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A new look at Detroit's future with 'Considering the City'

BY HEATHER POOLE
Daily Arts Writer
Published September 12, 2010

Decades after enjoying its pinnacle as the “Motor City,” Detroit’s once-great legacy is now fading fast in the minds of many University students. Yet a new exhibit, "Considering the City" — hosted by the School of Art & Design’s Work • Detroit gallery — contemplates the future of Detroit as the city goes through immense transformations as an urban landscape.

According to the School’s website, "Considering the City" examines “the new ways of using and interpreting urban spaces for the people that live in them” and focuses in particular on Detroit. The exhibition invites artists, designers, architects, urban planners and social practitioners to weigh in on the unpredictable potential Detroit holds.

Inspired by the close proximity of Ann Arbor to Detroit, Charlie Michaels, School of Art & Design graduate student and curator of "Considering the City," centers this exhibition on the concept of cities as “constantly shifting organisms.”

“When I got here, to Ann Arbor, I was really interested in the fact that Detroit is so (geographically) close, but Ann Arbor and Detroit are so different,” Michaels said. “I think there’s a lot of people in Ann Arbor or in this area that don’t use the resources that Detroit has to offer.”

“Now there is … this more real plan to shrink Detroit and I think it’s a really important time to revisit that idea,” he added.

Michaels is obtaining his masters of fine arts at the University, working extensively in photography. As his work demonstrates, Michaels is influenced by the dynamics of cities like Detroit.

“My own studio work and my research for my work focuses a lot on cities and (their) changing nature,” Michaels said.

By displaying the works of various artists who responded to the transformation of Detroit, this exhibit raises various economic, architectural and social issues that will inevitably shape the city’s future.

“Anything that has to do with urban issues, socioeconomic issues, particularly in challenged areas, seems to be a real buzz topic,” said Stephen Schudlich, director of exhibitions at the Work • Detroit gallery. “Detroit is such a ripe study ground for that sort of process and non-process that it just seemed … natural.”

The exhibit features an array of mediums, ranging from painting and photography to installations, literature and even a LEGO model of Detroit.

"Considering the City" also welcomes the responses of “people that are not connected to the arts community but are doing things that affect life in the city,” Michaels said.

Despite the varying political, aesthetic, social and economic views and attitudes toward the future of Detroit, both Michaels and Schudlich emphasized the open-mindedness of the exhibit.

“I think it is open to interpretation and I think that is what is exciting about it,” Michaels said. “The debate over what happens to Detroit next or postindustrial cities next. There’s multiple opinions, multiple ideas of what we can do, what we should be doing (and) what we shouldn’t be doing.”

"We like to have people … draw their own conclusions and talk about the topic at whatever level they choose,” Schudlich added.

Additionally, "Considering the City" aims to connect the various disciplines that are affected by the development of cities like Detroit, as well as an instrument to hear views that speak outside of the University community.

“We’re able to bring in a dialogue from a number of artists and creative people that aren’t associated solely with the University of Michigan,” Schudlich said. “So we get a lot of cross-pollination here.”

Though "Considering the City" is not based within the familiarity and comfort of Ann Arbor, the exhibit reaches out toward a larger community, which includes University students — if they can embrace the spirit of the exhibit and make the trek to Detroit.


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