The Abandon Museum project is a collaboration between The Michigan Roundtable and Big City Films. The Abandon Museum is a pop-up event, housed in a vacant home, that features the work of EMMY award winning documentarian, Bruce Harper; a photo exhibit, curated by Rozenia Johnson; mural paintings by Detroit-based artists, and live performances on a single theme, Detroit housing.
The project is designed to heighten awareness while making a social and artistic statement.
The American Dream
Homeownership lies at the heart of the American Dream, representing success, opportunity and wealth. Decent, affordable housing is important to the strength of America, the well being of the family and economic vitality of communities.
In revitalizing communities, the construction of affordable homes can also help to stimulate economic growth. A healthy mix of housing options, from market-rate and affordable rental housing, to single-family homes, and developments for seniors will ensure opportunities for all individuals to improve their economic situation and contribute to their communities.
For these and other reasons, communities work to ensure there is sufficient rental and homeowner housing stock to meet the diverse needs of all families.
Not for Everyone
But the dream of decent affordable housing for all, is not the reality for everyone.
Historically, in Detroit, the competition for employment and housing increased social tensions in the city. Insufficient housing opportunities for African Americans led to a polarized political and economic landscape.
In 1935, the Federal Home Loan Bank Act, commissioned 239 lending maps to evaluate what neighborhoods throughout the country were lending risks. Many areas of Detroit were graded as hazardous for lending and citizens were denied loans, and consequently were unable to purchase or fix homes.
Today, gentrification has flooded resources into areas, causing property values to rise forcing many former residents to move out. The change is ruthless and unapologetic. Neighborhoods, are not just homes, but opportunities for profit and redevelopment.
So, if everyone benefits from decent, affordable housing, why can’t everyone participate? The Abandon Museum Project uses art to ignite awareness while searching for answers.
The Pop-Up Museum
The experience starts with the drive to the museum, passing vacant lots, burned houses and the echoes of lost dreams, visitors are exposed to the neighborhood’s housing reality, a precursor to the exhibition. Outside, visitors are greeted with a series of frescoes by local artists, consisting of three panels depicting hope for housing inclusion. Together they will adorn three exterior walls of the museum.
Inside, a photo exhibit on housing discrimination awaits. The "We Don’t Want Them: Race and Housing in Metro Detroit, 1900-1968”, curated by Rozenia Johnson, consisting of historic documents and compelling photographs on freestanding display units and panels, allows visitors to get a better understanding of the insidious effects of segregation and the impact it had and has on the Metro Detroit community.
Finally, downstairs, the documentary tells the story of Detroit’s gentrification and pathways to inclusion while actors placed throughout the museum perform a continuation of the documentary’s themes.
The documentary “When They Comeback: the Search for Answers” is the story of people, displacement and a sense of unfairness. It’s also, the story of individuals across the country working to change the redevelopment and displacement narrative to one of hope and inclusion. The documentary explores the history of gentrification and its causalities while searching for those who are developing answers that can be used to develop and sustain a more inclusive approach.
Big City Films, a previous Knight Art Challenge winner, along with The Michigan Roundtable and other collaborators will identify a pop-up museum location, manage safety renovations with a local contractor, and supervise movie theater comfort installations, to deliver an impactful experience through a nuevo-museum event.
The Abandon Museum tells the story of our sad housing history while highlighting individuals working now to change the narrative to one of hope and inclusion.