Monuments to the quiet transformation of a city surround us. Driving through Southwest Detroit, we see the patched, repainted fabric of storefront awnings, broadcasting the fading trends of yesterday and the glowing possibilities of tomorrow. On foot, we notice the blue panel that has been added to the side of a gas station, the color near enough to the blue before. Crossing the street we see the fire hydrant, in need of a fresh coat of paint, with a collage of reflective tape that must make do. The Latino barbershop has found a new home in the old tax refund building, a plywood cactus propped in front to stake claim. These subtle moments in the landscape have a powerful and poetic ability to reflect the journey and evolution of a place and showcase the less glamorous, though no less poignant, side of a city’s quest for renewal.
This work focuses on the vernacular aesthetics of placemaking; both the everyday materials and the unexpected formality that are part and parcel of urban transformation. Inspired by time spent along Fort Road, a major corridor into and out of Detroit, the large-sculpture Future Bryte explores the quotidian forms of storefront awnings as building blocks for a minimal - formalist totem. The work employs custom-fabricated, galvanized steel armatures that are wrapped in both new and repurposed vinyl awning covers, backlit by fluorescent lights. Working closely with Marygrove Awnings in Livonia, MI, I was able to shadow the awning production process and salvage discarded awning covers for reconfiguration. The awnings I created for Future Bryte reinterpret these vinyl castoffs, referencing common design motifs observed along Fort Road in an act that is part economic mash-up, part abstract homage. This work was built and designed to be a modular, interchangeable sculpture, able to be placed in a variety of arrangements in response to venue.
If the sculpture Future Bryte is a living monument to creative transformation, the photographic accompaniments are talismans that translate the efforts of placemaking into moments of meditation. The interventions that draw my interest, such as the repairing of a wall or the reappropriation of a building, are the acts of maintenance that keep our built environments from ruin. These are subtle acts, but profound, and I hope to recognize the tenacity and beauty inherent. These instances of urban renewal may not be sweeping or polished gestures, but they move a place forward, one human act at a time. The photographs serve as a visual narrative for Future Bryte, creating together a portrait of a place in progress.