Anarcho-Art in Detroit

Saturday, September 1, 2012
Posted in category Detroit

In July, PBS NewsHour aired a great 10-minute piece on anarcho-art in Detroit. Detroit, unknown to many, has become an island of art. Artists have been flocking to Detroit for a few years. This video shows some of the spectacular anarcho-art that adorns abandoned buildings everywhere. As a libertarian, I don’t sanction the graffiti on private property, however, I can certainly appreciate and endorse the homesteading going on in a city with more vacant real estate than occupied property.

Along the Dequindre Cut (a recently completed greenway), talented graffiti artists have been commissioned to come in and paint fabulous murals on all of the overpasses. While building the Dequindre Cut, all original graffiti/urban artwork was maintained in order to capture the rustic-industrial spirit of Detroit.

This PBS feature also highlights a bunch of artists who have squatted an abandoned police station, where space is developed for art studios and foundation funds help the artists to fix up the building. One artist even uses a holding cell for his painting because the light, to him, is perfect for working on his paintings.

Detroit art is an earthy, rustic, in-your-face art. Since artists have always survived in less than optimum conditions, Detroit is not a too big of a challenge for these talented individuals. And Detroit is ideal because space is plentiful, start-up costs are super low, rent is cheap (or none at all), and the people here openly welcome the entrepreneurs and homesteaders. The best way to see this bounty of spectacular art is, of course, by bicycle. I did so last evening, riding downtown and the adjoining neighborhoods until 11pm, celebrating the fact that I live in a place that has become so popular, yet so few people have discovered it. I hope it stays that way long enough for me to enjoy the quiet insurrection, the non-traffic jams, the cheap property, the friendly people, and the big city with a smalltown feel.

There is a real sense of creeping anarchy here, including civil disobedience, Lockean homesteading, voluntaryism, a lack of confidence in local government, a distrust of the local police, and citizens forming voluntary units to self-govern and engage private security firms. The fact that we now have world class art is a bonus.

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7 Responses to Anarcho-Art in Detroit

  1. jeannie queenie says:

    September 2nd, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    Not sure which is worse..ghetto art passing as FINE ART…or the crap displayed in contemporary museums.

    It looks like the fat cat bosses at the Detroit Institute of Art had problems getting millage passed while the city has far worse pressing problems. Bloomfield Patch

    We read that the DIA wants more money from the populace when it already has major buckage…

    1. “The City of Detroit continues to own the Museum’s permanent art collection, including works of art acquired prior or subsequent to the operating agreement, as well as the Museum building and grounds. Despite this, the City of Detroit does not want to provide any funding to support the DIA (EXCEPT for a special group of people living in Detroit). In 2011, the City of Detroit provided $500,000 to fund the DIA’s operation and upkeep. In 2012, the city of Detroit has cut ALL funding. The City of Detroit DID however find it feasible to budget over $1.2 million this year to fund the Charles H. Wright Museum/African American History.”

    One wonders why the latter 1.2 mil was incorporated into their small change here.
    My own take on the arts, speaking as an artist, is my wish for govt at all levels to stay the hell out of the art business. Most of those morons know no more about art then they do governing..meaning they know precious little.

    Further, with all the outrage about cops, taxation, excessive rules/regs, why isn’t there the same outrage about the public funding art–of all things? Hell they’ve been doing a perfectly lame and lousy job of education for ages,what makes them think they can be great critiquers of what constitutes art? The article goes on to reveal the major bullshit of WHO pushes for more free money from the public….2. DIA administration, NOT the city of Detroit, is asking for the millage for 10 years while the contract with them will end in 5 years. The raised levy from the Tri County may end, all or some, in Detroit treasury.

    3. The DIA is doing FINANCIALLY WELL.(me:and yet, these parasites want more money).

    Between 2009 and 2011 the assets increased by 50 million $$$ to 185 million from 135 mil increase by 37%!

    4. 100 million dollars are available in the bank as UNRESTRICTED CASH and can be used by DIA at any time. (How cozy is that?)

