When Detroit filed for bankruptcy last week, chatter got louder that the city might sell some of its valuable collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts to settle debts.
People expressed alarm, noting that its cache of works by Rembrandt, van Gogh, Degas and a host of other masters is one thing that still draws people to Detroit.
And indeed, out of the ashes — literally in some cases — the art scene has begun to flourish in Detroit, beyond the museum. Much of it is outside altogether — on the side of buildings.
Artists are moving to Detroit to take advantage of cheap real estate, low rents, blank walls and decaying neighborhoods that they can reclaim and turn into their own works of art.
So many building walls have been painted with murals (apparently police look the other way from graffiti) that PBS reported hardly anyone pays attention when one is burned. Another can likely be found around the corner.
Artists have decorated one neighborhood of vacant houses with painted polka dots, glued-on stuffed animals and a variety of found objects.
One arts organization is restoring an abandoned police station as studio space for artists.
The artists’ biggest concern? That Detroit will rebound, and they will lose their homes, studios and eight-story palettes.
The Motor City, which in its heyday brought us shiny cars and Motown music, is now bringing us a life lesson.
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. But even more compelling, when life gives you poverty, joblessness, despair and neglect, make art.
It’s more fun to look at, and, who knows, it might be the thing that gives Detroit another shot at success.