Creative reconstruction in the city: an analysis of art, shrinking, and the story of the American dream in Detroit, MI
A right to the city is a human right that is overlooked in American cities. Cities reflect humanity in collective form, but are manipulated by the powerful at the expense of the powerless. Landscapes of cities tell the city's stories, as historical inequalities become imprinted on the city's physical and symbolic landscapes. In Detroit, Michigan, over forty square miles of the city are vacant, unemployment might be as high as fifty percent, and the city has lost about sixty percent of its population since the mid-1950s. Detroit must now solve its spatial problems in the context of depopulation; the city's planners, nonprofits, and scholars are now debating "planned shrinking" or "right-sizing." Simultaneously, a blooming arts scene is also slowly revitalizing parts of the city. This thesis will critically examine the possibilities of planned shrinking and the arts movement in Detroit, as well as suggest theoretical explanations for the city's dilemmas. Detroit has been the subject of a myopic popular narrative, one that isolates the city from modern America rather than critically examines its place in modern America. Redefining regional healing through honest discourse and developing a more appropriate narrative for Detroit are among the solutions proposed. Finally, the importance of establishing a human right for the city is discussed.