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.