Gratiot Avenue is one of Detroit’s 5 original main avenues (along with Woodward, Michigan, Jefferson, and Grand River) that branch out from downtown like the spokes of a wheel. It’s one of those major arteries that I always rejoice to come across because it means I’m not lost (Detroit’s vastness and my questionable sense of direction–my not-so-secret shame–means I spend a lot of time being lost). This is probably the primary reason I love Gratiot, but it has a unique character of its own and is known for its street and sign art and its views of downtown. Inspired by Motor City Muckraker’s photo essay featuring Gratiot, Deadline Detroit’s “A Day in the Life of Gratiot Avenue,” and my own trips up and down Gratiot, I decided to spend a couple of hours exploring and photographing part of this historic avenue on my own.
I visited the Lincoln Street Art Park south of New Center in Detroit a few times in the last week (as I researched it, I kept realizing I must’ve missed certain things, so I went back). It’s a sculptural and graffiti-style art park at a formerly abandoned industrial site, and it has been open since 2011. According to the park’s Facebook page, it’s “a program of Green Living Science, meant to inspire, bring joy and creativity. Our mantra is if you build it they will come, if they build it they will stay.”
I was fascinated by this recent podcast and article over at 99% Invisible about “Thomassons,” architectural elements on structures or properties that no longer have a function and yet are maintained. These architectural leftovers–stairways leading to nowhere, boarded-up or bricked-up windows, telephone poles that no longer carry lines–are named after Gary Thomasson, an American baseball player who played for the Yomiuri Giants in Tokyo, Japan in the early 1980s. Thomasson was paid exorbitant amount of money for a two year contract, but lost his game in Tokyo and was benched for much of his contract (i.e. he had no function, but was maintained…ouch).