You should know by now that the best events in Detroit are the ones where we multitask. Here we're combining the love of the automobile with the city's burgeoning underground art movement.
The thing about spur-of-the-moment events in Detroit is that just because the city's half-vacant, it doesn't mean you still don't have to watch out for cops. So a few drivers part of a car show/design battle narrowly avoided getting speeding tickets by Detroit Police, and thank goodness the cops haven't started enforcing noise violations yet.
Last year I covered DIM Battles (DIM = Design in Motion) and earlier this year I covered "Sketchbattle," two awesome events put on by local design maven Brook Banham and Heavenly Dogs, a local artists' collective. This year brought a combination of those two events: A car show, a graffiti battle and a three-round, lightning fast-competition between aspiring car designers. "We're showcasing underground in Detroit with these battles," Banham tells me.
The car show is just a car show, if you've ever been to one. People come to show off what they've got, are judged on appearance and what's under the hood, and are invited to do burnouts up Milwaukee Avenue. Only one thing, though: The streets weren't properly blocked off. So the guy in the GT-R had to wait for the old guy in the GMC Acadia to pass before he could take off. And you could hear the engine echo the further he got away, probably all the way up to Hamtramck.
"It's not necessarily the big-budget OEM stuff, but what people do in their garages," Banham says.
(There's one guy in a regular Focus — not even an ST! — with lots of exterior mods but nothing but a fake engine roar. "Is he trolling us right now?" one onlooker asks? Sorry if you're that dude.)
Then there's the graffiti battle. Graffiti is a hot topic in Detroit; is it art or a nuisance? Luckily there are plenty of spaces where artists can create art safely and under close guidance, and Tangent Street Gallery, which is hosting the event, is providing that. Like past Banham events, it's automotive themed. The one that catches everyone's eye is a street take of "Cruisin' USA," the racing game you definitely played on N64 at some point.
Last is the actual "sketchbattle," where students are judged by Larry Erickson, who designed the '05 Ford Mustang, Alexander Klatt, dean of transportation design at the Center for Creative Studies, and Banham himself. It's three rounds, with designers knocked off one by one each round, and this year's theme is reinventing the hot rod. "Hot rods are underground car design," Banham says, keeping with the theme.
But the overall goal for this event, as well as past Banham events, is to get people into the city. Last year, the event was in the Grand River Creative Corridor, with downtown in the distance. This year's event is in the shadow of the old GM building — or on the other side of the tracks from the thriving Midtown area, depending on how you look at it.
"A lot of people are a little bit scared of going into Detroit, people who live in the 'burbs. We're trying to host an event where it pulls these people out, and get them into these urban, underground places and get them to experience the city for what it really is," Banham says.
Wait, so people who work for Big Three are still afraid to come to Detroit events? Outside the auto show?
"I speak to these car guys, and a couple of them live in the city. But all the other guys in the 'burbs: 'Oh, dude, what are you doing in the city? We gotta get you out, we gotta get you out!'" Banham says. "It's the ones who are a little bit free-spirited who aren't afraid of the city, and they have a little more balls as well."
What's there to be scared of? Like I said, the police were all over the place.
If you know any cool, weird things I should be writing about in or around Detroit, hit me up at email@example.com.