    5. Graham Beal, president of DIA compensation was $426.000 plus perks, MORE than the salary of the US president!!! Governor Snyder compensation is $159,300 annually. Beal partner in the DIA (love this) conspiracy is Annmarie Erickson whose compensation is $236,867 plus perks.

    6. The millage will raise 23 million dollars (Oakland 10, Wayne 8 and Macomb 5 million dollars). This money will be paid by home owners who may have other priorities being elderly, unemployed or having health problems.

    It is estimated that about 19% of the Tri County residents visit the DIA.

    And so, we see yet another entity with plenty of money and both top people living like fat cats at the expense of the citizenry…and for doing what? Just standing around schmoozing at art openings…or always on the take for more money from high income folks..who are usually as clueless about art as the guys who run these joints…It’s all about bluff and bravado.

    But what makes it worse, is that everyday folks are expected to buy the bullshit of bluff and bravado, and just fork out more money for taxes..and like I said, so much art since the sixties has been nothing more than a corrupt influence on the masses…can anyone tell me that an artist drawing or painting of a full frontal nude of an ugly fat woman can really be called art? This crap represents the worst our culture has to does not lift up…it tears down.

    Out here in Boston about 20 years ago when I first settled in the east from Michigan, an artist had been hired for a commission for the grand lobby of a new federal building. Excited to see it, I went after work one day, as I worked downtown Boston in the investment district. I found the new building by the water, entered it and found the artist/male there looking all puffed up about his work. His work consisted of none other than three hugh color blocks..that was it. I approached him and asked him how much he got for that commission and he gleefully told me, ‘$1,000,000!

    To next find out that he was gay and there is a hugh gay network in Boston, added to the grief I felt that the citizenry paid for a major piece of worthless crap that anyone could have done..and this commission was given to none other than ‘one of the boys’…who knows, it might have been one of Bulging Barney Frankfurter’s boys who hung around his pathetic prostitution pad in the Back Bay at that time..whatever, it was all a hugh joke, especially on the taxpayers who yet again, got it up the butt (no pun intended Barney boy!) Why oh why, do they keep asking all of us to be gay..and bend over?

  2. George says:

    September 2nd, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    “artists have been commissioned to come in and paint fabulous murals on all of the overpasses. ”

    Who commissioned them? I hope it wasn’t the government. Oh, Noes!!! Not you Karen, they haven’t got you too?

  3. Karen De Coster says:

    September 3rd, 2012 at 7:35 am

    Sorry, George – the not-for-profit greenway organization that is taking unused government land and turning it into productive use. But then again, one would normally assume some NFP, and not the government, would spearhead an organization to get these things done…..

  4. Karen De Coster says:

    September 3rd, 2012 at 7:37 am

    Jeannie – methinks you need to actually see it before you diss it.

  5. Karen De Coster says:

    September 3rd, 2012 at 7:40 am

    I understand, and have empathy for, people who don’t get art, and think that all art is organized and fits neatly into some defined parameters (religious, portrait, or otherwise). Having been an artist (whose main occupation is non-art), I have empathy for people who can’t appreciate undefined and spontaneous and earthy art.

  6. jeannie queenie says:

