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Telling the story of Detroit through 100 stunning portraits of people making a difference – Detroit Free Press



Julie Hinds
| Detroit Free Press

Wearing a “Black Girl Magic” T-shirt and jeans, Crystal Bernard looks straight at the camera in a photograph, right hand on her hip, a keychain dangling from her wrist that seems ready to open doors to better, more equal worlds.

“I knew what being Black, or a Black child in America was before society could define it for me,” said Bernard, a Michigan State University student, in comments printed on the page opposite her portrait in “i.Detroit — A Human Atlas of an American City.”

Bernard’s words share her passion “to educate others of color, and beyond, on what the racial dynamics really are, what it is to be Black, how do we define it … putting the power back into the people.”

Powerful art. Powerful thoughts. Describing the emotional impact of British artist Marcus Lyon’s latest project is relatively easy. The heart and soul of the Motor City comes alive in “i.Detroit” through the pictures and comments of 100 men and women who represent an American city known around the world as a symbol of resilience. 

There are photos of first responders, community organizers, entrepreneurs, ministers, poets, storytellers and educators. There are well-known names like founding Four Tops member Abdul “Duke” Fakir and U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib. There’s a parent advocate for the deaf community, a social justice warrior and a certified nurse midwife.

But what exactly is a human atlas? And what was the process behind this three-year art project that combines photos, oral histories, ancestral DNA, maps and music in an attempt to understand Detroit on a deeper level?

You can find out directly on Thursday during a free virtual book launch for “i.Detroit — A Human Atlas of an American City” that is being hosted by WDIV-TV (Local 4) anchor Rhonda Walker. Lyon will be appearing from London for an online panel discussion that includes Shirley Stancato, the leader of the project’s curatorial committee; journalist and Detroit historian Ken Coleman; entrepreneur and genealogist, Kenyatta Berry; and educator and activist Osvaldo “Ozzie” Rivera.

“At every step of the way, the spirit of Detroit has always been its residents; from the retired woman who volunteers as a school crossing guard to the business mogul who’s worth millions,” writes Coleman in an introductory essay for the “i.Detroit” book, which tells the stories of its 100 participants through the portraits, app-based image-activated oral history and ancestral DNA.

The goal of this human atlas is to reflect the people of Detroit and encourage others to think about their own lives and obligations to the places and people who make up their own towns or cities.

More: Notable Detroiters to star in I.Detroit: a Human Atlas of An America City

As an art project, “i.Detroit” has produced a massive, limited-edition art book that would be at home on coffee tables in affluent pockets of the region in and around the city. But the overarching goal is to reach everyone possible, regardless of income.

Lyon said he used his own money, about $20,000, to build a website for “i.Detroit” that will contain all of the photos and more. And he wants to incorporate “i.Detroit” into future curriculums of Detroit schools.

A celebrated artist whose works are part of museum collections (including the Detroit Institute of Arts), Lyon has photographed Queen Elizabeth II, four British Prime Ministers and enough famous people to fill a shelf of magazines. But it’s his massive Human Atlas projects that have occupied him in recent years. Lyon has done human atlases on Brazil and Germany and is slated next to tackle Silicon Valley.

To make a long, three-year story short, the Detroit project was sparked by a random meeting at a 2017 leadership conference in England between Lyon, who’s been interested in focusing on the Motor City since the mid-1990s, and Mark Davidoff, the CEO of the Fisher Group. When Davidoff heard about Lyon’s human atlases, he felt instantly that Detroit would be an ideal location for one.

That led to a June 2018 meeting at the Detroit Athletic Club with 50 local leaders who would be key to the six-month nomination search for 100 people.

“There was an unwritten agreement that if we couldn’t make it fly with a group of community leaders, then what was the point?” recalled Lyon, who vividly describes the healthy skepticism that greeted him. 

“It was very Detroit. They really gave me a grilling. I mean, I was like, whoo! I was in the spotlight and I was being asked some really difficult questions about race, and why you, and why a white man from England was a relevant person to tell this deeper story about the change agents of Detroit.” he said.

