By Olayami Dables, on Artefacting’s Spire: Beacon of Hope project in August of 2011

I was asked by Tyree Guyton to assist a team of artist that was coming to Detroit MI, and in exchange they would help with what i needed done at the MUSEUM. Tyree said the artists were traveling around the world connecting with the local communities and creating art installations. I agreed to work with the project. Tyree said he would give Alex White Mazzarella my number. Alex called and introduced himself, and we talked by phone perhaps four or five time. When he arrived he stopped by with his team of four artists, who were all from different countries.

Alex and his associates would ride their bikes by regularly, and we talked about their experiences as they traveled the world creating public art installations. They were here to create a community based installation project in the “African community”. After they met with at least four different groups from different parts of the community, they went ahead with their project. I gave them broken pieces of mirrors. Tyree provided them with a house to use in the project and a place to work and stay. Another group on the East side of Detroit also donated things to assist them. They had people from the community helping with the creation of “flags” that were hanging from the lines and other things. They had a lot of used tires as part of the installation.

On the day of the opening of the installation, a woman from a suburban community was extremely angry about the installation. The artists and community members had permission to use the house for the installation; the house was given to the group to use by Tyree. There was another group there representing a local church who voiced there complaints about the art work.

Tyree agreed to meet with them later that week. I was surprised to read and hear about how the European art community in the city of Detroit began to attack the artist as a group of artist that had come in to the city and not made contact with them. They were called opportunist by some of the European artist. They were acting as if they had not communicated with them or asked for permission from them to do what they did. The artist who went on the attack was wrong. They were upset about not being made aware of the groups’ presence here in Detroit. They hadn’t gotten permission from one of their groups.

There were people in the community working with them, I was working with them; MBAD African Bead Museum was working with them. Geno Harris and his Community organization, and the Heidelberg project was working with them. These Organizations have operated in the city for over sixty years; were working with them. When Alex and I first talked I said to him that there were two art communities here in Detroit, European and African and why did he come to the African community to create a community art project? The attack on Alex was ill informed and done from a position of supremacy, not realizing that the city is still 90% African and they can do things without letting the 10% know. I realize that that 10% bring groups of organized art groups, assets to the media and financial resources, and a clear goal as to what they want.

The installation got my attention, it was creative and fresh. The use of materials that were readily available in community was impressive, and it required a lot of work to construct. I could not drive by it and not be engaged by its presence. Sometimes truly original works of art are not meant to last forever. The work is etched in my brain, and there are video and pictures out there that will last “forever”.