Detroit has fallen on more than its share of strange times in recent months, but the museum was bustling this past week with the Norman Rockwell exhibition drawing over 10,000 visitors in its first week and the DIA’s theater filled on Tuesday for an evening program with South African artist William Kentridge. All this good energy has been a boost for staff here at the DIA, who have spent the last few weeks trying to regroup from a recent restructuring here at the museum.
As the news gets grimmer and grimmer, and the city maintains a high, but not exactly desirable profile in the media, keeping your chin up here in the Motor City seems to be nothing short of a challenge.
I recently heard from New York-based photographer Bruce Gilden who stopped by the museum for lunch last Friday. He wanted to tell me about his recent series on foreclosures in America and found Detroit to be one of the most unusual of American cities – with entire neighborhoods nearly abandoned.
As someone who grew up on Detroit’s east side in the late 1960s and 1970s, the thought of my old neighborhood turning into a ghost town was not entirely unbelievable, until last night when I saw Detroit artist Mitch Cope on CNN talking to Wes Anderson about buying up homes in Detroit. It is part of Cope’s and his wife’s, the architect Gina Reichert, mission to stage a long-term social art experiment here in the city. Photos and conceptual statements are at his website – mitchcope.com. It’s not a story unfamiliar to us locals, as artist Tyree Guyton began his Heidelberg Project in 1986 to clean up another Detroit neighborhood. Is the city on its way to becoming a “vast, enormous canvas” as one NYTimes writer noted recently? I think so.