Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Detroit Sunday Morning

Here is a sampling of some Sunday morning Detroit photography.

Photo by Karen DeCoster

Photo by Karen DeCoster


Photo by Karen DeCoster


Photo by Karen DeCoster


Photo by Karen DeCoster


Photo by Karen DeCoster


Photo by Karen DeCoster


Photo by Karen DeCoster

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Anarcho-Art in 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 now. 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 being developed for art studios and foundation funds assist the artists in fixing 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.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Free Farming in Detroit

This is a nice PBS video which is a pilot for an upcoming series titled "Food Forward." This documentary explores the explosion of urban agriculture (especially in NY, Milwaukee, and Detroit) and interviews the "food rebels" who make things happen, even if on a very small scale. The documentary looks at community gardens as an alternative to the industrial-supplied grocery stores. The last portion of the video visits the anarcho-urban agriculture revolution in my city, Detroit.

Greg Willerer of Detroit's Brother Nature Farms is interviewed. I met Greg and his wife, Olivia, a few weeks ago, and I toured their farm. In this documentary, Greg notes that, "In spite of the fact that Detroit has all of the odds stacked against it, Detroiters have the rare opportunity to rebuild their city, and we're doing it." In fact, one female urban farming homesteader is quoted as saying, "If it's vacant, I'll take it." 

Murray Rothbard would be proud. Vimeo has a nice (short) video of Greg Willerer and his take on farming in Detroit. Greg quit his day job to farm full time. By the way, Brother Nature is at Dertoit Eastern Market on most Saturdays, and they sell the best salad mix (mild, spicy, or mixed) that I have ever had in my life.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A New Yorker on Detroit

It takes a guy from New York to write a great - and accurate - article about Detroit. So what is the difference between him and all of the other strangers who write shoddy articles about this city, as they repeatedly point to the same old ruin porn? He actually took the time to come here and visit. Imagine that - being informed about a subject before you comment on it. Max Gross captures this city perfectly, especially with his comments that being downtown is like living in a small town. Thanks to the city's inept and truant government, the free market is flourishing here, in spots, while a slowly creeping pattern of quasi-anarchy is attracting some very bright and talented people from all over the world.

Photo by Karen DeCoster

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Just a Detroit Coffee Shop

Here are some photos I took today while waiting for a friend to join me for conversation and coffee at Germack Coffee Roasting Company in Detroit's Eastern Market. It's a great place to hang and spend $5. These photos were not taken with my pro-grade, Canon digital SLR, but instead, I am trying out a new Canon digital point-and-shoot that I carry with me when lugging around the photo equipment is just not feasible.

Photo by Karen DeCoster


Photo by Karen DeCoster


Photo by Karen DeCoster


Photo by Karen DeCoster


Photo by Karen DeCoster

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Spontaneous Order: Dining in Detroit

Detroit's Diner en Blanc, held at Cadillac Square Park, was a huge success. While not up to par with the larger, international gatherings, I love the spontaneity and secrecy behind the event. There are only the necessary anarcho-rules to maintain appearance and order (attire and clean-up), with no permission and no permits.
On a recent Sunday evening, hundreds of people dressed in white converged on downtown Detroit's Cadillac Square Park. They carried folding tables, chairs, white tablecloths, candelabras and food — oodles of it. 
A swirl of white clothing and nappery quickly evolved into a formal flash mob dinner party in the urban canyon formed by the Compuware and First National Buildings.
Passersby gawked. The park's security guard was nonplussed. When he asked people who was in charge of this gathering, the answer every time was "we have no idea."
And they didn't.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Typical Saturday in Detroit

Today, my friend Marla and I did some cycling in the D. We rode along the Riverwalk, the Dequindre Cut greenway, and over to Eastern Market. I bought this piece of art from a downtrodden, vagabond artist who was selling some of his wares on a street corner at Detroit Eastern Market. It will be a great conversation piece for my office. It's the Old English "D" that is a trademark of our city. The blue wood is original scrap from an old house, and the artist painted the logo using spray paint and a homemade stencil. I love the unassuming qualities and simplicity of the piece, while the boldness of the design and color strike me as being somewhat alluring.

