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The Motor City as Art Mecca
By Brainy Bird
Art, like God, has the power to heal and redeem. Right now, Detroit, Michigan needs a messiah. That messiah could be arts initiatives.
Unless you've had your head in the sand, you know that the City of Detroit filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy on July 18, 2013. The damage? Upwards of $20 billion in a city home to 700,000, making it the largest city (by population) to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy in the history of the United States. While many people have objected to this filing, the fact remains that Detroit is hurting badly.
Detroit has a long history as a manufacturing city, but the U.S. is no longer a place for unskilled factory labor. In fact, it's not really a place for factories at all. What it has and always will be known for is its innovation. The U.S. is a country of thinkers, writers, inventors, artists, and entrepreneurs. Simply put, it is a country of creativity. Maybe our kiddies don't perform as well on standardized tests as kiddies in so many other industrialized countries, but this is still the land where things that change lives and ways of thinking are thought up and blueprinted. Americans are “squishy” thinkers.
Detroit, like several other post-industrial cities before it (namely Pittsburgh), should consider reinventing itself as an arts destination. The money can come from well-off suburbanites and national grant-giving foundations. Organizations like the National Endowment for the Arts are just the place to start. Then there are plenty of corporations who could probably be persuaded into donating money for museums, theaters, galleries, festivals and more. Patti Smith has already suggested that Detroit is the next New York. Make Detroit a cultural hot spot and culture vultures from across the country—even the world—will swarm to it. This is a long-term solution, not a quick fix.
So get started, Detroit. As for non-residents of the Motor City? You have an obligation, too. This is a major American city that has fallen into disrepair. Take out your toolbox. We can do this.