You often hear people from other cities say things like "Detroit seems like a place with so much possibility. . ." or the cliché, "It's such a blank canvas for artistic-minded people. . ."
The thing is, the canvas isn't blank. There are actually a lot of people actively working on that canvas. Consider Mitch Cope and Gina Reichert, a couple who live in Detroit who are among a host of talented people doing some really amazing stuff here. Every time my carpetbagger ass thinks I've discovered something really crazy or cool about Detroit, Mitch and Gina are the kind of people who totally already know about it if they haven't also photographed it, or curated some kind of exhibit on it.
In addition to their work as curators, artists, architects, designers, etc., opening and running a truly unique design store in Hamtramck for this past year, Gina and Mitch have been working hard to turn their little north Detroit neighborhood into something just incredible. I spent part of last evening reading everything on their website and blog documenting the Power House Project: turning a formerly-foreclosed home on their block into a house "capable of producing enough energy for its own consumption and producing excess power for neighboring homes outfitted with a wind turbine, solar power, and heating technologies and super efficient appliances. . .The structure will function as a neighborhood hub by producing not only electricity but also a new point of identity, gathering, demonstration and inspiration, thus a new type of neighborhood where undesirable homes become experimental factories for community action and power." Eventually they expect the project will expand to several other houses.
The whole thing is fucking incredible and brilliant and unbelievably inspiring. It takes so many of the supposed drawbacks of living in Detroit (vacant land, rampant foreclosures, low-property values, poor city services, indifference from City Hall) and turns those things into advantages. And it's not the same-old "let's farm the prairie" urban hippie stuff or steeped in any of that impractical westcoast yuppie greenspeak you see in dwell. It really seems like something new and unique and interesting as hell.
Look at the photos of the camera obscura they made in one of the rooms. Read the blog. We went to a barbecue at their place last summer and I'm blown away by how much incredible work they've put into the project since then. I can't wait to see how the project continues to develop. Maybe they'll even let me help.
There are all kinds of other people doing other cool stuff of their own here in Detroit, too. Any of them could live anywhere they want in the country or the world, but they chose to live in Detroit because they didn't just see possibilities or a blank canvas: they saw other people doing amazing things here and they made themselves a part of it.
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