After an hour of fielding questions, Lyon said, “I must have said something right. I just answered as me. I didn’t try to be clever about anything. I just spoke my mind, spoke from my heart, spoke about what I’d done in other places. They came back and said, ‘We’re in, Marcus.’”

The idea was to narrow recommendations down to 100 people who would depict a cross-section of diverse people dedicated to the city in their own unique ways. Knowing that there inevitably would be gaps of who wasn’t represented, Lyon and his team spent time poring over Excel spread sheets and looking for who had been excluded.

Once 80 people were chosen, he says they were put metaphorically around a table with 100 chairs, to answer the question “who is missing from those 20 chairs?,” according to Lyon. 

Lyon and his crew spent six months in a studio in the former Durfee Elementary-Middle School, which has been repurposed into the Durfee Innovation Society by the nonprofit group Life Remodeled.

“There’s a lot of emotional work that goes into the beginning of those portraits,” explained Lyon. “We probably spent between half an hour and an hour with each of those people before I asked them to step in front of the camera. And then most of them were probably not in front of the camera for much more than ten minutes at a time. I don’t really over-egg that bit. I feel like if I’ve got it, I’ve got it. I say I’ve got it , that’s it, great, let’s carry on with our conversation.” 

The project also involved tracing DNA ancestries with the help of Family Tree DNA in Houston, Texas, in order to create some of the graph and maps that accompany the portraits. Each participant’s DNA ancestry is charted on a graph accompanied by a map outlining DNA origins.

“I believe that what the DNA really effectively says is we’re all interconnected and we’re all human beings and we all share some common ancestors … If you just go flip, flip, flip, you see that we’re all interconnected.”

But in a predominantly African-American city like Detroit, the DNA ancestry of contemporary Black men and women — and its links to countries in Africa and Europe — also speaks to the brutal reality of America’s original sin of slavery. 

“There are deeply disturbing back stories to almost all of the African-American DNA you witness,” Lyon said. 

The photo profiles also use maps to show an individual’s place of birth, Detroit neighborhood and intersection — a geographic tracer that goes from a world map, to a U.S. map to a city grid to a closeup of streets.

To honor the musical history of Detroit, each participant chose what’s called “an inheritance track” featured on a 100-track Spotify playlist. And Lyon collaborated with Brian Eno and Detroit’s own techno music trailblazer Derrick May to create a 45 rpm single that’s include with each of the “i.Detroit” books. 

It’s a bittersweet irony that this deep dive into the human experience is coming out at the same time that safety measures for the COVID-19 pandemic are limiting physical contact. Lyon had hoped to be in Detroit for the “i.Detroit” launch, but the COVID-19 pandemic prompted a shift to a virtual celebration.

”Right now, I’m crying inside the whole time,” said Lyon about life during the pandemic. On Thursday, at the virtual book launch, “I’m going to be here, sitting in my studio, everybody else will be there.” His consolation is that the online launch can accommodate hundreds of guests.

Lyon and his family spent a summer in Detroit and lived in a rented loft in Eastern Market. “My kids support the Tigers, they love the Lions.” he said says with a laugh. “My wife was like, ‘wait a minute, why don’t we move here? I really like this place.”

The “i.Detroit” project has made Lyon proud to be accepted by Detroiters. “I felt very connected to people (there) as a Brit and very understood, which is a lovely feeling emotionally,” he says. 

And that, ultimately, is the best way to think about a human atlas. When it works, it’s a map of people that promotes more understanding.

Contact Detroit Free Press pop culture critic Julie Hinds at

Virtual book launch for “i.Detroit — A Human Atlas for an American City”

11 a.m. Thursday

Panel discussion with artist Marcus Lyon and others hosted by WDIV (Local 4 News) anchor Rhonda Walker

To register for the free online event, go to Eventbrite.

For more information on the project and the book, go to the “i.Detroit” website.

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Anthony Kiendl sets a new course at the Vancouver Art Gallery – Vancouver Sun



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“(Plug In was) definitely internationally known in contemporary art but probably not with everyday people in suburban Winnipeg,” he said.