Photo by Karen DeCoster

Additionally, I signed the artist's car - and yes, this car runs and it is what he drives.


Photo by Karen DeCoster


Photo by Karen DeCoster


Photo by Karen DeCoster

If you like everything pristine and new and pretty, Detroit is not your style. Our city is rustic-rugged industrial, and it has many blemishes. But people - especially the artistic set - come from all over the world to see Detroit because its blemishes are so unconventional, so unique, and they exude a spartan elegance. They also come here because the ineptness of government is so rampant that markets can flourish here, and this occurs without folks having to jump through a zillion hoops at city hall in the process of building or maintaining a business or artistic interest.

Where else can you traverse the riverfront of a major urban area, at noon on a Saturday, and run into so few people along the way? And those who you do run into are always smiling, and they always have something to say to you because they too feel the splendor that others just haven't been able to discover due to the fact that the anti-Detroiters are unable to appreciate the glories of this city. And where else can you travel the downtown streets on a bicycle and not have to pretend you are a Chicago bike messenger trying to stay alive for one more day? People in this city wave at cyclists, they accommodate us, and they cheer us on for making our presence known in the city. Unlike Detroit-area suburbia, no one in the city wants to kill you for taking up their space and two seconds of their time. [See my article, "Is Detroit a Bicyclist's Paradise?"]

After the riverfront, we nailed the Dequindre Cut greenway, and then we cruised over to North America's largest farmer's market, Detroit Eastern Market. The market buzzes with excitement on Saturdays: cyclists, walkers, city folk, and suburban tourists come here to experience the excitement and incredible ambience that lights up the market turf starting at 7am in the morning.

Photo by Karen DeCoster

This city is alive with change, intellectual diversity, artistic evolution, and agricultural revolution. The agents of change are those who ignore the political restrictions, and instead forge ahead with grandiose ideas and entrepreneurial innovations.

When I told a Detroit booster friend why I decided not to take on a new job in Minneapolis, and instead, I made the decision to stay on here and ride the tide of transformation, I told him, "I wouldn't miss this shit for the world." And so, here I am. And likely, here I shall stay.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Detroiters Repurposing Land

Another great thing going on in Detroit: the anarcho-repurposing of vacant land.
Some residents, tired of waiting for permission or a plan, have repurposed vacant land. Experts say dozens of square miles of Detroit are now vacant, counting empty fields from which all buildings have been removed, as well as abandoned parks, roads and other public spaces no longer maintained by the city.
Residents are taking over nature left unattended and bureaucratically bungled by city government, while they mix their labor with the unused land to cultivate and repurpose land resources. 


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Biergarten on Vacant land

As reported by HuffPo, Detroit is celebrating year 2 of a great, new tradition: the European-style, pop-up biergarten. Tashmoo, located in Detroit's heroic West Village, is a celebration of Oktoberfest, neighborhood, friends, great companionship and conversation, and, of course, great beer.

Tashmoo "pops up" on a vacant neighborhood lot for a few weekends in October complete with German-style biergarten tables, local farmer's market vendors who are selling fresh foods, table games, portable bike racks, and a selection of great, mostly local brews. Additionally, cornhole is the official sport of the West Village Biergarten. One of the owners, Aaron Wagner, notes that:
They also may convert the concept form [sic] a pop-up to a permanent retail spot. Wagner told MLive in August that he envisions a permanent indoor/outdoor beer hall with a three-season biergarten, as the concept cracked the top ten in the Detroit Hatch retail contest.
The success of Tashmoo has brought forth other pop-up shops in the neighborhood, as noted by Brian Hurttienne, the Executive Director of the Villages Community Development Corp.
"We project by the spring and summer of next year the entire block of Agnes Street will be bubbling with full-time, independent retail," Hurttienne said in a statement. "These pop-ups will give our neighbors a small taste of things to come, plus provide Detroit's entrepreneurs an idea of what it's like to run a small business full-time."
After all, why should the Europeans have all the fun? My biergarten visits are always memorable, including yesterday when I almost guzzled my Oktoberfest beer with a live hornet floating on the top.

Photo by Karen DeCoster