe it. I see it."
Like the city itself, Guyton's masterpiece, the Heidelberg Project, has seen its share of adversity. Guyton uses paint and other people's discarded junk to create displays such as houses adorned with stuffed animals and polka dots, scrap metal statues and politically incorrect cigarette adverts, transforming one of Detroit's most dangerous areas into a colourful outdoor art park that now spans two blocks of Heidelberg Street on the east side of the city. After fighting off partial destruction twice and nearly two decades of social and political opposition, the city has finally embraced Guyton's eccentric dreamworld. The Heidelberg Project celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.
Grants totalling more than $200,000 since 2009 - and hopefully a pending grant of $300,000 - will provide funds for significant expansion and a new arts centre.
In midtown, spaces that once belonged to the auto industry have found new life through the arts. An abandoned auto dealership has been converted into the 22,000-square-foot Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit. The graffiti-covered museum recently received a $100,000 grant which it hopes to use to turn its parking lot into a sculpture park. The Russell Industrial Center is an abandoned auto body factory turned artists' haven, where more than 250 artists, craftsmen, designers and entrepreneurs have studios in the colossal warehouse.
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