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Power House Productions (PHP) is an artist-run, neighborhood-based organization located in Detroit, Michigan.  Their mission is to develop and implement creative neighborhood stabilization strategies, integrating artists’ projects and live-work spaces within the existing cultural resources of the community.  That means that contemporary artists, architects and designers are working alongside neighborhood residents on a daily basis, demonstrating creative thinking and problem solving, new approaches and ways of thinking about issues confronting their community.  It means that creative thinkers are actively engaged in the changing the trajectory of the neighborhood by working there and having conversations with neighbors, developing lasting, long term relationships and cross-cultural understanding.

ArtPlace spoke with Gina Reichert of PHP about the project.

ARTPLACE:  What do you have to do really, really well to achieve success with your initiative?

PHP:  Make good work.  At the end of the day, we are artists and the art is what has the most impact.  It’s gotta look good.   I think this is an important point to make – the quality and caliber of the work is high.  An unexpected or thoughtful or well-executed or inspiring work is the best conversation starter I know, and starting conversations is an incredibly effective way to engage the community on all levels.

ARTPLACE:  How do you expect the community to change as a result?

PHP:  Our work is meant to enhance what is here, bring out the positive attributes and characteristics of the neighborhood.  I’m not sure that we expect it to change exactly; that’s a funny way of putting it.  Of course, our neighborhood is a bit rough around the edges and in many ways the work we implement and facilitate addresses quality of life issues… just not in the most practical ways.  We’re always balancing playfulness and contemporary art and progressive thinking with pragmatics, practicality, and daily life.  These are our strategies to engage other neighborhood residents and impact the physical environment where we work and live.

ARTPLACE:  How did last weekend’s performances during the NET MicroFest Detroit illustrate these strategies?

PHP:  Saturday was a great evening!  The Hinterlands Ensemble masterminded the entire thing and PHP acted as host providing 4 distinct spaces for the event – Power House, Swoon House, Sound House, & Ride It Sculpture Park.  It brought people into the community who had never been to Detroit before, neighbors came out to attend performances and witness alternative uses of space throughout their own neighborhood, and artists who live and work here provided the line up, showcasing their talents, engaging the audience, and enlivening each site.  The whirlwind event, titled “Boomtown, Bust-town, Bang-town!” lasted nearly 2-hours and included work by Tzarinas of the Plane, Jon Brumit, Design 99, singer Athina Akram, Haleem Rasul of Hardcore Detroit, and of course, The Hinterlands.  A vaudeville-inspired structure, it was work that would challenge any audience while providing an aesthetically transformative experience.

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