“They wanted to grow and take that next step.”

Kiendl realized the best way for Plug In to do that was to approach the University of Winnipeg and create a joint venture partnership.

“That’s what gave us the gasoline and critical mass to make the project happen,” he said.

In a four-year capital campaign, Kiendl raised $4 million as Plug In’s share for the $15 million building at 460 Portage Avenue, across from Hudson’s Bay and next to the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Plug In’s attendance increased ten-fold.

In Regina, he took over as CEO and executive director of the MacKenzie Art Gallery in 2014. The gallery began to struggle financially when it was hit with major funding cuts, including $100,000 from an annual grant on its $2 million operating budget.

One area he targeted was free admission. When the MacKenzie started charging $10 for adults it was offset by several measures to ensure community access such as free admission for anyone under 17 and free days covered by a corporate donor.

The public voted with their feet: attendance over three years increased by almost 40 per cent. With the addition of a café, earned revenue jumped by 247 per cent.

“It is kind of sad but I did come to believe if something has a value attached to it, people value it,” he said.

“If it’s free, I think at a certain level, people are thinking, ‘Maybe it’s not that good.’”

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Bruce Springsteen and the Art of Aging Well – The Atlantic



Bryan Derballa / The New York Ti​mes / Redux

I recently saw a photo of Lyndon B. Johnson in the first year of his presidency. He looked like a classic old guy—wrinkled, mature, in the late season of life. It was a shock to learn that he was only 55 at the time, roughly the same age as Chris Rock is now. He left the presidency, broken, and beaten, at 60, the same age as, say, Colin Firth is now.

Something has happened to aging. Whether because of better diet or health care or something else, a 73-year-old in 2020 looks like a 53-year-old in 1935. The speaker of the House is 80 and going strong. The presidential candidates are 77 and 74. Even our rock stars are getting up there. Bob Dylan produced a remarkable album this year at 79. Bruce Springsteen released an album today at 71. “Active aging” is now a decades-long phase of life. As the nation becomes a gerontocracy, it’s worth pondering: What do people gain when they age, and what do they lose? What does successful aging look like?

President Donald Trump is a prime example of an unsuccessful older person—one who still lusts for external validation, who doesn’t know who he is, who knows no peace. Nearly two millennia ago, the Roman statesman Cicero offered a more robust vision of what elders should do and be: “It’s not by strength or speed or swiftness of body that great deeds are done,” he wrote, “but by wisdom, character and sober judgment. These qualities are not lacking in old age but in fact grow as time passes.”

Springsteen is the world champion of aging well—physically, intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally. His new album and film, Letter to You, are performances about growing older and death, topics that would have seemed unlikely for rock when it was born as a rebellion for anyone over 30. Letter to You is rich in lessons for those who want to know what successful aging looks like. Far from being sad or lachrymose, it’s both youthful—loud and hard-charging—and serene and wise. It’s a step forward from his Broadway show that debuted three years ago and his memoir, released four years ago. Now he’s not only telling the story of his life, but asking, in the face of death, about life’s meaning, and savoring life in the current moment.

It’s the happiest Springsteen album maybe in decades. “When I listen to it, there’s more joy than dread,” Springsteen told me. “Dread is an emotion that all of us have become very familiar with. The record is a little bit of an antidote to that.” The album generates the feeling you get when you meet a certain sort of older person—one who knows the story of her life, who sees herself whole, and who now approaches the world with an earned emotional security and gratitude.

The album, and the film that recorded the making of the album (I recommend watching the film first), was occasioned by a death. From 1965 to 1968, when rock was in its moment of explosive growth and creativity, Springsteen was in a band called the Castiles. Two years ago, Springsteen found himself at the bedside of a member of that band, George Theiss, as he died of cancer. After his passing, Springsteen realized that he is the sole remaining survivor from that band—the “Last Man Standing,” as he puts it in one of the songs on the new album.

