January 2011: I am preparing for my first real visit to Detroit, the city of my birth. I am a Californian, where I have been since age one when my parents packed me into a car to seek fame and fortune in LA. It is strange to be defined by something unknown but when asked if I am a "native" Californian, I answer, "No, I was born in Detroit." It seems time to investigate what that means. So I have come "home" on my birthday to photograph Detroit.

This blog is part of an accompanying journal about the project.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

And the crash turned into a benefit...

For had I not had the disk crash, I may not have gone back into my files so quickly. In that process now, several months from January's trip and looking toward May, I am discovering more that I want to print, understanding the city more even from that first quick visit. Yet I am also struck again by the bleakness of a city in the despair of the times. In the despair of the winter.

The emptiness of a declining population and the sparse vistas of a winter environment with a population, especially one with a high rate of poverty, inside combines to raise the level of Detroit's drama.

That said, the year is moving seasonally toward renewal and in my next trip in May, I anticipate flowers and ... more people plus the growing sense that incredibly creative proposals and already working ideas are happening there. I just cannot wait to capture these coming moments of growth and light.

And, just to see how another Detroit native has returned home and sees the city, I absolutely love Allee Willis' blogs about her early April trip to Detroit, her hometown, as part of the 3rd Rust Belt to Artist Belt conference, where Seth Beattie, founder of the conference and program manager at the [Cleveland] Community Partnership for Arts and Culture says:

“In a city like Cleveland or Detroit, what we typically have seen or framed as a real disadvantage or problem in these communities (vacant housing, land and warehouses) actually is affording artists an opportunity to be creative and to go out and do something like the Heidelberg Project. ... An artist living in New York likely will not be able to experiment and open a gallery or launch a community arts project in a vacant parcel because there's such a scarcity of land... . Collectively, we in the industrial Midwest have things in our communities in which artists can carry out there work. There are specific amenities we have compared to newer cities. ...

Industrial cities in the U.S have strong arts and culture sectors because the arts were heavily endowed at the turn of the century, largely by philanthropists who'd made their fortunes in industries. That offers artists employment opportunities and a strong base of arts supporters .... [plus] very affordable access to space that allows artists to be creative and use their imaginations in the ways they live their lives."

Wish I could have gone to this but seeing the upcoming lineup of events in Detroit, know that I'll not be missing out on the opportunity to be there, right at this key time in the next year or so, to watch my home city rise.

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