A light in Detroit

The woes of the auto industry have been well-publicized throughout this recession, and with good reason. But there are projects that show some hope in the embattled Michigan city.

WNYC’s Soundcheck music program visited the Detroit music scene and how it’s changed in the past year. Soundcheck host John Schaefer reflected in a blog post about how an arts scene can flourish in a bad economy, and the challenges existing art institutions face.

Unfortunately, the things that allow a musical underground to form don’t usually work as well for bigger arts institutions, like the Detroit Symphony Orchestra or the Detroit Institute of the Arts. So the question is, what to do about these institutions. If you just let them disappear then it becomes much harder for younger generations to acquire a taste for the so-called fine arts. Plus, there is evidence that a high-profile arts scene can be help drive a city’s economy: the so-called “Bilbao Effect,” named after the Spanish town where Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum transformed the city into a major destination. And if the auto industry isn’t doing it for Detroit, something has to fill that void.

One developer in Detroit is reinvigorating interest in the area by recruiting “inchvestors” – people who are giving a small amount to one project and in return giving them a small piece of ownership in the land. Michigan Public Radio reports:

Some inchvestors have sentimental ties to the city, and they just liked the idea of having a physical stake in the place where they or their parents or grandparents grew up. But a lot of them are attracted by the project’s virtual possibilities and say Loveland is sort of like the SimCity computer game, but with real land.

PRX and public radio stations KCUR-Kansas City, WDET-Detroit, WUNC/The Story-North Carolina, WFPL-Louisville are getting ready to launch a new nationwide program, Shifting Gears, which will explore issues in the auto industry. Have a car photo or story of your own to share? Submit it to the Flickr group .

Shifting Gears will be available free for broadcast to public radio stations. More information is here.

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