The experience created an emotional vortex and the music poured out of him. “The actual mechanics of songwriting is only understandable up to a certain point,” Springsteen told me, “and it’s frustrating because it’s at that point that it begins to matter. Creativity is an act of magic rising up from your subconscious. It feels wonderful every time it happens, and I’ve learned to live with the anxiety of it not happening over long periods of time.”

On the album, Springsteen goes back in time to those mid-’60s years when he, Theiss, and the Castiles would play in the union halls, hullabaloo clubs, and bowling alleys around Freehold, New Jersey. He goes further back, to his childhood, and reminisces about the trains that used to rumble through town; the pennies he’d put on the tracks; and when he first became familiar with death as a boy, going to the funerals of his extended clan, walking up semi-terrified and kneeling before the casket and then walking back home with a sense of trembling accomplishment.

“Memory is many things,” the Benedictine nun Joan Chittister has written. “It is a call to resolve in us what simply will not go away.” Springsteen has made a career, and built a global fan base, out of going back and back, to Freehold and Asbury Park, and digging, digging, digging to understand the people he grew up around and who made him, for good and ill, the man he became. “The artists who hold our attention,” he told me, “have something eating away at them, and they never quite define it, but it’s always there.”

Even in his 70s, Springsteen still has drive. What drives him no longer feels like ambition, he said, that craving for success, recognition, and making your place in the world. It feels more elemental, like the drive for water, food, or sex. He talks about this in the movie: “After all this time, I still feel the burning need to communicate. It’s there when I wake every morning. It walks alongside of me throughout the day … Over the past 50 years, it has never ceased. Is it loneliness, hunger, ego, ambition, desire, a need to be felt and heard, recognized, all of the above? All I know, it is one of the most consistent impulses of my life.”

With the Castiles, he not only learned how to do his job but also found his mode of emotional communication and a spiritual awareness. He found his vocation, and his vehicle for becoming himself. A lot of the music on this album is about music, the making of it and the listening to it, the power that it has. The songs “House of A Thousand Guitars” and “Power of Prayer” are about those moments when music launches you out of normal life and toward transcendence. For a nonreligious guy, Springsteen is the most religious guy on the planet; his religion is musical deliverance.

Like every successful mature person, Springsteen oozes gratitude—especially for relationships. The film is largely about the camaraderie of the E Street Band, men and women who have been playing together off and on for 45 years and who have honed their skills and developed a shorthand for communicating. We watch them discussing and arguing over how to put each song together, then savor the end result. The band sounds fantastic, especially the powerful drumming of Max Weinberg.

The film intersperses clips of Springsteen recording and performing with the same guys four decades ago, when they were young and lithe, and today, when they’re a bit grizzled. “We weren’t immune from the vicissitudes. We had the same ups and downs as most rock bands,” Springsteen told me. “It’s like a marriage. The ups and downs have deepened us. The band is as close now as it’s ever been. We had to suffer.”

Letter to You is a sincere and vulnerable album. It conveys Springsteen’s appreciation for the conversation he’s had with his audience, and his appreciation for the dead and the debts we owe them. The core of the album comprises three songs about how the dead live on in us and in the ensuing generations. “It’s just your ghost / Moving through the night / Your spirit filled with light / I need, need you by my side / Your love and I’m alive,” Springsteen sings in “Ghosts,” the best track on the album.

“When you’re young, you believe the world changes faster than it does. It does change, but it’s slow,” Springsteen told me. “You learn to accept the world on its terms without giving up the belief that you can change the world. That’s a successful adulthood—the maturation of your thought process and very soul to the point where you understand the limits of life, without giving up on its possibilities.”

Attaining that perspective is the core of successful maturity. Carrying the losses gently. Learning to live with the inner conflicts, such as alternating confidence and insecurity. Getting out of your own way, savoring life and not trying to conquer it, shedding the self-righteousness that sometimes accompanies youth, and giving other people a break. The owl of Minerva flies only at dusk, as they used to say.

