Monday, September 20, 2010

Vita Brevis, Longa Ars, Detroit

I visited Detroit for the first time in April. The problems I expected to see were familiar, if possibly more extreme: Abandonment of the physical structure of the city and stresses associated with poverty. The photo to the left may represent the condition and potential in Detroit: Impulses to create beauty, combined with isolation and fear.

I had the good fortune to meet with Dan Pitera, director of the Detroit Collaborative Design Center (DCDC), at the University of Detroit Mercy. Among other projects, we spoke of DCDC's plan for a portion of the East
Side, an area of particularly great population loss. To paraphrase Dan, one of his goals is to take advantage of existing energy in the city, including in those areas where the usual impulse would be to condemn and clear. I agree.

Energy breeds energy. I visited both the East Side and Midtown. A mile and one half apart, or a thirty minute walk, there are two cultural centers that could benefit each other and, perhaps, create more: The Detroit Institute of
Arts, one of the country's largest museums of its type, and Raven Lounge & Restaurant, a small venue for live music.

During my visit, I saw no place as lively
as the Rivera Court at DIA. The room is beautifully proportioned and the murals, by Diego Rivera, are aesthetically and historically rich. Most important, given the buses from the University of Michigan and elsewhere parked at DIA, the Rivera Court was filled with people from outside Detroit enjoying (a slice of) Detroit.

My guess is that the patrons of each institution do not overlap much. DIA, like many museums, has music programs. Why not have a walk, a scheduled event, between Raven Lounge and DIA? How about reduced admission to the museum for patrons at Raven Lounge? Get them outside!

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