Written by By Miriam Kramer, CNN
A new $130 million arts complex in Detroit aims to serve as a gateway to one of the United States’ most distressed neighborhoods.
The 31,000-square-foot space opened its doors to the public on September 20, 2017, in west Detroit. The Detroit Artists Foundation (DAF) is home to its AHC center, an 11,000-square-foot museum-like community space with a 6,000-square-foot theater, and adjacent galleries that showcase renowned local artists.
“It’s about expanding our reach,” said DAF President Charlie Hanson in a phone interview. “The idea of the building was that it would occupy a central location in a neighborhood that is really fraught with significant economic issues.”
The inlet is designed to mirror the rest of the city, with the blacktop edges connecting the streets of the west and east sides. The old Water Street Bridge (which went through the neighborhood in the 1930s) was retained to create the forte, along with the red brick facade of the main entrance.
A view of the inlet. Source: CORE ARTS
“The design brings the history of the neighborhood to the front door. So you’re standing on the Water Street Bridge, looking out to the future,” Hanson said.
The Bioscience Building (where the Bioscience Center and Education Center are located) was designed by the Brazilian-born architect Luana Veloso. Designed using a perforated-bronze molding, the building’s dark grey walls are brightened by a series of bright LED lighting installations that represent the surrounding neighborhood.
At street level, expect to see retailers, housing and a public gathering area as part of the coming month-long Light the Night event in October. An LED lighting display will be lit up along the existing Bridge Street Bridges, which are often described as the neighborhood’s most visually striking feature.
Besides providing a space for local artists, the DAF is hoping to spark more economic investment in the area.
Founding member and Detroit photographer Sterling Lay said the community-friendly space was designed to promote the city as a whole.
“It is crucial for the city as a whole that you have an affordable and accessible cultural experience for all residents. That is what we are trying to do with DAF. We want it to be a base for people to start to come together in the neighborhood,” he said.