Donald Kilpatrick
November 2010
Vacant church installation.

I recently was invited by my good friend and artist Andrew Davis to contribute work to an interesting project. He was contacted by a gentleman who is filming an independent film at an abandoned church in Detroit. When Andrew described this all to me a couple of weeks back i didn't know what to make of it, but i was intrigued, so i went over to the space to check it out and speak with the filmmaker. The church was most likely built sometime in the early 1920s, and used to be a Catholic church. It has a vast interior that my photos don't really capture, and hasn't held meetings or been occupied since 1988.
The filmmaker had the permission of the building's current owner to film in there, and the owner was open to the idea of artists adding to the space in soem sort of way. the idea was to prepare the space for it's next life as a community center.
My thinking was to remember what this space meant to those who used to inhabit it, and to add not detract from it's integrity. I hope that this was accomplished. A big thanks to Andrew Davis, Jeff Mullin, and Ray Domzalski for teaming up and assisting me with this.

Dispatch from the Strait- Detroit's Eastern Market.

One of my favorite areas of Detroit is Eastern Market, so when I was recently asked by the Detroit chapter of the AIGA to help promote their upcoming "Wish you were here" campaign / event, it was my first choice to illustrate. I pulled this image together from my sketchbooks, and many of the faces here are from people i observed at the market.

Eastern market is a thriving year round farmer’s market, and brings Detroiters and suburbanites together.  This past summer we spent many a Saturday with the kids there, and with winter starting to make its presence known, I wanted to post some of the sights of an afternoon at Eastern Market here in defiance.

What attracts me most to this place is how it has remained vibrant even in the toughest of times, and is proof of how this region can come together in a positive way. Not only is it full of great affordable loft space, but also has some really great places to eat.  
These photos are from a visit we made about a year ago, and when i found these photos on my hard drive the other day, i was floored by how little my youngest is in one of the photos! I also was glad to have been in line waiting for some of the best BBQ ever, and captured a great sequence and slice of life with my camera.


Featured on Etsy's Hand-Made blog today. The Little Buffalo Press.

Just found out that Etsy featured myself and my Little Buffalo Press on their "Hand-Made" blog today. Stop by and check it out!
Here is a sampling of their interview here-
The name Little Buffalo Press came from my fascination with Native American culture and how the buffalo was central to their way of life. They used every part of the buffalo and nothing went to waste. I strive to utilize all of the paper I work with in my letterpress, as well as the ink, in other creative ways so that nothing is left to waste. I am working on plans for paper making, and I plan on using the scrap paper I leave behind from each job to create new paper.
I primarily use linoleum, as well as combining analogue with digital mediums by making photo polymer plates from my digital illustrations. I started using linoleum because I find the carving process therapeutic, as well as less expensive than going through the process of having a printing plate made. I enjoy how limiting linoleum is, and that if you make a mistake you have to really think creatively to work yourself out of a corner. I was finding myself trying to replicate the effect of a hand inked linoleum block when I worked on the computer, and I have found that I enjoy taking the time and having the patience to get these interesting textures and colors by hand-pulling these prints on my hundred-year-old presses.
To read and see the full article, click here.
Thanks for stopping by, and get yourself a notebook or poster.
Dispatch from The Strait- Bloom Town Detroit.

For a while now I have taken back-roads on my morning drive into Detroit where I teach at the College for Creative Studies. I don’t enjoy taking the freeway because I feel like it really doesn’t save time, and I end up more frustrated than if I simply take local roads. Many days I drive in taking Oakland Avenue to shorten my commute. To some Oakland Avenue might seem a bit too desolate and a bit intimidating, but I find it fascinating.  

Oakland Avenue covers an area of Detroit that is known as Paradise Valley, or at least part of what was once Paradise Valley. This neighborhood once was the center of a vibrant music scene up until the early 1950s, and is where musicians like John Lee Hooker got their start. On my drive down Oakland Avenue I pass the Apex bar where he first played. Most of this neighborhood was swallowed up by the I- 75 interstate project of the early 1960’s, and I feel it has had difficulty recovering ever since.

I have felt frustration driving down Oakland Avenue because it hasn’t changed much. There are abandoned buildings, and open lots where buildings once stood. I find it difficult at times because as I drive by, I want to somehow do something, but don’t know what I can realistically do.

