Tag Archives: Detroit

Running Down Our Detroit Dreams

18 Oct

Most of my time lately has been dedicated to training for the Detroit Free Press Half Marathon. This was my first time running a half in Detroit (I did Chicago last year) and I was so excited to finally get on the course. I talked to quite a few marathon runners and most agreed that this was one of their favorite courses. It’s one of only a few races that cross international boarders. You go over the Ambassador Bridge as the sun rises over the river, hang out in Canada for a few miles, take on the “Underwater Mile” (aka The Tunnel) coming back into the US, through Indian Village, around Belle Isle, and along the River Walk. The race was authentically Detroit. They played Eminen “Lose Yourself” at the start, had a mariachi band playing in Mexicantown, the Hashers were handing out beer at the 24 mile mark, and the winner was a local boy! Jordan Desilets beat out the elusive Kenyan runners to win with a 2h28m marathon.

It was an amazing event that would not have been so without the hundreds of volunteers and thousands of spectators along the route. Can’t wait to do it again next year, hopefully for the full 26.2!


Detroit, The Fabric of our Lives

26 Sep

Remember how excited you would get when Tim Allen would wear a Detroit Lions crew neck sweatshirt on Home Improvement or Uncle Joey would wear a Wing’s jersey on Full House? Representin!

You don’t have to be on a primetime Disney hit to show your hometome pride anymore. And thanks to a host of new “made in Detroit” tee-shirt companies, you can retire that Tigers shirt you got for free at a game in 1992 and try on something a little more unique. Detroit Manufacturing and Down with Detroit are just such companies that are constantly producing new Detroit tee-shirt designs.

Down with Detroit reminds me of Threadless, with their ever-expanding design library. Almost daily I see a new design posted on their Facebook page. As soon as that crap call at the end of the Lions/Bears game was announced, this shirt came up on their site. I will admit that with all the new designs, it’s tough to sift through pages upon pages of shirts to decide. It’s overwhelming. Plus, they have kid and dog shirts too!

Detroit Manufacturing has a great selection of authentic-looking vintage tees and updated designs to bring some color to your wardrobe. They have psychedelic 60’s inspired designs, I-wish-it-was-real Detroit beer label design, and a play on Little Miss Sunshine that I have in the mail to me!

Detroit Manufacturing apparel is sold at Funky 7 in Royal Oak, among other local shops. Funky 7 is a Royal Oak staple with walls lined with thousands of vintage rock ‘n roll and sports apparel. They also have a huge selection of Detroit shirts. Dan, the longtime owner, has said that they could survive off sales of Detroit apparel alone. The selection has expanded beyond faded UofM shirts and the signature “D”. Plus, it’s becoming trendy to represent the D. Anyone catch the shirt Mac was wearing in last week’s episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia? You can buy it at Funky 7. (Yes, I took a picture of the TV. How lo-fi am I?)

When I lived in Chicago, I loved nothing more than to wear my Moosejaw Detroit shirt. I have a friend that lives in Las Vegas and wears his Ford tee-shirt everyday. It’s all about spreading the Detroit pride. There are thousands of Detroiters displaced across the country. Give them something to talk about, give them a reason to say “I’m from Detroit”. Start the conversation across the country.

Imagine all the People

9 Sep

Last week I had the pleasure of sitting down with two of the people behind the fantastic Detroit-born project, The Imagination Station. Jerry and Mary call themselves futurist. I was at first disappointed when they were not outfitted in space gear or bring their dog Astro. The idea of having a job title of futurist seemed so Jetson-like to me I wasn’t sure what to expect. But the title became clear as we discussed the future face of Detroit and how they hope to revive the communities through their work with Loveland and The Imagination Station. They see the trends, the road this city is on, and they see ways to change that. Detroit is not a blank canvas to them, as many people view it (including myself until I talked with them), but a city with the resources of a dedicated community of residents that are driven by the blithe to revive the city.

The Imagination Station’s first project is turning two blithe-ridden houses in Corktown (2236 and 2230 14th st) into a community haven for art, learning, and technology. They bought two houses across the street from the haunting monument of what remains of Michigan Central Station. One house was destroyed in a fire and need to be cleared out and will be converted into a public art space, the other will be rehabbed into a community center of sorts. Right now The Imagination Station is raising money for phase 1 of the project – bringing down house number 1 and weatherize house number 2 before the Michigan winter comes roaring through. They are trying to raise $10,000 for this phase.

To me, the most unique part of this project is the open approach they are taking to the process. Where most new spaces have a grand unveiling of the finished product, The Imagination Station is turning the process itself into an integral part of the project. There will be no “TaDa!” moment, but a continuous stream of updates and exciting progress via their blog and videos (with fantastic production by Stephen McGee). Also, there will be art installations throughout the process. An artist, Marianne, has already painted the inside and out of the house that will be destroyed. There will also be another artist that will be working on turning the demolition of the house into a continuous art installation – art being created as art is being destroyed. This is a game-changing perspective for community projects across the city (and, if you’re really optimistic, the world).

The Imagination Station also hopes that their documentation and narration of  the progress will become a blueprint for other groups and organizations to take on similar projects. “One of our over-riding goals in this process is to be exceedingly transparent about our costs, lessons learned and revenue produced so that our successes can be replicated and our failures (since we are members of the reality-based community) can be avoided.” They want to go by the books, getting the proper clearance and permits in order to build this center. They want people to be aware of the full process, the ups and downs, the confusing red tape, the fundraising, the challenges and successes. Open source community building!

Finally, they want their donors to feel as close to the project as possible by, to the best of their ability, linking the donation money to exactly what the money went towards. What a concept!

I hope more organizations take this open-door policy to their process, helping others learn and making it more accessible for others to take action as well.

