Anarcho-Art in Detroit

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In July, PBS NewsHour aired a great 10-minute piece on anarcho-art in Detroit. Detroit, unknown to many, has become an island of art. Artists have been flocking to Detroit for a few years. This video shows some of the spectacular anarcho-art that adorns abandoned buildings everywhere. As a libertarian, I don’t sanction the graffiti on private property, however, I can certainly appreciate and endorse the homesteading going on in a city with more vacant real estate than occupied property.

Along the Dequindre Cut (a recently completed greenway), talented graffiti artists have been commissioned to come in and paint fabulous murals on all of the overpasses. While building the Dequindre Cut, all original graffiti/urban artwork was maintained in order to capture the rustic-industrial spirit of Detroit.

This PBS feature also highlights a bunch of artists who have squatted an abandoned police station, where space is developed for art studios and foundation funds help the artists to fix up the building. One artist even uses a holding cell for his painting because the light, to him, is perfect for working on his paintings.

Detroit art is an earthy, rustic, in-your-face art. Since artists have always survived in less than optimum conditions, Detroit is not a too big of a challenge for these talented individuals. And Detroit is ideal because space is plentiful, start-up costs are super low, rent is cheap (or none at all), and the people here openly welcome the entrepreneurs and homesteaders. The best way to see this bounty of spectacular art is, of course, by bicycle. I did so last evening, riding downtown and the adjoining neighborhoods until 11pm, celebrating the fact that I live in a place that has become so popular, yet so few people have discovered it. I hope it stays that way long enough for me to enjoy the quiet insurrection, the non-traffic jams, the cheap property, the friendly people, and the big city with a smalltown feel.

There is a real sense of creeping anarchy here, including civil disobedience, Lockean homesteading, voluntaryism, a lack of confidence in local government, a distrust of the local police, and citizens forming voluntary units to self-govern and engage private security firms. The fact that we now have world class art is a bonus.

4:45 pm on September 1, 2012
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