Stephen Zacks, journalist in NYC, is now also the producer and curator for the Flint Public Art Project, and recently offered to commission Matt and I for this house in Flint, MI.
FPAP just received a $250,000 grant from ArtPlace to re-envision the urbanism of Flint via a series of art and design projects focusing on social engagement. Collaboration between artists, designers, architects, urbanists, local businesses, and the community will seek to "contribute new sources of inspiration to the local culture, attract revenue to small businesses, draw activity to disused sites, support community organizations, and reinforce connections to the metropolitan, regional, and global economy" (Zacks).
One of these projects is 520 University Ave, formerly known as Spencer's Funeral Home, which faces (among other things) catastrophic roof damage. I'll be heading to Flint next week to begin a 5-6 month live-work renovation (and Matt shortly thereafter, on a part-time basis). The aim is to convert this long-abandoned structure into something of an artists' collaborative, eventually obtaining a Certificate of Occupancy.
Aiming for a building that satisfies the bureaucracies, not to mention tackling a house several times larger than the previous one, is a daunting task. It seems hired muscle will be an easy thing to come by, as I've already been given contacts to locals - some ready to work for as little as $4 per hour, others for beer, more for food, and a few just in the interest of helping out. This will let some of the larger jobs go more quickly, and hopefully will make my own assimilation into the neighborhood more smooth. Befriending and working with the locals should not only help progress building, but maintain security, trust, self-pride, and ownership. Here, participatory design is the key to rebuilding our communities.