Detroit 2016 I

Detroit, Michigan is that city that you can't help but fall in love with! Yeah, it's pretty blight and somewhat empty depending on what side of town you're on. But Detroit has life! Everywhere I went during my visit, I saw the free spirit in the people...walking with their heads held high and their drive to strive for more. But what's not talked about is that Detroit is rebuilding. You can see it downtown on Woodward Avenue, on Jefferson Avenue, in the Highland Park neighborhood, in Dan Gilbert's Brush Park Development and you can see it on Belle Isle. You see fresh artwork around the city from some of the most talented artists around...some are even from Detroit! But if you want to just focus on the abandoned houses, churches and can do that, because I choose not to. I choose to focus on the great things I saw and photographed during my visit. Don't get me wrong, I drove past some of those abandoned houses, churches and buildings...I just chose not to stop!

Driving into the city off Interstate 94, I noticed thick gray and black clouds, which were giving me hints of rain. As I drive past the huge Uniroyal tire, raindrops begin to fall. Not enough to make me turn around and drive back to Chicago, but just enough to let me know that this first day is gonna be a wet one indeed. Working my way into the city, the downpour begins. I check into my hotel downtown and chill and relax for a few. I noticed that I have a pretty good city view from my windows, but since it's still raining I decide to get a quick nap in. Later, after the rain stopped I decided to go out for a walking tour. Right across from the hotel is some of the best artwork I have seen in quite a while. There are 12 giant murals that wraps around the lower part of an office building. I named the colorful ones "The Lollipop Girls" for obvious reasons. And I noticed that the black and white murals are stamped with "From Detroit". This artwork is spectacular! Next, I find my way over to the Michigan Welcome Center to inquire about a few landmarks and their locations. Across the street I walked over to the Bagley Pedestrian Bridge. This is a very impressive bridge. And from the bridge you can see the Ambassador Bridge, which connects the United States and Canada. From there, I drove over to the massive Michigan Central Station, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. The building has been abandoned for quite some time, but repairs have been ongoing since 2011. Work began on partial asbestos abatement on the first floor. Other work included: interior demolition work, removal of broken glass from first floor windows and removal of water in the basement. As of June 2012, electricity has been restored to the interior, and lights have illuminated the main lobby nightly. Plus, more than 1,000 windows have been replaced. Another cool site was Kenneth Weikal Landscape Architecture's Lafayette Greens Community Garden, which I first photographed from my hotel window, but later went to see up close. The Historic St. Aloysius Parish was another stop on my tour. After that, I drove over to Woodward Avenue and Henry Street where construction continues on Little Caesars Arena, home of the Detroit Red Wings hockey team. I walked around the arena to photograph different angles and views. During that walk, I went past the Greater Detroit Cab Company and came upon an old house that looked like it was falling apart. This fire-damaged house at 2712 Cass Avenue is in the shadow of Little Caesars Arena, and are amongst the few holdouts in the area. Back towards my hotel, I photograph another Historic building...The David Stott Building. And directly in front of the hotel is a statue of General Alexander Macomb. Other buildings photographed were the Theodore Levin U.S. Courthouse, GlaxE Solutions and Nicole Macdonald's "The Detroit Portrait Series" on West Grand River. Again, some more great artwork.

The highlight of this day was meeting artist Tyree Guyton, founder and artistic director of "The Heidelberg Project", now in its 30th year. The Heidelberg Project is an outdoor art project created in 1986 by Guyton and his grandfather Sam Mackey as an outdoor art environment in the McDougall-Hunt neighborhood on the city's east side, just north of the city's historically African-American Black Bottom area. The Heidelberg Project is in part a political protest, as Tyree Guyton's childhood neighborhood began to deteriorate after the 1967 riots. Guyton described coming back to Heidelberg Street after serving in the Army, he was astonished to see that the surrounding neighborhood looked as if "a bomb went off". At first, the project consisted of his painting a series of houses on Detroit's Heidelberg Street with bright dots of many colors and attaching salvaged items to the houses. It was a constantly evolving work that transformed a hard-core inner city neighborhood where people were afraid to walk, even in daytime, into one in which neighbors took pride and where visitors were many and welcomed. Tyree Guyton worked on the Heidelberg Project daily with the children on the block. He and director Jenenne Whitfield gave lectures and workshops on the project around the country. Their main goal was to develop the Heidelberg Project into the city's first indoor and outdoor museum, complete with an artists' colony, creative art center, community garden, amphitheater and more. In 2005, the Heidelberg Project was awarded the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence silver medal.

And this is why I love Detroit. This city is more than just abandoned houses, churches and buildings.