    September 3rd, 2012 at 11:13 pm


    I am in agreement about those who think that art is only one thing, like portraits, landscapes, religious, etc. This is not me…I have always had a wide repetoire of work. If one is not doing sponanteous or original art, they might as well give up. Having said that, just because one does spontaneous art or earthy art is no guarantee it is really art. Case in point..many years ago when I lived in the upper peninsula while raising my family, I had taken several art courses at NE university. It was during the mid to late seventies. I recall a teacher who expected his class to turn out five large canvases that semester. Moi was the only one to do so. Guess what..everyone got pretty much the same grade. I was upset to think I had worked so hard, and was caring for a family of five kids, and a 3 story house, had to drive an hour at night to go to college, often in total whiteouts in the winter along Lake Superior with black bear all around in the woods…
    and yet, my efforts were not valued anymore than the other students who did ‘jack crap’. When I questioned the prof about the grading, his retort..and this is for real. He said, ‘well Jean, you must understand that kids today have things they have to do, like stay up half the night smoking pot, having sex, how do you expect them to actually do their homework? So you see, this asshole prof (and aren’t most of them in that category with their ‘we are all equal’/marxist bullshit, really revealed that he was an even bigger asshole than the kids. Fact is, we are not all equal…tell Phelps, Amy or Gabby, recent winners in the Olympics that they are no better than anyone else…a slight variation of the other arsehole who recently said, “You didn’t build your own business.’ I suppose he feels he made cars for GM.

    As for earthy art, one of my favorites and they don’t get much earthier, is Gauguin, who spent the last part of his life in the South Seas…his work is fabulous, and it projects meaning, intelligence and is artful. I haven’t seen the art/graffiti of which you speak, but I will say this…if it even resembles in the very least, the stuff that passes for contemporary art in many musuems, than barf bags should be passed around. Too many folks being ignorant about even the basic tenets of decent art, really don’t have a fig of a clue if something is good or bad. My favorite example of that is Picasso.

    He actually, early in his career, did some fine art. But as time went on, and his clients wanted something different from him, something spontaneous, is when he got into his butt ugly distorted women series. We know he married four times and each woman ended up killing herself..he was truly a bastard, but the fourth younger wife, an artist herself, saw what was coming and got out before he forced her to take her life. Picasso was a fraud..just like many of those NY artist guys in the 60′s..and yet, because there are so many clueless people (even with big buckage $$$$), they are willing to pay for something that makes no sense or has no value, unless you are in love with garbage. People like that who have supersized egos and want to be seen as having ‘made it by buying a Picasso’ prove only that they are major no-nothings. Funny thing, having read writings by Picasso himself, he even admitted that he was mocking the rich..when they asked him to do something different, he went ahead and knowingly did crap art (his admission). That they slobbered all over it proved to him that they were nuts to even like it. Fact is, Picasso did ugly, did wierd, did spontaneous stuff that had no value..and he to his credit, said as such. He of course, laughed all the way to the bank. No artist while alive made as much moolah as did he..but he had to prostitute himself and his art to get that money from the airheads who clamored for ‘different’ art. All I am saying is this…for all too many people, about the only taste they have is in their mouth. And fact is, there is a hugh overall difference in cultures when it comes to art…20 years ago I visited Old Quebec where I found several art galleries not far from Le Chateau. I had never seen such beautiful art as they had in their galleries..totally different than most contemporary art in the States. But then, if you’ve read any of Ayn Rand’s dissertations on art, you know that art is always the harbinger of a given culture…and anyone awake since the sixties knows it has been pretty much down hill since then in the States. Like frogs in a boiling pot, the masses have been so dumbed down, so abused by what passes as entertainment/tv. Then add in drugs, broken families and the rest and you find far too many, even college grads have little to no knowledge of art, literature, or even good music. The latest news out of Harvard of the many kids who have been cheating on tests is just a long standing culmination of the fraud environment kids feel entitled to..why work for anything if you can cheat your way through life. Which is why the banksters got away with zillions, a prez has kept none of his promises, and we teeter on the edge of our lives in the US. But hey, we are as low as one can go now culturally, economically, socially…so the only way to go is up, right? Well, November should be the arbitrer of which we go after the election. We’ll see. But since cheating is the modus operandi of govt, one wonders if this next election will be a repeat of the two previous fraudulent elections where all was rigged..frauds all.

  7. Tommy Udo says:

    September 19th, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    With all due appreciation for spontaneous art, I have to say graffiti is depressing. When I drive into a city and see crap sprayed on walls, I’m seeing a city on its way down, or already dead. When the petty criminals who perform this vandalism are referred to as artists and paid to bring out their spray cans, the idiocracy is upon us.    

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