Saturday, December 31, 2011

How to Make a Happening

Allan Kaprow How to Make a Happening

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Map of Flint Neighborhoods

Although this map is from 2005, it may be a useful document to share. It was given to us by the University of Michigan Flint Outreach Office, prepared by the Center for Applied Environmental Research. We are still looking for a good map of the city that identifies all of the neighborhoods by name.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Catherine Grau on Blueprint for a Shared Meal

At a cafe in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, Berlin-based artist Catherine Grau talks about Blueprint for a Shared Meal, a social artwork created in fall 2011 in collaboration with Tracy Brewington and Desiree Duell as part of the Flint Public Art Project.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Blueprint for a Shared Meal

Will you join us for dinner? 

On November 11th the Rowe building will be transformed into a home. Artists Catherine Grau and Desiree Duell are collaborating with Tracy Brewington, program coordinator of the Rowe Building to organize a fundraiser for the Shelter of Flint. The artists will use this opportunity to construct an inhabitable installation and invite the public to a shared meal. With this project we hope to support the continuing growth of the movement towards local food production, socially engaged urban redevelopment and community outreach.

This installation aims to illuminate community solidarity through the involvement of numerous collaborators. While utilizing the furniture and household goods from the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store and the St.Vincent de Paul Thrift Shop, the Rowe building will also function as a temporary showroom for these stores, allowing these organizations to sell their furniture on site.

The meal will be served at 7pm. Cooking a dinner with only locally grown produce, the event aims to make visible and connect a number of Flint-based initiatives that are involved in organic, urban food production. The artists asked local farms to donate produce for the production of a vegetarian meal that will be served with bread from the local initiative Revolutionary Bread. The meals will be given out for suggested donation between 5 and 20 dollars. All funds raised from the meal will go to the Shelter of Flint, in honor of National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.

By producing this event within the context of the Art Walk and utilizing artistic strategies, the artists aspire to bring together people from various backgrounds and promote these initiatives as collective endeavors. This event will highlight the resources of Flint that are embedded in social engagement on issues of cultural and ecological sustainability. Inviting the community of Flint to come together under one roof and partake of a communal meal is a gesture of solidarity and collective resilience.

We will host a special art display from the children who live at The Shelter of Flint, as well as a photography exhibit in honor of National Homeless Awareness Month. We will have a silent auction with items from a few well-known local artists, as well as local handmade crafters selling their items with a portion of the proceeds to benefit the Shelter of Flint.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Can Outsiders Contribute New Ideas to the City?

 Installation at Bring It Fest, Flint, MI. 

In the initial months of the Flint Public Art Project's launch, we put the premise to the test that the city of Flint could potentially be transformed by exchanges with visiting artists, architects and designers with specialized knowledge from elsewhere. We encountered instances of skepticism and mistrust, to be sure--a hillbilly squatting a former fire station on Grand Traverse almost immediately threatened us. Members of the City Council were up in arms for months, after we installed a dozen dancers and forty multicolored theatrical lights in a condemned highrise tower. But we found dozens of local artists eager to participate, businesses grateful for the new customers we attracted, and residents energized by new blood, another perspective, and a different way of thinking about public art.

The sustainability of the project and its potential for far-reaching effects remains to be proven. We did generate enough support to give rise to several ongoing platforms for engagement with the city. This fall a series of events will be independently produced by our counterparts in Flint in correspondence with downtown ArtWalks, using very limited resources. Responding to the ongoing demand for this kind of work, the group will carry on the call for new-genre public art in the city. They will be presenting the project at various schools as well as at TEDxFlint in October.

We are also working with a landscape architecture master's studio on Flint at the City College of New York led by Denise Hoffman Brandt, whose forthcoming City-Sink book investigates the potential of urban ecological systems to absorb carbon from the atmosphere. Eight students--a wonderful group of people from disparate places and prior specializations--will propose site-specific interventions for the city after examining existing plans, reports, and data, and documenting the condition of the river, brownfields, housing, vacant lots, parks, roads, bike trails, and transitional spaces. The studio just returned from a week-long tour to gather information, meet with city officials and community leaders, and visit neighborhoods.

We traveled around the city in cars, on bikes, and by foot, specked out sprawling industrial lots (and were entertained by guards who made fun of us by imitating New York accents), visited the graffiti-inspired Bring It Fest in Kearsley Park, went on tours of GM's Truck and Bus Flint Assembly and the Chevrolet brownfield, met with Mayor Dayne Walling, Genesee County Land Bank director Doug Weiland, Green City Administrator Steve Montle, Flint Urban League director Lorna Latham, Farmer's Market director Dick Ramsdell, Joel Rash of Local 432, planning commissioner Freeman Greer, and urban farming specialists Joanna Lerman and Stephen Arellano. The conflicting facts, interests, conditions, and arguments presented during the tour and meetings brought together a complex tableau of the Flint scene, an incredible challenge to the designers to produce propositions that can be of use and mediate in a contested environment.

