Artists seek a room of their own in Detroit (audio slideshow)

Oct 20, 2010

Struggling artists generally don't make a lot of money, so they tend to live in grittier parts of the city where rent is really cheap. Inevitably, they spruce things up, more people move in, rent goes up, and artists are priced out. To ensure that doesn't happen to them in Detroit, a group of artists are taking matters into their own hands.

kt Andresky left San Francisco for Detroit's east side a couple years ago. She and some other artists, along with the nonprofit 555 art gallery, just bought an old cigar factory for $21,000 that they plan to fix up. And they have a lot of fixing-up to do; the place is completely destroyed inside.

"You basically get the outside walls," jokes artist Blake Carroll. "I mean, we got a good deal on a bunch of bricks, basically. It needs new windows, the floor is all buckled, water has been coming in, the basement was like the public bath house."

Here's a slideshow we put together of what the old factory looks like:

The goal is to turn the building into what Andresky half-jokingly calls the World Headquarters for artists and arts organizations. There will be a wood shop, ceramic studio, dance floor, retail and office space, even apartments on the top floor.

They just started to apply for grants, so it's likely renovations won't start until next year.

Meantime, Andresky and Carroll will continue to renovate an old grocery store nearby that they've turned into a neighborhood art space called the Yes Farm.

"There was no electricity," says Carroll, one of the founding members of the Yes Farm. "We'd run off our neighbors house on extension cords, and there's no plumbing." If someone needs to go to the bathroom, they send them to Andkresy's apartment, or they "tell people go pee in the compost; it's good for the compost," says Andresky.

Despite its obvious lack of amenities, the place has brightened up the block. Neighbors use the Yes Farm to hold community meetings. Some of them even use the space to put on their own art work.