I have been curious about visiting the Mike Kelley house in Detroit for quite a while, and, with all the recent press and media coverage about Detroit, I figured now might be an interesting time to check things out.
The Mike Kelley house is a beautifully designed, stereotypical suburban home. It features a bright, green lawn out front and a quaint front porch. It is an exact replica of Kelley’s childhood home. (The existing owners would not sell the house to Kelley, so he rebuilt it). Instead of a quiet, lazy cul-de-sac, though, this house has been placed in the middle of downtown Detroit, an extension of MOCAD, surrounded by a city in decay—with houses falling apart, condemned buildings, and boarded up factories. This perfect, little house in the middle of all of this speaks to the American suburban dream, and how far we have come from that vision.
I also visited the Detroit Institute of Art, which is currently in a legal battle of possibly de-accessioning its most important art works. It was fascinating to question what this means for the state of the museum, and museums in general. Are museums no longer the safest place for artworks? What does this mean for the future of not just this museum, but all museums? And once stripped of its “finery,” what would happen to the state of Detroit? Despite this, I was pleased to see that the museum was very crowded on a Friday night, which is promising. I visited the Diego Rivera room, which was a highlight for me, and not able to be found anywhere else. That alone left me feeling hopeful for the D.I.A.
From there, I took a trip to East Lansing, Michigan, which is the home of Michigan State University—the largest campus in the country. The campus is very traditional, with brick buildings and beautiful agriculture. In the middle of the campus is the Eli and Edythe Broad Museum, a stunning architectural feat by Zaha Hadid. Hadid’s architecture is contemporary and so striking, and seeing it in this conservative, academic setting was super interesting. The architecture was a work of art in itself—with walls coming together to a point and stunning metal work.
After spending 4 days in Detroit, it felt easy to submerge into the city. Perhaps it was because I found a great coffee shop that I went to every morning, Astro Coffee. It is owned by a married couple—the wife does the baking and the husband makes the coffee. The food was amazing and the coffee was great—it is definitely a place you will want to stay and hang out in all day! Lastly, I made it to Shinola, a sophisticated boutique founded and based in Detroit. With the tagline, “Made In Detroit,” the company attempts to employ Detroit locals and mobilize the city. They manufacture leather products, such as watches, handbags, wallets, briefcases, bikes, and even black leather baseball gloves, in an effort to re-invent the idea of American manufacturing. Shinola recently opened a location in Tribeca, but it was great to visit the flagship store and support their efforts to revitalize Detroit.
Detroit may not be the obvious top choice on the art-viewing list, but with the Mike Kelley house, MOCAD, and the Broad Museum, it is definitely worth the trip!