13 November, 2010

Detroit, Michigan. I venture downtown to Eastern Market with my dad, where I meet with Jeff Sturges. He’s a founding member of OmniCorp Detroit, which is described on their website as such:

OmniCorpDetroit is an intense group of designers, artists, engineers, musicians, thinkers, do-ers and makers that get together to build new things as well as share and collaborate within the Detroit community. In general, we’re making, breaking, reshaping and hacking all sorts of things!

I learned about OCD in September, when I visited Detroit to assess firsthand the urban decay brought on by our Great Recession (and more specifically by the demise of the auto industry), and to scout for this project. That day had coincided with the premiere of a short documentary called Detroit Lives, featuring the Jack Ass franchise’s Johnny Knoxville on a beat to explore the city for similar reasons. While the film points out the decimated state of the city replete with the ‘ruin porn’ that has given D-Town a new kind of fame, it also introduces a new wave of young talent that is moving here. These urban immigrants are artisans, technicians, innovators, and educators, and they are working in collaborative circles to maximize resources and to support one another in creating a sustainable community based on self reliance.

As Jeff explains, there exists here a tremendous opportunity to take advantage of low overhead and relaxed regulation to do what you want and on your own terms. The potential for this kind of production to affect community is already apparent, with collaborative efforts with schools, churches, and neighborhoods already gaining in momentum. Tech workshops involving electronics, computers, salvage, and basic fabrication teaches a resourcefulness that our urban communities can use. As he and his growing team of co-operative artisans work to convert an old produce storage facility into a productive studio environment, it occurs to me that this may well be ground zero for the future of development and manufacturing in Detroit, if not the country as a whole. I am surrounded by a new kind of tradesman. Jeff passes along a handful of names of industrious folk who fit the description of my project.

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