If you think things are bad in Vegas, look at Detroit. Crime is up, whole neighborhoods are deserted and the suburb of Hamtramck is so broke it asked for permission to file for bankruptcy this month. The state said no. Nearby, a movement has started to reclaim abandoned blocks and make them into something beautiful. Power House Productions, a Detroit-based nonprofit, has teamed up with Juxtapoz magazine on the occasion of its 15th anniversary and begun buying up abandoned houses, rehabbing them and inviting artists to come along for the ride.
“They wanted to re-imagine the neighborhoods in a different light,” Juxtapoz managing editor Evan Pricco says. “I think a lot of people who are creative saw the recession as an opportunity to re-imagine how a neighborhood could be built.” Among those rolling up their sleeves and seizing the opportunity are artists-in-residence like LA-based graffiti master RETNA and sculptor Ben Wolf. “We wanted them to embed themselves in the community—paint in the houses, build sculptures around the neighborhood, do as much public and in the homes art as they could possibly do.” Pricco says.
Just a couple thousand miles southwest, there are other neighborhoods where the empty houses outnumber the inhabited ones. They’re made of stucco, not wood, but Las Vegas’ empty subdivisions would make a fabulous canvas for artists with an eye to adding some color amid the beige and some chaos to the Valley’s overwhelming architectural order. “There’s definitely some interesting potential in that,” Pricco says of Southern Nevada’s suburban sprawl. “Maybe for our 20th anniversary.”