Driving through Detroit, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed emotionally. The urban blight is widespread – be it the lonely downtown core, the wide highways with nary a car in sight, the street lamps that are no longer lit and of course, the abandoned homes and businesses like the Abundant Life Christian Church.
It was surely no surprise to anyone last month when it was announced that Detroit was filing for bankruptcy. Where news agencies once flocked to Detroit to photograph the city’s decay and widespread abandonment (much to the locals dismay), media is now heading there again to tell a greater story. There are many good things happening in Detroit and it may surprise you.
Community Good in Detroit.
There are those who withstood the problems that plagued the city and didn’t leave with everyone else.
Take for example, Riet and Mark who run an urban farm in Brightmoor called Knuckle Head Farm. This caring and giving couple are part of community improvement initiative – Neighbors Building Brightmoor which does things like involve troubled youth in maintaining a vegetable garden. Produce is sold at the market and profits are split amongst the kids. Imagine these kids actually being motivated enough to get up in the morning to do hours of hard work without being told. Take that a bit further and think about how these kids have paying jobs, when they come from several generations of unemployment. Nothing less than remarkable!
Then there are others like Tyree Guyton, who built the now internationally renowned Heidelberg Project – a huge outdoor art installation set-up in one of Detroit’s poorest neighborhoods. People from around the world travel to Detroit just to see his work. He accomplished the impossible, attracting tourists to a bad area of town.
MBAD’s African Bead Museum.
One of the more notable instances of community good is the MBAD’s African Bead Museum.
A creation of artist and historian Olayami Dabls, here you can find a museum celebrating the tradition of African beads and more impressively, an outdoor art installation made from 100% recycled materials including mirrors, beads, paintings and various found objects.
Says Dabls in an article on the Detroit Hub, “Everything here is made of natural material, which can’t help but appeal to your natural sense of aesthetics,” he explains.
Dabls is known as a visual storyteller who focuses sharing his African roots and culture through his art. The museum contains bead collections, sculptures and other items. Known to be a friendly man, Dabls will also provide a tour of his studio and eagerly talk about his work.
While I didn’t tour the museum itself, I was enthralled with the exterior of the building and the outdoor art installation.
The Museum Building.
The walls just outside the museum are boldly and colorfully decorate with pieces from broken mirrors. As you can see, mirror fragments play a central part in his work and can look quite stunning when the sun playfully reflects itself across the installation.
The Outdoor Art Installation
This where my friend and I spent most of our time as we explored the exhibit and took tons of photographs. There may or may not have been an extreme modelling shoot as well …
Even a dinner table setting with a close attention to detail like the wedding cake and “food” on the plates.
Then some kind of boxing ring.
Much like the Heidelberg Project, this house is adorned with art.
The African Bead Museum is yet another bright spot in Detroit’s urban landscape. While one can’t ignore the challenges the city faces now and going forward, any visitor to the city can certainly do their part and revel in the community good.
MBAD’S African Bead Museum
6559 Grand River Ave. Detroit, MI 48208