That perspective is evident in the movie’s “bright sadness,” to use a term from the Franciscan monk Richard Rohr. Directed by Thom Zimny, the film cuts again and again to overhead shots of snow-covered forests—Old Man Winter coming. But inside the studio, everything is warm and full of music. The dreams of Springsteen and his band came true times a thousand; they have good reason to be content in old age. But studies show that most people do get happier as they age. They focus more on life’s pleasures than its threats.

As you watch the film, you may think of not only personal maturity but also national maturity. America has always fancied itself as wild and innocent; youth, Oscar Wilde observed, is the country’s oldest tradition. After the past 20 years, and especially after the presidency of Donald Trump, we’ve become jaded, and look askance at our former presumption of innocence. But, taking a cue from Springsteen, maybe we can achieve a more mature national perspective in the years post-Trump.

“Joe Biden is like one of the fathers in the neighborhood I grew up with as a kid,” Springsteen told me. “They were firemen and policemen, and there was an innate decency to most of them that he carries naturally with him. It’s very American.”

Approaching 80, Biden is pretty old. Seventy-seven is probably not the ideal age to start such a grueling job as president of the United States. But making the most of the not-ideal is what maturity teaches. The urge to give something to future generations rises up in people over 65, and a style of leadership informed by that urge may be exactly what American needs right now. Today, being 77 doesn’t have to be a time of wrapping things up; it’s just the moment you’re in, still moving to something better. Maybe this can be America—not in decline, but moving with maturity to a new strength.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to

David Brooks is a contributing writer at The Atlantic and a columnist for The New York Times. He is the author of The Road to Character and The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life.

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Art comes a Crawling – Coast Reporter



Your annual Sunshine Coast Art Crawl is here! Creek studios open this Friday, Saturday and Sunday run the gambit from bonsai to photography, from cedar carvings to the crystal gallery with a selection of pottery work to boot. A scaled down event from years past, you may actually have a chance to get to a majority of the studios this time! With 97 studios participating (17 here in the Creek), 76 are open for drop in, the remainder are virtual or by appointment only. Find your map at Eco Freako, the Rusty Hinge and elsewhere, and get Crawling! 

Our little local, the #219, has a temporary covering for the whole front yard that will be up until Halloween. The outdoor licence they hold ends on the 31st so they have decided to go for it, rain or shine! Doors at 4 p.m. except the 25th, last call at 9 p.m. Seating will be limited, and dress for the weather, eh? Where I grew up, the first snow was in the closing weeks of October but that’s another reason why I live here, right? 

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Oct. 23: The Hook, is this from the “line and sinker” fame? Not sure about that but sure to be entertaining! 

Oct. 24: The High Quadra Ramblers are Mack Shields on fiddle and vocals and Kaitlin Chamberlin on banjo, vocals and stepdancing, who recently released their second high-energy album. 

Oct. 25: Martini Madness (2 p.m. matinee) where I imagine there will be martinis, perhaps even some madness? Maybe they are talking about the band? Checkerboard Rock FTW! 

Oct. 30: Captain Fantasy brings your Ween fix for those who would brave the elements! 

Oct. 31: Halloween Party (last night of outdoor stage – details next week). 

Open House at WolfPups! Saturday, Oct. 24 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 3186 Hansen Rd. Your chance to sign up for two upcoming Studio Play Dates: printing with hand-cut stencils, and natural dye T-shirt. Ask Sarita for deets! 

What is art? It is said that a builder uses their hands, a craftsperson uses their head and their hands and an artist uses their heart, their head and their hands. To me, it’s those things created to bring more beauty into the world (I pledged to do this years ago). A solo show early in my career was entitled, “Objects, Useful and Not,” and that said a lot about what art is. From chocolate to blankets, paintings to music, there are a lot of Creekers using their hearts to give us a more decorated life. I spend between one and three per cent of my annual income on art and have not regretted one purchase. Each piece brings me joy. In these difficult days you deserve to have more of the heart of an artist in your life; it will pay dividends to you, our artists and our community as a whole. This weekend is your chance to make it happen. 

As always, I am happy to share your news, event, workshop or what have you. kellybacks@rocket


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