“Are there other towns that have been hit so hard that have come back?” Both Michael Morris of Artangel and I replied “Glasgow”. It was known as having the worst slums in Europe back in the day, and I remember visiting my grandparents and all the buildings were grimy black, from soot. That city hasn’t come back as an industrial powerhouse it once was (steel and shipbuilding) but as a cultural hub. Life is good there now, and the city is cleaned up and nice to look at.
Other cities have used culture to bring life back—Morris mentioned Bilbao—but to be honest, so much of Detroit is simply gone, vanished, that that kind of revitalization is hard to imagine. Bilbao was a smaller town, even if it was a dump. However, one can imagine that if the city center here can become more of the focus then a much smaller town with vibrant life might emerge. Forget much of the urban sprawl (or turn it into farmland) and see if the wonderful stuff can be encouraged and supported. Again, it could be arts and theater and music that spurs some of that—there were 3 movies and a TV show shooting when we where there; Matthew Barney was preparing a large scale performance involving molten metal not too far away, and local artists and musicians have always gone their own dark ways here—so the interest is there. The skies here are bigger than in New York.
David Byrne's Journal: 09.23.10: Don't Forget the Motor City