Is the Land Bank hoarding property and discouraging neighbors, community gardeners, and ordinary citizens from taking ownership of tax-foreclosed lots, or is it desperately trying to stabilize more than 10,000 parcels, accumulating funds to demolish thousands of homes that are beyond repair, keeping the city from looking like an abandoned wasteland, and experimenting with a new strategy of revaluing occupied homes by turning whole blocks into fields of wildflowers?

Is urban farming a meaningful and economical solution to restoring value to property, building community, providing equitable food access, teaching kids, and creating a green economy, or is it a boondoggle that will always depend on unsustainable subsidies and a waste of resources in a distressed terrain surrounded by cheap land and small family-owned farms?

Is the revitalized downtown strip a successful story of reinvestment in the city of Flint, preservation of its landmark buildings and historic center, and the beginning of turn-around in the financial outlook for the city, or is it an upper middle-class haven inaccessible to its poorest residents and disconnected from surrounding neighborhoods that are in greater need of capital investment?

How much should the new master plan focus on detailed data analysis and community meetings enabling residents to shape the city, and how much should it draw on the expertise and visionary ideas of outsiders utilizing the best ideas and practices in circulation around the world?

These questions will be examined in an effort to introduce meaningful proposals drawing on innovative practices in the field of landscape architecture. Later in the fall, we'll participate in a public exchange at City College about the project and its relationship to proposals for retrofitting suburbia. We will review the students' projects, later to be presented publicly and shared with leaders of the planning process and institutions in Flint.

Another master's architecture studio at the University of Michigan is being led by Nahyun Hwang, former senior designer at James Corner Field Operations and project architect of the High Line. The U of M studio takes Flint as a springboard for examination of Geographies of the Corporation and institutions that can serve its needs. A discussion of the studio is being planned at the Van Alen Institute at the end of the term.

In the next six weeks, Berlin-based artist Catherine Grau is planning a trip to Flint to produce a self-organized project with local cultural producers. Grau will develop contacts with urban gardeners and farmers, cultural producers and institutions, organize inexpensive group dinners and free discussions, and experiment with new ways to catalyze engagement with the city. Take a look at her project in Weimar, Germany in which she and her group created a Kiosk of Contemporary Art, using a street-corner kiosk to stimulate creative energies and public life in an area of the city, KoCA Inn (PDF).

Conceptual drawing for Genesee Towers, Thaddeus Pawlowski

A number of other proposals are on file by artists and designers including Deborah Gans, Farrah Karapetian, Raphaele Shirley, NSUMI, Nuit Blanche New York, Tamara Leacock, Thaddeus Pawlowski and David Cook, Public Workshop, Hungry March Band, Magda Biernat, Sean Hemmerle, Michael Ramsdell, Dave Johnson, Pharlon Randle, Janet Haley, and Freeman Greer. Many others in Flint, New York and Los Angeles continue to develop proposals and plans to implement them.

Last week, New York-based visiting artist Mary Gagler presented her painting and linocut of the Genesee Towers in an exhibition that opened at the Art School at Old Church in Demarest, New Jersey. Her statement on the work, installed in a gallery and art school in her home town, suggests how projects in Flint can have a resonance with other places and inspire visiting artists as much as residents of the city of Flint.

The Flint Public Art Project provides a plan for a culturally invigorated Flint, Michigan. Flint residents are game for this transformation and hundreds showed their support by attending the inaugural event for the project on July 8, 2011.

When the city was flush, flowing capital gave rise to businesses and buildings such as the Genesee Towers depicted here. This office building was unused for years until the electricity was turned on for a day, during which volunteers installed colored theater lights in the windows and a local dance troupe performed for the audience on the street.

It had been a while since I left New York, with its vibrant, self-accrediting art scene. I had forgotten that art serves a purpose outside of decorating walls, that it can actually give form to an idea. In this case, an idea shared by a whole community. Sure, there were disagreements about the particulars--is it safe? If somebody gets hurt while putting on a project in a condemned building owned by the city, won't the city face major lawsuits? But then there was the best question of them all--what if it goes well? If everyone watches out for themselves, and tiptoes around the broken glass and ceramics in the banquet hall to install lights in the windows, and the dancers are led by dedicated volunteers through the abandoned office space, then maybe all participants will emerge unscathed, and the public will have seen something they were hoping for; a public building put to good, imaginative use.

This embrace of an empty building for public use reminds the artist of a similar history… a hundred year old Baptist church that was transformed into a cultural art center in Demarest, NJ…

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Genesee Towers Linocut Print and Painting by Mary Gagler

As a new perk for supporting the Flint project, donate $35 or more and receive a linocut print of the Genesee Towers by artist Mary Gagler, inspired by the July 8 ArtWalk event.

