Saturday, September 26, 2009

Everyone files a Detroit story

The wall-to-wall coverage of Detroit this week isn't limited to Time. NPR's "On the Media" added two stories: an interview with Time journalists and a critique of so-called "ruin porn," photos that glory in Detroit's destitution. The New York Times also published two: one on Time's Detroit project and one on Dave Bing's sober realism. The Wall Street Journal, alas, only mustered one: a precis of the city's history through the prism of one home on Boston Boulevard.

If you're a national jounralist without a Detroit story yet, don't fret. Detroit Gorilla wrote the perfect primer on how to go about it. You'll be up to speed in no time.

Artists may not save Detroit ...

See this smart and biting column in Forbes for several reasons why. But if the Heidelberg Project weren't proof enough, these awesome videos show yet again the power that artists have to reinvent ruins and bring life back to dead spaces. Check it out:

COMBO a collaborative animation by Blu and David Ellis (2 times loop) from blu on Vimeo.

MUTO a wall-painted animation by BLU from blu on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hello, media. Please be kind.

It has begun. On Monday, Time Inc. debuted Assignment Detroit, a yearlong series of stories to be published in Time Magazine, Sports Illustrated, CNN Money, and Fortune. There's a cover story in Time this week on the city's decline and another on Dave Bing. There's a cover story in Sports Illustrated on Illitch and the Tigers. There are video interviews on CNN Money and a daily blog on Time's website.

The level of coverage is impressive -- almost unseemly. Although so far, though solidly written, it's mostly been said before. Daniel Okrent's cover story in Time isn't terrible, but it repeats some common misconceptions on the city's decline (i.e., the riot caused white flight, when in fact, it began fifteen years before) and is generally inferior to the excellent story on the city's revival that Time published back in March. The blog (which, surprisingly, seems aimed at local readers) has a wide-eyed post on the city's dropout rate, news that has long since circulated nationally.

But the project has a year to go, which means these journalists will have to get digging, and I look forward to seeing what they come up with. I know many have doubts about all the attention Detroit's getting (this essay on Gotryke explains the discomfort best), but frankly, we could use some national sympathy, not to mention some local drive. This year Detroit will not be ignored.

Monday, September 14, 2009

MCS cleanup backfires for Moroun

Back in July, I interviewed the organizer behind a student-led cleanup of Michigan Central Station. With the owner's consent, dozens of Summer in the City volunteers entered the station to sweep and clear out debris. Unfortunately (but to no one's surprise), WXYZ now reports that some of that debris was laced with asbestos. The cleanup has stopped, and so has the good PR for Moroun.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Visiting Detroit's urban gardens

On August 5, I was one of more than 800 people who set off by bus or bike from the Catherine Ferguson Academy to see some of Detroit's urban gardens and farms. The Detroit Agricultural Network hosts the sold-out tour every August.

My tour group hit the West Side. First stop: D-Town Farm. Run by the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, D-Town Farm is a 2-acre farm located in Rouge Park in northwest Detroit. The farm includes "organic vegetable plots, two bee hives, a hoop house for year round food production, and a composting operation" and "is grown using sustainable, chemical-free practices, and sold at D-Town farm, Eastern Market, and urban growers markets throughout Detroit."

Then we stopped at the Brightmoor Community Garden, a market-garden operated by thirteen youth ages 9-17. Last year they earned $1,500 selling some 1,200 lbs of produce. The photos are from a beautiful family/community garden just down the street, complete with a hen house!

Our last stop was Eden Gardens, a pair of large gardens on either side of Strathmoor Street.

Finally we returned to Catherine Ferguson Academy for a delicious vegetarian meal made from all local ingredients and cooked by chefs from Detroit restaurants.  I wandered the grounds as the sun went down, admiring the goats and horses.

It was a remarkable tour. All told the Garden Resource Program now supplies 244 community gardens, 517 family gardens, and 48 schools, and it's changing the face of Detroit.