AAN 2012: Detroit in Lines and Images

Part 4 in a series of guest posts from the staff of Metro Times leading up to AAN’s 2012 Annual Convention in Detroit.

Detroit in Lines and Images

By Brian Smith

Beneath the surface of Detroit’s buzzed-up urban redevelopment and influx of entrepreneurial commodification, beneath the mass-media glorification of the city via “ruin porn,” there lies a tradition of risk-taking creative energy that, when all’s said and done, can’t be found anywhere else.

The Heidelberg Project is a key example of said spirit that completely reinvented the term “found art.” It’s a fallen Detroit hood repurposed into a virtual drive-thru art installation in which whole houses are hued in polka dots or other pop tones and surrounded by (re)fabricated cars, fences, trees, tires and shopping carts, most of which are bent, manipulated or painted in absurdist ways. You have to see this.

Switch gears and hit Detroit’s Midtown section — another short cab ride from your hotel — where everything’s within walking distance.

First, the DIA (Detroit Institute of the Arts) is a beacon of human creativity — from the prehistoric to the contemporary — whose highlights among many include Diego Rivera’s fresco stunner, “Detroit Industry,” and Van Gogh’s “Self Portrait.” The DIA’s collection is among the top five in the United States.

Across the street is the Detroit Historical Museum, tracing 300-plus years of local history, including a wondrous, 8,000-square-foot exhibit dedicated to Detroit’s mind-boggling auto legacy.

A few blocks away is the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, “the world’s largest institution dedicated to the African American experience,” a center of power and beauty whose permanent sights include Hubert Massey’s storied Ring of Genealogy, a beautiful 40-foot terrazzo tile foundation encircled by nameplates of prominent African Americans.

The Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit is housed nearby in a cavernous, repurposed space. MOCAD plays a huge role in fueling public critical dialog, as well as the appreciation of art, film and music, both in this arts-rich Detroit and throughout the Midwest.

Brian Smith is the managing editor of Metro Times.

Go to: 2012 AAN Convention Website