Mary Gagler at the Heidelberg Project

Go to to claim one of a limited edition of 30.

A print of the woodcut will be featured in an exhibition opening on September 2nd at the Art School at Old Church, in Demarest, New Jersey, along with an oil painting of the building by Gagler.

This beautiful little piece of work, about 8 x 10 inches, is also being auctioned to benefit the project to the highest bidder on IndieGoGo, starting at $301, or the first to donate $1,000. It will be hard for us to part with this lovely work.

If you would like a Genesee Towers print or T-shirt, or would like to bid on the painting but don't feel comfortable with online transactions, you can address checks to Red Ink Flint, and send to Flint Public Art Project, 625 Saginaw Street, Flint, 48502.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Marching Band Takes August ArtWalk By Storm

This month, we again participated in Flint’s downtown ArtWalk, this time with a street performance that started in the park on the corner of Saginaw Street and 2nd Street, and continued to the Carriage Factory and the Arrowhead Vets Club on Water Street, and Good Beans Cafe on Grand Traverse.

The performance attracted a new audience to the ArtWalk and drew visitors across the river to a deeply historic place in Flint—a former Chippewa reservation, where the first European settled, the first lumber mills were located, and the carriage industry was established. We wanted to reimagine this place for the future and make it happen now.

The bright red of the Northern football team's jersey and the beautiful faces of the cheerleaders radiated on the bright green lawn of the park in downtown Flint, with the Capitol Theater in the background.

The cheerleaders from Northern Marching Band took Saginaw Street by storm as they passed by the iconic Genesee Towers.

The brilliant resonance of the Northern Marching Band drummers moved the audience as they played alongside the Flint Symphony Orchestra in Riverbank Park.

The rush of the kids across the Flint River to Carriage Town, past the colorful lights illuminating the Carriage Factory, to meet the sounds of DJ Litz on Water Street brought a new energy to downtown Flint.

The Arrowhead Vets Club felt like a clubhouse for the whole city. As we continue to learn from producing these events and increase our organizational capacity, we hope our events and installations will continue to increase in scale, power and resonance, building on the energies of all of Flint's communities to create a truly monumental spectacle. Your support as always is hugely appreciated.

We also attended the massive event at the Urban League of Flint on Saturday that featured record producer Pharlon Randle's community hip hop production workshop, Bangtown Productions, along with the amazing dancers of Tapology, the Vertical Ambition dance group, and legendary rapper Rakim. Rakim blew us away.

In the mid-80s, Rakim revolutionized hip hop by introducing a new level of artistic expression and lyricism to rapping, revolting against the one-to-one reliance on rhyme and rhythm and throwing in off-beat breaks, big words that threw off and delayed the expected and predictable rhymes, and a seriousness of political purpose that paved the way for hip hop to become the international phenomenon it became. This is a legendary figure.

At one point Rakim paused to ask the audience to raise a finger in the air if they had lost a member of their family to violence. It seemed like every arm in the house was raised. He acknowledged all the people who brought their little kids to the event and said that's how we should be organizing all our events, so the kids can be a part. Rakim comes from the school of the roots of true hip hop.

We would like to express our gratitude and appreciation for the extraordinary support of all of the performers and participants: Flint City Schools and Marty Embry of Athletics and Compliance for their instrumental support and participation, a huge thanks to Tom Glasscock of the Flint Symphony Orchestra for going out of the way to be a part of this event, Fred Jackson and George Finch, Northern High School Football coaches, Ken Muludrew, Northern High School Band Director, Michael Kelly of Mott Community College, Dillon Thorne of U of M Flint Club Sports, DJ Adam Liske, Jessica Back, Choreographer Jenee Price and the Praise Dancers, performers Amanda Shaw, artist Rebekkah Mikkelson, and the many dancers and performers whose participation in this event is making the city come alive. We continue to be blown away by the great civic culture of this place.

Deep thanks to Joel Rash of Local 432 and Red Ink Flint for his ongoing support and partnership, the Greater Flint Arts Council for their invaluable partnership and hosting of our participation in the ArtWalk, Desiree Duell and Eric Hinds for their countless tireless hours of work, Dan Osika for his continued assistance and support, Jon Cockeril for technical assistance, Erik Lawshe and the Farbman Group for permission to use the Carriage Factory, Keith Warner and the Arrowhead Vets Club for their kindness as hosts, Ken van Wagoner at Good Beans Café for his everlasting support for community events, Gerard Burnash and Chris Everson of the Downtown Development Authority for their essential assistance, Michael Kelly and Mott Community College for their essential help with logistics, and Genesee Regional Young Professionals, Flint Businesses After 5 Club, Bring Two To Flint, Buckham Gallery, and the City of Flint.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Return to the Future of Now

The Flint Public Art Project is planning another event at the tail end of next Friday's ArtWalk, a street performance spectacle that begins on Saginaw Street between Second and Third streets and continues to the Carriage Factory. The event is the next stage in the Public Art Project's engagement of underused sites in the greater downtown Flint area

Working with area high schools, the Flint Institute of Music, and a group of dancers and artists, Return to the Future of Now goes back to this richly historic site--a former Native American reservation, home of first European settler, center of the carriage industry--to manifest the city as it exists today and temporarily produce a new future, through your presence and participation in this event.

