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Talking Fence ties together art, alt-energy and youth education in Brightmoor

A collaboration of numerous arts organizations and community groups in Brightmoor will result in an innovative public art installation. Talking Fence will be a 150-foot-long fence at the corner of Keeler and Lamphere Streets that will include a 9-by-8 foot archway.

Primary materials will be terra cotta, hypertufa -- a manufactured form of a naturally-occurring lightweight cement that combines Portland cement, sand and peat moss -- and cedar. Metal accents in the form of wind chimes will also be employed.

The design of the fence is inspired and informed by a Native American planting method, "three sisters," in which corn, beans and squash are planted together in mutual support. The area will be lit by solar and wind power.

A main focus of the art installation is youth education. Wiley McDowell, a teacher at nearby Community High School, is one of Talking Fence's primary collaborators. He says the youth involved in the project will be working on social skills, alternative energy, measuring and calculations, earth science and chemistry, as well as art and design. "Art draws on all curriculums, even though that isn't widely recognized," he says. "You cannot create art without somehow involving content that would comprise other curriculum."
 
The three sisters concept extends into the vision for the space's use, as a community meeting place for elder and youth interaction. "There is no community without a support system in place," says McDowell. "We're trying to bring out people into the neighborhood to broadcast their stories, to find common grounds that exist in this community...to create, through this dialogue, these positive aspects."

McDowell is working with Design 99 with support from College for Creative Studies, Detroit Community Schools, Community for the Renewal of Education and Work, Next Detroit Neighborhood Initiative, Leland Missionary Baptist Church, Youth Growing Brightmoor and Motor City Blight Busters. Talking Fence is a project of community+public arts:DETROIT(CPAD).

Project completion is estimated at the end of September.

Source: Wiley McDowell, Talking Fence
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

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