Summertime has arrived in Detroit and the colours have come out to play! I spent a day visiting the DIA and Eastern Market, basking in the visceral warmth of a city filled with anarchic colour.
Tucked around the back of the DIA, The Scarab Club is one of Michigan’s oldest arts organisations (founded in 1907 as The Hopkin Club, renamed in 1913) and is well worth a visit for the variety and novelty of its stained glass features alone.
I’d seen the building exterior on previous trips to Detroit, and it’s eye-catching enough by itself with its Pewabic Tile motif mounted high enough up to catch the light of the cloudiest days, but this was the first time I’d been inside and enjoyed the effects of sunshine through coloured glass. The upstairs lounge is like the inside of a Scottish Highland lodge, and probably makes for proper cosy times on dingy winter afternoons, but it’s the details that sing out from the dark wood that make this place feel really special.
My love for Detroit architecture is fed every time I return to the city, and every corner I turn reminds me why I need to spend more time there. It’s not just the buildings, but the way people interact with them. I just love the way Detroit feels… Especially on a sunny day in late Spring.
The Eastern Market is alive with colour and people, flowers and plants filling every available outdoor space, with food stalls occupying the indoor ones. The sheer life that blooms here is intoxicating, with musicians performing outside bars adjacent to bustling barbeques and hounded street vendors. It feels like everyone in Detroit is here.
The food stalls are the most exciting part. It’s impossible to explain the excitement of a food market to anyone who doesn’t have the deep love of food, and it’s senseless to explain it to anyone who does! The Eastern Market in Detroit is one of the world’s many nirvanas for food lovers, but the first one I have truly relished (ha!) in the US. The minute I stepped food in it I was gone. Detroit is my new home.
I’m not for one minute celebrating the devastation and destruction that capitalism and speculation have wreaked on Detroit. As much as there are innovative outcomes to much of the damage (thanks to the exceptional creativity of loyal Detroiters rather than any grandiose investors/developers) any system that ruins people’s lives for the sake of profit can never be enjoyed or praised. The city is a mess because of exploitation and greed, and many people have suffered. This is never something to big up.
That said, that Detroit-creativity is a beautiful thing, and the tyranny of capitalism has been unable to tame its bold and brave spirit. One huge advantage of devalued property is that it creates spaces for graf and street art, colour that otherwise would be absent from pristine cityscapes (like much of Atlanta, bless its soul).
I sort of love the idea of people reclaiming their city – as much as I’m aware enough of social dynamics to question who these people are and how much the city is theirs to claim. Detroit has its complexities (as everywhere does) but if there is genuine opportunity anywhere for community action to transform the urban environment in a way that benefits the majority of its residents, it’s here in the city that profit forgot. And quick, before the developers realise this and move into reclaim their abandoned bounty. Because, as every gentrified city ever knows, that happens all too soon.