Drums will announce the beginning of Return to the Future of Now.

A man lights his pipe in front of Paul's Pipe Shop. Not that strange. But it sets off a chain reaction that leads to an art parade that will occupy Water Street around the former Durant-Dort Carriage Factory.

Return to the Future of Now includes a string quartet performance on the banks of the river, DJ Litz, light and video projections inside and around the Carriage Factory, new work by Eric Hinds, dancers, and a techno party hosted by the Arrowhead Vets Club.

Visit the event page, cheer us on with a small contribution.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The New City: Lighting the Towers, Going to the River

On July 8, as a culmination of this month's downtown ArtWalk, the condemned 19-story Genesee Towers will come to life with music, performances, light installations, video projections, and a parade to the river. A demonstration of the new city emerging downtown, the event marks the beginning of the Flint Public Art Project, a 10-year program of events, installations, performances, social sculptures, and new buildings to amplify the regeneration process underway in the city. 

This free event will feature performances inside the tower by the Fischer Bodies, the Hula Hoops, JonBenet, and the Clio Girls, video and photography projections by Eric Hinds, Tara Moreno, and New York-based multimedia artist Chris Jordan, lighting installations by Dave Johnson, and a laser-and light installation by Brooklyn-based artist Raphaele Shirley illuminating the riverfront. Much more to be confirmed later.

Friday, July 8, 2011, 9:00 pm - 12 am
One Art Walk Park***, Flint, MI

***Note: One Art Walk Park is a completely fictitious address. "Technically" the address is 120 First Street, at Brush Alley.

Support this project by making a contribution or "liking" it at IndieGoGo or by "liking" the Flint Public Art Project on Facebook.

This event is being realized with the support and participation of Red Ink Flint, Buckham Gallery, the Creative Alliance, Paradigm Attractions, Gazall Lewis Architects, THA Architects, the Stockton Center at Spring Grove, the Carriage Town Historic Neighborhood Association, the Flint River Corridor Alliance, The Flint Club, the U of M Flint Outreach Office, the Flint Journal, Uptown Developments, the Genesee Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Flint Youth Theater, the Flint Insitute of Arts, the Greater Flint Arts Council, the Downtown Development Authority, the City of Flint, and Michael Moore.

The Flint Public Art Project is a program of Red Ink Flint.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Prepare to FLOW

We are inviting you—artists, performers, activists, do-ers, makers, craftspeople, builders, designers, urbanists, dreamers—to join us. All proposals will be accepted. We will work with you to develop, fund, advocate for, and realize your dream for a place in the city. We are looking for projects that can be made to happen immediately, including existing works that can be given a bigger audience.

In 200 words or less, tell us who you are, where and when you want something to happen, and what resources you need.

This July 4 and during the July 8 ArtWalk, we're looking for about 10 hands to help carry and install lights in and around the Genesee Towers. We are also looking for another 20 or so volunteers for a sculptural performance, including four 10-13 year olds, four 18-22 year olds, four 35-45 year olds, and four 55 and older.

Flow is a program of the Flint Public Art Project supported by Red Ink Flint.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Secret Cities of Flint: Stockton Center at Spring Grove

Spring Grove is a restored wetland in the Grand Traverse neighborhood, on the edge of downtown, filled with 19th century homes. The tracks of the Flint and Pere Marquette railroad are hidden in the brush behind Spring Grove, and on a bank above stands a two-story mansion being restored by architect Freeman Greer.

It was the home of Colonel Thomas Stockton, a Union Army leader who raised the 16th Michigan infantry, a 761-soldier regiment from Flint, Saginaw, and Genessee County that fought heroically in many important Civil War battles, including Gettysburg.

Stockton married a daughter of Jacob Smith, the first European settler of the area along the Flint River, and inherited through her a large part of the Indian reservation along Swartz Creek and the river. Maria Stockton founded the Ladies Library Association in 1851, which evolved into Michigan's first public library.

Greer formed the nonprofit For Flint Investments, which bought the home from the state of Michigan for $5,000 in 2002 to restore the building. The building had been vacant since 1996. Now it serves as the office of his firm, GAV & Associates, with his wife Renee, and a handful of other tenants, and houses a museum. Stockton Center at Spring Grove provides tours of the building, displays photographs, documents, and other exhibits, and has the largest collection of Civil War books in the area. "It was just a way of saving history--the income from the tenants doesn't quite cover the mortgage," Greer says. "We had to mortgage it to do the construction work. We were successful in using tax credits for it but the governor did away with them."

