The Night Sky Billboard Project by Charlie Michaels & Bird

The Night Sky Billboard Project from Charlie Michaels on Vimeo.

In collaboration with a local sign painter named Bird, who has been leaving his mark along Detroit’s streets for decades, an artist and our friend, Charlie Michaels turned an old vacant Detroit billboard into a big painting of the night sky – for star gazing in the city.

Above the intersection of Mack Ave. and Mt. Elliott St. on the east side of Detroit, a billboard that’s been sitting empty for decades displays an image of the night sky. Allowing those who pass underneath to see the stars more clearly than they are visible in the city, it offers a quiet reminder to notice what is always present but cannot always be seen.

Charlie says, “The collaboration with bird came out of a desire to integrate the project into the neighborhood somehow instead of simply using it as the destination. Streets on the east side of Detroit are covered with hand painted ads and murals – seeing this project as an addition to this gallery already in the street and wanting to acknowledge those artists whose work is already so present, I decided to seek out a collaborator. Bird was amazing to work with because his work is really everywhere, an entire lifetime of painting on view all over the east side.”

The video provides a very cool behind-the-scenes look at the installation and creation of the work. I heart billboards and this project.

Rust Belt to Artist Belt III in Detroit

On Wednesday, April 6th I will be headed across the border to the College for Creative Studies, A. Alfred Taubman Centre for Design Education in Detroit for the Rust Belt to Artist Belt III conference to participate on a panel named Lab Culture: Hands on Think Tanks for Cities, with five other amazing individuals.

Conference participants will explore how economic and community development, entrepreneurialism, and land use in post-industrial Rust Belt cities are being shaped by creative individuals. Attendees will examine best practices for connecting creative practitioners with advanced manufacturers to establish a “Creative Supply Chain.”

Check out the jam-packed schedule and links to panelist and moderator bios here. With over 50 speakers in two days, this is going to be AMAZING.

Hope to see you there!


BCL Report: Feb 18, 2011 (Maps & Portals)

Around the maps, we’re beginning to imagine two cities collapsing into one.

As part of How to Forget the Border Completely, we’re doing and planning all sorts of things — border portals, border etiquette classes, new maps, new tourism guides, interviews, stories, and imaginary architecture.

Michelle and our dear friend, Lee Rodney, spoke about HFBC and the Border Bookmobile on Friday on CJAM‘s The Shakeup. You can listen to it here. It’s a lot of fun so far, and we’re just getting started!!!

Continue reading “BCL Report: Feb 18, 2011 (Maps & Portals)”

Border Interviews: Kero

To get a jump start on laying the groundwork for our upcoming How to Forget the Border Completely project, we have decided to interview a small group of individuals who may be considered “experts” of the Windsor-Detroit border in some way.

Kero, a musician/graphic designer/video artist, was our first candidate for a video interview. He has had the frustrating experience of having to cross the border into Detroit quite frequently, many times spending up to an hour being screened upon entry.

Kero shared some border crossing stories–some of which truly highlight the absurdity of current border protocol–and shared ideas for how to improve the border-crossing experience, if even slightly.

Continue reading “Border Interviews: Kero”

Lessons on Microfunding and Community Development from Robocop

The pitch was great, obviously; the rapped overview of the entire movie, an actual response from the mayor noting the city had no plans to create a Robocop statue, and eventually, an endorsement from the folks behind the Robocop movie.

They reached their $50,000 goal, so the statue is being built. And that’s incredible.

But, in all of this online commotion, which Loveland and Imagination Station are great at pulling together, there’s a lesson in how to approach big ideas. From the Kickstarter page for the Robocop Statue project:

When something like a RoboCop statue comes along and gets people psyched about collectively crowd funding something in Detroit, that energy needs to be encouraged, and ultimately it can be channeled into other efforts and a general awareness that things like this are possible (and in fact happen) here.

And, this, arguably, is going to be the foundation for something much larger. If someone had suggested five or six years ago that Detroit was going to become a haven for artists buying up property and thinking about things like community building, it might have sounded kind of absurd. This is, of course, not to suggest that Detroit wasn’t home to an incredible number of artists at that time, but rather, that it may not have made sense to draw all the dots between those projects and the things actually happening on the ground now.

There’s something about the small, the incremental, the gradual that really seems to be an appropriate response to the situations we face in our communities. There are no overnight solutions, and even if the Robocop statue was arguable an overnight success, I’m inclined to agree with the folks behind the project when they suggest that this statue can actually be the start of some much larger money and ideas being put into Detroit. If a city get puts on a national or even international map because of a strange, small initiative, one certainly has to pause about all the money dumped into larger and seemingly less effective multi-million dollar marketing regional campaigns, etc.

The lesson for anyone in a position of authority out there: just listen and allow creative people with great ideas do great things.

(originally via @phogtom & @djkero)

Power House Walking Tour: Understanding the Incremental

On Saturday, Eric, Danielle, and her sister, Jessica, and I headed over to the Power House neighbourhood walk in Detroit.

I’d been hoping to finally see this project in person, as it’s been a little over two years since I first wrote about it here. I’d missed their residency at the DIA (saw the installation, but didn’t get to see Mitch or Gina) and also missed them at MOCAD (but seeing their Neighborhood Machine on exhibition was very cool). So, to be able to get a tour and talk to Mitch about their project was really, really great.

Above, a to-do list from artist-in-residence, Monica Canilao, who plan to return to purchase the upper-half of this duplex.

Continue reading “Power House Walking Tour: Understanding the Incremental”