After UMMA with Michelle Andonian

Everyday, thousands of students walk pass a familiar building, located on State Street. They all know what it is, but unfortunately, many of them have never set a foot inside this building. I am talking about UMMA, the art museum here at the University of Michigan. This past Friday, I was fortunate to have a “field trip” there, viewing the Detroit Revealed project. Our tour guide, Pam Reister, showed us various pictures of the city of Detroit, ranging from the automobile industry to the downtown theaters. These pictures definitely opened my eyes, since a “Jekyll” side of Detroit does exist.

As a non-Michigan native, my perception of Detroit was totally based off the media. As one would expect, images and videos of dilapidated factories, abandoned households, and the perpetual ineptitude of the Lions filled the  television waves the and magazine pages. With such descriptions thrust upon me, I was surprised that 800,000 people still call Detroit their home. Obviously, Detroit must had something, an ounce of goodness that the media never wants to portray. The jazz culture, the performances, the pride in the auto industry that the natives had — people are proud to be from Detroit. As one student in our class put it, Detroit is a “beautiful mess.” The picture below by Santa Fabio, is the perfect metaphor for this description.

backstage at the Fox Theater - Santa Fabio

Just like the tangled ropes in this picture, Detroit does have a lot of issues. However, behind all the negativity, culture and the arts thrive. Yes, one can simply look at the ropes and infer about the entire performance, but that is not the appropriate method of judgment. Similarly, citizens in our country should not base Detroit on they hear from others (ahem… the media),; but rather, they should the city for themselves and make their own impressions.

Since I was interested in Fabio’s picture above, I did some research and I viewed some pictures that Michelle Andonian took of Detroit

graffiti with the sound of music - Michelle Andonian

I love the contrasting themes Andonian places in these two photos. In the first photo, we see a cellist playing in front of graffiti walls. One of the major problems in Detroit is its presentation, since the government  does not  seem to do a adequate job in “cleaning up the streets.” However, in the foreground, we see a man who is playing music of the likes of Vivaldi, Bach, and Mozart. No one knows about it, but there is a significant music culture in Detroit. It’s nice that the cellist is the focal point of picture, as the viewer first appreciates the music, before looking at the incomprehensible graffiti behind him. The second picture is similar, in the fact that Andonian utilizes a saxophonist  to display the underlying importance of music in Detroit culture. Another problem in Detroit is the decreasing population — many abandoned houses and parks line the streets. As seen in the photograph, the saxophonist plays his jazzy tunes in solitude. However, if one really takes a close look at the city of Detroit, pockets of happiness, culture, and pride do exist.

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