Yes, that Detroit...which is, perhaps, a surprise.
We'll get to the 'why' in just a bit but first a little of context for this week's choice.
My job has a terrific fringe benefit. In addition to the wonderfully interesting places I go, I get to meet wonderfully interesting people. Take, for example, Alexis Tragos. Formerly of the Whitney Museum of American Art, Alexis now works at the Mattress Factory, a contemporary art space on Pittsburgh’s North Side. We met last fall when I toured the Mattress Factory's extensive exhibition of Detroit-based artists. It was a terrific show bursting with seemingly unlimited creative energy. This led me to wonder what else I might be missing about Detroit, a city which is currently far better known for its challenges than for its cultural vitality. With that in mind, I recently asked Alexis if she would do a guest post for 'A CITY A WEEK AND WHY...' She graciously responded with the reflection below on 'WHY DETROIT...'
I have a soft spot in my heart for Detroit. Yes—Detroit, Michigan.
My fondness for the Motor City began as a child when I would visit my great-grandmother and spend hot summer days chasing sea gulls along the shore of Lake Michigan while eating a Sanders hot fudge sundae.
By the time I was twelve, my father was living in Detroit full time and my memories are filled with visiting the Detroit Institute of Arts, going to old Tigers stadium, lazily swinging in a hammock at Hubbel Pond in Milford, and never getting enough of Dearborn’s Middle Eastern cuisine.
Skip ahead twenty years and my love affair with Detroit remains. I can’t escape this gritty, yet magical American city. I’m about to marry a Detroit native (in 4 weeks!) and have spent the last year giddily exploring the city’s arts community in preparation for the Mattress Factory current exhibition Detroit Artists in Residence which is on view until summer 2014.
Despite its less than glowing reputation, Detroit is a city—like Pittsburgh—that is reinventing itself. And is doing so, in part, because of its vibrant arts community.
The city is a hotbed for working artists. They can easily afford studio space, and in the case of Design 99, are transforming entire communities by purchasing homes for $500. There is the College for Creative Studies, Wayne State University and just outside the city, the prestigious Cranbrook Academy. An interesting fact is that every artist in the Mattress Factory exhibition is either a graduate or professor at one of these institutions.
Artists are often the first to respond when there is a change in society and the Mattress Factory was drawn to a group of artists whose work is influenced by, and directly affected by their communities. Design 99, Jessica Frelinghuysen, Scott Hocking, Nicola Kuperus and Adam Lee Miller, Russ Orlando and Frank Pahl are all connected by their environment, yet their reaction to the swift socioeconomic changes happening in Detroit are vastly different and intensely powerful.
I could go on and on about Detroit, but take my advice and experience it for yourself. If you go---stay: Westin Book Cadillac; eat: Green Dot Stables, Astro Coffee, Royal Kabob, Avalon, Roast; visit: MOCAD, Belle Isle, Eastern Market; shop: Nora, Shinola, Signal Return, Detroit Antiques Mall.
CLICK HERE for a few more pics, all courtesy of Alexis!