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Bridging Histories, Building Futures

A project to use art to help connect downtown and Corktown via the Michigan Avenue bridge over the Lodge Freeway.

Photo of Kevin  Waskelis
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Written by

Two native Detroit artists, Donald Calloway and Freddy Diaz, will collaborate in an inclusive way with the community to beautify Michigan Avenue as it crossed over the Lodge Freeway. Donald Calloway lives and works in downtown Detroit and Freddy Diaz lives and works in Southwest. Both of artists are sensitive to site, material, and most importantly the communities in which they work. Bridging their deep histories of Downtown and Southwest Detroit, while also weaving in feedback and community’s stories into this new work will create a new kind of experience for all the users of this site: pedestrians, drivers, bikers, visitors, community members, and the artists themselves.

How will your solution benefit residents, workers, or visitors in the Michigan Central Station impact area? (1,000 characters)

Built during the 1950s and 1960s, the Lodge Freeway is one of the many highways built during this era that both decimated existing (mostly African-American) neighborhoods and cut off neighborhoods from one another. Currently, Michigan Avenue over the Lodge – despite some recent landscaping – is a barrier between downtown and Corktown, especially for pedestrians. The streetscape along the bridge is a hardscape of concrete and chain link fence. The idea is to have two artists – one from downtown and one from Corktown/Southwest to collaborate around the theme of how a bridge can connect rather than divide. The Downtown Detroit Partnership and DTE Energy will provide logistical support. This will bring beauty, art visual interest and safety to this area which will make travel across the bridge immeasurably more attractive, safe and inviting. Improving this key connection both physically and symbolically with the artistic theme of bridging communities will ensure MCS is enjoyed by all.

Describe your solution's stage of development

  • Initial Design - you are still exploring the idea and have not tested it with users

Insights from previous testing (500 characters)

Murals and public art have long been a fabric of Detroit, particularly within the last fifteen years to uplift and beautify spaces across the city. Artwork along the Dequindre Cut is a key part that creates a memorable experience in one of the city’s new iconic places. One of DDP’s roles is stewarding public space and promoting equity and inclusion. By enhancing the gateways to Downtown for all users (pedestrians, cyclists, transit riders and driver), DDP can encourage more access for all.

Tell us about your team or organization (500 characters)

Mr. Calloway, a native Detroiter, has lived in downtown over 20 years. He approaches spaces in a responsive manner, understanding them through people, materials and history. Freddy Diaz is a native Detroiter, living and working in SW Detroit. He builds vibrant narratives with paint on concrete, telling a rich story often from the place where he's working. Project partners DTE and DDP have been collaborating on placemaking projects for the last 5 years from Beacon Park to the Adams Streetscape.

Size of your team or organization

  • 2-10

Team or Organization URL

Freddy Diaz: Donald Calloway: Downtown Detroit Partnership: DTE Force for Growth:

Are you submitting as a student team?

  • No

Are you submitting as a team from the Impact Area?

  • No

Funding Request

  • $50,000

Rough Budget (500 characters)

$60,000 total budget. $30,000 for supplies and $15,000 for each artist.

Describe how you would pilot your idea (1000 characters)

The artists would use the time and funding during the prototype stage to work with Downtown and Corktown community members to understand the needs of the community. The artists will then develop detailed sketches and renderings for what the completed project will look like.

Describe how you would measure the success of your pilot (1000 characters)

The success of the pilot would be driven by community feedback. We plan on working with the community to understand what they would like to see in their own community and Freddy and Donald will develop sketches of different ideas based on this initial feedback. The ideas will then be refined before the final design is proposed.

Sustainability Plan (500 characters)

Working with community members, from both the business and neighborhood, to develop the idea through a robust engagement approach, we will build much needed buy-in and stewardship for the project. Through this process, our goal is to identify homegrown stewards who will help to sustain the bridge and its art for its lifetime. We also plan to design a project that is low-maintenance in nature – artworks that can withstand weather and human intervention.

Social Media

Instagram: swfreddy Instagram: donald_calloway


Join the conversation:

Photo of Andrew Moss

This is one of the biggest "dead zones" between Corktown and Downtown, so seeing a project that creates a vibrant connection between the two is incredible. Great initiative!

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