We are days away from the Flint Free City Public Art Festival! I stopped by the site today to check on preparations and things are looking well. Summer’s here! If you don’t know about the midwest there’s basically no Spring season here, just Cold or Hot. It’s May 1st and it’s Hot. lol
One of the reasons I’m looking forward to this project has to do with the variety of happenings occurring- from live Punk rock bands & DJs to dance parties, sculptures, interactive projects and video art.
Walking around the Flint site today truly reminded me of Gary, IN where I have family. Yes its old, and rough and poor-but you can find that within any urban space. The most poignant thing about post-industrial cities is the lack of human presence or touch. At times it really can feel as if you’ve stumbled into an abandoned ghost town, while at the same time you’re aware of the eyes following you around as you pass by darkened windows.
Plenty of artists have whined on & on regarding the beauty of broken down factory towns with bourgeoisie gusto! so I won’t get into that.
What I’d like to focus on is this recurring feeling that someone was ‘just’ here a moment ago. There’s something eerie to the small streets and vacant buildings of industry that gives this place a feeling that people will be ‘right back’, they’ve just stepped out for a smoke break.
Another aspect of living in these cities comes from a community built on lack of public services provided by government. Speaking from personal experience living in a similar vacant town, this kind of community support has its benefits. I see it in Detroit all of the time. No lawn service? let’s mow it ourselves. No bus service? Let’s carpool. (see Salter’s Fast Company Article on How A Young Community of Entrepreneurs Is Rebuidling Detroit)
The community effort of the Public Art projects in Flint are really inspiring, and a great example of how other post-industrial cities should proceed. After years of local governments pushing for Starbucks drinking gentrifiers to save their small towns, I believe people are finally beginning to see how creativity can improve towns from the inside out. This isnt about shipping in folks from nicer areas to spend money, it’s about uplifting the positive creative communities that already reside there. -C.Long