The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

May 09, 2011

Informed optimism in Detroit

Posted by Rishi Jaitly

By Rishi Jaitly, Knight Foundation Program Director, Detroit

What happens when you mix community engagement, contemporary art, and architectural beauty? That’s the question Knight Foundation’s VP/Arts Dennis Scholl and acclaimed community builder Tony Goldman asked during a joint visit to Detroit last week.




Tony Goldman (L) and Dennis Scholl on a site visit to Michigan Central Station, photo courtesy of Rishi Jaitly

Goldman, chairman of Goldman Properties, is well known for the significant role he played as a real-estate developer in the renewal of New York’s SoHo, Miami’s South Beach, and Philadelphia’s Center City. “I had heard of Detroit’s great potential before my visit,” said Goldman. “But the city’s greatness far surpassed my expectations.”

Goldman and Scholl’s visit included discussions with place-based community artists like the Power House Project, visits to historic sites such as the abandoned Michigan Central Station and gatherings involving the city’s top officials and youngest “do-ers”. “The city’s grand landscape and its imaginative people present a rare opportunity to invest in community reactivation,” added Goldman. “And I believe contemporary art in particular could be what transforms Detroit.”

Scholl, a recognized leader in the arts and a long-time friend of Goldman’s, also played an important role in the revitalization of Miami’s South Beach. “Time and again, as they did in Miami, artists often lead urban renewal,” said Scholl. “Supporting the energy of Detroit’s artists and nurturing their connection to community is crucial.”

Hope, optimism, and ideas abound among many across Detroit these days. But Scholl and Goldman’s “we’ve-done-it-before” credibility provided a good dose of informed optimism across the city. “Detroit will get there and, in many respects, is already there,” said Goldman. “I have no doubt that, with vision, optimism, and a little patience, Detroit’s inherent beauty will shine for all.”

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