Author Archives: dkinkead


DETROPIA OPENS IN DETROIT.  Rachel Grady and Detroit native, Heidi Ewing’s award-winning DETROPIA opens on September 14th at the Ren Cen 4.  This “beautiful and quietly devestating” cinematic tapestry chronicles the lives of several Detroiters trying to survive and make sense of what is happening to their city. 

“Detroit’s story has encapsulated the iconic narrative of America over the last century— the Great Migration of African Americans escaping Jim Crow; the rise of manufacturing and the middle class; the love affair with automobiles; the flowering of the American dream; and now . . . the collapse of the economy and the fading American mythos. With its vivid, painterly palette and haunting score, DETROPIA sculpts a dreamlike collage of a grand city teetering on the brink of dissolution. As houses are demolished by the thousands, automobile-company wages plummet, institutions crumble, and tourists gawk at the “charming decay,” the film’s vibrant, gutsy characters glow and erupt like flames from the ashes. These soulful pragmatists and stalwart philosophers strive to make ends meet and make sense of it all, refusing to abandon hope or resistance. Their grit and pluck embody the spirit of the Motor City as it struggles to survive postindustrial America and begins to envision a radically different future. ”  – by Caroline Libresco


Tagged , ,



CIRCUMSTANCE.  Since the 1950’s Detroit’s population has been on the decline.  As the city expanded outward and fulfilled mid-century aspirations for suburban life and unencumbered industrial development, the overall population began dropping from its 1,850,000 peak.  Exacerbated by the combination of seemingly benevolent post-war policies such as the 1944 Serviceman’s Readjustment Act (GI Bill) which guaranteed low interest mortgages to returning veterans, Title One of the 1949 Federal Housing Act and the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, those who were not fully incentivized to leave the city were in some cases dispossessed or ghettoized. 

Vital communities broke down, functional public transportation fell into disrepair and ignorant, racially motivated segregation beseeched the city, making day to day life in Detroit quite inhospitable, promoting a sharp increase in migration to the suburbs.  At the same time, larger structural economic problems, such as an abiding faith in a Fordist economic model and a dominant one-dimensional industry, took their toll.  By the late 1960’s the population had fallen to 1,500,000 (while the 7-county region had grown to nearly 4,500,000) and in the late summer of 1967, the infamous riots engulfed parts of the city.  With this, many who had not yet left the city did so – if they had the means and opportunity.  (link to time line flash)

Over the final three decades of the 20th century Detroit maintained a steady population and employment decline as disinvestment, poor quality of life and limited services made a significant impact.  Now, with the economic recession that has come to define the early years of the 21st century, Detroit’s population loss and disinvestment have accelerated (along with several other communities in southeast Michigan, highlighting the regional dimension to these pernicious problems). Continue reading

Tagged , ,