POWER HOUSE PRODUCTIONS NARRATIVE
For Four years now individuals from a uniquely diverse and historical, yet troubled neighborhood in Detroit have formed an informal network of creative professionals, artists. architects, laborers, social geographers from within the local community and from an international all interested in this particular neighborhood as a creative experiment in sustainable design, social change and progressive neighborhood rejuvenation.
Initially started simply to keep the neighborhood together after experiencing an increase in crime and vandalism, work progressed beyond defensive tactics and evolved toward initiating routine creative projects within the community. Fueling this activity was the The Power House, a former foreclosed drug house purchased from the bank in 2008 by Mitch Cope & Gina Reichert who had already been living in the neighborhood for a few years by then. The property sale initiated a rein-visioning of this depression era working class home thru both high tech and low tech strategies toward the goal of establishing an artist residency/community arts center/meeting house. The term Power House describes two functions. First, the house is a power creator meaning it produces its own electricity from solar and wind power with an the intention of powering an additional adjacent house - thus creating a localized power grid. Second, the term implies a kind of taking control of ones own community by becoming an example of self reliance, sustainability and creative problem solving through education, communication and increased diversification of the neighborhood. In all a place that symbolizes hopefulness and curiosity by integrating a complex web of social and artistic ideas into a neighborhood that might otherwise end up into a typical cycle of decay and criminality.
Within its first summer of renovations (2008) The Power House became known within the neighborhood as the place where children could come and help build something, paint something or grow something. To the adults it became known as curious way to renovate an old house sparking daily conversations about renewable energy and the role of art and design within this old working class neighborhood.
As it happened, The Power House was purchased at the beginning of the foreclosure and economic crisis and thus found itself soon surrounded by additional empty structures, some already fire damaged by arson. Through the project laid out by Cope & Reichert, and collaborative efforts with neighbors, family and friends, the Power House started to become less about one single house and more about multiple structures and properties. The Power House Project soon facilitated the purchase and ownership of 8 other houses and 3 empty lots within a four block radius of where it stands. Currently, 5 of those houses are undergoing unique and creative renovations by artists and architects working to make Detroit their new home. This list includes, 3 artists, 5 architects, a curator and a writer.
The neighborhood historically is defined by immigrant communities. In the 1920s Polish workers came for jobs at local nearby auto factories and then in the 1970s Bangladeshi immigrants. Both groups have established business just down the street. The two groups along with long time African American and a multitude of European American residents have created a neighborhood highly integrated and diverse, racially and culturally. We have see this as a special asset unique to the neighborhood albeit a complex one. The Power House Project thru the use of art and other creative practices, has been able to glean from this culturally rich community and act as a mediator across cultural divides.
With new residents, the help of residents already rooted in the neighborhood and creative networks, we have created an unofficial neighborhood organization consisting of many projects. Some of these include, alley garbage clean up, abandoned home board up, crime watches, bicycle maintenance for kids, impromptu photo studios, community gardening, neighborhood lighting as well as self initiated urban design projects.
To continue these projects moving forward with concepts of a neighborhood that is responsible, accountable, sustainable, playful, artistic and safe, it has become necessary to establish a more structured organization. There are many more ideas and projects that have come out of the work we have already done, but this will require additional oversight and organization beyond what a few neighbors can handle.
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