The Stockton house was recently used to film Alleged, a movie about the Scopes Monkey Trial, the landmark Tennessee court case that helped prevent fundamentalists from prohibiting the teaching of evolution in the United States in 1925. Broadcast on national radio, the trial argued by ACLU lawyer Clarence Darrow and politician William Jennings Bryant captivated the public and coalesced popular opinion in favor of evolutionary biology.

The house was purchased in 1920 from a grandson of Maria Stockton by the Archdiocese of Detroit for the Sisters of St. Joseph, in order to establish the hospital that became St. Joseph Hospital. The hospital addition has also been restored.

Greer estimates that he has spent a million dollars restoring the home, with help from foundations and nonprofits, and a mortgage. "Right now we are [able to cover the shortfall] but moving forward we have to figure out how to get more tenants in the building and increase its income."

A millwright is currently working on restoration of the eaves. The building's market value is a fraction of the investment, but its historical value is incalculable to Greer, a member of the city's Historic Preservation Commission and the Planning Commission. "When I walked in here, I said, 'Oh my goodness, it has to be saved.' It's taken everything I've got to do it, to get it back operating in this condition. And so we're just holding on."

On the evening of my visit, the Historic Preservation Commission was meeting to decide whether to allow a school in the neighborhood to be converted into senior housing and the appropriateness of moving a historic home in Carriage Town to an adjacent lot in order to create a parking space and make it eligible for federal funds for low-income housing.

Greer, along with the Grand Traverse District Neighborhood Association, led the restoration of the wetland behind the house, with help from the Genesee County Land Bank and 80 volunteers from the AmeriCorps program. They cleared garbage from the site, rescued two cats trapped inside, hauled away a car, and removed invasive species from the natural spring. They have raised funds to plant $3,000 worth of lillies and other native species, and are witnessing the return of endangered species like the Blue Heron.

The Pere Marquette railway is planned to become a public trail called the Grand Traverse Greenway. Greer is looking for collaborators on a public art project that would attract attention to adaptive reuse of the 1920s-30s concrete silos on the site, owned by the Land Bank. "The city of Flint is a very neat quilt," he says, as we walk up the embankment back to the house. "The pieces are all stitched together."

Across the street from Spring Grove is Flint Tool & Die (contact information for the plant is at this link), the last remaining Chevrolot factory on the mile-long stretch of manufacturing facilities known locally as Chevy in the Hole. Its below-grade-level landscape was previously a marshy flood plain along the Flint River before it was dammed in the 1960s.

The factory is a long nondescript warehouse that does metal cutting, stamping, machining and assembly for the Chevrolet Volt and Cruze, and the Cadillac CTS. It has 362 employees, 314 of them hourly and 48 salaried, and received a $12 million retooling from General Motors a few years ago.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The New Midwest: A Day on a Bike in Flint

In New York, around 600 people are murdered every year. Flint is statistically more dangerous because there were 20 killings in the first four months of this year. The news of its danger dominates outside perception of the place, rather than the everyday normalcy of the way that people live in the city.

On a recent bike ride through this most-dangerous-city in the country, the air was filled with the smell of a landscape that was alive; lawns were being mowed, a man was painting the awning of the Vegan Soul Hut, a health food restaurant he had just opened on Flint Park Boulevard and MLK Avenue. His wife Regina was promoting the Esau Lentil Burgers as "so good it will make you sell your birthright." She said they were bringing an awareness of good food back to Flint. "It's vegetarian food for meat lovers. Because of the look, the texture, the taste, people think they're eating meat. Now I don't have to eat meat," she said, "Let the little chickens live!"

A group of young men were chatting around a gold-painted Buick Regal that had been installed with a lifted suspension, men and women waved as they sat on their steps or tended their gardens, children laughed as a reporter rode past on a bike with tall handlebars dressed in skinny black jeans and ankle boots.

Well-cared-for churches abounded, closed-down school buildings were outnumbered by working community schools, countless blocks were immaculately cared for, there were signs for block associations on corners. The Carriage Town Historic Neighborhood Association had put up signs throughout the area northwest of downtown recognizing the value of the place's Victorian homes. You could find abandonment and neglect, stretches of homes that were rotting, evidence of arson; you could also, if you were looking for it, see a living city.

At night the downtown strip was buzzing with bars and clubs: it was the last night of the Flint City Theatre's production of Macbeth at the Buckham Gallery; Rasberries was charging a ten dollar admission to the African American kids driving in from the suburbs to dance and socialize in an upscale discotheque; the Torch was filled with burger-eating beer-drinking intellectuals; another crowd of younger people were hanging out at the bar in Churchill's.

