Detroit’s Harmonie Park has been transformed (temporarily), thanks to the installation of a huge, walkable, interactive art exhibit. The commissioned project, entitled, “The Very Thought of You,” immediately transports visitors into an elegant, open-air ballroom, complete with a chandelier, tall, towering arches and a makeshift dance floor. The project is the brainchild of The Carr Center, with collaborative help from the University of Michigan and the City of Detroit Department of Recreation.
The installation officially opened on Sunday, July 13 and will be in place through September, according to organizers. Each week, dancing, concerts and visual arts displays will give Detroiters and other visitors even more reason to head down and take a walk (or dance) in the historic park.
“This project redefines the park. It’s an extension of what we are doing inside the Center,” said Oliver Ragsdale, Jr., president, The Carr Center. “This is a unique opportunity to create an inhabitable cultural marker in downtown Detroit. Our programming is multidisciplinary, inclusive, exciting – and the installation previews some of the amazing things to come.”
The project was conceptualized by architectural design firm Anya Sirota + Akokai, with the assistance of University of Michigan Carr Center Design Fellows and manufactured at the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. From concept to reality, the project took about seven weeks to come to life. The actual installation took place over a two-day period at the Park.
“The connection between the Carr Center and Harmonie Park is really unique in the city. Very few institutions in Detroit have the opportunity to engage outdoor public programming in this way. The ballroom is designed to be playful, open and vivid. It’s a marker for the Carr Center and a showcase for the arts in the city,” said Anya Sirota, principal, Akoaki.
“We are very interested in preserving public spaces around the world. This location and collaboration in Detroit is perfect. We want people to come down and enjoy the city, meet people and enjoy themselves,” added Jean Louis Farges, partner at Akoaki.
The firm does two or three of these public space projects each year, according to Farges. They have completed installations in other locations across the globe, including in Paris, France.
“The Very Thought of You” is produced by dressing a light steel structure with a double-sided skin. Perforated vinyl on the interior of the park expresses classical baroque ornament. The exterior facade was designed in collaboration with a group of contemporary artists, including Carr Center Emergent Arts Fellow Erin Falker. Falker recently moved to Detroit from St. Louis and will be here for at least a year to work with the Center, bringing unique projects to Detroit.
Organizers feel the installation reflects the multicultural energy of the city of Detroit. “The result is the patterns and graphic elements produce a novel visual and three-dimensional effect where visitors can move through a welcoming landscape,” according to Ragsdale.
In addition to the ballroom installation, the display features reproductions of works by local artists, including; Gabriel Bah, Ricardo Gonzalez, Sydney James, Laura MacIntyre, Ashley McFaddon, Jasmine Murrell, Seingor Reid and Ivan Stewart. The ten-foot canvases showcase the works of some of Detroit’s best and brightest.
Raising the profile of the happenings in the Park, the Carr Center, in partnership with DPTV Channel 56, will also live stream 28 outdoor and indoor concerts, along with educational programs beginning with the Detroit 313 celebration concert on July 24 at 11:30 a.m.
There is no lack of entertainment at Paradise Valley/Beatrice Buck Park this summer. A summer in the Park Concert Series began in June and includes two lunchtime concerts each week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. There is also a weekly “Dancing in Paradise” dance party each Saturday evening, beginning at 8:00 p.m.
For additional information on the Carr Center, log on to thecarrcenter.org.