Art for the People, By the People

30 Aug

This weekend I got to check out the People’s Art Festival at Russell Industrial. Set between two seemingly abandoned factories on Clay St off I-75, The People’s Art Festival was any indie artist dream. Rows of vendors and live performances tucked around every corner brought an eclectic crowd to the “art mecca” that The Russell has become.

Neon Escape playing on the dock

I was giddy walking through the rows of tents, seeing the art, the fashion, the music, the food and people. This is the type of underground event that I have been looking forward to discovering in Detroit. Its unobtrusive yet inviting atmosphere and people’s excitement over presenting their work for a supportive audience is intoxicating. You can’t help but want to tell the world about all the talent that is here, yet to be discovered.

Two artists caught my attention, with similar vintage style in different mediums. The first was Scottie Magro of Seeds Studio. Not only does she take hauntingly beautiful photographs that look as if they’ve been pulled out of a box in your grandma’s attic, but she creates jewelry and pendents with the photographs as well as alters the photos to give them a little more character and old world charm. I have my eye on a print of a smiling turquoise buddha doll. I have such a weakness for the chubby little wise guy. And for turquoise.

Courtney Fischer

The other artist that I bought a piece of jewelry from was Courtney Fischer. I had to show some restraint so I wouldn’t buy her entire booth up, but adore the brass turquoise-painted cuff bracelet I got (I would paint my heart turquoise if I could….). Her pieces are vintage-inspired yet retain their own unique delicate-yet-rough style. Perfect jeans and tee shirts accessories. Just writing about her and scrolling through her Etsy page is making me want more! (Like this and this). Courtney mentioned that she’s going to have a table at the DIY Street Fair in Ferndale this September also so stop by!

Ghost City Searchlight and some Russell fashion

The soundtrack to this event is equally stacked with talent. I got to check out Ghost City Searchlight. I kind of wish I was seeing them play in a seedy basement bar with their hint of Irish drinkin music and foot-tappin beats that can only sound good with broken peanut shells underfoot. And they have a band member who’s instruments include an accordion and didgeridoo. Here is how they describe their sound (from their MySpace page) “Imagine if Social Distortion, The Pogues, Bruce Springsteen and Johnny Cash all got drunk and had a baby named “Joe Strummer” together, and then that baby got drunk. We might sound like the bartender who gave that baby the alcohol.” Win.

I loved the artists I discovered at this event and wish I could have met every one of them. The DIY and artist community in Detroit is carving their place in the new culture of the city, literally taking root in the midst of the revitalized no-longer-abandon buildings of The Russell.

The Hanging Gardens of Detroit

25 Aug

Abandon buildings are a byproduct of the rough times that have hindered Detroit. But there are some dedicated Detroiters that can see beyond the fire-tarnished brick, dissolving porches, and broken windows. They see potential. Potential for renewal and beauty. I want to share the amazing work that some groups are doing to rehab Detroit’s abandoned buildings. One of those projects is the Hanging Gardens Project. Put on by Team Detroit, The Greening of Detroit, and UCCA, the Hanging Gardens is a project that touches on the beautification of Detroit, urban gardening, and the restoration of Detroit architecture.

Ryan Schirmang came up with the idea for a vertical garden to hang in the windows of the remains of the Forest Arms building in the Cass Corridor. In 2008, a fire destroyed the interior of Forest Arms, took the life of one resident, and took the home away from 100 others. Ryan and the 75 volunteers from Team Detroit saw this beautiful abandoned building as a canvas to project their hopes for Detroit.”Project” was a word that Ryan used while discussing this project with me and I think it’s a great concept that helps support the artistic efforts of so many people in the city. It’s about more than just making Detroit look nice, its about the hope they have of inspiring real action. In an email, Ryan explained to me some of their motivations for building the Hanging Gardens:

“Public art is the way that a city lays down its identity. From that respect, Detroit has such a rich past- it got rich off cars and built that into its city fabric. Add to that the history of sports here, Motown and R&B before it, the birth of techno after it- and you’ve got a strong potent mixture of broth to work with. At the same time, while you walk around downtown, under the shadow of those ornate old buildings that still stand- there’s the space made by what’s been torn down. That space extends out to 8 mile. And it can be filled up with whatever you want it to be. That’s why the artists are having such a field day – it’s the rich past and wide-open future.

I think the Hanging Gardens is a way to say- you know what- Detroit’s the place for urban farming. And not in the sense that we’re all going to be farmers, but in the way that says the people who’ve started growing food are getting the ball rolling and they’re not going to stop. It’s contagious.”

The hanging garden was “planted” in May of this year and will be decorating the face of Forest Arms during its reconstruction.

Lafayette vs. American; The Epic Battle Continues

24 Aug

For millions of years a battle has raged on in Detroit that makes the Battle of Troy look like playground teasing. Every Detroiter has their allegiance and there never has been a clear winner or loser. The object of our affection? Coney Dogs. Grilled hot dogs wrapped in a warm flaky bun, topped with meaty chili, spicy mustard, and sweet onions. And now, the professionals are stepping in to weigh in on the war. Travel Channel’s “Food Wars” will be crowning a champion Coney Island tomorrow night (Wednesday at 10pm). Featuring the original neighboring contenders, American and Lafayette Coney Islands. Who will win? (Detroit Moxie knows but she’s not telling) tune in! Will this put an end to the suffering and battling that divides this city? Doubtful.

Detroit ranked as a top Underrated City to Visit

23 Aug

BootnAll, a thriving online travel community, has ranked Detroit among the nine most underrated cities in the US, along with Portland, Austin, and Providence. They also give some great reasons to visit, such as the Heidelberg Project and urban gardening warriors. Come one, come all!