It was someone's birthday party; rows of cupcakes were lined up on the table, and a few heavyset men and women were twirling to a 90s techno hit. It was no exclusive bar being promoted by celebrity publicists; it's also not a dangerous hell on earth.

In Flint and other areas of the Midwest, job losses and reports of decline predominate the image conveyed to the outside, rather than parallel processes of restructuring and rebuilding that are adapting the cities for new uses. Instead of looking at the past, the Public Art Project tries to look at Flint and other cities in the region as they are today, and how they're actively producing a new city.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Downtown Flint (photo: Lisa Zacks)


The Flint Project seeks to produce new images, temporary programs, small-scale installations, and permanent projects at strategic sites in Flint in collaboration with local artists, community advocates, cultural institutions, neighborhood associations, businesses, real-estate developers, and political leaders in the city. The project will capture and broadcast the identity of Flint by recognizing key features of the urban cultural landscape and connecting them to a larger narrative, transforming the street life and propagating new ideas for living in the city. We plan to produce a phased series of collaborative and community-based participatory cultural events, installations, demonstration projects, identity concepts, and programs for future institutions. The events and programs will contribute to the local culture, its community organizations, and its integral connections to contemporary practices in art, architecture, performance, urban design, landscape architecture, planning, and economic development. 

The Flint Project intersects with the formal master planning and visioning process being undertaken by the city government. The result will be experimental formations of public space at strategic sites throughout the city through participatory installations and performances, an overall vision for Flint, a permanent small-scale installation, and a concept for a large cultural project that can represent an image of the city and a possibility for the future. Outside of Flint, we  plan to produce a traveling exhibition that uses multiple art practices and design disciplines to examine the specificity of its urban condition and display proposals for its continued transformation.

About the Project

The project looks for ways to form connections between existing community groups, cultural institutions, historic landmarks, industrial brownfields, natural features and pieces of infrastructure, locating them as reference points in the landscape that together embody the identity of a place. It assumes an expanded concept of the downtown area that extends from Grand Traverse and Saginaw, the main streets through the center of town, past the Flint River to the site of the former Buick City manufacturing facility, and along Kearsley and Court streets from the University of Michigan Flint and Mott Community College to the former Chevrolet-Fisher Body factory. Between these areas, underdeveloped neighborhoods and highway overpasses form physical and psychological barriers that are potential sites of intervention or remediation.

Few reference points are available to situate the place. The film by Michael Moore, Roger and Me, about the closing of GM auto factories in the 1980s, is the most important one. While it may have left a negative image of the city, it also identified the place with an independent filmmaker who popularized the documentary form through a single-minded confrontation with power and personalized advocacy for fairness and economic justice. Many people recall having driven past Flint on the highway. Nothing they will have seen, no sign visible from the road, no institution recognizable to outsiders, no cult landmark motivated them to get off the highway and stop. Most young people leave Flint for college and never come back. This project will create a temporary destination and build foundations for landmarks that will truly reflect the history and future of the place.

The Flint Project is meant to be partly critical, partly conceptual, partly pragmatic, and partly performative. It recognizes that there are deep, very real structural, economic, and geographic problems that cause Flint to remain isolated from cosmopolitan culture and the new economy. While manufacturing has continued to steadily decline, a number of auto parts plants, GM truck factories, and other remnants of the industrial economy have survived, and these remain central to the local economy. Although unions are seen as an impediment to companies seeking to establish new businesses in Flint, the unions associated with every auto facility are also part of the historical, cultural, and social fabric of the place. We are looking for ways to take advantage of existing institutions, historically important sites and special places to create new opportunities for transformation, ways of introducing connections to the outside and instigating cultural and economic development practices that have been effective in other places.


Flint is located approximately an hour’s drive from Detroit (the major city and metropolitan area), Lansing (the state capital and location of Michigan State University), and Ann Arbor (University of Michigan).

It has a small revived downtown area with a traditional main street, Saginaw Street, a historic  landmark theater, the Capitol, an alleyway with a few bars, the Torch and the Loft, the campus of the University of Michigan-Flint, and a small riverfront park landscape-designed by Lawrence Halprin

Local institutions such as the Flint Youth Theatre, Buckham Gallery, the Buick Gallery, the Flint Institute of Arts, and Local 432 are anchors of cultural life in the downtown area. The Farmers' Market is an essential gathering place three days a week on the edge of downtown. The Edible Flint Coop is an urban farming initiative that grows organic food in the city. 

We take areas of the city from Atwood Stadium and the Flint Farmers' Market to the north, Kettering University and the site of the historic Chevrolet-Fisher Body sit-down strike to the East, the Durant-Dort Carriage Factory and Saginaw Street in downtown Flint, and the former Central High School and the Buick Gallery in the Cultural District as sites for research, installation, programming, and performance.

