Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hearts Detroit.

Copyright Ecohaven Project 2011/Jennifer Hoffman

Its been about 17 years since I last visited Detroit during my art school years living in Cincinnati.  My friends + I would go up to see friends bands + other bands play in bars or at St. Andrews Hall.  I've always had a bit of soft spot for Detroit having always had a great time there + always meeting super nice people during each visit. The city was having a hard time back then + I wasn't really sure what to expect when deciding to go back to work on a Site Specific project art book about Detroit. Aside from being the legendary birthplace of Motown, its always had a great music (+ art) scene, as does the rest of the Rust Belt. I gained a deeper appreciation for Detroit + Michigan as a whole more recently in design school learning about the classic + timeless mid-century furniture design/manufacturing, architecture/design movements + pedigree that resided, educated + learned their craft at the nearby iconic campus of Cranbrook Academy of Art.  I was thrilled to learn that many of the modernist greats taught or went to school there + that it was part of the heyday of American design:  Eliel + Eero Saarinen, Charles + Ray Eames, Florence Knoll, Harry Bertoia + George Nelson...just to name a few.

Aside from all of the negative media about Detroit, more interestingly, what I had been hearing about was that a urban renaissance was happening.  I was hearing more + more about the inspiring + amazing things that are happening in "The D" (Is Detroit the new Brooklyn? - I hope not, we already have one of those).  After seeing various documentaries (PBS - Beyond the Motor City) + reading many articles - it's undisputed that Detroit has become a new frontier for the young, entrepreneurs, visionaries + The Creative Class to "go for it" from all over the country + the world, due to its affordability + blank canvas of opportunity where art, music, design + sustainability are catalysts for change.  In addition, attending the most recent Architecture for Change + the Structures for Inclusion Summit's added another level of inspiration.  Listening to lectures by Dan Pitera, Associate Professor, Architecture at The University of Detroit Mercy; Executive Director, Detroit Collaborative Design Center + seeing the amazing projects he + his affiliations are involved in made it all the more clear that it was important to return to Detroit on a more meaningful level.

Together with my husband + chief collaborator, we set out to learn about the city + its people with the intention of expressing what is unique, inspiring + beautiful about Detroit.  With a tight 24 hour timeline, an even tighter budget + a Chevy rental car - we fully embraced the opportunity to explore the Motor City.  Our first stop was the Heidleberg Project (located in a community that as of the 2005 census is considered the most economically depressed neighborhood in the country) where we will be forever humbled + inspired by the projects ambition + heart, we then headed to Russell Street Deli located in the Detroit Eastern Market where we experienced pure sandwich bliss made of fresh, locally sourced ingredients, followed by a trip to Astoria Pastry Shop in Greektown (we admit it - we're bonofide "foodies", but what + how people eat - tells you a lot about a community) then continued to explore Downtown's architecture + beautifully landscaped boulevards of abundant + colorful perennials (despite the media depiction of Detroit being "the U.S. Murder Capital" crime is actually 26% below the national average in the downtown area), we then navigated through the city's beautiful historic 982 acre Belle Isle island park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, experienced goosebumps of pure joy visiting Mies van der Rohe's modernist oasis in Lafayette Park, were once again humbled + inspired by the TAP (The Alley Project) Gallery project located in the Mexicantown neighborhood, afterwards we finished the day at Grand Trunk Pub (just a short walk from our hotel) where we enjoyed a few pints of  Motor City Brewing's Ghettoblaster, only to wake up before dawn the next morning + quickly fall in love with the charm of Corktown while experiencing the best pour over + ham w/cheese croissant we've ever had at Astro Coffee - which is in clear view of the beauty + ruins of the Michigan Central Depot (where I tend to agree with David Kohrman's view - is the ultimate symbol of the automobile's complete triumph over public transportation in the city - not to disregard the People Mover), with that we ended our journey at Dequindre Cut - Detroit’s walking-and-cycling trail running below street level along a stretch of abandoned rail line just east of downtown.  We were excited to see a lot of new bike lanes + bike friendly signage around the city - perhaps an affirmation of a new kind of sustainable + "Motorless City".

We have a lot of work ahead of us processing photographs, making artwork + a corresponding book that expresses what we learned about how beautiful + inspiring Detroit truly is. A percentage of the proceeds of our forthcoming Site Specific project book will be donated to benefit local charities + art projects in Detroit, which will be listed once the book is finalized.  Thankfully Detroit hasn't changed in the most significant way - the people are still warm, kind + open.  We agree that "Detroit Hustles Harder", where seemingly in most other places lies a kind of profound apathy.  Ecohaven Project truly believes that if we let our cities + its people fail - we ALL fail. Ultimately every neighborhood is connected to one another and is part of a larger community - humanity.

More interesting stories:
Detroit Evolving Into a Haven for Artists
Detroit: Syncopating an Urban Landscape
Detroit Pushes Back With Young Muscles
An Abandoned Symbol Of Detroit's Better Days
Despite Tough Times, Some See Opportunity In Detroit
What's Wrong With American Furniture Design?

We can't wait to share more!

We would like to express our sincere thanks + gratitude to Dan Pitera for his recommendations of places + projects to visit in his beloved city.

No comments:

Post a Comment