New pilot program to transform five Detroit alleyways into public art destinations

What’s happening: Nearly 2,000 residential blocks’ worth of alleyways have been cleared of brush and debris since Detroit launched its most recent alley clean-up program in 2020. Now the city is readying a new program to transform its alleyways into neighborhood assets. It’s called the Arts Alley Initiative and a pilot program for the project is currently in its early stages.

Alley in Artist Village before Arts Alleys project. (Photo: City of Detroit)What it is: The Arts Alley Initiative will transform five alleys in the Jefferson Chalmers, Old Redford, Schulze, NW Goldberg, and Springwells neighborhoods. The pilot alleyways will receive new landscaping, improved surfacing, and amenities. Local artists and residents will then collaborate on filling the alleys with public artworks. The initiative is funded with $3 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, recently approved by Detroit City Council, with additional funding from the Ford Foundation.

How it works: The city has tapped the Detroit-based and Black-owned Sidewalk Detroit organization to engage residents neighborhoods with community input sessions, enabling residents to influence the design process. It’s expected that the community-led design sessions will wrap this fall, with RFPs sent to contractors in the beginning of 2023 and improvements to be made later that year.

An example of what the same alley may look like after Arts Alleys activation. (Photo: City of Detroit)Why it’s important: “The Covid-19 pandemic showed us the importance of safe, accessible green spaces in our neighborhoods,” says Rochelle Riley, Director of Arts and Culture for the City. “We want to help communities create their own spaces for activities and enjoyment.”

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MJ Galbraith is Model D's development news editor. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.