Research Information for Participants

Flint River Corridor Alliance Planning Study - Sasaki Associates (PDF)  
Reimagining Chevy in the Hole - Chevrolet factory site study - Flint Futures Group, School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan (PDF)  
Housing and Urban Development Neighborhood Stabilization Plan/ NSP3 (PDF) - Federal Demolition, Rehabilitation & New Construction Grant (Flint Journal report)

Recent News 


This link references a map of the broader downtown area. On the left side of the map, Saginaw Street is the main street through the downtown area, and the Cultural Center is to the right on the opposite side of the highway. If you toggle the map to the left, the large gray empty lot is the site of the former Chevrolet - Fisher Body plant, the site of the 1937 sit-down strike that resulted in the formation of the UAW. If you toggle to the north, you can see the site of the former Buick City manufacturing plant, the biggest brownfield site in the country.

Chevrolet-Fisher Body factory site (photo: Lisa Zacks)


Proposals may take the form of site-specific artistic interventions, sculptural installations, performance art events, classes and workshops, lectures, designs for new buildings, streetscape and billboard graphics campaigns, proposals for reuse or transformation of abandoned or underutilized buildings or sites, or urban design and landscape urbanism plans.


An invited group of artists, performers, architects, urban designers, graphic designers, and landscape urbanists will participate in a scouting and research expedition in which we tour sites, meet with groups of residents, community organizations, artists, and institutions, and spend time exploring the area. 

Participants will be paired with local artists, small businesses, college classrooms, municipal agencies, cultural organizations and institutional partners to collaborate in the generation of programs for installation, performance, education, building design, or urban design. The projects can be realizable in any media to interact with, provoke discussion about, or permanently impact the urban context. 

A weeklong series of participatory events will be organized to engage the community in rethinking areas of the city and engage the local community in contemporary art and architecture practices. The performance/ installation component will be open to proposals and encourage a wide range of voluntary responses by local, national, and international artists and designers. 

A second phase will develop one or more of the proposed projects into a small or larger-scale permanent installation.


First phase
Winter 2010/11 – Invitations to participate/ Initial grant applications
May 21 through June 21 – Site tour & call for proposals
July 1, 2011 – Preliminary project proposals
Summer 2011 – Project-based grant applications and fundraising
Labor Day through October 8, 2011 – Participatory events, discussions, temporary installations, performances
Oct. 8, 2011 – Announcement of permanent installation/ sculpture/ building /urban design project to correspond to 100-year celebration of Chevrolet

Second phase
Winter, 2011/12 – Design and fundraising for selected projects/ touring exhibition/ book production
October 8, 2012 – Break ground on permanent small-scale installation

Third phase
October 8, 2013 - Announcement of program for large-scale cultural project

***NOTE: Many of the invited participants, collaborators, partners, advisors, grant sources, and sponsors listed below are unconfirmed, though most of them have been initially contacted and expressed an interest in participating. This project is open to other participants; please write to if you are interested in joining the research process or proposing something as a part of the program. This is a tentative draft proposal.***

Invited Participants
Tobias Armborst, Daniel D'Oca, and Georgeen Theodore of Interboro Partners
So-Il / Florian Idenburg and Jing Liu
Srdjan Jovanovic-Weiss, Normal Architecture Office/ School of Missing Studies
Susannah Drake/ Dland Studio
Behrang Behin/ Ennead
Vincent Appel, Medium
Thaddeus Pawlowski, urban designer
Quilian Riano/ DSGN AGNC
Cathlyn Newell, University of Michigan School of Architecture
Anne Renee Trumble/ Emerging Terrain
Min | Day + FACT
Kate Orff/ Scape
Matthias Neumann
Swoon/ Swimming Cities
Jeanne Gang/ Studio Gang
Mitch Cope and Gina Reichart, Design 99
Nahyun Hwang, University of Michigan College of Architecture
Andrew Herscher, Detroit Unreal Estate Agency, University of Michigan College of Architecture 
Trevor Paglen
David Cook/ Grimshaw Architects
Jon Lott, Para Project 
Michael Haggerty, urban planner
Diego Fernandez, artist
Dan Rockwell/ Studio 804
Andrew Zago
Gregory Tom
Hashim Sarkis, Harvard GSD 
CityBuild Consortium
Center for Land Use Interpretation
Madagascar Institute
Los Angeles Urban Rangers
James Rojas
Crimson Architectural Historians
Julia Czerniak/ CLEAR
Pierre Huyghe
Olafur Eliasson
Tino Seghal
Jiang Jun/ Urban China
Raf Kelman, performance artist
Sophia Cleary, performance artist
Noah Sheldon, photographer
Sean Hemmerle, photographer
Magda Biernat, photographer
Armin Linke, photographer
Allison Danielle Behrstock, artist
Lize Mogel, artist
Anthony Hamboussi, photographer
Teresa Herrmann and Pepin Gelardi, Contrail
Anne Marie O'Neill, artist
Wes Janz, architect and professor, Ball State University
Raphaele Shirley, light and installation artist 
Peter Kyle Dance, choreographer
The Hinterlands
Craig Wilkins, Detroit Community Design Center, University of Michigan College of Architecture
Museum of Contemporary Art - Flint
Dennis Maher, University at Buffalo SUNY, Department of Architecture
Sarah Palmer, photographer

