The story of Detroit is one of decline and hopelessness. From headlines about rampant unemployment to traveling photo exhibits of “ruin porn,” the story America tells itself about Detroit is that of a dying city overcome with despair.

That is simply not true.

 On the last weekend before fall set in, I joined 120 invited guests at a curated weekend called Another Detroit is Happening. Hosted by a small committee of young Detroit entrepreneurs, the weekend’s purpose was to invite other young business leaders, technologists, investors, philanthropists, and artists into the city to tell them the other stories of Detroit. What started as a mysterious gathering of friends quickly caught attention (including the governor’s!).

I’d written about Michigan’s burgeoning start-up scene last December (“The New Start-Up Scene: Silicon Strip to Silicon Mitten”), so I was thrilled to dive in and explore a region I call Silicon Mitten. As I’ve mentioned before, the “Silicon” moniker isn’t literally about tech—it’s about being innovative, young, hungry, and not afraid of failure. The risk-taking spirit of Silicon Valley is evident all over the city of Detroit, from the social entrepreneurs to the urban farmers to the street artists, and they’ve added their own distinctly “mitten” flair. If all you know about Detroit is the story of a struggling automotive industry, here’s a peek into what’s really happening at the center of the Mitten State:

The Alley Project

We also visited a residential neighborhood in southwest Detroit where the community is using art to battle problems with gang graffiti.

The Alley Project (TAP) connects artists with homeowners who allow the garage doors of their neighborhood’s interior alleys to feature spray paint murals. The murals enrich the aesthetics of the community, provide a creative outlet for the artists, and have earned the respect of local gangs who largely steer clear of the installations. Every mural installed also becomes a workshop where local youth can build and create: Fixtures are reclaimed from closed schools and sliding glass doors feature DIY “stained glass” made from the lids of used spray paint cans. “The spray can is an iconic symbol,” said one of TAP’s curators, holding up one of the small pyramids of empty cans glued together, which serves to create bricks for furniture and structural art. “We look at them as building blocks, using them as the foundation of street art culture here in our city.

Click HERE to read the full story by Anneke Jong on! 


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