Detroit neighborhoods are blooming. We know this from films like Urbanized, and Urban Roots, both of which celebrate community gardens in Detroit and recently screened at the San Francisco Green Film Festival. But neighborhoods in Detroit are also blooming with an urban art renaissance. Just look at TAP, which stands for The Alley Project.
In 2004, The Alley Project wasn't a project. It was just an alley with four garages. Community residents let local graffiti artists work on stuff there, but people were worried about vandalism and safety. Slowly, however, a community started to form around the young artists and some of the older residents. "They've adopted each other," Erik Howard told me in an interview. Erik is the director of Young Nation, a youth and community development non-profit. He has helped guide TAP from a local hangout into a vital resource.
"The larger community might target vandalism as a problem, but the graffiti artists are also part of the solution. Problems are not just problems. They are also solutions that are waiting to be found. The youth's assets are they are driven, passionate and interested in art." -- Erik Howard
This is a smart way to see community: looking at problems to provide hints for solutions. This is even smarter: Looking at the assets a community might provide and leveraging that social capital. TAP didn't mushroom up magically, although there was a strong community base for it to begin with. But it evolved in a partnership of design. Architects and students working Dan Pitera's Detroit Collaborative Design Center (DCDC) at the university of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture met with community members. "We would go out to the school and the studio," Erik told me, "and give the thumbs up or thumbs down" to DCDC's plans. "Architects were learning about community and the community was learning about architecture." After a series of design studios, DCDC proposed a master plan. Architecture is not thrown at you, as Erik, said. It's really a process.Shelter | Written by Lee Schneider
This article originally appeared in The Huffington Post.
Photo credits: youngnation.us