HISTART 689-001

Made in Detroit: A History of Art and Culture in the Motor City

270 TAP
M W 01:00 PM 02:30 PM
3 Credit Seminar

Cross listed with American Culture 433

The embodiment of "Modern Times" was the assembly line and Detroit, dubbed "the capital of the Twentieth Century" played an important symbolic role in the modern imagination. Yet while artists depicted Detroit's industry as an abstract emblem of twentieth century progress—and later of dystopian decline—the city has a complicated labor, racial, and political history that its art, architecture, and urban planning help us to question. This seminar examines how Detroit has been presented in art, and the role that the arts and architecture have played in the city from the 1880's to the present. We will consider both works produced in Detroit that defined a technological future and urban culture for the world and those that have particular local histories, from the sleek factories that heralded modern architecture in America to the artificial past that Henry Ford assembled at Greenfield Village, from the heroic worker figures of Diego Rivera's murals to the controversies surrounding the Joe Louis monument and street art, from "ruin porn" and gentrification to prospects for the future. This year we will devote extra attention to researching Detroit arts during the rise of the Black Power movement, through the 1967 rebellion or riot and into the city's emergence as a majority-Black metropolis.

Required texts (also available on reserve) will include:

Advisory prerequisite: some background in art history, design, American studies, history, or urban studies is helpful but not required; a commitment to learning more about Detroit is essential

Category for Concentration Distributions: Europe and the United States, Modern and Contemporary.

Course Requirements:

  • Informed participation in class discussion (25%),
  • brief response papers based on ambitious assigned readings and questions (25%);
  • a research paper prepared in stages throughout the semester (50%)— oral histories may figure into the research project.

Students are required to attend two day-long field trips which will include a bus tour of the city as well as time to begin research in Detroit libraries.

Cost of books: not more than $150

Intended audience: upperclassmen interested in modern cities, Black history, or modern art, willing to take on challenging readings. Graduates of the Semester in Detroit program, at any level, are welcome.