In the past month or so on my drive into the college, I started to notice empty garden or flower beds starting to pop up on some of the empty lots, and was intrigued by what this all meant. It was a noticeable change because nothing had been happening on this street in quite some time. One day while driving back from teaching I noticed a couple of people tending to one of these flower beds, and I decided to pull over and talk with them to find out what this was all about.

I spoke with Ellen Donnelly of Bloomtown Detroit, and she mentioned to me that they were in the process of planting bulbs in all o these flowerbeds, and that they were looking for volunteers to help out.

I checked out their website, and here is what Bloomtown is all about-

BLOOM TOWN is a project that simultaneously remembers a once thriving American City and celebrates its re-birth as the city with the most potential for creative social, political and economic change. In 1950 Detroit was the 4th largest city in the United States with over 2 million inhabitants—today less than 900,00 people live there. After half a century of radical decline neighborhoods that were once densely populated with single-family homes now find themselves sparsely populated with either buildings or people. Land values cannot be any lower: a typical 30’ x 100’ city plot sells for as little as $300 at public auction. Earlier this year the City of Detroit commenced a demolition blitz, aiming to demolish roughly 10,000 houses over the next three years. It is here, in the vacant standard city plot, that BLOOM TOWN will be constructed.

Six monochromatic gardens will be situated within the foundation walls of (recently) razed Detroit houses. The gardens will both mark and map the passing of time by building local anticipation and temporal awareness through the bloom cycles of the gardens. They will be planted such that their chromatic tones will simultaneously shift creating an urban network of coordinated gardens. This chromatic shift will serve as a new type of way-finding device in the city and will increase the flow of movement through and around a single neighborhood due to their presence. The gardens are conceived of as being places of calm, places of community, and places of activation. In spirit they are akin to the community gardens established in the 1970s in New York; these gardens became centers for activity, life and art in then-impoverished neighborhoods.

BLOOM TOWN is based on the interaction that happens during the creative act of constructing. It is also based on the interaction that happens during the inhabitation of the project, between individuals and between people and nature. This proposal refuses to see only the problems that face the residents and government of Detroit, and instead seeks to engage in a transformative process that will benefit the current and future residents of the city. This project is about hope, transformation, and empowerment. It is also about beauty, memory and community. BLOOM TOWN is an artwork and architectural work that inspires change. It is a community-based project that seeks to engage a wide range of individuals in many capacities. It is a work that heightens ones awareness of their surroundings: visually, cognitively, through its haptic qualities. It is meant to be experienced through direct engagement and will evolve and change over time, thereby asking for continued participation in both the process of making and maintenance, but also in visiting. BLOOM TOWN finds its strength in pure optimism, and sees these six gardens as one step in a new future for Detroit.

Photo from Bloom Town Detroit.

Photo from Bloom Town Detroit.

Photo from Bloom Town Detroit.

Photo from Bloom Town Detroit.

Photo from Bloom Town Detroit.

Photo from Bloom Town Detroit.

Photo from Bloom Town Detroit.

America the timorous.- Recent work for the Los Angeles Times.

I got the call this past week to illustrate for the L.A. Times Op-Ed, and it was the first time I have been asked to do any Op-Ed for anyone. I was so happy to have received the editorial that I have included in this post below. I feel it is timely considering that we have the opportunity to have our voices heard on this Election Day. The topic of the editorial I have included here has been on my mind for some time now, and I was thrilled when the art director responded to my initial ideas for this piece. It was an honor to work with them on this and have my first be something that I feel matters.

I hope you gain something from reading this editorial of Neal Gabler’s as I did. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you all take the time to exercise your rights today.

This first ran in the Los Angeles Times on October 25th 2010.
This article can be found at the following URL-

America the timorous

Our self-image is one of bold action. In reality, Americans resist change, pressing the government to act boldly only when a national calamity forces it upon us.

October 25, 2010    |   By Neal Gabler

Americans like to think of themselves as bold. It was boldness that gave birth to the country, built it, protected it from external threat and rescued it in times of domestic turbulence. Americans are proud of dreaming big and taking big chances, and as far as individual feats go, it may be true.

