Saturday, February 22, 2014

Avalon, Rivera, the Rouge and the D:Hive

We are two trips into our Detroit tours.

On February 7, in the context of our Cities work, we visited two small businesses in Detroit: Avalon Bakery in the Cass Corridor (now called Midtown) and the D:Hive, a group that serves as connective tissue for people looking to work, play and live in the city.

Behind the counter, with steam rising from freshly baked delicacies while the cold wind blew outside, a baker called Atiba gave us a rundown of Avalon's philosophies: local foods, local clientele, investment in the city, both in terms of great products and a warm gathering place for Detroiters. Jianmarco was able to answer a question about the advantages of locally grown food that harked back to his first Exhibition in November of 2012. I was impressed.

At the D:Hive on Woodward, Kyle Cantwell showed us their orange-painted space, plied us with maps, brochures, and stories, and invited us to write on their giant chalkboard about our visions for the city (much like the chalkboard in SK's entry). He mentioned that Midtown has a 97% occupancy rate. For all the plans people are making for Detroit's wide open spaces, there are parts of town where housing is being built to accommodate people moving in.

On February 14, we went big, first at the Rouge Plant tour and then at the Detroit Institute of Arts. The Rouge is the first fully vertically integrated factory in the world: ore came up the river on barges and left a few days later as Model A cars. These days the factory produced Ford trucks, and I have never seen a more muscular and inspiring demonstration of what the auto industry did for this part of the world. The tour included video presentations, experts explaining the living roof of the plant and each step of the construction process, and an elevated walkway around the factory floor, staffed with guides, lasting one-third of a mile.

We went from there to the DIA. The kids viewed the Rivera murals, one of the great and ambitious artworks of this part of the world. Seeing Detroit Industry half an hour after leaving the Rouge plant was a little bit magical.

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