Sep 18. 2013

The Louvre goes ghetto

by Nora

If you travel by train to Detroit, the last thing you’ll see before getting off at the Amtrack station is a giant owl staring at you. No kidding – here’s the story that brought that big bird to life. A couple of days ago, I wandered around Recycle Here– the place where you and your waste truly come as you are. Each time I’m there I can’t help but sift through old books people leave behind, eagerly looking for doodles and underlined sentences.

As I’m snapping shots of newly orphaned objects, I bump into Matthew Naimi, Director of Operations at Recycle Here. “You wanna see something cool?” Don’t need to ask me twice. As we stroll down Lincoln Street, Matt points at a bunch of huge letters resting on a wall: DESTROY. “We’re gonna put these up on the wall this spring; they’re gonna be all lit at night. Can’t decide which order we’ll put the letters up yet. I also like the word ‘OYSTER.”

I notice Matt’s tattoos. On his left arm, there’s the bee logo of Recycle Here. Matt is obviously a guy who gives a shit. He also bears the “D” with a snake on it. “That’s for the good and the bad. Carl Oxley III is the guy who designed the logo and my tattoos. Brownbag did the owl.” At that point I notice the giant bird on the wall of ”Detroit’s back pocket,” Lincoln Art Park. Colorful graffiti, sculptures, and random awesomeness abounds.

“I call it Ghetto Louvre.”

Matt climbs up a flight of stairs that lead to a wide open space. As it’s often the case in Detroit stories, there used to be houses right here. For a while it was a vacant space and people left junk here. “Instead of closing the space we decided to make it nicer. We’re about inviting in, rather than pushing out. And it works. Everybody respects this space.”

Ghetto Louvre has the same “second life philosophy” as Recycle Here. Perennial flowers from torn down houses have been transplanted here. A fire hydrant leaks water on the nearby road. “Bamboos are growing here, so that’s a way to keep’em alive.” Artists with cool ideas or projects looking for space often turn to Matt At dusk, folks sometimes get together around the art park campfire for “wine & whisky” nights. “Trains and bonfires are a classic American thing. People have been doing this for years – telling stories around a bonfire, while big container trains pass by.” Matt wants to keep Detroit weird, and so far he’s succeeded. Detroiters have taken ownership of the Recycle Here space.

“Weird is the biggest unifier, whether you’re black, white, young or old. Weirdness brings everybody to the same level.”

For more about Recycle Here, check their website.