The city of Detroit is one of the most talked-about cities in the country. There are more stories in the news about how Detroit is a wasteland than any other American city. But at the same time, there are also more stories nationwide about how Detroit is the new underdog, making a comeback of untold proportions. The New York Times profiles our “young muscles.” National publications like BusinessWeek and the Atlantic talk about our “rising,” and our “resurgence.” And even the L.A. Times talks about our artists.
I want to talk about our artists too. Because if there is one thing that the city of Detroit does better than just about anywhere else, it’s turning life into art.
Have you seen the Heidelberg Project? If you haven’t, then plug it into Maps and take a drive. To us “ordinary folks,” it’s some parts strange, equal parts weird, and most certainly interesting. But to Tyree Guyton, it’s a calling. More than a passion project, it’s an expression of emotion and a pushing of boundaries. Once you’ll see it, you’ll either love it or hate it, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t make you feel something.
Then there are the artists remaking the city through enterprise. Yes, enterprise. You see, when an entrepreneur comes to the city of Detroit, they know they’re not just starting a business; they’re contributing a brushstroke to the majestic canvas that is our city.
I went to Detroit SOUP this past month, and if you haven’t gone, it’s quite a magical evening. As I sat down at a table of lovely people, I noticed the vibe was both welcoming and eclectic. People don’t come to events in Detroit to show off, whether it’s haute couture or big egos. They come to take part in the dream of turning what’s ordinary into greatness, to turn an abandoned school gym into an environment for creativity, collaboration, and inspiration. If that isn’t art, I don’t know what is.
One presenter at SOUP spoke about starting an organization to help young Detroit girls learn to read. She talked about how the literacy rate for the city’s girls is abysmally low, and how she wanted girls to own their books so they would learn to love reading and engaging with the material in a way that made sense to them. Warmed my heart. Another is painting murals on an abandoned building near Slows, with the faces of Detroit legends. Rosa Parks. Walter Reuther. She was asking for funds, but only for paint and supplies. Her time was her gift to the city. Then three young college kids talked about creating a fundraising platform for Detroit businesses. A Kickstarter, if you will, for the city of Detroit. And the winning business was a young woman who wouldn’t give up on her dream of bringing Shakespeare to parks across Detroit. These are people starting amazing projects in the city, not for …read more
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