It had been a year and a year since I was last in Detroit for the Our Revolution Road trip. I really wanted to see how the city had changed. But more importantly, I wanted to see the heartbeat of this amazing city: it’s people.

grand rapids

Every adventure has to begin somewhere. Mine began in Grand Rapids where I had a meeting in a few days. I was pleasantly surprised at how beautiful it was near the airport. Beautiful or not, I was eager to get on the road.


When I first arrived in the city, I immediately noticed two things. First, there were less abandoned houses. In their place was construction. But more interesting to me, were the number of blighted houses that had art on them. What was once forgotten has become someone’s canvas. Neighborhoods have become resurrected and seeds of the future of sprung.


Many pieces from old structures are being refurbished and reused. My friend Dominic, found these within his attic hiding under layers of dust. With a little love, they look great and are ready to become a permanent asset to the house in its current iteration.


There are bigger initiatives at work within the city that focus on incorporating the old with the new. Reclaim Detroit takes pieces of blighted houses and refurbishes them to be used elsewhere, like this example: The new Great Lakes Roasting Company.

the writer-great-lakes-roasting-company

This became one of my favorite places within Detroit.  An awesome coffee shop with a loft feel, where I can sip on my pour over coffee and write while I listen to The Smiths. Yes, please.

Dominic recommended that we meet there. Dominic is the Executive Director of Forward Arts and if you ask me, the mayor of Detroit. He seems to know everyone! I hadn’t seen him since we met on the road trip last year, but he is one of those people who you immediately connect with. This unassuming man is quintessentially why I love Detroit. He has hope  for what Detroit can become, but is not interested at all in hearing  promises from outsiders. If you want to help us, great. However, we are rebuilding something great with or without you.

On my first night, Dominic bought me to a private community dinner hosted by Jason Lorimer, Founder of Dandelion. The dinner was hosted by a new restaurant that is usually just open for breakfast and lunch. 18 of us sat down to a delicious meal prepared by the restaurant owners who are transplants from Canada. I walked out of there full and with my head spinning from great conversations around sustainability, tech, outsourcing to Detroit, and the rise of triple line companies. It was a fantastic end to the evening.

The next day, I had plans to meet Michael Hodge, an actor and all around nice guy, for lunch. The weather was so beautiful, that I decided to go exploring before he and I met up. Here is some of what I found:


Vibrant art embellishes many of the buildings and emphasizes the core message of hope and transformation.

Even the abandoned buildings seem to radiate.

The steel sky cuts just slightly; enough to awaken the imagination.

Detroit is a city that understands all too well that everything must change. Slow and close, there are many examples of this revitalization tango between the old an the new.

When I met up with Michael, he told me what it was like to grow up in Detroit. He painted a picture of what it was like here during the riots, as well as how the city has changed throughout the years. As we scoffed down burgers, he reminded me that respect for ones neighborhood shows the respect one has for themselves.

As we parted ways, I came across these little nuggets of joy:

With walls branded by the Hygienic Dress League, one may wonder if the symbolism will change.

Or if some messages stand the test of time and are relevant in every city.

As I am trying to maneuver my phone through the fence, I see a man approaching me to the right. Who could it be, but my dear friend and Detroit Nation master connector, Bryan Fenster. Bryan is a dear awesome soul whom we met in Chicago last year before heading to Detroit. The beauty of that encounter is that he was headed to Detroit the same day we were and we decided to meet up there as well. We have been kindred spirits ever since. It was nice to see him, if only briefly.

Later that night, Dominic and I made our way to Red Bull’s House of Art. The place was buzzing with art lovers and the Red Bull flowed freely.

Just a glance of one of the galleries within the basement of the building.

The walls featured local artists and the exhibit was curated by Red Bull. This was one of my favorites.

The basement of this factory used to be used to make spices. Now, these tunnel ways remind us of refurbished London buildings.

On the first floor were “Open Studios,” where local artists also displayed their work.

On Saturday morning, Dominic decided to bring me to see the old train station, as well as Imagination Station, a nonprofit project to bring back to blighted houses. When I visited the project last year, I fell in love with the concept and what the volunteers were doing to the houses. Unfortunately, one of the houses caught on fire and this is what is left:

I love that they have a social call to action on the building.


Gorgeous street art on a building next to the burned down house.

But it’s OK! Detroit will continue it’s great work!

From there, we moved on to Belle Isle. Belle Isle is bigger than Central Park and is designed by the same architect. I cannot begin to describe my wonderment when we arrived. I had never done and found this place to be magical. It was starting to rain pretty hard, but I was able to grab this shot:

What a great end to a great trip. As I packed up my stuff and hugged my friend good-bye, I found this hanging on his wall:

That about sums it up, don’t you think? 🙂

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Image Credit: Taken by Ja-Nae Duane with iPhone4

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