Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Free City Preview: Chevy Futures Visioning Workshop Saturday April 27

Chevy 5

Los Angeles-based artist and urban planner James Rojas usually begins one of his Visioning Workshops carrying a big box. Inside are hundreds of colorful, quirky objects – poker chips, feathers, plastic eggshells, board game pieces - that he spreads out on the largest tables he can find. He then asks everyone in the room to take as many of these materials as they want to build their own small-scale model representing their ideal version of a place – it could be a park, a neighborhood, an entire city, or a vacant industrial site like Chevy-in-the-Hole.

“It’s all about sparking people’s imaginations,” Rojas says. “When people start working with these playful objects, and start building three-dimensional models, they usually come up with ideas they wouldn’t have thought of just by talking or writing down notes.”

Rojas first brought his workshops to Flint last fall for the Congress for Urban Transformation (CUT), Flint Public Art Project’s conference on urban revitalization strategies. More than 200 people of all ages participated in nearly a dozen workshops over the course of three days – including a group of 50 people who met at Kettering University to brainstorm short-term activities that could reclaim Chevy-in-the-Hole. Some of the ideas that came out of that workshop – including movie screenings, music performances, and biking – will be on the program during Free City.

Rojas will offer a 3-hour workshop from on Saturday April 27, asking people to envision what they want Chevy-in-the-Hole to become in the long-term. He will then build a large-scale model showing the many ideas people contributed that will be on display during the festival May 3 – 5.

“I’m very excited to come back to Flint and to the Chevy site. There’s so much potential there – I can’t wait to see what people come up with.”

Catch the Chevy Visions workshop Saturday, April 27 from 3 – 6 pm at Chevy-in-the-Hole.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Free City Public Art Festival, May 3-5, Chevy-in-the-Hole, Flint, Michigan

Flint Public Art Project Temporarily Reclaims and Reuses
 Razed Chevy Site for Free City—a Large-Scale
Open-Air Art Festival, May 3–5

Flint, Michigan – Flint Public Art Project will temporarily reclaim Chevy-in-the-Hole, a mile-long stretch along the Flint River once occupied by a series of now-razed Chevrolet plants for Free City, a large-scale, open-air art festival taking place Friday, May 3 through Sunday, May 5, 2013. With this year’s theme—“Reclaim | Transform” —Free City will demonstrate that a critical mass of temporary activities can turn abandoned industrial properties into active public spaces and will highlight the ongoing transformation of Flint. More than 40 artists from Flint, southeast Michigan, and the Great Lakes region will be joined by dozens of artists from across the country and Europe.

Many of the projects address the site’s history in provocative and entertaining ways, while anticipating possible futures for its re-use. GeoSpace’s Firefly is a futuristic three-wheeled human-powered vehicle that the Ann Arbor-based artist tours around the exhibition area to spur conversations about sustainable transport. Flint-based architect Freeman Greer marks the site with reclaimed tires arranged in the form of a Chevrolet logo and planted with grass and sunflowers. Los Angeles-based Jesse Sugarmann uses heavy equipment to hoist, drop, ram, and pile junked Pontiac Fieros, recording the process for video installations. Brooklyn’s Madagascar Institute creates amusement-park rides made from reclaimed auto parts.

The festival also showcases the growing network of artists, designers, builders, and performers in the Great Lakes region. Melissa Mays of Flint’s Metal Shop co-organizes Endless Drummers, a  thundering and explosive performance by dozens of the best drummers from the region. Video-projection mapping by the Windsor-based duo Kero and Annie Hall superimposes computer-generated imagery over the reclaimed landscape. Cinthia Montague and Candice Stewart of the Flint-based group Flower Tour invite participants to use their mobile devices to join a silent dance party. Kunsthalle Detroit installs video projections transforming the Flint River channel into a light-filled spectacle, and light-art installations by Catie Newell and students at University of Michigan illuminate an old rail line that once moved materials to production.

“Free City is the culmination of three years of conversations with local, regional, and national artists about how art could be useful as a part of the renewal process in the city of Flint,” says Stephen Zacks, executive director of Flint Public Art Project. “The festival will reconnect residents to Chevy-in-the-Hole in the short term, as long-term remediation takes place.”

The name Chevy-in-the-Hole refers to the topography of the site, a flood plain of the Flint River lying 10-20 feet lower than its surroundings. It has historical significance for the U.S. Labor movement—in the mid-1930s, sit-down strikes by autoworkers led directly to General Motors recognizing the United Auto Workers union in 1937. In the 1960s, the Chevy site along with three other Flint industrial "campuses" employed nearly 90,000 people. Layoffs took place throughout the 1970s and 1980s, and by 2004, all but one building was demolished.

Today however, the site is considered a key piece to Flint's future. The City of Flint has received funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to plant more than 1,000 trees that are helping clean up the soil. The City is also processing several tons of leaf waste and other organic matter for compost. Both activities are symbols of rebirth that are also helping speed the site's future re-use.

The festival is made possible in part by generous funding from ArtPlace, a consortium of thirteen national foundations in partnership with the National Endowment of the Arts, which awarded one of its second round of annual grants to Flint Public Art Project in 2012.

Flint Public Art Project is produced by Amplifier Inc. with support from ArtPlace, in affiliation with Flint Institute of Arts, Red Ink Flint, and Fractured Atlas.