Say good things about Detroit
While we’re in Denmark, Liz Ikiriko is back in action with another killer guest post:.
When my husband, Clay, and I decided to venture south to Detroit for a long weekend getaway (sans kids), the decision was met with more surprise than expected. Granted, anyone that’s read Charlie LeDuff’s Detroit: An American Autopsy may be terrified that the minute they roll through the city they’ll be robbed and/or see a dead body in an abandoned building. And yes, those were my first fears as well but I’ve come to proclaim the opposite. Detroit is a damn friendly and fascinating city.
The Detroit we experienced was heartbreaking, welcoming, hopeful and on the rise. Ghosts of power and financial opulence are prevalent everywhere. It was eerie strolling through barren streets with towering abandoned skyscrapers and old plaques declaring Detroit a bastion of industry in America.
When all is stripped away, what is left? Those that can’t leave, stay, and the fighters and new pioneers commit to reshaping a city. Bike culture, urban farming, and diverse art are emerging as the new shape of this city.
We met a volunteer at the Detroit Institute of Art that referred to the abandoned buildings scattered around the city as “decay porn.” It dispelled any interest we had in hunting out the ruins. The people we met were so invested in Detroit that we changed our focus and began looking for the living, thriving aspects of the city.
Labor’s Legacy is a public art project installed in 2003 across from “The Fist”, on Woodward Ave. The monument is an ode to boxer Joe Louis, a Detroit icon, by sculptor Robert Graham. Strangely enough it was commissioned and presented to the city by Sports Illustrated in 1986.
Commonwealth Coffee Bar set up in the Shinola Midtown store.
Shinola is a gem of the new Detroit. This shop is in a beautiful pre-war industrial building in the heart of Midtown, near Wayne State University. Shinola sells watches, bikes and hand crafted leather goods all made in Detroit.
Just up the road on Woodward Ave. in Midtown is the Detroit Institute of Arts. We had no idea what to expect and were stunned by the incredible collection. The feature exhibit was of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s time spent in Detroit between 1932-1933. Rivera’s Detroit industry mural depicts the Ford Motor Company at its peak. The mural alone is astounding but the Institute in its entirety was so inspiring. From Kehinde Wiley to Jacob Lawrence, Picasso, Van Gogh to Louise Bourgeois. We were giddy from the scope of this collection.
The Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, just South of DIA, hosts a Sunday café/brunch with guest DJs and guest chefs. Tasty brioche breakfast sandwiches primed us for a walk through the MOCAD gallery.
We were lucky enough to see Rob Pruitt’s The Obama Paintings during its opening weekend. Pruitt has been creating a painting every day of Obama’s presidency. That’s an impressive 2000+ paintings which most were on display in the expansive MOCAD warehouse space.
One morning we stumbled in search of coffee into the Guardian Building with no prior knowledge of its history or grandeur. Built in 1929, this stunning art deco design is a mix of Pewabic and Rookwood tile. With soaring ceilings and rich detail, it’s no surprise this space was known as the Cathedral of Finance.
Another historic building we ventured in was the Fisher Building designed by Albert Kahn.
The Z Project, curated by The Library Street Collective, invites world-renowned street artists to cover the walls of a 10-story parking lot. While we explored the space, we spotted Shepard Fairey on scaffolding creating his largest mural to date. From historic to modern and street to outsider art, it’s hard to not be inspired in Detroit. (mural above by Cyrcle)
Started by Tyree Guyton, The Heidelberg Project is an outdoor living art space and community. Sadly, a number of the houses have been demolished by the city and arson. But what’s left is a number of families open to visitors strolling their hood and engaging in stories of their life and history here.
We drove into Detroit on Stevie Wonder’s birthday. I’m not one for tourist destinations but an exception can be made when you’re in the home of Motown—Hitsville, USA. Standing in the recording studio where artists like Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson recorded was hallowed ground.
And speaking of greatest hits, taking in a Tigers game at Comerica Park is definitely worth it and the number one best bbq I’ve ever had was at Slow’s Bar BQ in Corktown—not to be missed.
While, this is an edited version of possibly the best little vacation we’ve taken in years, hopefully it’s enticing enough to get more people heading to Detroit.
*A big thank you to Una for letting me say good things about Detroit.
Liz Ikiriko is a friend and talented colleague. Follow her wandering eye on Instagram @lizzles77