HISTART 497-001

Upper Level Seminar: Art and Resistance in Detroit, 1900-present

Tappan 270
M W 1:00pm - 2:30pm
3 Credit Seminar

Detroit's long history of art and activism tells a story of the challenges of "Modern Times" and their aftermath. Once dubbed "the capital of the Twentieth Century", a generator of labor activism, a flash point for the Black Power movement, an important majority-Black City, a destination for migrants as well as gentrifiers, Detroit has played an important symbolic role in the modern imagination. Yet while artists once depicted Detroit's industry as an abstract emblem of progress–and later of dystopian decline as well as visionary futures–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 design have played in the city. 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 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 plans for alternative cultures and 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.

Requirements: Informed participation in class discussion (25%), brief response papers based on ambitious assigned readings and questions (25%); a research project prepared in stages throughout the semester (50%)– oral histories and work with local archives 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.

HISTART Concentration Distributions: Europe and the United States, Modern and Contemporary

Required texts: (also available on reserve) will include:

  • Thomas Sugrue, The Origins of the Urban Crisis
  • Brian Doucet, Why Detroit Matters
  • Optional purchase: F. W. Taylor, Principles of Scientific Management
More readings will be online. Cost of books not more than $150

Intended audience: juniors and seniors 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.

Advisory prerec: 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

Questions? please email rzurier@umich.edu to learn more about the class.

Meets with AMCULT number TBD