Detroit arts community sees a brighter future for Motown

July 20, 2013 at 5:08 PM
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DETROIT, July 20 (UPI) -- Members of Detroit's arts scene say they want to position themselves as a major part of what they hope will be a Motown revival after a municipal bankruptcy.

With the city nearly $20 billion in debt, largely in pension and other "legacy" funds for retired employees, emergency manager Kevin Orr took the city of Detroit into Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy Thursday, making it the largest U.S. municipality ever to do so.

A Michigan circuit judge Friday ruled Detroit's federal bankruptcy filing violates the state constitution and should be withdrawn.

Though many Detroiters were resigned to the idea, some are already plotting a comeback, The Guardian said Saturday.

Members of the city's arts and music scene point to recent successes as a template for how to rebrand Detroit from Rust Belt industrial wasteland to a hub of cutting edge cultural achievement.

Jack White, a Detroit native and founder of the band the White Stripes, recently paid back taxes due on the city's historic Masonic Temple, a legendary rock venue.

The Detroit Institute of Art is home to many world-class paintings including a Van Gogh, Picasso and a Rembrandt self-portrait. Though Orr drew headlines for suggesting the city sell part or all of its art collection to help eliminate its debt, cultural leaders balked and Orr backed off the proposal.

Arts experts say the late Detroit native artist Mike Kelley could serve as an example of the new kind of production Detroit is known for. Kelley used discarded elements of American society and pop culture -- stuffed animals, dolls and other items -- to create his art.

"He's a natural icon for the city, with his own anti-authoritarian vocabulary," said Marsha Miro, board president of the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit. "Mike was this anti-conventional, hybrid artist-musician, and Detroit is unfettered by the conventional politics of the art world. We need someone of his stature to be a figurehead."

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