The Torch, in Buckham Alley (photo: Lisa Zacks)

Flint Artists and Collaborators

Joshua Kraus, artist, student
Freeman Greer, GAV & Associates, architecture professor, Baker College
Cristen Velliky, Assistant Professor of Art, UM-Flint; Director, UCEN Gallery
Jason Galvas, Flint Club
George Ananich, Architect, THA Architects
John Gazall, Gazall, Lewis & Associates
James Thigpen Jr., Closet Studio
Tim Monahan, Carriage Town Historic Neighborhood Alliance
Alan Harris, Creative Alliance
Guy Adamec, instructor, Flint Institute of Arts
Jessica Back, artist
Nayyirah Shariff, artisan and community advocate, Revolutionary Bread
Cade Surface, urban designer
Michael Ramsdell, Under the Hood Productions
Janet Haley, assistant professor of theater, U of M Flint
Stephen Landon, theater design professor, U of M Flint
Ryan Eashoo. talk show host
John V. Dempsey, painter and art professor, Mott Community College
Sarah Reed, photographer
Ben Hamper, writer and DJ
Jeremy Winchester, artistic director designate, Flint Youth Theater
Joel Rash, Local 432, music producer
Tom Hall, film festival producer
Jen Sikora, Buckham Gallery
Joanna Lehrman and Erin Caudell, Edible Flint Co-op
Natasha Thomas-Jackson, RAISE IT UP! Youth Arts & Awareness
Pharlon Randle, Bangtown Productions
Michael Moore, Dog Eat Dog Films

Edible Flint
Flint Planning Commission
Flint Community and Economic Development
Flint Art Fair
Flint Greek Festival
Michigan Renaissance Fair
Crossroads Village and Huckleberry Railroad
Mott Community College
Baker Community College
UAW Local 598
UAW Local 599
UAW Local 659
UAW Local 651
Federal Building, 600 Church Street (616) 456-2367
Social Security Administration Building, 929 Stevens Street (616) 456-2367
Flint Truck Assembly
Flint Metal Center
Flint Tool & Die
GMPT Flint Engine South
GMPT Flint North
Grand Blanc Weld Tool Center

Longway Planetarium, in the Cultural Center (photo: Lisa Zacks)

Regional Partners 

Detroit Institute of Arts
Toledo Museum of Art
Great Lakes Urban Exchange
University of Michigan College of Architecture
Center for Creative Studies
Kent State University
Cranbrook Institute of Arts
Wayne State University
Michigan State University School of Planning, Design and Construction


National and International Partners

International Partners

Bauhaus Dessau Foundation
Urban China

Media Partners

Architect’s Newspaper
Flint Journal
Detroit Free Press
Lansing State Journal
Ryan Eashoo Show
Urban Omnibus

Grant Sources

C. S. Mott Foundation

Corporate Sponsors

General Motors
American Express
AT&T Foundation
Bank of America Foundation
Comerica Foundation
DaimlerChrysler Corporation Fund
Exxon Mobile Foundation
Ford Motor Company Foundation
General Motors Foundation
Kellogg’s Corporate Citizenship Fund
Masco Corporation Foundation
Mervyn’s Corporate Giving Program
Steelcase Foundation


Joel Rash, Red Ink Studios

Curator/ Producer

Stephen Zacks, Institute for Applied Reporting and Urbanism

Advisory council

Dayne Walling, Mayor of Flint
Tim Herman, Genesee Chamber of Commerce
Douglas Weiland, Genesee County Land Bank
Joel Rash, Flint Local 432
Jeremy Winchester, Flint Youth Theater
John Henry, Flint Institute of Arts
Michael Moore, director, Dog Eat Dog Films
Mark Robbins, Dean, Syracuse University School of Architecture
Monica Ponce de Leon, dean, University of Michigan School of Architecture
Olympia Kazi, Van Alen Institute
Adrienne Samos and Gerardo Mosquera, Ciudad Multiple
Srdjan Jovanovic-Weiss, School of Missing Studies/ Lost Highway Expedition
Tobias Armborst, Daniel D'Oca, and Georgeen Theodore of Interboro Partners
William Massie, Cranbrook Academy of Art, Architect-in-Residence
Kyong Park, International Center for Urban Ecology