But the larger truth is that, foreign military adventurism aside; the American government hasn't really acted boldly since the days of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal and Lyndon Johnson's Great Society. Americans talk a lot about change during elections, but they recoil from action once the election is over. An economic stimulus? Make sure it is a small one. Healthcare reform? Half measures. Climate change legislation? No action at all. We blame politics, deficits and bad leadership, when perhaps we should be blaming our national genes.

When the United States was founded, its leadership class was more or less equally divided between Federalists who believed in a vigorous national government and Republicans who emphasized decentralization. The former looked toward shaping an expanding nation in a changing world. The latter looked toward conserving a pastoral way of life that the changing world threatened. Thus action and inaction, change and conservation were posited as two sides of the American enterprise.

Throughout the 19th century, during America's adolescence, the country vacillated between these poles. The Whigs and their successors, the Republicans, were the proponents of boldness — forming a national bank, a national university, and a national rail system, a homestead act — chiefly as a way to facilitate mercantile interests. The Democrats, descended from Thomas Jefferson's old Republicans, remained wary.

By the early 20th century, the roles had been largely reversed, at least at the national level. It was the Democrats, infused with energy from populism, progressivism and a general mistrust of big business, who proposed new initiatives. The Republicans — with the exception that proves the rule, Teddy Roosevelt — advocated maintaining the status quo. Eventually there emerged a governing pattern — forward, stand pat, forward, stand pat — with Democrats generally doing the moving forward and Republicans immobile.

But even this overstates the case for governmental boldness.

Republicans became America's default party as early as the 1890s. Since then, Democrats have only been elected to the presidency when Republicans screwed up: Taft by dividing his party, Hoover with his Depression, Eisenhower with his recession, Nixon with Watergate, George H.W. Bush with his recession and George W. Bush with practically everything. Democrats are tapped to ride to the rescue, but this has largely been more a matter of throwing out the rascals than of empowering action.

The two 20th-century exceptions have been FDR and LBJ. The New Deal and the Great Society were bold, progressive movements, but they were achieved only as a result of disaster — in the first case, a convulsive Depression; in the second, the assassination of JFK.

Americans wanted action. They'd ask questions later.

So why hasn't the Great Recession, another deep convulsion, created an equal cry for government activism? The need for the Democratic cavalry to clean up the Republican mess could hardly seem clearer. And that was precisely why Barack Obama was elected: to act boldly. But no sooner did he enter office than the old chants of fearfulness reverberated across the country: An economic rescue would only ratchet up the deficit; regulation of Wall Street would destroy Wall Street; healthcare reform would result in socialism.

What happened to our resolve? Nothing really. Americans just reverted to form.

It's easy to blame Republicans and their long, relentless campaign asserting that any action besides cutting taxes is dangerous, and one wouldn't be entirely wrong to do so. Rank-and-file Democrats, after all, still tell pollsters they would opt for a bolder stimulus package and more extensive healthcare reform. One could also blame demographic changes that have further empowered Republicans in parts of the country that had always resisted change.

But the Republicans' — and the "tea partyers'" — successes only underscore how much of the nation is terrified by any action whatsoever. For better or worse, Americans are a timorous bunch who only press their government to act when they think national security is at stake. That's how Eisenhower sold the interstate highway system, how LBJ sold Vietnam and how George W. Bush sold the Iraq War. When we aren't defending ourselves, government just can't seem to muster a consensus to do much of anything.

In the end, our history tells us that the New Deal and the Great Society were essentially aberrations in the larger American saga of governmental timidity. The fear of not doing something has occasionally outweighed the national inclination not to act. But only rarely, and, it has become obvious, not now.

That fact is what the tea partyers have going for them — not, as they claim, adherence to self-defined and bizarre constitutional principles or a groundswell of anger at an intrusive government, but rather an appeal to the basic American fear of government action at all. Though they purport to be a bold new populist force in the American polity, they are actually a timid old force.

And that's a problem. Because change is only a slogan, because Americans don't have the political will to encourage their government to act boldly when necessary, and because we shrink from addressing the things that assail us, we aren't likely to get the car out of the ditch we're in anytime soon. And while Americans cling to their self-image of intrepidness here in the land of the free and the home of the brave, we are on target to demonstrate at the polls that we are anything but.

Instead of bold adventurers confronting our demons, we are a nation of the frightened, hoping to turn back the clock and railing against the only tool that can really help us: action.

Neal Gabler is at work on a biography of Edward M. Kennedy.
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