What's The Diff?

The things Quicken Loans team members care about and want to share with the world

Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit changes hopeful outlook

Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit  For more, visit Quicken Loans DIFF blog, www.WhatsTheDIFF.com

I am not a native Detroiter, but I find myself downtown quite a bit. I only live about 20 minutes from the city, a straight shot down I-94. In the past, one of the bright spots in my frequent visits was driving by the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit.

During the day, it looks like another aging building in Detroit. There is top-to-bottom graffiti, a drab gray sidewalk and no obvious indicator of what the building might be. It sits amidst a variety of other random buildings; some brand new apartments for the University, some decrepit liquor stores and run-down shops. But at night, neon writing is visible and bright enough that any passerby would gravitate to it.

It used to gleam proudly, pronouncing "EVERYTHING WILL BE ALRIGHT." It made me feel good, I even stopped to take a picture of it one night. I went out of my way to show it to people who hadn’t seen it. My best friend moved into the apartments across the street and whenever someone asked where she lived, I always told them about the building, encouraging them to check it out. I thought it was such an awesome thing to put on a building, especially in a city where you might not expect the most positive outlook, let alone public displays of promise.

Around Halloween, I went to visit my friend at her apartment on
Woodward, across from the museum. Pulling into the parking lot, I
almost went off the road. Instead of the usual message of hope I looked
forward to, the words had changed, just slightly, now appending a
message of doom and despair: "NOTHING WILL BE ALRIGHT."

At first, I thought the building had somehow been vandalized. I stopped
and looked again. No, this was on purpose. My reaction now is the same
as it was then: "What the HELL!!!?" I may have even used a somewhat harsher word at the time.

I went up to my friend’s apartment and asked her about it. She shared
my shock and even admitted she had gone over to the museum and asked
what the change was all about. She was told it was to promote
conversation in the community and to consider it art.

I’m no artist and maybe I’m thinking about this too hard, but….is
that the right message? Is that something that should be emblazoned on
the busiest street of a city whose mayor just went to jail? Whose
largest companies are in Washington DC begging for a financial lifeline
to stay afloat? Should we put things like that on buildings where we’re
commonly referred to as being one of the most dangerous cities in the
country? Should that be on any building anywhere, ever?

In truth, it kind of offends me. While I get these are tough times,
being down about it is not the answer. I don’t always consider myself
Mary Sunshine, but I do think positive thinking gets us farther than
sensational, negative pieces of art. I have faith in Detroit. No, I
don’t live there, but I make efforts to be down there A LOT, spend my
hard-earned money there, tell any nay-sayers to look again and
generally be a supporter of the city. And now, when I tell people to
visit Detroit, let’ s just say I give them directions that don’t pass
by the MOCAD.

What do you think? Am I too worked up about it? How do you feel about it? Is it art? Is it really just about starting "conversations"? Or is it a  message that embraces today’s negative thinking about cities like Detroit?

For reference, here are pictures of the building with both messages. Thanks to my friend Lisa for sending me the pictures.


Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit  For more, visit Quicken Loans DIFF blog, www.WhatsTheDIFF.com


Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit  For more, visit Quicken Loans DIFF blog, www.WhatsTheDIFF.com

Post Metadata

Social Bookmarking

AddThis Button


  1. The purpose of art is to foster discourse and evoke emotion. It upset you. You and your friend talked about your shock and disapproval. You wrote this post. I’d say it was good art.

    Posted by: Chris Kaufman | December 4, 2008
  2. Outstanding post.
    Although it may foster conversation, I ask myself if the negative thougts are what we need in Detroit right now. The only answer I can come up with is NO!!!!
    Some folks choose to look at the glass half empty, I choose to look at the glass half full. The glass half full allows me to see this as a new beginning for Detroit. An opportunity to reinvent ourselves.

    Posted by: Matthew LaVaute | December 4, 2008
  3. To answer your questions:
    1. Art is not about sending a veiled message and erecting a facade (that’s what the government is for). This art is about honesty and the artist’s perception.
    2. The artist doesn’t work for the Detroit tourism council. He is not a commercial artist hence it is not his job to promote a “marketing message” in favor of the City of Detroit.
    3. I think you are too worked up about it. To a degree, the artist is right. Sometimes, things do not turn out okay. It’s all about context and subjectivity–to the creator, maybe everything won’t be alright.

    Posted by: Chris Kaufman | December 4, 2008
  4. “alright” is a lot like mediocrity, which I consider to be the root of all evil. Complacency is a BAD thing. So, if you are looking at this as the glass half-full, you will say, “Damn right nothing will be alright – Everything is going to be great, phenomenal, awesome (fill in your own positive word here)!!!”

    Posted by: Jim Woodworth | December 4, 2008
  5. Although the new message upsets me as well, Kauf is correct: It’s art and it’s meant to stir emotions and generate conversation.
    That being said, I think the new message sucks too. And I applaud your efforts to challenge old stereotypes about Detroit, as I do too.
    Unfortunately I could burn cars adorned with “Bless You Boys” pennants and “Padre Buster” posters out in front of MOCAD and call it art too, as much as it would be a disservice to our state and its cultural hub.
    Art has, is and always will be a reflection of current society however, and for the reasons you mentioned above (Y’all’s boy, The Big 3 woes), the expression of debate is painfully, unfortunately, extremely current.
    That’s why we gotta keep working on revitalizing the downtown area. We have to work everyday to combat unearned and out of date perceptions about Detroit. We’ll see the old message back one day – or maybe a new one: “Everything is Better Then Ever.”
    I will now return to my normal pointless sarcastic one-offs.

    Posted by: MrSarcastic | December 4, 2008
  6. The last thing the world needs is more negativity (especially during the Christmas season). This art certainly makes Detroit sound like her glass is half empty instead of half full. It didn’t brighten my day any.

    Posted by: Jan | December 4, 2008
  7. Great Museum of Contemporary Art. This art certainly makesDetroit sound like her glass is half empty instead of half full.

    Posted by: Shazia | January 2, 2009

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Secondary Navigation:

Promotional Information:

Partner Links:
Site Feeds:
Today's Date:
Wednesday, January 17, 2018